The Aprilia Racing Team Gresini recently revealed their all new line up for the 2017 MotoGP season in Noale, Italy along with the new RS-GP 17 which will begin its second season in the class. Also at the presentation, the team launched their World Superbike Team.
New line up for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Piloting the MotoGP bike in 2017, former Gresini Racing Moto2 rider, Sam Lowes from Great Britain has been promoted up to the top class; a decision that was included as part of his contract. He will be joined in 2017 by former Aprilia rider, Aleix Espargaro, who has made the move from Team Suzuki Ecstar.
Dressed in the Italian colours of red, white and green, the livery on the Aprilia, which was designed by Aldo Drudi, proudly displays the Italian heritage of the bike. This year they are boldly displaying a new sponsor, Now TV along the side of a blue band on the side of the fairing, and both riders will be dressed in the leathers to match.
Positive finish to the first season for the Italian team
Towards the end of the 2016 is when the Italian team began to see the results of their hard work in testing and over the first end of the season. It began with Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista making their way into Q2 to contend for positions on the first front rows of the grid. Their consistency came through and they were able to finish within the top 10, 16 times.
These are results that he two new riders would probably hope to soon be matching the results and improving on them even further as they look to be among the front runners in the back along with the other factory riders.
Espargaro had first experience of new machinery in Valencia
The first test in Valencia, after the season finale at the Spanish track, was the first opportunity for Aleix Espargaro to get to grips with his Aprilia; a manufacturer he has ridden for before. The challenge with Aprilia should be a doddle to him, as he has spent the last time years evolving the Suzuki GSX-RR.
During the tests so far he was immediately able to settle on the RS-GP; specifically noticing the stability under breaking. He has also so far been able to make comparisons between both the 2016 version of the bike, and the 2017 evolution of it. He has also developed a competitive edge, but the results will be clearer in Qatar when they undertake the final pre-season test and the first race of the season.
Lowes getting to grips with the MotoGP bikes
Lowes has been able to spend a lot more time on the Aprilia as he spent several occasions testing and coming to grips with the RS-GP 16 during the 2016 season. Being used to the Moto2 Honda, Lowes has had to familiarise himself with the features the MotoGP bike has to offer; including the electronics, carbon breaks, and the Michelin tyres to name a few. His extra time has paid off and he is looking more and more competitive and comfortable on his new wheels.
Interviews on presentation day took place with Roberto Colaninno (Piaggio Group CEO and Managing Director), Romano Albesiano (Aprilia Racing Manager), Fausto Gresini (Team Manager), and Lowes and Espargaro.
Colaninno on Aprilia and the Piaggio Group’s journey so far
Discussing how “racing is the highest point of experimentation and the development of technological solutions from which all the products and brands in the group then benefit”, Colaninno described how “Aprilia Racing represents one of the Piaggio Group’s points of technological excellence.”
He reflected on how far they had come in 2016, when they introduced the machine that was the “first MotoGP bike designed and built in Noale” and how in the second half of the season, “the new bike showed clear progress” and proved this by “consistently finishing in the top 10” with the help of its former pilots.
Looking forward to the 2017 season, he hopes they are able continue their “growth trend” and plan to become “a threat to manufacturers who have been in this class for decades”; he feels they have “everything it takes to achieve this goal” when referring to “staff, technology, experience and a lot of passion”.
Colaninno boasted about Aprilia’s successful history mentioning “54 world titles” stating that “no less than 28 have been earned since Aprilia has been part of the Piaggio Group”. In order to maintain such a successful reputation he explained that it “demands they [they] work hard to always be protagonists”, and as well as continuing their success in the racing the world, they hope to continue to “entertain and attract the young people who have always been Aprilia’s greatest asset.”
New start with the new season for Albesino
Aprilia Racing manager, Albesino feels that for Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, “2017 begins with a different situation compared with last year”. Happy that the bike has “reached a good competitive level,” he feels the “evolutions [they] have studied and applied” which include the likes of optimised weight, overall balance, engine performance and the electronics package, "concern every aspect of the bike".
Discussing “goals set for the Aprilia MotoGP project”, he spoke of how he plans to take a step closer through “an all-round operation but without any drastic changes” as he was confident they had a “good starting base” and that the “initial feedback has been encouraging”.
Analysing their new Spanish rider, Espargaro, he spoke of how “Aleix likes the bike and has some rather clear ideas on which characteristics have the most room for improvement”; and so he said they “will be working in those areas throughout the season”.
Bid dreams for the Racing Manager
He spoke highly of the racing department and explained how they “put in a lot of effort during the winter break”. He feels that “everyone understands the importance of the challenge [they] are facing”. This year the riders are not permitted to run with the carbon-fibre winglet additions used aerodynamically to reduce front end lift, and he explained how the “front fairing is just the most visible example of Aprilia’s dedication to innovation.”
Finally, analysing the results from the three pre-season tests, and looking forward to the final one and the new season, Albesiano noted that they “stayed in a group of very competitive bikes and riders where just a few tenths of a second can make a big difference”, and he stated that their goal after showing they can “consistently battle for the top 10” during the 2017 season, “is to improve further”.
Team manager, Gresini, feeling confident from the start
Gresini, Team Manager of Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, spoke of how when approaching the 2017 season, he feels “well aware” that they should be able to “count on a good starting base” gained during the test in Sepang and Phillip Island where he felt “the team and riders worked very well”. Mentioning the new livery for 2017 he shared his views saying it is “very nice” and that they “can’t wait to see it in action I the new colours”.
Speaking about a “determined Aleix”, he described how the Spaniard “got straight to work astride the new RS-GP” and it led to him “finding excellent sensations and providing important indications to steer technical development”. Discussing Lowes new challenge, he felt the British rider is “tackling this new adventure with the right spirit, aiming at building up the necessary experience.” He finished by saying, “We are ready for a new and exciting challenge together with Aprilia Racing”.
Espargaro seems happy and content with his new team for 2017
Espargaro spoke of how he was “happy to unveil the new livery” that his new team will use this year. He explained how it is “always nice to officially launch a new project” and declared that he has “great confidence in Aprilia Racing and the team’s work” saying it will be “a great season”.
Having completed the three tests he admitted, “We still have a lot to improve” however he still thinks they have “undoubtedly gotten off on the right foot.” He stated that they are “keen to grow” and explained that they have “specific goals”, and to ensure they are able to achieve them he spoke of how he and the team plan to “put all of [their] energy onto the track”. He now looks forward to the season opener in Qatar to “see where [they] stand against [their] rivals”.
Personal goals for Lowes as he takes on the challenges of MotoGP
Lowes too spoke of how he is “happy to be part of this big family” who he described as having “such a strong bond to racing” and who also have a “prestigious history of success” when referring to his new team. He mentioned how he is looking forward to “get back on track In Qatar”.
Analysing his and his new team’s performance over the winter tests, he felt he was “able to express about 85% of [their] potential in the winter tests”. He plans to use the first race as a starting point to “identify a good base to build on,” before he plans to keep on “improving step by step all the way to Valencia”.
Ever the competitive fellow, he spoke of how they are “setting [their] sights on the points zone straight away”, once he has succeeded in doing so, he then plans to keep on aiming for the top 10 where he plans to “battle for some important MotoGP placements”. The British rookie in the MotoGP class for 2017 said, “I believe in myself and I fully believe in the potential of my bike and my team.”