Aprilia's MotoGP project has suffered a setback. The 2016 version of their RS-GP MotoGP machine will not be ready in time for the first official IRTA test at Sepang, according to a report by Crash.net's Neil Morrison. Instead, it will make its debut in a private test at Qatar, ahead of the third preseason test of 2016, with its first public outing coming in that third and final test, two weeks before the start of the 2016 season.
The delay is a sign that the project is at least a couple of weeks behind schedule. At Valencia, Aprilia spokespersons said that the original plan was to hold a shakedown test at a private Italian racetrack, with the bike making its public debut in Sepang. Designing a radically new bike is taking longer than expected, however: the 2016 machine will be a brand new prototype, designed from the ground up, at least 10kg lighter than the current RS-GP, and is rumored to have a different angle between the cylinders. That is an incredibly complex and time-consuming process, so delays are not entirely unexpected.
Aprilia's test plan has now been altered. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl will travel to Sepang for the first test, where they will work on the Michelin tires and spec electronics using last year's RS-GP machine, still based on the RSV4 World Superbike engine. The pair will then skip the Phillip Island test from 17th to 19th February, and have a private test in Qatar, ahead of the final test before the start of the season.
Skipping Phillip Island had always been part of the plan anyway, according to the German language website Speedweek. Originally, Bradl and Bautista were to test the bike at the first Sepang test, then return there a couple of weeks later for a private test. However, the resurfacing which is to take place at Sepang made that impossible. Instead, Aprilia will visit Qatar twice, achieving the same objective, allowing better comparison of the changes made between the tests.