KTM's debut MotoGP win last time at Brno leaves Aprilia as the only manufacturer on the current grid not to have tasted victory with its present machine.

It's a bitter pill to swallow for Aleix Espargaro, given the Austrian team only made its full-time MotoGP debut in 2017 - two years after Aprilia's official return – and doesn’t have the Italian factory's long history in world championship road racing.

Although Aprilia has high hopes for the 2020 RS-GP, the bike has so far claimed a best MotoGP result of sixth since making its debut in 2015.

"This is the truth. KTM arrived later than us. All we can do is applaud them because they’ve done a great job. With a completely different mentality to the rest of the brands with their own chassis system," Aleix said.

"The level they showed last year with Pol was already one really good step. This year with Pol, Binder and Oliveira they’re very, very strong.

"I’m trying, working super hard doing everything I have in this project with Aprilia. The reality is we are not at the level I would like to be and also Aprilia would like to be.

"Aprilia have won 54 World Championships, they deserve and have to be fighting for the top 5 after 6 years in MotoGP. But we are still far. This year I felt better, I have to say. This is the best bike I ever had in Aprilia, but it’s not enough.

"I saw that the strongest guys in the field in Brno were three KTMs. This make me very disappointed."

And also surprised.

"If some of my friends or you guys ask me why is the KTM fast like that in Brno. I have no answer, it’s like I know nothing about motos after 15 years in the paddock. I don’t understand why they were at that level," Espargaro said.

"I don’t think Michelin helped them," he said of a post-lockdown private KTM test at the track with Dani Pedrosa. "In Jerez Fabio was the strongest guy in the first two races and nobody talked about Michelin. Right now, to say the win of Binder was Michelin’s fault is not fair.

"I think KTM and Binder did a very good weekend and a fantastic race. The tyre is different from last season. We know the carcass is different. That’s not the reason why the won how they won in Brno."

Quizzed on whether Aprilia can learn anything from KTM's rise to the top, Espargaro cited the strength of the RC16's engine – "it's a rocket" – and the traction they get when putting that power to the ground as key factors.

"It’s difficult to analyse a bike from outside. I know the number one rider there Pol, but I never talk much about bikes with Pol," Aleix said of his younger brother.

"I don’t really know how they work or how they approach the races. I know the mentality of the Austrians is very different to the Spanish or the Italians. But they did a great job.

"Following them [on track], in electronics they made one big step forward. But for me the biggest difference is the pure power. It’s a rocket. When they put the bike straight it looks like to me like the Ducati in the best times in Austria two years ago. It’s unbelievable the traction that they have with the power. Unbelievable.

"Overall, the feeling I have with the Aprilia, I don’t think it’s a worse bike than the KTM. But the engine is the difference. They have a lot of power. So they are able to brake very, very late, not stress so much in corner speed and then make difference by accelerating."

A less glamorous but vital component of the KTM success story has been the large commitment made to its private test team, now featuring 31-time MotoGP winner Pedrosa.

"There are no secrets in this world. The more you invest, the more you work, the more success you have. I hope we can learn from them and be much more competitive next year.

"I know Aprilia is trying. Many things are changing. But with the problem we had with Iannone everything has been more difficult for us.

"Aprilia this year invested in the test team, we have two good riders in the test team with Salvadori and Smith. But Smith is now racing. So the situation in Aprilia is more tricky.

"But it’s not an excuse at all because it’s not our first year. So I hope that for the future we can learn and improve."

Team-mate Bradley Smith was a factory KTM race rider alongside Pol Espargaro at the start of the RC16 project, before joining Aprilia.

"Certainly the way that they went about their business was a winning mentality and you could understand why they had so much success across the board, not only in road racing but motocross and so on. How they plan everything and go about it. The people they hire, the people they bring in to those high places. The mentality is that of champions," Smith said.

"It's a surprise to me from when I left the bike in 2018 how much they were able to improve in the last 18 months. I didn't really see it going as quickly to winning a race, but having looked at Jerez as well, it's still not an all-round race-winning bike if that makes sense.

"It was a very strange race in those circumstances. It'll be interesting to see how they perform here [in Austria] but then obviously throughout the remainder of the season to see exactly where they are at.

"But last year we did see on their strong days top 6-8 and if they've improved there's no reason why it wouldn't have been a top 5-top 3 bike.

"They do things properly and they do things to win. They won on Sunday and on Monday they had five riders on track with two bikes [testing]. That's what needs to happen and that's why they are in the position they are in.

"So take no credit away from them."

KTM and Aprilia are the only teams still eligible for MotoGP Concessions, although KTM will lose access to the technical perks if it claims more podiums.

 

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