Last season Aprilia seemed to be on the rise to challenge for the MotoGP title. However, so far this season they have been far off the pace, so what happened?
At the end of the 2022 MotoGP season it looked like we were going to see a scrap between two Italian manufacturers for the MotoGP title in the near future. The two manufacturers we expected to see were of course Ducati and the surprise arrival of Aprilia, who were making their way to the top end of MotoGP.
Aprilia have seen great success in the 125cc, 250cc and WorldSBK class in the past, but they have never had the same level of success in the 500cc or MotoGP class. Aprilia won ten 125cc titles, nine 250cc titles and three WorldSBK titles, putting their total to 22.
However, in the 500cc/MotoGP class the success has not been the same for the Noale manufacturer as they have only ever won one 500cc/MotoGP race in their history, which came in the 2022 season. This looked like the biggest step for Aprilia and it seemed like there was more to come, but it has not materialised.
Aprilia's rise to the top in 2022:
The 2022 season was a breakthrough year for Aprilia after they had struggled in MotoGP since they rejoined in the 2015 season. The 2022 season saw Aprilia stand on the top step of the podium for the first time in the MotoGP class.
Aprilia only ran two bikes in the 2022 season, their riders were Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales. Espargaro had been with Aprilia since the 2017 season and had become their 'captain', whereas Vinales was the new boy on the scene and was in the midst of learning the RS-GP.
Last year Espargaro finished the season in fourth in the Championship with 212 points, 53 points less than the eventual Champion. But Vinales was down in 11th place with 122 points. Espargaro had stood on the podium six times and Vinales was on the podium on three occasions throughout the year.
Aprilia finished the season in 3rd in the Constructors Championship, a big step from their 2021 performance where they finished last in the Constructors Championship.
For this season there were big expectations for Aprilia and their riders, especially since they added a satellite team to their roster, which meant they would have two extra riders on the grid.
Why have Aprilia dropped off the pace in 2023?
The 2023 MotoGP season has been dominated by the European manufacturers with Ducati running away with the Championship, KTM comfortably in second and Aprilia fighting to hold third place again. However, in the Riders Championship it has been different fortunes for Aprilia.
The two factory Aprilia riders of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales are ninth and tenth respectively in the Championship. Then the two RNF Racing Aprilia riders of Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez are down in 16th and 26th in the Championship.
It has been well reported throughout the season that the Aprilia riders do not believe that the RS-GP improved enough in between 2022 and 2023. Compared to the other Italian manufacturer, Ducati who have taken another significant step in between the 2022 and 2023 season.
Aprilia's lack of improvement is obvious when you look that after seven Grands Prix in 2022 Aprilia had one race win and three further podiums. However, after seven Grands Prix in 2023 they have only one podium.
Aprilia have struggled with their electronic package throughout the 2023 season, which has left Aprilia with small issues throughout the season which have grown into a bigger issue in the long run.
After the latest Grand Prix at the Sachsenring Maverick Vinales was asked by MotoGP.com about the poor run of form and his DNF in Germany: "I think it’s not bad luck."
"It’s a pity for me because I think these two tracks, Mugello and here, were good for me. Not being able to be in the front, it must have been something."
Last season Vinales and Aprilia were strong at Assen and Silverstone, which are the next two races this season. In 2022 Vinales finished third and second around Assen and Silverstone, something he and Aprilia must repeat if they want to have a strong run in the remaining 13 Grands Prix of the season.