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.
Can Aprilia fight for its first MotoGP victory in 2022?
Aprilia’s technical director Romano Albesiano talks openly about the factory’s fight to get to the front and the challenges of MotoGP engineering in general
Aprilia is still MotoGP’s underdog, but if the Noale factory continues climbing on the upward curve since introducing its 90-degree V4 that may no longer be the case in 2022, or at least less so.
The switch to a wider-angled V4 – basically the same configuration as used by Ducati, Honda and KTM – from the previous 72-degree unit allowed Aprilia to build a better-balanced motorcycle with improved engine performance in both corner entry and exit.
Last season was Aprilia’s second with the new engine and marked a breakthrough: a first-ever four-stroke MotoGP podium at Silverstone, a fourth place at Aragon, plus a front-row start at Sachsenring and just one tenth off the front row at Mugello.
Aleix Espargaró finished just 4.1sec behind Silverstone winner and eventual world champion Fabio Quartararo. If we compare those performances as percentages, Quartararo’s was 100% and Espargaró’s 99.8%, which means Aprilia isn’t far from challenging for wins, when everything goes right.
Big improvements arrived in 2021 because Aprilia was able to properly develop its new bike for the first time. Although the company has MotoGP concessions (which allow it to upgrade engines and do lots of testing, unlike the other factories), those were cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. So Aprilia raced all of 2020 with a prototype engine and an aero package that was all wrong.
Last season much-improved downforce aero and reduced engine friction improved acceleration, a revised chassis balance made the bike stop better and an impressive five-kilo weight reduction helped all around.
“The biggest improvement for last season was the full bike, overall,” says Espargaró, who’s been at Aprilia since 2017. “The 2021 bike didn’t have unbelievable acceleration or traction, but it got better in almost every area, especially acceleration, because Aprilia worked so hard on the wings.
“Now we need to make the bike turn better and generate more grip. I think the chassis is too rigid, so it doesn’t generate much grip and so it doesn’t turn enough off the brakes. Maverick [Viñales, his team-mate since last September] is asking for the exact same thing.”
Aprilia technical director Romano Albesiano has been with the factory since 2014 and always speaks openly about his work and MotoGP in general. These are his thoughts on 2021 and the upcoming 2022 championship…
What were the main improvements you made to the RS-GP last season?
“You always talk about refinements in MotoGP – some better balancing of the bike and so on. For many years our performance had been quite good in acceleration but we always lacked something in the stopping phase and last season we made a big step forward in this area.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.