'You would not believe it before the start, huh?!' smiled Andrea Iannone, after making history for Aprilia by putting the RS-GP into the MotoGP race lead at Phillip Island on Sunday.

Currently ranked last of the six manufacturers, the Italian factory went on to celebrate its best-ever team result and finish just 0.781s from the podium in Australia.

Iannone passed the likes of Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi during a thrilling early charge from eighth on the grid, then sensationally out-braked Cal Crutchlow for the lead into the MG Hairpin on lap 4 of 27.

It didn’t last long, Crutchlow's Honda rocketing past the RS-GP out of the final turn. The speed difference was so big that Iannone wasn't credited with leading a lap since he had already been overtaken by the start-finish line.

However, team-mate Aleix Espargaro was now also on the move and made it two Aprilias in the top five. Although the pair faded later in the race, they remained in the thick of a big fight for what became the final podium place, after Maverick Vinales' last-lap fall.

Iannone - a best of tenth so far this season - equalled the RS-GP's best MotoGP result with sixth place, only 0.781s from Jack Miller (Ducati), while tenth for Espargaro made it the best team performance by Aprilia.

"I know we have a good chance," said Iannone, who famously headbutted a seagull while leading at the circuit for Ducati in 2015. "It's a difficult season for us, but sincerely it's my first year at Aprilia and the guys need to know me a little more and also I need to blend with all the group.

"But we made a really good race. I'm happy. There were obviously many details that helped, beginning with the characteristics of this track; not braking a lot and the engine is not so important. It's really clear that we lose a lot on the straight, many positions, but the lack of slow corners helps us here and we could do a really good race.

"It’s a pity about some contact in the finale. I lost a winglet and the bike was no longer perfectly balanced. But it was thrilling to ride the Aprilia out front. Thanks to all the guys from the factory. Thanks to the CEO because he believes in us and so we start to compensate him a little bit."

Iannone, a MotoGP winner for Ducati and four-time podium finisher at Suzuki, also revealed why the front-heavy Aprilia is strong in the early stages of a race.

"We need to improve a little bit the balance of the bike. But with this bike it's difficult. We are waiting for the new bike," he said. "For the first 5-8 laps we are really strong, because with a full tank our bike is better and all the other bikes with the full tank are worse.

"So this is strange and we lose in the braking point when the tank goes down, the bike is a little bit more nervous. But we know. We also need to improve a little bit the electronics to remain constant for all the race."

Team-mate Espargaro, who also ran the soft rear tyre, added:

"I wish every race was like this. We know how fast Andrea is here, with Ducati and Suzuki he always finished on the podium. And I knew before I arrived here that this was his best track, so to be in the same level and fighting in the same group until the end obviously is good. I think we did a good show in the first laps putting the Aprilia in the top, so I think everybody will be happy today."

Aprilia remains last in the constructors' standings, 22-points behind KTM, with Espargaro and Iannone currently 14th and 16th in the riders' standings.

 

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