Aprilia will join forces with Shaun Muir's SMR team for a factory supported return to the World Superbike Championship, headlined by Eugene Laverty.

The Irishman is switching back from MotoGP, having previously won ten races and finished 2013 WorldSBK title runner-up for Aprilia.

In a video interview released by the official World Superbike website, Laverty says: "I am excited to return to World Superbike with Aprilia. I had a lot of success there and it was a great period.

"To go back with a factory Aprilia and the chance to win races and fight for a world title is a different mindset [to the last two years in MotoGP] and one I am really prepared for.

"Next year will be very exciting in World Superbike. There will be even more strong riders with Stefan Bradl moving across and me moving back. It's going to be very competitive.

"It's important to have factory support and the factory engineers, including some guys I've worked with before, and I know this team well - the SMR team - so I'm confident they've got the ability to fight for the world championship."

Aprilia, which won the WorldSBK title in 2010, 2012 and 2014, will now carry out technical upgrades on the RSV4 with Muir's Milwaukee-squad responsible for the race team.

SMR won the British Superbike title with Tommy Hill (2011) and Josh Brookes (2015) before moving to World Superbikes this season. They currently field Brookes and Karel Abraham on BMW machinery, but are just 15th and 18th respectively in the championship standings.

Aprilia closed its official World Superbike team at the end of 2014 to focus on a return to MotoGP, but ended up running the 'satellite' Red Devils Roma team the following year.

Once that collaboration - which saw Leon Haslam and Jordi Torres win three races - ended, a late deal was reached with IodaRacing, at least keeping the RSV4 on the grid this season.

Impressive rookie Lorenzo Savadori has claimed six top-six finishes and holds ninth in the standings on a bike that has had 'zero' development.

With little to celebrate for its considerable efforts in MotoGP at present, Aprilia appears to have been tempted back to WorldSBK by the realistic chance to battle for victories, without the burden of running its own race team.

Factory-favourite Savadori is tipped to switch to the SMR project, while Ioda boss Giampiero Sacchi recently insisted that a new Aprilia team would be a benefit to them.

CLICK HERE for an exclusive interview with Laverty, in which he explains why he is leaving MotoGP...



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