Aprilia’s new MotoGP roster split: Why, and what it means

Aprilia’s new MotoGP roster split: Why, and what it means


The first MotoGP season of Aprilia’s new satellite team Trackhouse will bring with it the return of a familiar premier-class quirk – the split-spec roster.

Or, at least, that will be the case for a handful of races.

With factories increasingly keen in modern MotoGP to have current-spec machinery also available to their satellite outfits, in order to maximise data-sharing and spread around the development work, Aprilia’s previous customer team RNF was actually something of an outlier in running 2022 RS-GPs last year.

Aprilia’s factory pair Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales made it repeatedly clear during that season that they would’ve liked to see the satellite outfit on the same bikes as them.

And this also turned out to be the preference of Trackhouse owner Justin Marks, who told The Race during the team’s 2024 launch in Los Angeles that he had asked Aprilia in October to make 2024-spec RS-GPs available to his riders Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez.

It has proven half-possible. Five-time MotoGP race winner Oliveira will indeed join Espargaro and Vinales in taking a ’24 bike into battle right away, whereas Fernandez will switch to it later in the season – if he wants to, that is.

WHY IT HAD TO BE LIKE THIS

Given both Trackhouse and Aprilia are aligned on wanting the same machinery, why won’t that be the case from the start of the season?

Well, according to all the parties involved, the reason is exactly what it may seem given the last-second nature of Trackhouse’s takeover of RNF’s entries and the fact it originally intended to come in in 2025.

“We said ‘you know, it’s just not possible’,” said Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola when asked by The Race about Marks’ request for 2024 bikes. “In fact, we thought it was not possible even for Miguel.

“But ‘no, you have to do it, really you have to do it’… Okay, then we do it!

“But we had to squeeze the drawing office, we had to squeeze the purchasing office, and we had to squeeze the suppliers. And that was so far the most critical part.

“So I need to speak to them, to the three riders on the ’24, that they cannot fall off in the test! Because we have not many spare parts yet. But soon we will be in, let’s say, the full position.

“At the end, we were supposed to start one year later.”

Rivola also described Marks’ keenness to have factory-spec machinery as “a big motivation, a big opportunity”.

“We know that for example in ’25 we will have four exactly same bikes [from the beginning]. And for sure that will add the performance. We saw other manufacturers doing that – and it helps.”

THE FERNANDEZ DECISION

You would assume, however, that because the plan ultimately is to have the entire line-up on the same spec, Fernandez will be switching over as soon as a ’24 bike will be available to him.

According to Rivola, that isn’t necessarily the case.

It was reported by Speedweek.com last month that Fernandez would get his ’24 RS-GP at round eight at Mugello or slightly earlier, but as Rivola explained, that is conditional on both the rider and the factory agreeing this is something worth doing.

“We will decide about the 2024 together with Raul,” Rivola said. “We have good options to start sooner or later, but we will decide also thinking about the development of the bike during 2024.

“So, let’s see what is the best solution because by the regulation you cannot have more than two homologations. So when you move to the ’24 it’s already the second homologation.

“So maybe you lose the development- I think we will sit down and discuss that in the best possible way.”

The “homologation” being talked about is almost certainly aero, with Aprilia expected to bring major developments. As the engine spec will be frozen at the start of the season, it is understood that Fernandez will start off with the 2023 engine and continue with it within the ’24 chassis if and when he makes the switch.

Fernandez, for his part, said that the spec situation was “something I don’t want to think [about]”.

“I know that I am the only Aprilia rider on the grid with a ’23, but it’s something that I feel is motivation for me. I would like to do some questions to Aprilia, because I would like to fight with them [the ’24 bikes] – and like this they will think whether the [new] bike is better or not.

“This is my goal for the beginning of the season.”

AN EARLY OPPORTUNITY?

Raul Fernandez, Aprilia, MotoGP

Fernandez had had an inconclusive first season as an Aprilia rider, but when he was upgraded to a 2023 bike for the post-season test in Valencia he ran riot.

He was ‘only’ fifth-fastest in the final order there but consistently towards the front throughout the day, with more 1m29s laps than anyone, and professed a conviction that the ’23 bike was a huge step forward compared to what he’d been racing.

“Maybe when you change a bike, sometimes at the beginning the old bike is faster than the new bike – so maybe Raul will this bike could be faster!” Rivola acknowledged.

“Maybe he falls in love with the ’23, who knows?”

The Aprilia man added that the factory did “expect” the ’24 bike to be an improvement, naturally, but that it knows it “will need a bit of time also to understand the new bike”.

Fernandez’s team-mate Oliveira offered a similar viewpoint. Asked whether having the ’24 bike will be an intra-team advantage, he said: “At the beginning, I really don’t believe [so]. Because the new bike has a lot of work still to do.

“And we need to get everything really worked [out], every area. It’s not easy to set up a bike for the entire season.

“So, I think we’re going to struggle a little bit in the beginning. But I believe once we get going, we’ll be good.”

The 2023 Aprilia is not the 2023 Ducati, mind, but there is still a battle-proven appeal to it, especially at somewhere like the Argentine Termas de Rio Hondo track that hosts round three.

Fernandez is well-aware of that, too, and admits “it’s my dream” to capitalise early on having a more polished bike.

“And I am prepared for that. So… when you end the season like this [like in Valencia], you feel that you can do everything. I would like to do [it]. But you never know.

“For me, I think in that moment it is not the correct mindset. I want to do- if you give me a paper [to sign] and you put ‘top five’, no, because I want to do a podium, I want to be there. But the principal target and the principal goal is to try to enjoy, to try to see that in the first test in Sepang the bike is working like I felt in Valencia.

“Because I think it’s not a bad idea to have the ’23 at the beginning of the year, because it is the bike that worked very well last year.”



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