Confirmation of which motorcycles will be eligible to compete in the 2023 WorldSBK Championship was released on the eve of the opening round in Australia, complete with the surprise inclusion of the latest Aprilia RSV 4.
The updated document from governing body, the FIM, confirms the addition of the latest generation BMW M1000RR and Ducati Panigale V4R, as well as the tweaked Kawasaki ZX-10RR, which has now been permitted the extra 500rpm it was denied upon initial homologation in 2021.
However, there is also a new entry for the Aprilia RSV 4 1100 RR/RF, which sits alongside the erstwhile Aprilia RSV 4 1000 RR/RF because - like the Suzuki GSX-R1000R - it is still eligible despite it being phased out of production. The FIM makes no mention of why it has included Aprilia, though for now its homologation remains TBA anyway.
Why has the Aprilia RSV 4 1100 not been WorldSBK homologated before?
Put simply, the Aprilia RSV4 1100 (1099cc) is not permitted to compete in WorldSBK because - as denoted by its name - it exceeds the maximum capacity limit in the series, which currently sits at 1000cc.
Though WorldSBK has been flexible in this area in the past so as to permit the Ducati 1198, which was allowed to compete due its twin-cylinder set up, inline-four and V4, like the RSV 4, are bound by the 1000cc limit.
It’s a ruling that the FIM hasn’t budged on recently either, so much so that the Ducati Panigale V4R engine was redesigned to be 998cc, unlike the sister Panigale V4S which has 1103cc.
Could Aprilia return to WorldSBK?
While it is perhaps a bit of a reach to suggest Aprilia is plotting a return to WorldSBK in a factory capacity, the RSV 4 1100 would have been actively submitted for it to undergo a homologation process.
Indeed, while discontinued or aged models linger on the list long after they were stopped racing, the FIM is unlikely to have included Aprilia without a reason.
Interestingly, it is listed as ‘pending’ under a curious ‘SSTK1100’ heading. With no such series existing, it would suggest this could act as a compromise to offset its larger engine.
It means the most likely scenario is a privateer team is looking to get the bike passed in order to complete some wildcard events - such as CIV Superbike outfit Nuova M2 Aprilia - which might in turn explain why the FIM is willing to make that exception, while rival manufacturers might not veto the bike if it’s only competing in selected events and remains ‘stock’ specification.
Thinking more broadly, however, there have been murmurings in recent years that Aprilia might be considering a return to WorldSBK in a factory-backed capacity, though bosses have dismissed it by virtue of the current regulations.
However, with Aprilia now considered a front runner in MotoGP and the RSV 4 due for replacement in the next couple of years - perhaps with a 1000cc engine again - there is more than one valid thread to consider.
Alternatively, following successful application of new engine regulations in WorldSSP - which saw permitted capacities rise to 960cc for twins and 850cc for triples in 2022 - there could be scope for the FIM to widen the WorldSBK framework too so long as it can maintain a balance of performance.
Aprilia’s rich WorldSBK heritage
The Italian marque has a rich history competing in the production series with the RSV 4 - the successor to the RSV1000 - making its debut in 2009 and going on to claim titles with Max Biaggi in 2010 and 2012, before Sylvain Guintoli notched up a third for Aprilia in 2014.
It was success that would motivate a move into the MotoGP World Championship with initial iterations of its RS-GP being based on the fundamentals RSV 4.
It meant Aprilia’s involvement in WorldSBK would wane in the following years as it devoted resources to its MotoGP effort, with the likes of Red Devils, IodaRacing and Milwaukee SMR carrying the baton for running RSV 4 machinery without significant backing from the factory.