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Aprilia Racing’s 2019 season begins with new colours, new staff and a new test rider | MOTOGP | SPORT

Aprilia Racing’s 2019 season begins under the sign of change. Both on a technical level and in terms of the Italian racing department’s staff which, after radical reorganisation over the winter, renews its resolve in MotoGP!

The most visible aspect of the hard work done over the winter is the new RS-GP, the evolution of a young project, born in 2016 and therefore the youngest on the grid. It now has an aggressive, black livery reminiscent of Aprilia tradition. The technical and design cornerstones that make the Aprilia MotoGP bike unique have been reconfirmed, starting from the four-cylinder engine with its exclusive narrow V architecture, combined with the seamless gearbox that was developed in-house. Both of these components have been further evolved, whereas the chassis architecture, which has always been the brand’s crown-jewel, now has entirely new solutions.

The 2019 RS-GP was built on the ideas developed throughout last season and further advancements are expected throughout the upcoming season thanks to the contribution of new arrival Andrea Iannone, who joins rider Aleix Espargaró and test rider Bradley Smith, who will also be on the track in a few wildcards during the championship. This is a huge step forward for the brand which has never before been on the premier class grid with three bikes.

The two teams will be led by a new pair of crew chiefs, Antonio Jimenez for Aleix and Fabrizio Cecchini for Andrea. At the helm on the technical side of the house is Romano Albesiano, with new CEO Massimo Rivola at his side. The revamped Test Team will be able to count on the contribution of a fast and expert rider like Bradley, under the technical coordination of Pietro Caprara.

“The first tests of this new season were extremely positive,” says Aleix Espargaro, “I was fast, I feel at ease astride the 2019 RS-GP and I feel like I still have good margin for growth. From both a technical and a human point of view, I have one of the best teams of my career. We have a lot of work to do, but I cannot help being optimistic. With the arrival of Andrea, Bradley and Massimo, we are definitely stronger, so we will have no excuse.”

“We are faced with a big challenge,” says Andrea Iannone, “The match of Aprilia with an Italian rider always creates certain expectations, so it’s up to us to channel that into positive pressure. In this sport, teamwork is fundamental. We improved at every outing and, to be honest, I was surprised at how quickly the guys at Aprilia changed the project based on my requests between Jerez and Sepang. We need to keep going like this, improving step by step. The right feeling is there.”

Bradley Smith assumes the role as test rider: “I must say that the tests were rather interesting. In my new role as tester, I tried to be as analytical as possible, and I was at the complete disposal of the team. The shakedown in Malaysia went rather well. I am pleased that Aleix was able to benefit from our work, finding a good feeling with the new RS-GP straight away. My goal is to continue working well with the Aprilia Test Team and to get close to Aleix and Andrea’s pace in the races where I’ll be riding. We have outstanding technical and human potential.”

“It’s always risky to talk about expectations before a new season,” says Massimo Rivola, the new Aprilia Racing CEO, “but it is only natural when it’s an award-winning racing department like Aprilia Racing. Our trophy case in and of itself demands constant growth, a collective effort to arrive at a competitive level in MotoGP as well. On my arrival, I found a group with no lack of skill and passion, as well as extraordinary loyalty to the team colours which will be a fundamental part of our project. We can count on two extraordinarily talented riders who, although very different from one another, share the same extraordinary passion for this sport. It is no exaggeration to think of us as a ‘David’ against the giants of world motorcycle racing and I have no problem with this comparison since, in the end, David triumphed.”

“The final part of last season and the winter tests were fundamental from a technical point of view,” says Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Technical Director, “The arrival of Andrea and Bradley added new information to Aleix’s fundamental contribution, helping us to define the RS-GP’s line of evolution. This is a project that has come to fruition this season, with an overall improvement in every aspect. A lot of work was done on making it lighter. We made changes to the chassis architecture and electronics management, leaving room for further advancements that will be done constantly throughout the season. The reorganisation of the racing department and the reinforcement of the test team were two key factors in preparation over the winter, allowing us to streamline processes and have more precise data analysis. These are essential aspects in MotoGP these days.”

“2019 is undoubtedly an important year for us,” adds Team Manager Fausto Gresini, “The new MotoGP season inevitably brings with it some expectations for Aprilia Racing Team Gresini. The new arrivals, from Massimo Rivola to Andrea Iannone, brought enthusiasm, but also overall reinforcement and reorganisation that, from what we’ve seen so far, seems to have returned encouraging results. I’m not forgetting about the Test Team which, with Bradley Smith, is doing an indispensable job for such a young project like Aprilia’s. We still have a long road ahead, but we have the skills and shared goals we need to succeed.”

By MotoGP