Though it won’t unleash it’s “full factory” prototypes until 2016 MotoGP, Aprilia Racing took a brave step and entered the premier class a year earlier.Working with Team Gresini, Aprilia – owned by The Piaggio Group – will field two RS-GP prototypes in 2015 MotoGP – a season that is “dedicated entirely to development, even and especially in race conditions, before introducing a Full Factory configuration prototype bike on the track in 2016.” In other words, challenges lay ahead.Former World Champions Marco Melandri and Alvaro Bautista will provide the crucial input Aprilia needs to develop its full-factory prototype for 2016.
Many were waiting for the official launch of Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, and that arrived Thursday in Milan. On hand were the team riders, along with Team Manager Fausto Gresini and Aprilia Racing Manager Romano Albesiano (gallery photos below).Albesiano discussed the challenges ahead, but is not worried – the year will be dedicated to data analyzation, not results.“We have already been on the track for the first testing sessions (MotoGP PReseason Testing Sepang I and Sepang II) of this new adventure that officially starts today. We chose to move up our start date, getting into the mix in the 2015 MotoGP World Championship because we believe that this is the solution which is certainly the most risky but also the best one to become competitive as quickly as possible,” Albesiano says.“For us this will be a year of testing, development and in some ways even sacrifice, to be taken full advantage of as we look toward 2016 when we will be able to ride a real Aprilia prototype bike onto the track. We do not underestimate the difficulties of this effort but we have all the elements we need in order to take it on successfully: a solid technological platform, a top shelf racing department and a partner to support us in this new challenge.”Both Aprilia Gresini team riders also spoke at the launch – Melandri, the 2002 250cc GP Champion, and Bautista, the 2006 125cc GP Champion.Melandri, who finished runner-up in 2005 MotoGP and spent considerable amounts of time with Aprilia Racing in World Superbike, is ready for the challenge.“Following Aprilia in its ambitious return to MotoGP is a brave choice, especially after the decision to move the plans up. I am very motivated,” Melandri says.“I am confident and I know what this racing department is capable of, although that doesn’t change the difficulties that we will inevitably have to face. There are also some advantages, like being able to “tailor” myself to a bike, something that I have never been able to do until now in my career, helping the guys in the development process and giving them my indications.“For now it is just a matter of acquiring a feeling with the bike-tyre package, much different than the one I used last year. We have a long road ahead of us, but I believe that with patience and determination we’ll be able to achieve a good level, realistically in the second half of the season.”As for Bautista, he has competed in MotoGP for the past five years with Suzuki and Honda Gresini. He’s also ready for the challenge.“I like this new challenge. It gives me new stimulation and great motivation. We are well aware that we have a lot of work to do and we are also aware that this will be a season marked by development, so we aren’t setting any goals for ourselves except to improve race by race, working hard,” Bautista says.“I was very pleased with the first two test sessions in Malaysia. It was nice to see a lot of people working hard to improve and listening to my requests. All of our mechanics are top notch and they all have a drive that makes for an excellent atmosphere in the garage. We are all very confident and this is an important factor in order to make progress and take on this difficult challenge with maximum energy.”Fausto Gresini, a man who oversaw two world titles, also commented on the new move in MotoGP: “The Piaggio Group has given us an opportunity that we could not turn down to work in close contact with a manufacturer with a trophy case that speaks for itself. This exciting adventure, which for Aprilia is a return to the top world motorcycle racing category and for Gresini Racing opens up an important new chapter, is being officially introduced today, but it is a project that we have been working on already for some months.“We want to be as prepared as possible for a challenge which promises to be difficult, but exciting at the same time. After all, I couldn’t have imagined anything more stimulating for someone like me who lives and breathes racing passion. I agree one hundred percent with Aprilia’s choice to jump straight into the mix. Racing against adversaries who are already extremely competitive is without a doubt a difficult task, but it is also the quickest way to develop.“We can also count on two expert riders we know very well. This is another factor that will help us to streamline the growth process even more. This collaboration with Aprilia opens up new technological possibilities for us. For every Grand Prix race it will be satisfying and exciting to assess the technical innovations available to us and how much progress we are making, the result of the whole team’s efforts.”Aprilia GP History:Aprilia’s history in Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing, as extraordinary as it is (boasting a total of 38 titles, 19 Manufacturer and 19 Rider, won in the 250 and 125cc classes) only began relatively recently.In fact, the début in the 250 class dates to 1985, a class which would soon be monopolised both in terms of numbers and results by the Italian bikes. The first win, on the other hand, came in 1987 with Loris Reggiani at Misano, followed by a 1992 season with an Aprilia leading the standings in the 125 Class, won by Alex Gramigni. This launched a streak of domination for the manufacturer from Noale in the Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing junior classes, accompanying the rise of all the great champions in the category: from Valentino Rossi to Loris Capirossi, from Max Biaggi to Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Sylvain Guintoli, the unforgotten Marco Simoncelli and many others. An endless line of promising youngsters who developed into victorious riders with Aprilia, such to dominate the history of motorcycle racing.And let’s not forget – as proof of the entire Piaggio Group’s extraordinary technical level – that even the youngest star of MotoGP, Marc Marquez, began winning on one of the Group’s bikes: in fact, the year was 2010 when Marc won his first world title astride a Derbi 125.Gresini Racing History:Gresini Racing heads into its 19th season in Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing, having won two world titles (Daijiro Kato in 250 in 2001 and Toni Elias in Moto2 in 2010), 40 wins in GP and MotoGP runner-up World Champion titles in three consecutive season, from 2003 to 2005 with Sete Gibernau and Marco Melandri. Gresini Racing has also been home to top calibre champions such as Alex Barros, Loris Capirossi, Colin Edwards and Marco Simoncelli. The Gresini Racing organisation is currently involved in all the Grand Prix motorcycle racing classes. In fact, they will be also key players in the 2015 season in Moto2 and Moto3.Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Team Launch Photo Gallery:
This week, Senior Editor Nic de Sena rides the all new Ducati Monster. Big changes have been made by Ducati–has the company ruined the considerable heritage of the iconic Monster–or are the changes worth it? In the second part of the show, we chat with Nick Ienatsch, Founder and Head Instructor at the Yamaha Champions Riding School. He says: “We aim to change your riding life by introducing you to Champions Habits: The techniques, approaches, skills, and the mindsets of the best riders in the world. These Champions Habits are the foundation of safety and consistency to whatever speed you ride, in any venue on any bike. Street riders, this is just as much for you as track riders. The best way to make safe riders is to make good riders.“ We hope you enjoy this episode!