In an unexpected move, Aprilia have decided to replace Bradley Smith in the Aprilia Gresini MotoGP team with Lorenzo Savadori for the last three races of 2020. Smith has been Aprilia's main test rider for the past two seasons, and had stepped in to take the place of Andrea Iannone after the Italian was suspended for a doping offense. Savadori, who has raced for Aprilia in WorldSBK in the past, and this year was crowned Italian CIV champion on board the RSV4, is Aprilia's second test rider.
The move was a surprise, as Smith had been slower than his teammate but put in some solid performances throughout the year, while also serving as a test mule for parts and setup to pass over to Aleix Espargaro. But there have been signs of friction in the relationship between Smith and Aprilia as the long-running saga over Andrea Iannone's future with the Italian factory has dragged on. Aprilia have been courting Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, and Smith has always been treated as a backup option.
What's more, Aprilia have sometimes underplayed Smith's input to development of the RS-GP. At Barcelona, Aprilia Racing Track Manager Paolo Bonora had said that one of the development problems Aprilia had was that they only had Aleix Espargaro able to push the bike. When Smith was told of this on the Friday at Barcelona, he was clearly slighted, saying, "It's good to know, because I need to make a decision for my future."
The move is obviously a reward for Savadori winning the Italian championship. But it further complicates Aprilia's rider choice for both racing and testing for 2021 and beyond.
Below is the press release from Aprilia:
LORENZO SAVADORI TO DÉBUT IN MOTOGP WITH APRILIA
THE ITALIAN SBK CHAMP WILL BE ASTRIDE THE APRILIA RS-GP THROUGH THE END OF THE 2020 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON
Noale, 27 October 2020 - Lorenzo Savadori will début in MotoGP astride the Aprilia RS-GP in the Grand Prix of Europe, scheduled to be held in Valencia from 6 through 8 November.
Lorenzo will also sub for Bradley Smith as Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider in the following rounds which will close out the 2020 MotoGP season, namely the Comunitat Valenciana GP on 15 November, also on the Ricardo Tormo circuit in Valencia, and the GP of Portugal in Portimão on 22 November.
Lorenzo Savadori is the newly crowned Italian SBK Champion after dominating the 2020 CIV premier category with six wins and two second-place finishes in the eight races held astride his Aprilia RSV4 managed by Nuova M2 Racing team. This extraordinary performance, achieved in a highly competitive championship against rivals with multiple titles, combined with his efforts as MotoGP tester pursued from the beginning of the year, led to his début in the premier class of worldwide motorcycle racing.
Massimo Rivola - Aprilia Racing CEO
“First and foremost, I wish to thank Bradley for his efforts this season. He took one the unexpected role of factory rider with great dignity and outstanding performance, and his contribution was extremely valuable. Now we are excitedly awaiting Lorenzo’s début. This promotion is certainly a reward for his great season as a CIV rider, dominating the Superbike category. But it is also a step of growth for a rider who will be a tester for our RS-GP in 2021 as well. Riding our fledgling project in the race as well will certainly be a step forward for Lorenzo and, therefore, for all of Aprilia Racing.”
“To say I'm happy would be an understatement and I wish to thank Aprilia Racing straight away for this great opportunity. I will be arriving prepared for the event, thanks both to the work done during the tests on the RS-GP and to the CIV season that just ended. It was a challenging Championship that demanded top form and maximum concentration from me. Now I need to reorganise my thoughts, glean from the kilometres I’ve ridden astride the RS-GP and make sure I'm ready and focused for the first practice session.”
Born in Cesena in 1993, Lorenzo Savadori was Italian and European 125 GP Champion with Aprilia in 2008. In the same season, he made his début in the 125 World Championship with three wild cards. In 2007 he was runner up in the Red Bull Rookies Cup development program. In 2009 he raced in the 125 World Championship.
In 2011 he made his début in the Superstock 1000 championship where he was runner-up champion in 2014.
In 2015 rode the new Aprilia RSV4 RF in its Superstock début and it was a triumph: he took 4 wins, 7 podiums and 3 pole positions which resulted in him winning the Superstock 1000 FIM Cup championship, giving Aprilia the Manufacturers Title. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Lorenzo had already competed in the in the WorldSBK Championship, also on the Aprilia RSV4. In 2019, he finished as runner-up Superbike champion in Campionato Italiano Velocità. In 2020 he became an Aprilia test rider and dominated the CIV Superbike season with six wins out of eight races, earning the Italian Championship title astride the new Aprilia RSV4 Factory.