Who will be Aprilia’s Plan B after losing Maverick Vinales?

Who will take over the factory Aprilia seat abandoned by Maverick Vinales?

Maverick Vinales and Aprilia
Maverick Vinales and Aprilia

Maverick Vinales’ surprise move from the factory Aprilia team to Tech3 KTM for 2025 prompted a special bonus edition of the Crash.net MotoGP podcast.

Despite taking his first wins for Aprilia this season and being pencilled in by many to take over the Captain role of retiring team-mate Aleix Espargaro, Vinales will instead try to become the first rider to win on a fourth brand of machine.

The Spaniard is joining Enea Bastianini in an all-new Tech3 line-up, but who will replace Vinales as Jorge Martin’s Aprilia team-mate?

“We have to imagine that the Jorge Martin deal would have taken up some budget, but Aprilia still have plenty of options,” said podcast host Jordan Moreland. “We know they want an Italian rider and the two that stand out are at VR46, Bezzecchi and di Giannantonio.”

“Bezzecchi’s name was raised by Aleix Espargaro during the previous rumours about Bastianini and Aprilia,” added MotoGP editor Pete McLaren. “Aleix also played a role in getting Jorge Martin to Aprilia, so he probably knows what those at the top of Aprilia are thinking.

“We know Bez wants to be a factory rider. Aprilia tried to sign him previously when he was in Moto2 but the bike wasn't as good then, and he went with the satellite Ducati at VR46.

“But also di Giannantonio. He's ahead of Bezzecchi in the standings so far this year and probably one of the most underrated guys on the grid. He’s still young, has plenty of room to improve and only Marc Marquez is currently ahead of him on a GP23.

“Now that Aprilia has had this blow of losing Maverick, they have a couple of good choices to at least get the consolation of an Italian rider somewhere in their line-up, with places free at the Factory team and Trackhouse.”

“Do you think one of the Trackhouse riders, Miguel Oliveira or Raul Fernandez, could get the nod?” Moreland asked. “Miguel is hugely popular in Portugal, although his results this season haven’t been great. On the other side, Fernandez is coming good and is younger. What sort of factors would Aprilia be looking at?

“Manufacturers normally don't like to change both of their factory riders for guys that have never been on the bike,” McLaren answered. “But if you're promoting somebody from a satellite team, at least they already know the bike.

“Martin is coming in. He's leading the world championship, but no one quite knows what he's going to do on an Aprilia. Although he’s been part of the bike development at Ducati, he hasn't led development in a way that he’ll be expected to do at Aprilia, which is a smaller project with fewer riders. So we've got to see how he settles into that role, also having never done a lap on an RS-GP.

“That being the case, you've got to imagine that Aleix and now Vinales leaving boosts the chances of the Trackhouse guys. Fernandez has stepped up his performances and is due to get the ’24 bike after Silverstone, so that will allow for a better comparison of where he is at.

“This year hasn’t been easy for Oliveira, but the easiest solution for Aprilia would probably be if Oliveira suddenly gelled with the ’24 bike and started performing. Because it would then be a case of promoting a proven MotoGP race winner, for KTM, who also already knows the RS-GP.

“It’s worth noting that when Vinales was asked, before Martin signed, who he thought should take over from Aleix, he replied that the person with the closest riding style to his own was Oliveira. But at the moment, Oliveira hasn’t been able to get the same kind of results Maverick and Aleix have had.

“It's a difficult one, isn't it? Aprilia are already losing the two guys that have led their project since mid-2021, do they want to lose even more guys with experience of their bike?

“But then you've got riders like former MotoGP champion Joan Mir still weighing up where to go. There’s the Davide Brivio/Suzuki link there. Everyone's been putting ‘2+2’ together but now it's not potentially Mir and Trackhouse but Mir and the factory Aprilia team.

“Mir’s won the MotoGP championship, he's been a factory rider at Suzuki. Now he’s a factory Honda rider. I think it is about performance more than money and he will be looking very seriously at that Aprilia seat.

“But also perhaps his former Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins, another proven race winner. The character of the Aprilia is probably the most similar of the V4s to a Yamaha or Suzuki, with the Inline4 corner speed style. So that's another reason why you'd maybe look at those guys.”

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