Ever since the announcement by the Grand Prix Commission that MotoGP would be going back to 1000cc, a low-intensity battle has been going on between the World Superbike and MotoGP series, with WSBK accusing MotoGP of encroaching on its territory. That encroachment is more imaginary than real, but the criticism masks a fundamental fear on the part of Infront Motor Sports, the company which runs World Superbikes.
For the main difference between WSBK and MotoGP is the wealth of manufacturers which have chosen to enter the World Superbike series. WSBK has seven to MotoGP's four, and one of those four is hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Infront's greatest fear is that the manufacturers currently competing in World Superbikes - and especically BMW and Aprilia - will switch their focus from WSBK to MotoGP, pouring money into the new 1000cc MotoGP formula taken from their WSBK budgets. Given the rumors concerning potential interest from Aprilia, and BMW being linked to the Suter CRT bike for 2012, those fears would appear to be justified.
But Aprilia CEO Roberto Colaninno sought to defuse those fears today. At a presentation held in front of financial analysts, Colaninno was asked if Aprilia had any plans to return to MotoGP. "At this moment, we have no intention of doing that," the Piaggio Group boss responded. Given Aprilia's last venture into MotoGP with the RS3 Cube turned out so badly, this is hardly a surprise.
However, persistent rumors rumors in the paddock claimed that Aprilia's RSV4 World Superbike was merely a proving ground for the MotoGP bike they were building, an impression strengthened by a continuous string of complaints against Aprilia's WSBK bike claiming that it was more prototype than street bike. Colaninno's statement will help counter those rumors, but the decisive factor in Aprilia choosing to enter MotoGP formally will eventually come down to cost. The current formula remains prohibitively expensive for new entries into the MotoGP paddock, as witnessed by the thin numbers on the grid. Unless a radical shakeup is introduced in conjunction with the switch 1000cc, the bar is likely to remain very high to new factory entries, with MotoGP only really attractive to the Claiming Rule Teams, who will have more engines and more fuel to battle the factories with. As a major motorcycle manufacturer, Aprilia is unlikely to qualify as a CRT team.