WORDS BY ADAM PROUD | IMAGES BY APRILIA
It feels like it’s been anticipated for a long time, but finally Aprilia will line up on the grid next year with more than just the two factory bikes as RNF Racing take on the Italian engines.
Aprilia has been running alone with no satellite team to supply since returning to the premier class in 2015, when they rejoined the grid as a factory-supported independent team with Gresini Racing.
But such is the fast pace of MotoGP, Aprilia has made huge strides in what feels like an incredibly short space of time, especially given their slow start in the first few seasons of their comeback.
Even as recently as 2020, the Italian outfit struggled to make any in-roads at the front, with only three top-10 finishes from 14 races.
Enter the year 2021, and suddenly Aprilia were turning heads. A foot was placed firmly in the door with the leading pack, its presence was being felt almost out of nowhere as Aleix Espargaro pushed his way towards the front. Every race he finished was in the top 10.
Fast forward to this year and Aprilia has arguably one of, if not, the best bike on the grid. Espargaro took his fourth straight podium finish in Italy, and finished fifth last weekend in Spain, meaning he’s second in the championship, 22 points behind Fabio Quartararo.
Aprilia quickly lost its concessions at the beginning of the year as Espargaro’s strong start developed. While on paper it puts Aprilia at a loss, given they miss out on having more freedom to test, it’s a demonstration of the progress made on the RS-GP bike.
And now throw RNF into the mix, becoming an Aprilia satellite team from 2023. Aside from the obvious step being a championship winning campaign, this is arguably one of the strongest strides the manufacturer has made.
It’ll no longer be a ‘lone wolf’ situation for the Italian squad next year, with there finally being a second team running bikes originating from the town of Noale.
It’s a step into the unknown on both sides of the coin. Razlan Razali joining forces with a manufacturer that hasn’t had a satellite team since its MotoGP return, and Aprilia linking up with a team whose presence in MotoGP is still fresh but with good foundations.
However, it’s a deal that makes sense for both parties.
Aprilia is very clearly ready to take the plunge into becoming not only its own supplier, but also for another team. The results both this year and last year show that.
RNF has so far struggled to make any mark on the championship since its restructure from the Sepang Racing Team name that it was known by until this year. Switching from a Yamaha engine to Aprilia is certainly a roll of the dice, yet there’s no reason to believe that it’s a wrong choice.
It gives the opportunity to the Italian supplier to develop its own engine, while giving another team on the MotoGP grid a shot at fighting towards the front.
Of course, until testing next year there’s little to know about how successful this move could be, yet Aprilia’s progression in MotoGP in the past two years has been astounding and this may turn out to be a masterstroke.
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