Massimo Rivola On RNF: Aprilia Plans A Long-Term Partnership With A Junior Team

While rumors that the WithU RNF Yamaha MotoGP team were considering a switch to Aprilia had been circulating for a while, nobody had expected the news to come out in the manner it did. Aprilia Racing rider Aleix Espargaro tweeted a welcome to RNF before FP1 started, and before Aprilia and RNF had intended to announce the news. Though Espargaro's tweet was deleted shortly afterward, it was too late. RNF and Aprilia rushed out press releases announcing the deal.

On Friday evening, contributor Niki Kovács and myself, David Emmett, sat down with Aprilia boss Massimo Rivola to find out more about the deal. What goals Aprilia had in signing RNF, how the link up will work, what bikes RNF will have available, and what the rider strategy will be for RNF.

The deal is what both parties have been looking for these past couple of years. RNF has wanted a closer relationship to the factory supplying bikes, while Aprilia has been in search of a satellite squad for the past couple of seasons. Both sides want to create a "Junior Team", in the mold of Pramac Ducati or Tech3 KTM.

Was that the idea for RNF, we asked Rivola? "The answer is yes," the Aprilia Racing CEO said, before adding that being a junior team meant more than just preparing young riders. "The idea is to have a junior team, developing junior riders, and maybe importing also some junior engineers or technicians."

Suzuki's withdrawal had complicated the situation, however. The sudden presence of Joan Mir and Alex Rins on the market, together with an influx of engineers, technicians, and mechanics, meant that options had expanded for everyone. The availability of Mir and Rins meant that not only were they available, but that other teams and factories were looking at their current riders and wondering whether to replace them. Names which looked to be nailed down for 2023 are now also a possibility.

This had widened Aprilia's perspective as well, Rivola told us. "At the same time, we are not blind, and so if we face an exceptional year where the market is maybe in a condition where young and experienced riders in MotoGP could be available, we have to evaluate, because maybe one of the two could be like that."

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Amazing what Aprilia has gained in the last two seasons! They went from riders turning them down to independent teams wanting to join their MotoGP effort! I like that the Aprilia MotoGP effort is much less complicated than Honda or Yamaha. RNF might prosper there like Pramac has with Ducati. Add in Wilco Zeelenberg, and Aprilia gets a pretty big bump in talent to help achieve success. While the 'junior team' rider strategy sounds good long term, maybe they recruit proven talent that seem to be coming available. It sounds like they might fill at least one seat with a proven rider. I am hoping they might acquire Jack Miller or Alex Rins. Mir might be a good fit but he seems to be requiring big money. His agent suggested Mir is willing to stay home without it. Anyway, I am stoked for both Aprilia and RNF. I don't own an Aprilia, but my son raced and RS250 in Aprilia Cup back in the day. Also my spouse rides a real primo Vespa GTV 300. Is that close enough?

Me three! The detail that they are running last year's bikes sticks out as a sticky wicket and was a discouragement amongst the excitement. It makes some sense for ease and finances yes, but bothers me nonetheless. 

I was JUST talking w a therapist friend about our personal response to difficulties in the World and our shared sense that public things are coming apart. Pulling our focus closer in to where we reside in smaller scale, and the opportunities that arise. 

The whole Suzuki project needing jobs is an unusual resource. The Malaysian team has had a horrible 2 yrs following the loss of high performing riders, Yamaha's bike plopping in performance except for Alien hands, sudden abandonment by brethren finance giant Petronas, and a very ugly civil war within for the ownership. Bloody HORRIBLE. Look, I would LOVE to hear an uninhibited earnest intimate reflection from Herve, some of this is about Yamaha's myopic idea of what a 2nd Team is (as well as a successful bike advancement). I forever remember Zarco and Herve running their 2 yr old parts bin special successfully trying to make lemonade out of a previously guttered lemon Blue bike. That estranged customer model is shite. 

If anyone told you 7 to 10 yrs ago what Yamaha and Honda would be experiencing the last few years you would laugh it off as absurd. Tides they change. What brought this great era for Ducati? Big fundamental head to toe change when Gigi left Aprilia. Previous to that, what about Yamaha and Furusawa/Burgess/Rossi? Huge change starting on the garage end and revolutionizing the program.

If Aprilia and Suzuki have been the little programs that do a lot, Yamaha has been the opposite lately (Honda too). The family style cultures of Aprilia and Suzuki are a fit for the refugees headed towards Black Jr. A few key personnel w Raz hold promise as noted above.


They pick up many strong staff from Suzuki.

That they sign one very strong established but hungry rider (Bastiannini, Rins, Miller, then maybe Oliveira, Pol) and one top notch newer kid (Gardner, or ?). The bike is way better than the KTM, Honda, and dare I say it Yamaha now - riders will want on it. Move quickly with the pen over there Aprilia! Sell it!

The kit gets lots of updates to stay a part of the evolving tightly woven program.

The "last year's bike" model is only to get the ball rolling and success spurns one or both Aquaprilia bikes be full fat Factory.

That the lack of presence Aprilia has in SE Asia relative to Yamaha doesn't hinder the marriage. That a cultural fit amongst the Italian manu and Malaysian centric team management brings synergy.

That we see bright not-black Tricolore colors and a glorious main sponsor on a beautiful livery.

That we can all take hope and joy in its unfolding in the wake of losing beloved successful Suzuki. 

Wouldn't you think it'd be easier to build four bikes (okay, eight; two per rider) to one spec rather than two? Seems a puzzle to me.

"Last year's bike" like in the old days. After Valencia 22 they wheel 'em out of the Aprilia factory box over to RNF.

"There you go Razlan Razali & RNF, 4 factory Aprilias." Yes Powervalve58 I wonder if R.R. enjoys doing deals more than doing the business and running the team.

Next year's RS-GP may not be all that different. "Now that the gap is not so big, maybe the '23 bike won't be so different." M.R.

Ducati seem to have got it less than perfect between 21 & 22.

By then Aprilia should have the new beastie ready to test. Probably not 4 of them for the first test, I'm guessing. Some of Aprilia's recent iterations have taken a while to come through. We will see.

Continuando a Barcelona.

I take comfort, as others have said, that at least this year’s bike appears to work well in all conditions. And so any riders coming to it afresh next year with RNF can essentially get on with the job of adapting rather than developing the thing. With Aprilia losing its concession on testing, I think it will be much harder to come to next season with a new bike that’s the finished article cf Ducati, Honda, KTM. No prizes for being too clever by half. And on new riders, I think it’s a disgrace when teams bring new riders - especially young new riders from the lower classes - on short contracts to ride bikes that even their established riders are struggling with. Riders need time on the bike and with Dorna forever reducing testing time in the interests of coining it at the racetrack, they are increasingly having to learn and develop the bike while racing it. Yes, KTM especially, sort yourself out. But other manus too. What is the point of a pipeline that leads riders to the crusher? 

I think Mav will get a RNF seat and Miller the factory bike, factory contract, (2nd team) unless he can get a few podiums ( I doubt he will, maybe one then collapse again) and then maybe Olivera, Pol hasnt won anything and it will distract his brother, he tries too hard and failsand that hurts him. Olivera maybe he is a winner. The Suzuki riders need to finish some races to get a ride.

Dude Maverick Vinales isn't going to be on a RNF satellite Aprilia seat. It already got confirmed both Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Vinales have signed for the Factory Aprilia squad for the 2023/2024 seasons.

It's rumoured it's between Miller and Rins for the Factory KTM seat to replace Oliveira. Both Miller and Rins first choice is to remain in a factory team.

Oliveira is talking to the Gresini Ducati and RNF Aprilia satellite teams. But so are Miller and Rins as a back up if they don't get the factory KTM seat. 

^ Yep, well accounted. Talk is more of Miller to Oliveira's seat. Rins and Oliveira are having to take a hard look at 2nd Teams. The nomenclature of "I have a Factory contract, and have been promised top kit" is one that ends up bandied about sometimes.

Hard to see much in the silly crystal ball now on several key riders and seats.

Rumours in german media outlets ( Red Bull's SPEEDWEEK...)suggest that Miller gets the factory seat. Oliveira is pushed to Tech3 ( which he openly denies by now ) and get Pol back to KTM to seat him into Tech3...

Both rookies at Tech3 gets booted, as Tech3 management is unhappy with both - especially with Remy's personal manager and with Raul's "uninspired" perfomances so far...

Is there a limit on the number of bikes they can have? Could KTM just say "we have 4 factory bikes - 2 in orange, 2 in black"? If anyone could afford 4 riders at that level of machinery it's got to be KTM/red bull

Great article, and quick too! I always love to hear from Massimo Rivola, he seems like a really smart and also very decent guy. Things have really picked up momentum in a positive way from the moment he joined Aprilia. And Romano Albesiano then was able to shine as well, what an amazing progress we’ve seen from the moment he could concentrate on building the bike. 
I must admit that I’m a bit worried about Razlan Razali, the whole transition from Petronas SRT to the WithU RNF team looked messy (and I think the RNF name is silly, unprofessional even). And last year already the team didn’t seem to function anymore. Hopefully I’m wrong. The fact that Wilco Zeelenberg is also joining gives me hope though, he sure has proven his worth over multiple seasons! I’d love to see that satellite Aprilia team succeed.

^ There were a couple of older discussions here amongst more than a handful of us that were really thorough and diversely considered. I think the one you link to is a couple quips. If I get a moment later I will try to find one and link it. There was a BIG back and forth! Several. One is right when he and Yamaha announced divorce. It was a bit wild and even harsh, but we were all really civil, mostly thoughtful. Then again in Winter, that one may have been more focused. 

Anyhoo, cheers Cloverleaf! You are beating me in the Motomutterers tipping aren't you? I have Marc, Martin and Mir - not so strong. Rholcomb has been looking good.

4 races in 5 weekends, heading towards Summer - we're right in the thick of things eh?!


These ones! Out of order, but D.E.'s Aug 12 2021 article "Vinales just tried to pop his engine in a race" --->

There are a bunch if you look back. David's ARTICLE here is excellent! And some good discussion towards the middle to end?

for pulling the picture together and apologies to anyone who may have scrolled down the link in my post in vain - pilot error on my part. 

Things are definitely warming up in the Motomutterers tipping. You were first, way back, to announce your team. Thought at the time that you’d generally chosen well. Seems a number of riders with the initial M are having a tough year - tippers too, eh ;). Plenty of racing still to come. Good luck. 

Brief heads up, Isle of Man TT rider Mark Purslow has died after an accident during the fourth qualifying session this eve. (Supersport, where Michael Dunlop and Peter Hickman are a couple noteworthy competitors near the front. Purslow has been rising in the ranks, relative newcomer but not brand new).

The 29-year old from Wales was killed crashing big at Ballagarey, by the fourth mile marker of the 37.7-mile Mountain Course and on his third lap. Lap 3 and Lap 5 are notoriously difficult, they are fresh full tanks of gas immediately after running Laps 2 and 4 on emptying light tanks. The scary spots are scariest then, the bike wants to run wide. 

Despite his name, slow he was not. He crashed just after a new personal best lap of 120.86mph, his first lap over 120mph, this is in the swing of good Supersport pace and a milestone goal.

I had noticed him because of the interesting team name "Never Be Clever Racing," a bit of a fun poke at Be Wiser maybe. I have interest in the class. He raced a Yamaha R6, #70 - a cool looking funky modern artistic lighter blue and yellow. He was getting fast and focusing on Supersport over lightweights. Don't know much about him, but he had a wry smile.

This is an inherent part of racing, and especially at the IOM TT. Maybe there isn't a need amongst US here to consider safety changes etc again. I feel we have done quite well with it and thoroughly over the yrs.

Perhaps sharing a brief moment of awareness and appreciation is in order? Even just quietly to self. Rest in contentment Mark Purslow. Blessings to your caring community and everyone involved in the racing.

- Dave 

I was never a fan of the TT. Got to visit in 2010 (when (Ian Hutchinson won five races), and changed my opinion thanks to meeting a local who took us around to several viewing spots. Absolutely insane, but I have to admire the people who do it. Don't know Mark Purslow, but Dawg rest his soul. Not many of us get to die doing what we love the best.

RIP Mark Purslow

Terrible tragedy. Ballagarey claims another victim. I hope the years away we’re not a contributing factor.