News/ Motorsport/ In Conversation with the Aprilia Racing Team - Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaró and Massimo Rivola

In Conversation with the Aprilia Racing Team - Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaró and Massimo Rivola

Questions for Massimo Rivola, CEO, Aprilia Racing

1. We heard from Aleix that you are the one who steered the Aprilia ship in the right direction, would you like to share some insights into what has changed?

- Aprilia has a great racing tradition, and I was sure that arriving here I would find really competent and passionate people to work with. My arrival has given Romano Albesiano the possibility to focus 100% on the technical side, which was a priority, and it helped a lot to improve the bike. In general, it was just a matter of putting everything together and better organizing some areas of the racing department in order to fight at the top. I’m speaking about introducing new resources from different teams and manufacturers, and also from other racing worlds - including Formula 1, and new young and fresh people directly from University, the one in Padova in particular.

2. From just a participant to developing what is probably one of the best motorcycles on the grid, how does it make you and your team back at home feel?

- Even if I think our bike is still not the reference, we feel proud, obviously! Hard work and dedication always pays off, and seeing the results of our efforts is so nice!

But today in MotoGP, you can’t stop to develop the bike but continuously improve every detail to be competitive.  We know it is not an easy task, so we continue to give our maximum.

3. As a team, Aprilia has always been considered one of the underdogs but now it’s going head-to-head against Ducati. How did you motivate people back home to achieve what you did?

- Actually, Aprilia is the most victorious Italian and European manufacturer in history with 295 GP wins. Of course, since our return to MotoGP we've had to grow a lot but it's in Aprilia tradition to always get to the top. I think that all the members of the team have always been fully motivated, even if is not so easy to stay always motivated when the results were not coming. I always believed in hard work, in particular in teamwork, and I always tried to transmit this philosophy to all the racing department.

4. Like Ducati, can we see more Aprilia bikes on the grid in the future? 

- For me, the ideal situation in MotoGP would be to have one Factory team and one satellite team for each manufacturer. This will make MotoGP even more balanced without taking away the spectacular side of our sport.

 

Questions for Aleix Espargaró

1. “El Capitan” from scrapping for points to challenging for podiums and wins and of course being in the title picture. How does it make you feel?

- I feel proud of this, because I always believed in me and in this project with Aprilia. For sure it has not been easy, but in Noale HQ there is a winning tradition and I’ve always been sure that with hard work and dedication the dream was possible.

2. As ardent followers, we have witnessed the progress Aprilia has made over the past few years. From cracking the top 5s in 2020, podium in 2021 and now racing towards the ultimate goal of winning a GP. If you could share your journey and development with Aprilia?

- I always put 100% of my energy in this project, since the beginning, and I feel really a part of this family. We had also difficult times in the past, but in the last 3 years we improved constantly. The arrival of Massimo Rivola helped this process a lot, and already in 2020 we have been a lot competitive. Now we have a strong technical and human base, so it is easier to work on the details in order to fight at the top.

3. This year the RS-GP looks more agile. What do you think about the updated motorcycle and your connection with it? 

- The 2023 bike is not a revolution compared to the old one, but it has a lot of changes in every aspect. For sure the new bike is better than last year's and has more potential than the 2022. We will have to be able to develop it in the right way because we are not that far from the top.

4. Aleix, the Assen 2022 race had us on the edge of our seats and the last-lap overtake in the chicane was downright spectacular.  But what happened after that crash and what were your thoughts? 

- After the crash I thought that I had nothing to lose and I put my head down to collect as many points as possible. Lap by lap the bike was working perfectly and I was able to easily catch the other riders and overtake them. It’s been one of my best races ever, and I’m happy that the fans enjoyed it as much as I have done! 

 

Questions for Maverick Viñales

1. Coming from an inline-4 configuration and from motorcycles which were very agile in handling to a stark transition to a V4 motor… how hard is it for the rider to adapt to the new motorcycle and understand its characteristics of it?

- What I've always said is that more than an adaptation, it's been more of me unlocking my natural style. I think my riding is more suited to a V4, that aggressive attitude especially in braking, but coming from a long career with inline-4s you need time to understand the new bike and get to grips with the technical package. What was also needed was an adaptation with the team. I like working with the Aprilia guys but of course they have a different organisation. I adapted to the bike and the team and they worked to give me the best package, that's the way.

2. You’ve joined Aprilia, backed up by the data and knowledge of different teams and different engines. How did it help you and Aprilia in the initial days?

- It's not as everybody thinks. We're not engineers, what we can give are feedbacks and sensations once on track, then it's the team's job to read between the lines and make the adjustments. What's important is not to change too much your approach: never think about what has been, just focus on what's ahead. Give your maximum, get the best from what you have and the results will come.

3. We saw Lorenzo introducing some crucial changes to the Ducati to suit his style of riding, were there any special requests made from your side or was it just a good amount of time required on the new bike to get used to it?

- Every rider has his own requests regarding ergonomics, and the MotoGP bikes are designed to adapt quite easily to different riding positions. Actually I started my adventure in Aprilia with a bike that was quite close to Aleix's, because he was the reference of the project. Then as soon as I got quicker and closer to his performance, we started working on adapting the bike. Right now my RS-GP is slightly different, especially regarding the fairing, because being aero is so crucial now we need to work on as many details as possible. What's clear is that the new RS-GP 2023 is a move in the right direction, evolved to improve on the weak points but still maintaining the strong base from last year.

TopGear Magazine May 2024