Riders:: Alvaro Bautista & Stefan Bradl
Consider the plight of Aprilia: Ducati and HRC each have more than a hundred staff working in their race departments; Aprilia have seven. Not only that, they are the only factory who built a completely new motorcycle for 2016; a motorcycle that was developed with data from Bridgestone tyres and Aprilia software and now races with Michelins and unified electronics.
That’s quite a headache for such a small working group, but there’s no doubt the RS-GP is a better motorcycle than the Rsv4-derived machines used in previous seasons. During the first half of 2016 the RS-GP achieved eight top 10 results, compared to the 2015 bike that scored four top 10s all year.
Aprilia have spent much of 2016 chasing the same problem as the other factories. Because Michelin had been away from Motogp for seven years the company has been developing its tyres race by race. That’s a good thing but it makes life difficult for engineers who are trying to score goals through goal posts that keep moving.
“At the moment we have to manage the evolution of the tyres by adjusting set-up because the tyres are always more important than the bike,” affirms Aprilia racing director Romano Albesiano. “But we are experimenting with different stiffness frames and triple clamps. We have three frames of different stiffness: Stefan prefers a more flexible frame because he likes more feel and he’s less bothered about the bike moving around, while Alvaro likes a stiffer frame because he likes a stable bike.”
Unlike the big factories whose engines are ‘frozen’ at the start of the season, Aprilia are still allowed to develop their motors. They bring upgrades to most races. “Since Qatar we have 10 more horsepower,” adds Albesiano. “Another 10 and we would be happy.” But does Albesiano really believe that David can beat Goliath? “Yes, it’s possible,” he says. “If we had more staff we would grow up quicker, but we have what we need to reach a good level. It’s just a matter of time.”
Aprilia has three different frames to suit their riders’ preferences
Underdogs Aprilia have graced the top 10 eight times