From the start of the season up until the Portuguese GP, the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini has shown enormous improvement, both over the flying lap and in terms of final race results. The very sophisticated RS-GP – an increasing "fighter-bomber" in the Noale fleet - is light years away from its less effective sisters of previous seasons.
While, before, critics could have blamed the Piaggio Group for competing in MotoGP just to make up the numbers, this is no longer the case and the team (just one for now, but there are plans to double the number of bikes of the grid) is a growing star of the top class, demonstrating consistent top-ten performance, even top eight.
Seventh, tenth, sixth. Part of the project since 2017, first rider Aleix Esparagaró is doing an excellent job. The 31-year old Spaniard, now in his twentieth world championship season, boasts significant experience across the 125, 250, Moto2, CRT (MotoGP subcategory) and MotoGP itself. He represents a sure thing for Aprilia.
Espargaró continues to grow, Savadori needs tests and time
Aleix is not a rider who gets his elbow, shoulder or helmet down. His riding style is more contained, but it's no less effective. In addition, number 41 understands both the potential and the limits of the RS-GP and he’s been a permanent fixture in the top half of the timesheets in every session.
Even topping the charts in some cases. Like the Doha GP, where Espargaró finished first in FP1. He’s also set the second fastest time of the day on more than one occasion. And he’s always finished inside the top ten in qualifying. Aleix is a sure thing, as is his bike, now able to beat rivals with more organised and experienced test teams.
There is one grey area though, as Lorenzo Savadori is unable to match his team-mate’s pace. The Italian is strong and talented, and has won three titles with Aprilia, namely the CIV 125 in 2008, European Superstock 1000 in 2015, and CIV Superbike last year. We know he needs time and tests in order to grow in MotoGP, but does he have this time?
Dovizioso, a gamble or an "obligation"?
Aprilia has what it needs to aim for the podium and repay a race department that has nothing to envy when it comes to its rivals. The only doubt is whether a more balanced internal rivalry might not push both sides to do even more? That is, would Espargaró be spurred on to aim even higher if he had an equally experienced and fast team-mate? This is not a criticism of Sava32 by the way, simply an analysis, or a hypothesis.
Andrea’s CV reads as follows: 125 champion in 2004. Wins in 250 where he was runner-up on two occasions. MotoGP appearances from 2008 to 2020, including 15 wins, one with Honda, the rest with Ducati. Yes, Ducati. With the Bolognese manufacturer, Dovi was often able to give King Marc Marquez a run for his money. In addition, technical and technological expertise, as well as Ducati secrets that only he knows.
And that only he could bring to Aprilia. More than one critic maintains that the Desmosedici GP is the most high-performance bike in the field and that it is strange that it is yet to win this season. Would any of the characteristics of the Borgo Panigale missile be of benefit to the Venetian RS-GP? Well, let’s just say it's not exactly information to be sniffed at.
Translated by Heather Watson