Keith Huewen: ‘Heaven sent’ debut - has Aprilia found another star?

The Valencia MotoGP title decider and post-race headline this week’s MotoGP podcast featuring Keith Huewen.

The season finale saw Francesco Bagnaia hold his nerve to secure Ducati’s first MotoGP title since Casey Stoner in 2007 while Alex Rins took an emotional victory in Suzuki’s farewell appearance.

But there wasn’t long to celebrate before Bagnaia and Rins joined their rivals back on track for a crucial post-race test.

As well as trying the latest developments for 2023, which left the likes of Honda’s Marc Marquez and Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo somewhat underwhelmed, the test marked the first chance for riders switching teams (such as Rins) to experience their new machinery.

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Of those, one rider stood out head and shoulders above the rest with former factory KTM race winner Miguel Oliveira finishing an impressive fourth fastest on his debut for the new RNF Aprilia team. The next-best rider switching bikes was Alex Marquez, in 15th.

“Bagnaia is going to come out of the box with a bike that works next year but also a new team-mate [Enea Bastianini] pushing him really hard and a very different atmosphere with Jack [Miller] leaving, so we’ll see how it all pans out,” said former Grand Prix rider and British champion Keith Huewen.

“Then with the limited testing time available this winter, we could end up with Yamaha and Honda still perhaps not being in the best shape in time for the first race, given what Marquez and Quartararo were saying.

“Meanwhile you’ve got Aprilia, who had three bikes in the top five. It's been a bit of a shock to the system for some to see Miguel Oliveira right up there in his very first test.

“That for me is also an indicator of just how good the Aprilia is. That it's a motorbike you can jump on and perform well on straight away. I can’t wait to see what Aprilia does next year.” MotoGP podcast with Keith Huewen MotoGP podcast with Keith Huewen MotoGP editor Pete McLaren added: “It didn’t seem like there were many new parts for Aleix and Maverick to test, but as Keith has alluded to, the new guy, Oliveira, had a fantastic debut when you consider it was also RNF’s very first day running those bikes.

“I saw team boss Razlan Razali in the airport just before I flew back and the team are unsurprisingly really, really happy with how well Miguel did straight away.

“Remember the Yamahas were literally wheeled out of the RNF pit box on Sunday night. Then the Aprilias came in, the team had to learn how to work on them and set them up, plus there are the new staff to incorporate as well as the two new riders.

“The Aprilia is a completely different machine to the Yamaha in every way imaginable. Razlan said even little things like the fuel filler and bike stand didn't fit.

“Then, after all that, Miguel goes out and finishes 0.3s from the fastest lap.

"They say you shouldn’t judge too much on one test, but we've also seen in the past that when guys are fast from their first ride on a new bike, it’s usually a very good sign.”


Huewen added: “As a rider, when everything is new, in a bit of disarray and nobody quite knows what is going to happen, but then you kick your leg over the bike with a default set-up and it just works. That is heaven-sent!”

Podcast host Harry Benjamin then quizzed the duo on the other Valencia testing activities, as well as the Moto2 and Moto3 finale.

Download Episode 71 at the following links...

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