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APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022 | Events

In early May, Misano played host to Aprilia All-stars 2022 a celebration of all things Aprilia; its bikes, GP winners, its past and even future world champions. We went along

Two almost identical moments, divided in time by 13 years, mixing adrenaline and excitement; Italian rider Mattia Pasini parking a 250 Aprilia RSA and screaming under his helmet, both episodes happening in the exact same spot, the pit lane of the Misano circuit, Italy. On 6 September 2009 the very same rider had just missed out on taking victory at the San Marino Grand Prix by 0.04 seconds and carried mixed feelings – having put on display a great performance, he was satisfied but it was bittersweet.

APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022

Aprilia’s heroes; Roberto Locatelli, Loris Capirossi, Alessandro Gramigni, Maverick Viñales, Aleix Espargaro, Biaggi and Lorenzo Savadori

On 7 May 2022, he was again on the seat of the quarter-litre bike from the Noale factory, but in a completely different context; not a GP, but an event that gathered big names of the sport celebrating the first of 54 world titles Aprilia won in the last three decades.

“This bike is f***ing amazing, I missed the way the front reacts nervously in acceleration, in third gear it’s still an effort to control it,” said Pasini, who achieved 10 GP wins with Aprilia across the 125 and 250 classes in his career. 

“This is a proper GP bike, no bullshit.” 

Max Biaggi was kept busy signing autographs for his fans

Today’s Moto2 bike, on which he has scored two GP victories, requires a very different style.

“About 10 km/h slower, and you’d have to brake deep into the corner and make the bike turn by making the rear slide, for example,” he says. “With the 250 you can enter much faster and carry great corner speed, knowing that the bike will be so stable, basically on rails. It’s so much fun to ride.”

Checking out the smiles of the people listening to his feedback, he wasn’t the only guy having a good time. World champions such as Max Biaggi (250cc and WorldSBK), Loris Capirossi (125cc and 250cc), Alessandro Gramigni (125cc), Roberto Locatelli (125cc) and Maverick Viñales (Moto3), joined by his factory Aprilia teammate and most recent Aprilia GP winner Aleix Espargaro. There’s ousted factory rider Andrea Iannone and tester Lorenzo Savadori, too, all in Misano to put in some laps with legendary bikes and in front of an excited crowd of 10,000 or so fans. As the manufacturer put it, that line-up is Aprilia’s ‘all-stars’ team. 

APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022

For the fans, it was a chance to meet their idols and have a good time. Watching the MotoGP factory duo riding on track with the former champs, they could take current road model test rides, gamble for charity, sip an espresso coffee or just admire some iconic GP bikes like the ones ridden by Valentino Rossi and the late Marco Simoncelli. It was an immersive experience that spaced between past and present.

But there was also some time to talk about the future, since Aprilia took the chance to underline its surprisingly good performance in MotoGP and explain that it could ‘double’ its efforts in 2023 by bringing on the grid a total of four Aprilias, with a junior/satellite team added to the factory squad. 

A happy Capirossi

When AMCN went to print, Espargaro was currently second in the standings after eight rounds, just eight points adrift from points leader Fabio Quartararo. Encouraged by a strong win in Argentina and a handful of podiums, he appeared confident. 

“This is my second family,” said the Spaniard, currently in his sixth season in Aprilia colours. “We are very competitive and that’s because the bike has slightly improved year by year. It’s a bit faster in the straight and turns a bit better. We are also able to put the horsepower efficiently on the ground.” 

APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022

His job is to ride at the limit and give feedback about the parts he tries.

“I love to test and compare things,” he said. That duty is shared with test rider Savadori and teammate Viñales, who said he found life in the Aprilia garage a comfortable situation.

“In the top class, most riders have the speed, and one way to make the difference and make a further step is to be in the right group. I think that’s the case for me with Aprilia.”

The circuit was packed with the Aprilia faithful

If the May event reflects the team’s atmosphere, surely a familiar mood is dominating. An example is former world champion Roberto Locatelli, who clinched the 2000 125cc title riding for the Italian rockstar Vasco Rossi. He arrived at the box dressed in his leathers and slowly pushing his baby’s stroller, while his partner carried their other child in her arms. 

It was a lovely image that well represented a family at ease in the context of a much bigger and tight community.

APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022

You are never too old to tuck in to fit a small, fast motorcycle

Giovanni, 44, lives in the area, which is commonly referred to as Italy’s motorcycle land because of the high amount of riders, technicians and manufacturers being historically based around the Misano circuit, including Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso, Benelli and Bimota. 

“When I went to high school, in front of the building there were a bunch of 50cc and 125cc bikes that had the colours Aprilia carried in the GPs. The most iconic was Biaggi’s Chesterfield livery. Many teenagers had his poster hanging on their bedroom’s walls – he was a hero. Being like him was a dream, looking like him was an opportunity, so we jumped at the chance and rode Aprilia’s scooters and motorcycles from the age of 14 or 16.”

And what does Biaggi think about it? 

“In the second half of the 1990s we were able to draw the attention of the people not only among the Italian motorcycle fans, but also folks who were not necessarily interested in bikes,” he said. “The 250cc Chesterfield Aprilia is, indeed, a symbol of those years. You must consider that Italians were winning only in the 250 class, with no strong riders in the 125 or 500. That was maybe one of the reasons why people love this bike so much.” 

APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022

Viñales got his knee down on a scooter

How did it feel to get back on the 1995 250? 

“The smell, the sound, the feeling. So unique. That motorcycle is the ultimate queen.” 

Like Pasini, Biaggi also had some sort of dejà-Vu during the Aprilia event when he rode his former 250, elegantly dressed in black, the huge yellow number 1 on the fairing, stating he was the reigning world champion of the category. As the bike started to be warmed up in pitlane, lots of people surrounded it and started filming videos which soon went viral on social media. The sound of the two-stroke twin accelerating on the main straight, with Biaggi switching from gear to gear, moved something inside nostalgic fans, riders and mechanics who went back in time for a few minutes.

Andrea Iannone stopped in to say ciao

Biaggi’s 1994 title followed the footsteps of another Italian rider, Gramigni, who became Aprilia’s first world champion exactly 30 years ago. In 1992 he won the 125 title in a season that started well but was soon complicated by an unexpected drama.

“I lived in Tuscany and one day I went to the Mugello circuit, which is in the same region, to drive some Ferrari F40s with Loris Capirossi, just to have fun. While I was going back home riding my Honda XL600, with my girlfriend behind, we got hit by a car and I badly injured my left leg in multiple parts. We were in the first half of the racing season, with three rounds already done. I already had a win and a second place.

“I soon got surgery and 17 days later rode again for the first time. I skipped one GP and went back to racing. For several rounds I handed the crutches to my mechanics just before getting on the bike and they handed them back to me as soon as I stopped at the box. As a measure to help me ride despite the pain and limits, we changed the position of the gear shift from left to right for a few races. In the first one I finished 11th, then fourth. Later I achieved more podiums and another win.”

APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022

Asked if he found his early return to racing a bit crazy, he shook his head. 

“That was the norm back then, you got injured and quickly got back on the bike. That’s simply what my heroes did, like the Australian Mick Doohan for example, who had two legs sewn together.”

Was there a different approach by riders to races back then? 

“Maybe there was another concept, yeah,” said the Italian, who carries an ‘Old is cool’ patch on his leathers. “Well, actually the concept was that there was no concept. Nowadays’ racing world is different.”

Espargaro got to try out Aprilia’s track-only RSV4 X

Today, the Aprilia MotoGP bikes carry a tribute to Gramigni and his effort: the newly added purple stripes on the fairing, tank and seat were included because it was the main colour of the Italian’s 125 back in 1992. 

 But one of the most dramatic wins of the Noale racing department happened in 1998, when Tatsuya Harada and Loris Capirossi, both factory riders, faced the last race of the year with just one certainty: whoever finished in front of the other was going to be the 250 champion. 

“Loris did what he did,” recalls Francesco, 40, a huge Aprilia fan. 

“But races are races, you know?”

APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022

Was the Pope having a ride as well? Because someone’s pit board is being held out by a six-time world champion…

Capirossi controversially touched Harada, who was in front, with just a few corners to go. The Japanese rider crashed, while the Italian was able to finish second (behind Rossi) and put his hands on the crown. 

“Was that manoeuvre too aggressive? Was it over the limit? I don’t know. Even in retrospect, it’s hard to tell. But Loris was a myth and I respected him.

“I recall him starring in a spectacular TV spot where a brand new Aprilia scooter landed on the track from the sky, while a stunned Capirossi said: ‘It whistles, it’s a plane!’ Well, at school we said that sentence over and over as a joke – it was an obsession.” 

There were Aprilias of all shapes and sizes at Misano

If the Italian brand is so popular in the country and abroad, it’s because it shaped its identity around racing: world titles, TV appearances and smart marketing made it a status-symbol for many youngsters in the 1990s and early 2000s. But in the last years, things changed: two-strokes disappeared from the GP circus, pollution requirements became more and more strict, customers changed their needs and markets are probably more tricky to handle than ever with Covid complicating things. Despite all, Aprilia knows that its Grand Prix attitude is at the core of how people perceive it and continues to follow that path under the motto ‘be a racer’. 

When the two factory MotoGP Aprilias passed flat out on Misano’s main straight – the V4 roars echoing between the grandstands, the seamless gearbox perfectly harmonised – the reaction of the fans was always the same. Wide eyes, hands in the air, mouths open. Screaming. Like Pasini under his helmet while he was parking the RSA 250. Like Biaggi, Capirossi and Gramigni. Virtually, in unison. 

APRILIA ALL-STARS 2022

Espargaro leads a parade of Aprilia riders around the circuit

The day went ahead with this kind of excitement, and ended by a parade that involved riders and fans together on the circuit’s asphalt. 

People headed home around dinner time. Michele, 37, who got to Misano after a two-hour ride in the morning, was reaching the parking lot proudly carrying a small pack of autographed photos. 

While walking, he spotted a guy trying to fit a mannequin in the trunk of a BMW. He had a closer look and realised it was Loris Capirossi, who had dressed the dummy in his leather suit in order to keep it in the correct shape. 

The two had a quick chat, the former rider signed an autograph for him. When they said goodbye, an aeroplane heading to the close airport of Rimini passed over their heads. Its sound was like the one included in the Aprilia TV spot featuring Capirossi. As he put it back then: “It whistles, it’s a plane!”  

 Words Jeffrey Zani Photography Milagro