2016 Aprilia RS-GP Gets First Shakedown At Aragon

With Ducati refining the already competitive GP15 into the Desmo16, and Suzuki bringing a seamless gearbox and new, more powerful engine for the GSX-RR, the battle among the manufacturers in MotoGP is getting closer. The one exception so far has been Aprilia, who soldiered on through 2015 with an uprated version of the ART machine, which was still based on the RSV4 production bike, while they worked on a brand new prototype.

That prototype has at last made its debut at the track. On Wednesday, Aprilia test rider Mike Di Meglio took the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP out for its first official spin. Di Meglio was performing a basic shakedown test, making sure that everything worked and there were no unexpected problems with the bike, giving Aprilia time to address them before factory Aprilia riders Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl get their first chance to ride the bike at a private test at Qatar, two weeks before the official IRTA test at the circuit. 

There was no press release after the shakedown test, as the bike will be officially launched later this month, along with the first official photos. However, our Italian friends over at GPOne.com managed to obtain a single snap of the RS-GP. That picture does not reveal very much: the bike looks physically smaller and more compact than the ART machine it is based on, and bearing more of a resemblance to the Honda RC213V than the ART from previous seasons.

Aprilia have said very little about the new bike, other than to acknowledge that it will be some 10kg lighter than last year's bike, bringing it in line with the rest of the bikes on the grid. Romano Albesiano has said that he would be changing the angle between the cylinders as well, though he would not be drawn into precise details. Paddock speculation suggests that the RS-GP will sport a 75º V4, rather than the 65º V4 the ART bike inherited from the RSV4 road bike. There is also speculation that the Aprilia uses a counter-rotating crankshaft, as both Ducati and Yamaha are believed to do. The benefits of a counter-rotating crankshaft are that it makes the bike easier to turn, the gyroscopic forces of the wheels being counteracted, and it helps to reduce wheelies. Whether any MotoGP bike uses a counter-rotating crankshaft remains a matter of speculation: journalists may draw conclusions from photographs, or be passed information by engineers, but they have no way of checking and independently verifying such information.

Though the shakedown of the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP was a private affair, away from the prying eyes of the world's media, a few details did emerge. Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano told both GPOne.com and Speedweek that the test had been a success, and had encountered few problems. The only minor issue was a crash for Mike Di Meglio, the Frenchman falling due to a cold tire. The crash was serious enough for Di Meglio to be taken to a local hospital for a check up, bringing the test prematurely to an end.

The test plan now is to have Bradl and Bautista ride the bike at a private test on 21st-23rd February at Losail in Qatar. The Gresini Aprilia riders will then join the official IRTA test from 2nd-4th March, the aim being to be able to verify the findings of the initial test at the same track and under similar conditions.

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Beautiful bike. Still getting used to the chunk of fairing under the seat we are seeing these days.

Very appreciative of the strong base of electronics now offered. Both Suzuki and Aprilia have a good boost in a major area they have struggled with (just ask Haga). Aprilia do well with mechanical grip. Let's have some patience with them in the first several rounds as they sort the brand new bike.

Suzuki has more power. Sure, we have been awaiting it since what, 2004? But it is here. Vinales is on the rise. Aprilia has their work cut out for them.

May as well mention the race for KTM to catch Aprilia (who is chasing Suzuki). Not envisioning a strong first bike from KTM. VERY interesting though is their Moto2 project! They could develop a rider pipeline. And Moto2 is ripe for just such a project to upset the applecart. Brilliant!

Ducati have quite a strong head start in everywhere but the rider department. Dovisioso is not showing promise. Iannone IS and THIS season is the one in which it is to actualize or not. I am impressed by him. The emergence of riders towards the Fab Four holds more interest for me than nearly anything else in the paddock. Ducati's lack of a top-tier rider is a temporary one.

There is some satisfaction in witnessing Honda's struggles. Enough said there, also temporary. So here arises a concern - we may see a Yamaha dominance with a gap behind the 2nd one. Worse yet, a Lorenzo-Yamaha dominance followed by a gap. The battle for second may be a great one, but....

Come on Iannone and Gigi, let's see it!

Actually, Aprilia had a good electronics package and for them it is a step backwards. Bradl could make the comparison last year when he came off the Forward Yamaha with the spec open software, and according to him Aprilia's own electronics was much much better. The current 'unified software' is apparently better than the 'open class' software was last year, but still not as good as Aprilia's own package. Romano Albesiano has been mild in his words, stating that of course they still have to get used to the new unified software and he can't judge it yet until they have it running in optimal form.

You are referring to Haga, so you must be talking about the RS3 Cube three-cylinder MotoGP bike from the early days of MotoGP, more than a decade ago. Then Aprilia was the first to be running a full ride-by-wire system, combined with an engine that was based on Formula One technology, so very powerful but also very aggressive. That was an entirely different time.

By the way, about Suzuki: in 2011 their GSV-R800 was fast enough to keep up with the Hondas in a straight line (I remember Motegi, where Stoner was not exactly easily passing Bautista, who was running with the front four), the Suzuki was very close to the top at that time. It had more to do with tyre wear and consistent grip over race distance than sheer horsepower. I think the GSV-R800 was actually a pretty fast bike in that last season. Also looking at Bautista's results in the next year on the factory Honda at Gresini, he actually did worse until late in the season, when he was just about back to where he was on the Suzuki. Too bad Suzuki pulled out back then, probably because of the financial crisis in combination with the upcoming big change of technical regulations (to the 1000cc engines).

Agreed. Great response Pvalve. Greetings!

Poignant moments over the years stick out in my mind like they do for lots of us I bet. I know the Haga and Hopkins moments are dated. The one and a half seasons where Suzuki could podium were an exception to the rule though don't you think? There has been a lot of waiting for power from Suzuki. I am really pleased that it is here!

I am also thinking though that Bradl's comment says more about Aprilia relative to the Open bikes (good riddance btw) than to the established 3 factories and their satellite bikes (weird term btw). Also, as a production bike based project the functionality needs of an electronics package would be much different than for the Forward project w a yr old factory bike base.

It was impressive what Aprilia was able to do with their WSBK machine in MotoGP in recent years! A.Espargaro and that bike - fantastic. Now they are, like everyone but Ducati, going to grumble for a bit about adapting to and developing the new electronics package for the short run.

The amount of power (Ducati) that that electronics package can do a good job with, handed to Suzuki and Aprilia and KTM (and Kawasaki?) - boon. And Yamaha and Honda also brought back a bit with it as well? Double score!

(I give us both 4 stars on this one)

The layout of the engine doesn't matter. All of the bikes on the grid use a single crankshaft, the dual cranks died out with the two strokes.

The Yamaha M1 is an inline four, but the crank is said to rotate backwards, in the opposite direction to the wheels. That is what is meant by counter-rotating.

Interesting bit about the speculation on the V angle of the engine. It would make sense for Aprilia to choose a V angle of 75 degrees instead of the 90 degree lay-out of the Ducati and Honda engines (and apparently the KTM RC16 as well). Of course it would necessitate one or two balance shafts, but it would make the engine more compact and it would mean that they can use much of the chassis balance experience with the 65 degree RSV4 unit that they have accumulated last year (and all those years in Superbikes).

Most importantly though: it would give them something to differentiate their bike from the others, and thereby possibly gain an advantage. That is something that becomes more and more difficult, gaining advantages by being different, now that ever more things become standardized. Same electronics, same tyres, same number of cylinders and even the same bore and stroke. Well, the stroke is not specified, but the bore is limited to 81 mm, so everybody will use 81 x 48,5 mm to get to the allowed 1000 cc's.

Looking at the speed the modified RSV4 engine already had last year, I'd say they probably don't need to open up the V more than an extra 10 or 15 degrees, at least not for intake port space.
Looking forward to the first tests with Bautista and Bradl on board, and the other bikes on track. The people at Aprilia will be extremely motivated to beat especially Ducati, after they lured Gigi Dall'Igna with all his Aprilia knowledge away...

I was disappointed Gigi left Aprilia for the arch rival Ducati. So far his talents have been apparent. However, the motivation of Aprilia to best Ducati must be huge! I've always been an Aprilia fan since they were at Laguna Seca before they were even imported with the most lavish display and I rode provided RS 125 around the track! I'm rooting for Aprilia,GO!