Aprilia's 2020 MotoGP rider line-up may currently be unclear, but the team has today presented its new race livery for the upcoming season.

The factory still doesn't know if Andrea Iannone will be able to take up his place alongside Aleix Espargaro for the opening round on Qatar 8, with a verdict yet to delivered following the Italian's hearing for failing a doping test.

But despite the disruption, the 'all-new' RS-GP made an impressive debut at the recent Sepang test, with Espargaro feeling he would be fighting for the podium if the race was the next day.

The Spaniard's confidence in the latest version of a machine that is yet to finish higher than sixth place was fuelled by a highly impressive long run that was "better than the Ducatis, better than Quartararo."

Unfortunately, that race simulation ended prematurely due to a technical problem and reliability is currently the biggest concern for such a 'young' machine - now powered by a 90-degree V4 engine, matching the angle used by the likes of Ducati and Honda.

'Aprilia Racing conceived a prototype that is optimised in every aspect, beginning with the refined aerodynamics, which combine with a new V90 engine,' read a team statement. 'The package is completed by the exclusive seamless gearbox, developed in-house, and a double rail frame in aluminium, the same material used for the swingarm. The electronics department also received great attention, supported by an in-house Aprilia Racing organisation that was strengthened throughout last season.'

Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola said: "This has been the longest winter of recent years for Aprilia Racing. The guys and girls in the racing department put forth a truly incredible effort. Arriving in Sepang with two prototypes was already a small victory for us. In the first test, the new RS-GP showed good signs, so we need to pick up from there to build our new season.

"I said it before, and I’ll confirm it again: we cannot expect a clear path. We will most likely have a complicated early part of the season with an bike that is very much still wet behind the ears, but I am certain that from mid-season, we will be able to see the true value of the hard work done in Noale."

Espargaro has been the top Aprilia rider since arriving from Suzuki in 2017, matching the factory's best four-stroke MotoGP result of sixth place on three occasions, but is yet to finish higher than 14th overall in the standings.

"It's definitely been a very positive start, because I was missing a big change since I arrived in Aprilia," Espargaro said. "We worked very hard [before] but we were missing something big. 

"The 2020 bike is completely new, a big revolution, and from lap one in Malaysia I felt that the bike has a lot more potential because I felt there was no way to go faster with the 2019. It was just one test, we still have a lot of work in front of us and our rivals are very strong but I think it's going to be a fun year."

The highlight of Iannone's debut season at Aprilia was putting the RS-GP briefly into the race lead at Phillip Island, where the former MotoGP winner also matched the bike's best of sixth place.

However, the Italian would fail an anti-doping test carried out just a week later at Sepang (the results weren't made public until December) when drostanolone was found in both his A and B samples.

Iannone's lawyers first suggested the anabolic steroid could have come from contaminated meat, then - at an FIM hearing on February 4 - presented evidence from analysis of a hair sample that apparently contradicted the results of the urine tests…

While the back-and-forth between defence and prosecution continues, Iannone remains suspended and is now set to miss all of pre-season testing as well as being in serious doubt for at least the opening race(s).

Nonetheless, Iannone was present alongside Espargaro and test rider Bradley Smith for today's presentation in Qatar.

"I'm really proud of the work done by Aprilia because when I talk with Aleix and Bradley they say the new bike is really good and has improved a lot," Iannone said. "For sure, I want to try the bike really soon. I hope."

"Hopefully, we’ll have Andrea with us soon and be able to complete, along with Aleix and Bradley, our trio of riders," echoed Rivola.

Smith has been pencilled in should a replacement be needed for the start of the new season, with Lorenzo Savadori hired to help with testing work.

The RS-GP will appear on track in its new colours when the final pre-season test gets underway at the Losail circuit from Saturday to Monday.

 

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