Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Aprilia’s central focus in 2018

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.

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Total votes: 7
Total votes: 8

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Comments

Interesting to read that Aprilia suffered basically the same overrev problem as Yamaha at Mugello 2016. I still don't understand how it is possible that the Marelli spec electronics are not capable of keeping the engine revs at a strict maximum. Yeah, a crankshaft spins fast, but that is nothing compared to computer processor speeds or electronic signal speeds from sensors. Why is it possible that the engine overrevs? If you cut out ignition when the set rpm limit is reached, it will not rev any higher.

After the Yamaha blow-ups at Mugello, it was said somewhere that it happened because of flywheel effects of the rear wheel and the crankshaft. That is plain nonsense. A flywheel keeps a rotation in motion longer, but it can not accelerate a crankshaft. It only slows down the decrease in rpm. Accelerating the crankshaft and rear wheel can only be done by applying engine power (or downshifting of course), so when you cut ignition, the crankshaft's rpm will not go any higher. And approaching the rev limit is also something that is obvious before you are there, so the electronics can hardly be surprised that all of a sudden we're at 18.000 rpm, or whatever the current MotoGP engines make.

Anyway, a very interesting read. Albesiano is surprisingly frank about problems, strengths and weaknesses. We'll never really know how much is true and what is not told (a lot, of course), but it seems a genuine report. Would have liked it to be longer. And I do believe there is real potential for good results this season, Aleix was fast on quite a number of occasions, on different tracks and both in practices and in races. All the ingredients seem to be there, more or less. And Redding's comments after testing were interesting, I have a feeling they might be of quite a bit of help to make the bike a better overall package. Good luck to them.

Total votes: 8

"The Spaniard, formerly with Ducati and Suzuki, has a new team-mate this year, with Scott Redding replacing Lowes. Following Lowes’ gloomy experience in 2017, Redding asked for assurances that he will get the same machinery as Espargaró. “For sure, it was no problem to guarantee equal treatment for Scott,” says Albesiano."

If it was no problem, then why did you not do the same for Lowes in 2017?  I'm not of the opininon Lowes was going to set the world on fire, but he never even got the hint of a chance.  Even if you form the opinion that you signed the wrong person, at least have the decency to give them the best possible opportunity to show their potential.

 

Total votes: 3