MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Aprilia’s central focus in 2018
Aprilia had an up-and-down 2017, so what does the Italian factory need to do to make Aleix Espargaró and Scott Redding competitive in MotoGP 2018?
Aprilia is MotoGP’s underdog; the factory with the smallest race department of them all.
Racing manager Romano Albesiano has 70 staff working with him at Noale, which is considerably less than most of his rivals. Suzuki probably has MotoGP’s second smallest race shop, although the company won’t reveal numbers.
It’s a fact of racing life that budgets matter because money buys the best riders, the best engineers, the best R&D facilities and so on. Aprilia does pretty well, all things considered, but needs to do better in 2018.
Last year was only the factory’s second season with its RS-GP MotoGP bike. Before that Aprilia raced a glorified CRT machine, powered by an RSV4 Superbike-based engine. No surprise then that 2017 was a year of ups and downs with more of the latter, but the occasional glimpse of promise.
September’s Aragon GP was undoubtedly the highlight. Aleix Espargaró finished in sixth place, between Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso, 6.9 seconds behind winner Marc Márquez, a gap of three tenths a lap.
Espargaró went particularly well at Aragon because the RS-GP suits the circuit and because Aprilia had just taken some important forward steps during a private test session at Valencia.
“The RS-GP is the best frame I have ever ridden,” says Espargaró. “It suits my style because I need to feel the front a lot, so I can brake super, super late and carry a lot of corner speed. We have a little less power than the others, so I have to use more corner speed to make up for this. The rear tyre spins, like it does with every bike, but we are one step better than the others on this. There are lots of long corners at Aragon where you get a lot of spin when you are on the edge of the tyre, but good rear grip is one of the most valuable things we have."
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.