Aprilia prepares off-road revival with Tuareg rally project

Aprilia has announced a revival of its off-road racing project, with a new rally-raid programme utilising the Aprilia Tuareg 660.

Jacopo Cerutti, Massimo Rivola, Francesco Montanari with Aprilia Tuareg 660.

Aprilia is preparing to return to the off-road world with a new rally raid project utilising its Tuareg 660 motorcycle.

The new off-road project will see Aprilia rely on Jacopo Cerutti for the development of the new rally-raid, competition, version of the Aprilia Tuareg 660, and has the involvement of Romano Albesiano and Massimo Rivola.

Until now, the focus of both Albesiano and Rivola has been dedicated almost entirely to MotoGP. Aprilia has taken great strides in recent years, and won its first MotoGP race last season with Aleix Espargaro in Argentina. Clearly, Aprilia’s racing department now seeks additional challenges.

Technical assistance will also be provided to Aprilia by GCorse, a company headed by the Guareschi brothers - Vittoriano and Gianfranco.

(Vittoriano Guareschi is a name familiar with short circuit road racing fans, as he raced in the World Superbike paddock in the 1990s before becoming Ducati’s MotoGP test rider in the early 2000s. He later became the team manager of Ducati’s MotoGP team in 2010, as the Bologna brand prepared to lure Valentino Rossi away from Yamaha.)

GCorse has already worked on the Tuareg 660 in the Italian Motorally Championship of 2022, while 2023 will see a continuation of development work.

As for the riders: the aforementioned Cerutti is a multiple-time Italian and one-time European enduro champion, and has six Dakar Rally starts to his name; while the second rider to Cerutti will be Francesco Montanari, who made his debut in the Tricolore Motorally last year. 

With its new off-road project, Aprilia is pointing to rally-raid competition. Exactly which rally-raids it will seek to compete in on a global scale remains to be seen.

The Dakar is of course the most famous rally-raid event. Aprilia first competed on the Dakar in 1989 with the original Tuareg. Aprilia’s latest Dakar appearance was with the RXV Rally 450 in 2012. However, there is no ‘trail’ category in the Dakar. The only motorcycle category is for 450cc machines, like the aforementioned RXV.

Aprilia’s press release, though, is headlined “Back to Africa”. Perhaps, then, rallies such as the Africa Eco Race or the Tunisia Desert Challenge are on Aprilia’s radar.

Massimo Rivola, Aprilia Racing CEO, said: “With its ‘Back to Africa’ project Aprilia Racing is returning to the world of off-road racing, to the races that forged the division. We want to keep growing in the world of Grand Prix motorcycle racing and in on-track races. We want to discover new talent through our SP 250 Championship and the RS 660 Trophy, but we are also embarking on a completely new project with the extraordinary Aprilia Tuareg. It's an additional sign of development for a racing division that has grown significantly over the past years achieving results never before seen by Aprilia."

Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Technical Director, said: “We are picking up the baton from a history of great successes. Aprilia is the only Italian brand to have won a stage of the Dakar Rally, and in 2010 we took the last podium in the overall ranking. These are just the first steps in a completely new project, and the purpose of the 2023 season will be to start us on the path that will take us back to the great desert races, but one thing is certain, the bike will be forged from the values that have always marked Aprilia's racing endeavours, i.e. innovation in the service of performance”.

Jacopo Cerutti said: “I'm very happy to be a part of this project, to work with a brand that's 100% Italian and that has such a great history in sports is a source of great pride. This will be a new challenge for me, coming from experience with the Enduro 450. I will be riding a twin with enormous potential and will have a key role to play in development. It's an exceptional opportunity for a rider, and I can't wait to start."

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