This subject is, for fans and staff alike, a heart-felt one, because it involves a manufacturer that has written pages of history across two fields, namely MotoGP and WorldSBK.
Aprilia, the Italian brand that has conquered the world, but not fully. The rapid series of wins in the two-stroke prototype categories and the success it has achieved with the four-stroke maxi bikes contrasts with the “work in progress” currently going on in the Top Class.
Having officially pulled out of SBK a few years ag, the manufacturer is fully committed to MotoGP, with the Gresini team, with resources focused on one goal, or rather hindering their Japanese rivals and Ducati ‘cousins’. In WorldSBK, the riders equipped with bikes built in Noale, were able to do just that. In MotoGP, the road is still long.
Glory to the (beautiful) two strokes
The very first win came at the hands of Loris Reggiani at Misano. It was the 1987 San Marino 250 GP. That historic victory was the first in an impressive series of wins, across the 125 and 250 categories, which saw many riders secure the number 1 plate, or rather Gramigni, Sakata (twice), Rossi, Locatelli, Vincent, Bautista, Talmacsi, Simon and Terol in 125.
In 250 there was Biaggi’s triple triumph and single titles for Rossi, Capirossi, Melandri, Poggiali, as well as two for Lorenzo. And added to this were 19 Constructors’ world titles. The Japanese manufacturers were forced to admit defeat on many occasions.
The adventure in 500 and MotoGP
Interesting, cutting-edge projects and talented riders with great experience, but in both the two-stroke 500 and four-stroke MotoGP classes, Aprilia has not yet scored a podium result, despite the machines being beautiful, fast and technologically advanced.
In 500, the decision to take on its four-cylinder rivals with a twin saw the Italian manufacturer faced with a particularly tough challenge. Unfortunately because, in the meantime, it was smooth sailing across the other classes. Ultimately, Aprilia made the decision to withdraw.
Its subsequent return to MotoGP came as big news, because the RS Cube three-cylinder was devastating, in every way. Unfortunately, the results were not as convincing at the hands of riders such as Edwards, Laconi, Haga and Byrne. This led to another withdrawal and another renewal, and the rest is recent history.
In WorldSBK, on the other hand...
The first Aprilia seen on the grid was a 60° V twin, a technical choice that ensured reduced bulk, high rotation speed and interesting overall power. After a solid debut for Peter Goddard, success came thanks to Troy Corser, who was able to beat the Japanese and Ducati on various occasions and finish third and fourth overall in 2000 and 2001. Regis Laconi also won a race, at Imola in 2001. After Haga, the project was abandoned, but the best was still to come.
With Max Biaggi and the RSV4 that is. This model became something of an SBK landmark, considering the two titles won by the Italian as well as Sylvain Guintoli’s victory in 2014. Between the Italian and the Frenchman, Aprilia’s race win tally reached 41, with 89 podiums. A total of seven titles for the manufacturer then, with double rider/constructor wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The figures add up.
The voice of the people and our own opinion
That is, the opinion of the fans that buy the papers. In their view, the figures don’t add up. Simply compare the mountain of wins on the one hand with not one podium in MotoGP. It’s not our job to talk budget and relative visibility, but we have an idea.
Why not listen to the fans? Or rather, why not invest, at least a little, in WorldSBK, working with the new RSV4? The performance of the relatively inexperienced Chris Ponsson and debuting team Nuova M2 Racing has shown what the project is capable of, and it has enviable foundations at the very least.
MotoGP? It’s only right to continue on there. It’s the top class, and even being there means a lot. If anything, it’s time to hire a real top rider. Then, SBK, also SBK, definitely. The people are convinced. In the production-derived series, a Noale bike could win and get people talking about Aprilia. Talking positively of course. We’re sure of it.
Translated by Heather Watson