Aprilia boss Massimo Rivola heralds his team’s 2020 MotoGP bike as “an ambitious project” given the wide-ranging changes expected, with the new RS-GP set to be the machine with the biggest changes as it looks to close the performance gap to its rivals.

Having struggled at the bottom of the MotoGP pile despite the arrival of KTM’s all-new project in the premier class, Aprilia Racing CEO Rivola has been overseeing a transformation within the Piaggio Group-owned team since arriving from Formula 1 12 months ago.

While working methods and recruitment have been initial changes to help Aprilia develop faster and more effectively, Rivola’s appointment has also freed up chief engineer Romano Albesiano to concentrate on Aprilia’s 2020 bike.

Development focus has centred on a new engine and integration of the electronics package, with reports pointing towards a 90-degree V4 aiming to deliver greater top speed and engine braking, meaning Aprilia’s 2020 bike will gather heightened interest when it is debuted at the Sepang shakedown and official test.

With Aprilia delaying the arrival of its new bike until the February tests, meaning a limited programme was completed at the post-season Valencia and Jerez tests last November, Rivola accepts time will be required to get its new package up to speed for the 2020 season.

“We have an ambitious project in front of us and we know we are not as big as our competitors but we think that in front of us there is a long way and we are quite optimistic in growing,” Rivola said in Valencia.

“I can say this year at least we saw some good signs of growth from the team and in performances. We want to see that more next year.

“We will see the new bike in Malaysia in February and we are preparing for that as it is quite an ambitious programme. With this bike there is a lot of electronics to set up and that can be transferred to the new bike.

“I think we have a lot to learn. I’ve heard many competitors are looking to improve in specific areas but we have the engine, the electronics and many other areas to improve so we need a bit of time to do that.”

Aleix Espargaro has welcomed the changes after being frustrated by the Aprilia’s delays in bolstering its ranks which, in combination with the Italian team postponing the 2020 bike’s debut until the Sepang tests, means he has limited track time to adjust to the new RS-GP.

Looking to lead Aprilia’s charge up the MotoGP grid, Espargaro has been able to extract the maximum from inferior machinery for much of his premier class career including last year when he secured seventh place at Aragon – only bettered by Andrea Iannone’s sixth place for Aprilia at Phillip Island.

But with both his and Iannone’s best results arriving at circuits where the RS-GP’s weaknesses in power and engine braking are minimised by track layout, the Spanish rider’s expectations are growing for 2020 with the promise of a new bike.

“Two or three engine guys have arrived, two aerodynamic guys have arrived, another frame guy have arrived,” Espargaro said last month. “So more than six new people from very competitive places have joined the project, with new ideas. They will help a lot Romano his [technical] team will be a lot stronger.

“So no excuses. We were missing that and I hope that the new bike and ideas these guys will bring will help.

“But we have to be a little bit patient because for 2020 with the arrival of Rivola it looks like we are going to change many things inside of Aprilia - the new bike, many engineers are joining the project - so I give full credit to Aprilia.

“I hope the new bike that will arrive in Malaysia will be much better and I already told them for the next years we have to readjust the timings and the [new] bike has to arrive earlier.

“Because [in 2020] we will have six days of testing with the new bike before the race weekend in Qatar, so it's a little bit in the limit.”

Aprilia has the added complication of Iannone’s potential ban from the 2020 MotoGP season, with the Italian rider provisionally suspended after failing an anti-doping test taken from last year’s Malaysian MotoGP.

Iannone is set to face the FIM for a hearing and an analysis of his B sample today (January 7). If he fails to overturn the suspension it would see him out of Aprilia’s plans subject to the length of his ban which could see Aprilia turn to test rider Bradley Smith or Karel Abraham who has recently been axed by Avintia Ducati.

 

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