New team hint at becoming Ducati’s fiercest challengers when MotoGP begins

“Up until [Tuesday], I hadn’t thought so. I thought it would be KTM..."

Francesco Bagnaia, Qatar MotoGP test, 19 February
Francesco Bagnaia, Qatar MotoGP test, 19 February

Aprilia have been mooted as the team who could most closely combat Ducati in MotoGP’s earliest rounds.

The season kicks off on March 8 in Qatar, after a preseason which dropped hints about who might challenge the established order.

Aprilia are the outfit who caught the eye of Simon Crafar in the paddock.

“Up until [Tuesday], I hadn’t thought so,” he said. “I thought it would be KTM.

“[Tuesday] they looked really good. It all seems to have come together.

“I just came back from Aleix Espargaro’s debrief and he said that he’s riding the best of his life, and the machine he has is the best motorcycle he’s ever ridden.

“I’ll summarise - it’s got a different chassis, it’s lighter, a bit more flexible, the swingarm is the same. They’ve saved weight but improved the flexibility which helps grip.

“They’ve got the area thing which helps Aleix. The Formula 1 style tail end that obviously puts downforce on the back of it.

New wings…

“They’ve done a lot of work.

“They haven’t got the engine. He touched on the engine because we all wanted to know what’s coming.

“They’re the only ones without the ‘24 spec engine.

“He said that he spoke to [technical director] Romano Albesiano over the winter to ask ‘what are we going to get?’

“And Romano said ‘we’ve got so much more than we expected from this engine, the numbers are really high’.

“It makes sense. It has won races. It is really competitive.

“I took from that - don’t expect too much. It’s a small step forward again.

“When you’re that high, it’s hard to get more.

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“I think, overall, Aprilia are really innovative especially in the aerodynamic department.

“They have invented things that others have copied. At least three things that I know of.

“Competitive-wise, they surprised me.

“Raul? Amazing job considering he’s still in pain.

“Aleix? Super fast, in both one-off laps and long runs. Looking really good.”

Factory Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro and Trackhouse’s Raul Fernandez benefited from the bold aero that was used.

But Espargaro’s teammate Maverick Vinales, and Fernandez’s teammate Miguel Oliveira, did not.

“To touch on the other two who don’t like the aero so much,” Crafar explained.

“I spoke to one of their engineers.

“He mentioned that the smaller riders seem more affected by the tail. It doesn’t suit them so much.

“They have gone back to the ‘23 for Oliveira and Vinales.

“They are trying to make those riders happy.

“Aprilia, overall, are doing a really good job.”

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