MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Dovizioso joining Aprilia would be like a KGB agent joining the CIA*
Aprilia is ready to do great things in MotoGP and will do even better if it can acquire Andrea Dovizioso’s priceless 90-degree V4 intelligence
Aprilia has been the butt of many a MotoGP fan’s joke in recent years because the Noale factory has finished last in the MotoGP constructors champion every year since the launch of the RS-GP in 2015.
The RS-GP is the perennial underperformer. Even last year’s all-new bike with all-new 90-degree V4 engine didn’t seem to change much – the 2020 RS-GP’s best finish was an eighth place at the season-ending Portuguese GP
However, strange as it may seem, results aren’t the best way to analyse a machine’s performance, at least until you’re fighting for wins. The best way to analyse how well a bike is performing is by measuring the gap to the race winner. Anyone who bothered to do that last season will have noticed that the 2020 Aprilia was in fact a huge step forward.
At Brno 2019, Aleix Espargaró finished 37 seconds behind the winner; last year he crossed the line just 15 seconds down. At Misano 2019 he finished the race 34 seconds back; last year that gap was reduced to 15 seconds. And at Valencia 2020, where he completed the 2019 race 33 seconds behind the winner, he took the chequered flag once again 15 seconds down. And both Misano 2020 and Valencia 2020 were faster than they were in 2019.
Fifteen seconds over a race distance is a deficit of around six-tenths per lap, which is still quite a gap to bridge in an era when most MotoGP races are won and lost by a couple of seconds, but Aprilia might’ve got a lot closer but for Covid-19.
Aprilia was hurt much more by the pandemic than any other factory in MotoGP. Its engineers went into last season confident of getting better and better, because they knew they could upgrade their brand-new 90-degree V4 engine up to eight times during the season, thanks to MotoGP’s concession regulations, written to give struggling factories the chance to catch the front-runners.
Then Covid struck, so MotoGP wrote some emergency cost-cutting regulations, which banned everyone from upgrading their aero and banned the concessions factories from upgrading their engines.
Thus Aprilia had to run the entire season with a prototype engine that only made its track debut at the Sepang tests in February, just weeks before the first race. The RS-GP’s aero was also all wrong. Aprilia had started with relatively low-downforce aero for the season-opening Qatar GP, with the intention of using a high-downforce design at other circuits. After the upgrade ban the RS-GP was stuck with too little downforce, which caused problems with wheelies and thereby reduced acceleration.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.