Four months after getting off the Ducati with no contracts signed for 2021, Andrea Dovizioso is riding again. The Italian has spent the past three days testing the Aprilia RS-GP at a private test at Jerez, sharing the track with Yamaha, KTM, and Honda, in between the sessions for the MotoE class.
On Wednesday afternoon, the final day of Dovizioso's test with Aprilia, the Italian spoke to the media about the test, his motivation for testing the RS-GP, his plans for the immediate future, and what he thought of the test so far. He was very cagey in his responses, not wanting to give away too much, but reading between the lines he still had plenty to say.
He did not want to enter into detail about how the bike felt, insisting that the first thing he had to do was to find the right riding position before he could be comfortable trying to push the bike to its limit. "You know, when you change the bike after 8 years, it's a big change, so the first thing is the position on the bike. That is the main point," Dovizioso said.
Being comfortable wasn't just about how he felt on the bike, but also finding the best position to get he most out of the machine, the Italian explained. "It takes time, because it's related to being comfortable on the bike, but also you have to understand which is the best position for you and which is the best position for the bike. Because every bike has a different characteristic, so we spent a lot of time on that, and it was impossible to fix these things in three days."
The weather on the final day brought that work to a premature end. "Unfortunately, today there is a lot of wind and we are not able to ride. We did some laps in the morning, but not that much, unfortunately," Dovizioso said. But he had enjoyed riding something other than the Ducati.."It's very nice, from a rider's side, to try a different bike, because every rider would like to try every bike in MotoGP, just to have a feeling, to understand a bit more from what you saw on the TV or on the track. So it was very nice and emotional, because as I said before, 8 years with a different bike, so it was really nice."
When asked directly about the pros and cons of the bike, Dovizioso was a little evasive. "Well, it's a bit difficult to answer, because you can feel immediately the difference to what you used to ride in the past, but to understand the details is very difficult, because you have to push really hard and you have to be comfortable on the bike to understand a lot of details," the Italian said. "I think every MotoGP rider is able to be fast and quite close to the fastest riders, but to be there and fighting for an important lap time or position is a different story. And to do that you need the right position on the bike. That takes time. So I have some ideas, but I don't think everything is clear."
This was to be expected, Dovizioso explained, given the level in MotoGP at the moment. "This is normal, because it takes time to push the bike to the limit, and to feel comfortable on the bike. But I'm speaking about the position, not about how the bike worked. And the position, especially in MotoGP, is even more important than the other championships, because you have to be very precise in the way you ride, and the bike is stiff, the tires are stiff, everything is very stiff and you have to be very precise. And the position affects the way you ride a lot."
For that reason, he didn't want to say too much at the moment, Dovizioso told us. "So I think it's too early for me to enter too much into the details, so I don't think it's a good idea to explain to the media. So like every bike, it has its positive and negative things, so this is normal. But I had a really good feeling."
The Italian was also clear on why he decided to accept Aprilia's offer of a test. "It's because my passion is still for MotoGP, and I would like to race next year," he said. "So I think it was smart to be on track, and I'm really happy because Aprilia gave me the possibility to do that, and in the right way. So I'm really happy about that, and I think it's positive in any case, whether I will race next year or not. The possibility to ride a MotoGP bike is always nice, and to be able to do it in a professional way, not just ride, is what I would like to do, is in the way I want to do it. So I wasn't able to say no, and everything was organized in the right way. So I think it was smart to do it."
The next steps were to test the bike again at Mugello, Dovizioso told us. "Next, I think we will do another test, because we want to work a bit more on the position on the bike, and that's the key to working on some other details. That takes time, so I think we will organize another test. Maybe it will be in Mugello in one month, more or less, and that is the plan." Aprilia announced that the Italian will ride the RS-GP at Mugello, on May 11th and 12th.
Dovizioso explicitly rejected the idea of replacing an injured rider, however, explaining that he only wanted to race if it was part of a structured, well put together project. "Normally, everything I'm doing, I'm doing in a clear way, in a good way. So I don't want to just make something like that," the Italian told us. That had been the reason to turn down a number of offers at the end of 2020. "I didn't take some options last year for that reason, as you know, so this is not my target. So in this moment, I'm completely open, because I'm living this year in this way, about everything. I'm enjoying my life with different things, and I'm still focused to try to see my future. I'm completely open, but in this moment, what we have on the table is just the next test in Mugello."
Although Jerez is commonly used for testing, it has its limitations when it comes to testing a MotoGP bike. But it had still been extremely useful from Dovizioso's perspective. "Jerez can be a good track to test on one side. Not the best, but at the end, when you change bikes, it takes time. So it's not too important which track you are at. Because first you have to create the right situation, and it takes time. It's impossible in one test to fix those things," the Italian said.
He hoped to learn more at Mugello, not least because Aprilia will have had time to produce the parts he needs to give him a better riding position. "To be able to be in Mugello is really nice, because Mugello is a completely different track than Jerez. It's a really nice track, and after one month, I think Aprilia is able to make some changes for my position on the bike, and I would be very interested to see if can be more comfortable."
Having new parts and a more comfortable riding position would be an important step in helping to evaluate and improve the RS-GP, Dovizioso explained. "As I said before, if you want to push really hard, you have to look at very small details on a MotoGP bike. And to see that and to understand clearly everything, you need to feel comfortable. Until you are in that situation, I think it's stupid to try to push somewhere."
That was one reason why Dovizioso didn't want to discuss lap times, he said (the other being that Aprilia will have forbidden him to). "I don't think it's too intelligent to speak about the lap times, because when you are not feeling 100% on your position on the bike, it's not important," the Italian told us. "As I told you before, the speed of MotoGP riders, MotoGP riders can be fast with any bike very quickly, the gap is small. But this is not the point. Especially if you look at the race, everybody is within one second, so this is not the point. So to be on top of the positions, you need different things."
Despite avoiding giving a direct answer to the lap time question, Dovizioso did manage to let something slip about it. "Well, I don't want to speak too much about the details, also because as I said before, I can have for sure some feeling and feedback, but until you ride in the way you want, it's not too related to the lap time, because lap time, it wasn't too bad," the Italian said.
He reiterated that what was important was having the right position on the bike, to be comfortable enough to test the limits of the machine, and be confident in how it would respond. That was more important than a single lap time. "It's more about how much you push and how much you can stay on the limit of the bike. Because when you don't feel that comfortable on the position, you are not able to brake, stay on the limit the entire braking, enter the corner, and exit. So you have to do that to understand every detail about the bike. So as I said before, there are for sure some things really nice, and some things have to be better, but everybody felt like that."
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