Interview: Aim to bring more consistent performance in MotoGP 24: Aprilia Racing

We caught up with Massimo Rivola - CEO, and Romano Albesiano, Technical Director at Aprilia Racing, to learn more about its plans for this season of M
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Aprilia Racing MotoGP 2024
Aprilia Racing's Romano Albesiano and Massimo Rivola with riders Lorenzo Savadori, Aleix Espargaro, and Maverick Vinales
Aprilia Racing MotoGP 2024
Aprilia Racing's Romano Albesiano and Massimo Rivola with riders Lorenzo Savadori, Aleix Espargaro, and Maverick Vinales

The 2024 MotoGP championship is underway and Aprilia Racing is off to a promising start. Factory rider Maverick Vinales managed to bag a win in the Sprint race at the Portuguese GP, while Aleix Espargaro has been consistent with his performance. Espargaro and Vinales are placed seventh and eighth respectively in the championship standings with two outings so far, and the team is looking forward to a competitive year. To learn more about Aprilia Racing’s plans for this season, we recently caught up with Massimo Rivola - CEO, and Romano Albesiano, Aprilia's Technical Director. Here are the excerpts from the interview.

Q: Expectations from the 2024 MotoGP season? How has the preparation been so far?

Romano Albesiano: “The mood in the paddock is very positive, especially after the Tests and Qatar race. We have been very fast and very consistent on pace. Bikes seem fast and comments are very positive from the riders, so I’m very positive.

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Massimo Rivola: “Generally, the mood is quite good and the team has good motivation. The lap times during the winter were good which clearly indicates that the potential of the RS-GP24 is growing. I can see different levels of performance from the riders at the moment, with Aleix in superb shape, he immediately got the feeling of the 24 bike, and regarding Maverick, I'm quite convinced that he will be at the top quite soon."

Also Read : Aprilia RS 457 First Ride Review: Does the baby RS tug the right strings?

Aprilia Racing MotoGP 2024
The Aprilia RSGP 24 race bike has received improvements in aerodynamics with the team bringing new innovations
Aprilia Racing MotoGP 2024
The Aprilia RSGP 24 race bike has received improvements in aerodynamics with the team bringing new innovations

Q: How has the 2024 RSGP bike shaped up? Where do you see the riders in terms of adapting to the 2024 machinery?

Massimo Rivola: “After a busy winter due to the news of the satellite team, Trackhouse Racing pushed us to get more factory bikes on track and we were quite curious to see where we were in terms of performance in Sepang in the first Test. Actually, it was not too bad at all. Qatar I would say even better, so the mood in general is quite okay. I can see different levels of performance from the riders at the moment, with Aleix in a super shape, he immediately got the feeling of the ‘24 bike and for sure had the main saving time and concentrating on setups to adapt his style. Maverick, I'm quite convinced that he will be on the top quite soon. Some difficulties for Miguel on the ‘24 bike, I think that is part of the fact that he is jumping from the ‘22 to the ‘24, it's a bit more difficult, so I think he needs some more mileage than the others. Raúl, as we know, didn't test in Sepang due to a crash after two laps and was quite surprising in Qatar with the 23 bike. Immediately he was very fast despite his physical condition not being 100 per cent. Generally, the mood is quite okay and there is good motivation."

Q: What are the major upgrades on the 2024 MotoGP machines? Are you happy with the pace of the bikes so far?

Romano Albesiano: “Aerodynamics is the topic of the moment. It’s very good for motorcycling, there is a lot to talk about it. We are probably the first team to do some real innovation in this field, and we keep doing this. Year by year the motorcycle is transforming into something different. The aero forces on motorcycles are increasing year by year, and the way they need to be driving is changing continuously. So it’s very difficult for the riders to get used to, and to exploit the potential of the motorcycle. This is very interesting and for sure the 2024 Aprilia is quite different from the aero point of view, and some of our riders are exploiting this potential more than others, but this process is ongoing. We’ve seen in the winter test lap times that we couldn’t believe before, so it’s clearly a demonstration that the potential of the motorcycle is increasing a lot and we are in a good position to take advantage of this".

Massimo Rivola: “Aprilia in the last few years has been pioneering and innovating on the aerodynamic ground. The innovations we brought were a lot and most of the others follow us, so this year we went even deeper into that kind of innovation, like the ground effect and the fork wings, and also, instead of finding downforce on the rear part of the bike through wings we found a different way, in a sort of a fork style with diffuser as you can see on the bike. At the end, we can find a lot of downforces and a lot of efficiency, and we can get a better bike on numbers and paper, but if that bike doesn't get the feeling of the riders, then is a waste of time, so the big job now is to combine the improvement of the aero side with the feeling of the bike. We saw Aleix getting immediately feeling right, and Maverick struggling a bit more, but it's just a matter of time and adapting to the rider style. As long as we know that the full packages are better, we are helping them, with full packages I mean bike and rider because in the bike the riders can really make a lot of difference."

Q: Where do you see the team finishing in the upcoming season? Is the goal to lead the middle order or take the fight to Ducati?

Romano Albesiano: “It’s always difficult to win races, it’s always been difficult, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be more difficult than last year". Don’t forget we won two races last year. If you look at the championship points is one thing, if you look at the top performance maybe there is another ranking. We need to be more consistent probably."

Massimo Rivola: “As I always said, the advantage of Ducati, apart from the fact that they have for sure a fantastic bike, is the fact that having eight bikes and eight riders they can have an advantage in data. They can analyse in a much faster way than us, not just us but all the other competitors. We proved already in 23 that we could beat them like we did in Silverstone and Barcelona, we proved that we could score the pole position so we could be the fastest actually; so I think that rather than complaining about the approach internally here, it should be to try to improve the best and be hungry to fight for the victory and beat everybody, not just Ducati."

Q: Trackhouse is a new satellite team running Aprilia machinery. How was it bringing a completely new team up to speed?

Romano Albesiano: “The first year with the satellite team is a new experience for us, it’s not easy in terms of organization, but we learned a lot in terms of taking advantage of this condition. We’ll have the same spec machines from mid-season, luckily earlier. We start with three 2024 spec machines from the beginning. I think we will have a real advantage this year. 2023 would have been a fantastic season for Miguel Oliveira if he had not been crashed by other riders last year. And Raúl is improving so much, I’m really impressed by him. We have to say that we have the four riders at the same level in terms of attention. So, for us, they are four Aprilia riders, honestly, we don’t care too much if there are one or three wins, it’s Aprilia that wins. I hope they will get podiums".

Massimo Rivola: “The first year with four bikes on track with the satellite team, at the beginning for sure was quite demanding to organise it, but it was a good experience. The new team, the American Team Trackhouse, seems really ambitious and this is what we want. In the end, having four bikes and four riders on the track is important for the performance and again, it’s about data, it’s about riders and it's about the impact that you have on the track. Having a larger family makes us more proud and obviously more responsible, but it's just good to have someone together."

Aprilia RSGP 24 MotoGP 2024
While the 2023 Indian GP was challenging for Aprilia and the team is looking at a more competitive performance this year
Aprilia RSGP 24 MotoGP 2024
While the 2023 Indian GP was challenging for Aprilia and the team is looking at a more competitive performance this year

Q: Which tracks are you looking forward to in the upcoming season?

Massimo Rivola: “One of the best tracks for us is definitely Montmeló. Last year, we did an incredible weekend that made history for Aprilia: two victories for Aleix in the Sprint and Sunday’s race, and also two podiums for Maverick. Silverstone was also a good track for us. Aleix dominated the race after an incredible comeback, despite the challenging track conditions, and Maverick scored a podium during the Sprint."

Q: How was your experience in India in 2023? What are your expectations this year? Any scope for improvement?

Romano Albesiano: “It was an amazing experience, it was the first time for me in India and the track is fantastic and everything was super exciting. We also had the launch of the new Aprilia RS457, which was a very important event that we had at the GP. The track is not easy for us, at least with the 2023 bike, because there are a couple of restarts from very low speeds which were critical for us last year, but we made some changes on the bike. And I think when we get there, we will be very competitive".

Massimo Rivola: “The Indian GP last year was a very nice experience, from the show point of view, spectators and track, personally, I was there 10 years earlier in F1. The track was a bit difficult for us, also related to the very high temperature, for sure we need to be more prepared for this year, but I think all the data we got from the experience of the 23 will make us so much stronger for next year's races. Actually, before the problem with Aleix, we did not have a bad performance but were far away from the win, so with all the changes on the bike, I think this year it will be better. We don’t see the race alone we have to see what the others will do, but I'm confident that we will do better than last year".

First Published Date: 08 Apr 2024, 10:22 AM IST
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