Aprilia Pulls Plug On Moto2 Project - Aspar Could Take Over

Doubts about the future of Aprilia's Moto2 project have been growing for some time now. Reports first emerged on Friday that the factory was considering rerouting its investment in the class, and directing it towards a return to MotoGP when the new engine regulations come into force in 2012. Since then, things have moved very swiftly, so swiftly in fact that the Piaggio Group has issued a press release announcing that it is ceasing all Moto2 activities with immediate effect. The press release, translated from Italian, reads as follows:

The Piaggio Group wishes to communicate that Aprilia will not participate in the Moto2 Championship, nor will they supply motorcycles to private teams participating in that Championship. In the vision of the Group, the Moto2 Championship does not possess the technological and competitive characteristics which would make participating in this kind of competition a positive strategic choice for Aprilia.

The Group believes that it would be unnecessary and damaging for a major Italian and European motorcycle manufacturer - one which has 43 World Championships in both road and off-road racing to its name - to take part in a competitive series based on the engine technology of a rival manufacturer.

Despite the previous leaks, the news will come as a shock to the customer teams currently waiting to receive their Aprilia chassis. These teams including some big names: Ajo Motorsport fielding Alex Debon; Cardion AB, the team behind Karel Abraham and run by the owner of the Brno circuit; Team Speedup Aprilia, the former Gilera team run by Luca Boscoscuro and due to field Andrea Iannone and Gabor Talmacsi; and last but very far from least, the Aspar team run by Jorge Martinez, which has 125cc World Champion Julian Simon and Frenchman Mike di Meglio as their riders.

Initially, the latter team looked like taking over development of the Aprilia chassis, with Aspar taking over all of the development parts so far produced by the Noale factory. But that scenario is not entirely certain, and a big question mark hanging over the entire project. What is sure is that Aspar will receive the chassis promised by Aprilia in early December. From there, Jorge Martinez and his Aspar team could decide to develop the chassis on their own, or they could potentially switch to another chassis, such as Moriwaki or Suter. If Aspar do continue development on the Aprilia - or now Aspar - chassis, it is unclear whether they will also supply the teams who were also left in the lurch by the decision by Aprilia to abandon Moto2.

Jorge Martinez voiced the thoughts of several people in an interview with the Italian site GPOne.com, when he said "I think abandoning the Moto2 project at this point in time would be an enormous mistake, because the experience gained from the new category would be very useful in 2012 or even 2011, when the rules change. If Aprilia intends to return to the premier class, Moto2 would be the ideal test bed to do so from."

So where has this change of heart come from, especially given the wealth of experience to be gained from the Moto2 class for the 2012 MotoGP regulations which will allow production-based engines to run in prototype chassis? According to both GPone.com and Spanish site Motocuatro.com, the decision has its roots in an internal dispute over Aprilia's failed defense of the final 250cc World Championship. First Alvaro Bautista's challenge failed, then Marco Simoncelli's title defense faltered, handing the crown to Hiroshi Aoyama aboard a Honda RS250RW. The irony of Honda - the company widely believed to have concocted the end of the 250cc class - winning the class' final championship is not lost on most observers, and is especially painful in Noale, where the Aprilia racing department wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.

Reportedly, the failure of Bautista and Simoncelli has created a rift between Leo Mercanti, the head of Aprilia, and the company's racing chief Giampiero Sacchi. The two men, both very strong characters with a clear sense of direction, have allegedly been bickering over the blame for Aprilia's loss of the final title, and attempting to blame each other for the failure. The press release in which Aprilia announced their decision to pull out of Moto2 would appear to be from the hand of Piaggio Group CEO Roberto Colaninno, which suggests that the Piaggio boss had grown tired of Sacchi and Mercanti's constant arguments.

The question is where this decision leaves Aprilia's World Superbike program. The project should be safe for at least a couple of years, as part of the rationale for abandoning Moto2 is to concentrate efforts on the RSV4, and readying it for use in prototype form in MotoGP in 2012. But Aprilia seems currently to be suffering from a chronic lack of decisiveness, and until this problem is solved, the future of the Noale factory's racing projects all look rather shaky.

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I'm trying to figure out why anybody at the factory should take the blame for a couple of crash artists not winning the championship.

Because they should have ensured that they would have won despite the crashes. It worked in 2008, didn't it? ;-)

I was always surprised Aprillia showed any interest at all in Moto2, especially since the RSV4 was showing well from the get go...

And I thought the boys at the top woud've been most upset with Simoncelli himself, with all his pre- & early season injuries and gaffes. He clearly had the fastest bike, and the talent to match, but didn't bring the championship home again. I don't see how that's anyone else's fault but his own.

Jorge Martinez "... return to the premier class, Moto2 would be the ideal test bed to do so from."

Oh? How does that work? They are both roadracing motorcycles at a world championship level. There, all similarity ends.


Prototype Frames. electronics, etc.

There isn't a better platform to get to MotoGP from. Particularly if you already have a foundation for a motor.

Aprilia are using a non-monetary sunk cost from the 2009 250GP season to make a decision about the continuation of their GP program?

Oh dear.

If the internal feud between Mercanti and Sacchi is indeed true, then Piaggio/Aprilia really need to get their s#^t together fast and focus on the future. Personally, I don't think Aprilia should have ever considered entering Moto2 in any way, shape or form. I agree with the statement in the press release entirely in that respect. While this leaves some Moto2 teams temporarily hanging, and it is unprofessional how the situation and decision came down, ultimately I think the decision will be a good one. Besides, I bet now that MotoGP will (likely) allow 1,000cc production-based engines of some sort by 2012, Aprilia may have decided it's better to focus on this possibility, as well as WSBK, with their RSV4 engine, instead of getting involved in Moto2 as simply a chassis manufacturer. That niche is best left to companies like Bimota and others.

As others have said, Aprilia's loss of the 250cc world championship was down to Simoncelli's and Bautista's mistakes, and Aoyama's consistency.

I didn't like Aprilia's interest in the class either, and I suspect they were motivated primarily by money. Aprilia nearly had a monopoly on 250GP and teams alleged that Aprilia gouged privateers to fund factory development. According to Dennis Noyes, Aprilia had one of the highest pre-season negotiated chassis prices at around 250,000 euros which is more than double the other chassis builders like FTR.

Noyes made an interesting observation that Aprilia had fallen behind in development so the teams who wanted Aprilia equipment may have had second thoughts. Teams like Moriwaki, BQR, and FTR have already RACED their machines. It would have been difficult for Aprilia to catch up before 2010 without torrential development spending.


On a side note, I wonder if Aprilia know something the rest of us don't. The Flaminis have been crying foul and threatening legal action against the FIM for 1000cc MotoGP and Moto2. I wonder Aprilia have reason to believe IMS will follow through?

I was surprised by Aprilia's asking price for a Moto2 frame also. $250,000!?! Holy crap! Even if they did have something produced and ready to go, would it really be double the value of the other chassis-makers product?? Only if the factory were directly supporting each of them I would think, and even then...they were asking a lot.

As much as I like to root for Aprilia, some of their business practices recently have really turned me off. While part of me feels like they were screwed by the whole Moto2 situation, in a way they had it coming. It's too bad...

Great article from Dennis Noyes...as always.

Ayoama's Honda got a MASSIVE kick in technology and speed make no doubts someone in HRC wanted that title badly enough....................................

you know this for a fact or is it just conjecture?

neil spalding was pretty convinced there was no development by honda on the bike

i expect they did what aprilia would've done to simoncelli and bautista and just threw all the parts they had to scot in a nothing to lose everything to gain fashion

add in the fact aoyama and de rosa both rose brilliantly along with scots inside out knowledge of setting bike up and you've got a championship

I spoke extensively to Guido Cecchini, Aoyama's crew chief at Estoril (there'll be a story in the next issue of Road Racer X magazine), and he said the bike was almost identical to the machine used by Dovizioso, with only a different rear swing arm, one rejected by Dovizioso as being too stiff. They had done a little engine work themselves, and HRC had said that they had a little bit more power than last year. But Cecchini said categorically that the Honda's competitiveness was all down to Aoyama, making that bike go faster than it had any right to.

If Honda was going to throw resources at winning the title, I would be willing to bet my paycheck that they would give the guy a second bike long before the wound up the R&D department.