Aprilia had a horrible 2018 but is confident a major redesign will get the factory back in the fight
Aprilia needs to make a big comeback in 2019. MotoGP’s smallest factory radically redesigned the RS-GP last season and went the wrong way, until a major change of direction at the last few races. Chief engineer Romano Albesiano and lead rider Aleix Espargaró believe they are now fully back on the right road.
Espargaró was seventh quickest at Sepang, despite running a tired engine with a lot of miles on the clock.
“It’s been a very positive winter,” said Albesiano. “We started exploring new ways of developing the chassis which are very promising.
“From 2016 to 2017 we rotated the engine in the chassis, from 2017 to 2018 we rotated the chassis and this year we have moved the weight around a lot. The bike now turns well off the brakes – which is normally the nightmare of every manufacturer – and we have better turning in the middle of the corner, which is the real key to performance in MotoGP. Good mid-corner turning is 60 to 70 per cent about mass distribution and the rest is stiffness related.”
Espargaró, who mostly struggled to get inside the top 10 last year, is also convinced the factory has made a big step.
“Last year was 100 per cent a lost year,” said the Spaniard. “The feeling is similar to what I had at the finish of last season when the bike started working well. I did a long run on the bike here and it’s definitely better than last year’s.
“We have kept good off-brake turning, we have gained turning the bike with the throttle, which we didn’t have last year, and my position on the bike is much better. Also, last year our rear tyre consumption was too high, but this year it’s better.”
Espargaró believes the 2019 RS-GP lacks one important performance feature: “Power! This is my main request – we need more power and more rpm and we need to improve the electronics because as soon as you get more power you have a problem with the traction control and everything.”
Albesiano says a stronger engine is on the way, but will it be enough for the hard-riding Espargaró to mix it with the best factory riders?
“You never have enough power!” Albesiano added. “Aleix did his best lap here with an engine that had done a lot of kilometres and we do have something better for the first races.
It’s always difficult for the rider to understand what’s the power feeling and what’s the torque management feeling when he’s considering the engine. Here at Sepang the part of track where your time comes only from engine performance is 12 per cent of the lap; the rest is handling and so on. But of course during that 12 per cent, you have to do the best you can.”
Aprilia – part of the huge Piaggio group – is definitely spending more money this year and has allowed Albesiano to concentrate fully on engineering. Previously he was the only factory engineer/manager in MotoGP
“I think we can be much stronger this season,” he concluded. “I can concentrate on the technical side, which is what I love.”