Aprilia's 2023 deal with RNF is historic for MotoGP

The 2023 MotoGP season is set to be the first one in history with more Italian bikes than Japanese, and there could be only two non-V4 bikes on the grid.

Maverick Vinales leads Luca Marini and Andrea Dovizioso in 2022 Qatar Grand Prix. - Gold and Goose

Today (27 May 2022), Aprilia announced that it will bring four bikes to the 2023 MotoGP grid after tempting the RNF team away from Yamaha. 

The deal is an historic one for Aprilia, Yamaha, and also MotoGP, as the RS-GP is confirmed as a preferred choice of motorcycle in Grand Prix racing. 

For Aprilia, it will be the first time since their return to MotoGP in 2015 that they will be leasing bikes to a satellite team, although, in a way, that was their operation with Gresini between 2015 and 2021. This season has been the Noale brand’s first as a full factory set up since that 2015 return, and has delivered their first victory, with Aleix Espargaro in Argentina. Yesterday, they announced the retention of both Espargaro and Maverick Vinales for 2023, and now they have announced that there will be two more RS-GPs on the grid with RNF from next year, too. 

Exactly who will be riding those RS-GPs is currently unclear. The news could tempt Andrea Dovizioso to stay for one more year. Of course, he tested the Aprilia at the beginning of last year before he signed with RNF to replace Franco Morbidelli, when Morbidelli went to replace Vinales in the factory Aprilia team. The RS-GP should suit the Italian’s riding style more than the Yamaha, and it is also possible to argue that the Aprilia is simply just a straight-up better motorcycle than the Yamaha. But, whether the Italian actually has any motivation to stay, regardless of machinery, is uncertain to say the least.

Dorna’s world feed commentator, Matt Birt, mentioned during MotoGP FP1 commentary that both Raul Fernandez and Aron Canet have been linked with the RNF Aprilias, and it is not totally incomprehensible that Darryn Binder should be retained. However, Canet has shown his abilities this year in Moto2, and has become the most consistent front runner in the intermediate class, while Fernandez’ quality is known from his 2021 Moto2 title challenge. The latter’s debut MotoGP season has been quite disappointing so far, but we know from his contract fiasco of 2021 that he is unhappy with KTM, whose MotoGP bike is not the most competitive in the championship right now, anyway.

For Yamaha, the deal is a major one because it appears that the Iwata factory will be without a satellite team for the first time in its MotoGP history in 2023. There is always a possibility that the VR46 team could part ways with Ducati to join Yamaha, but On Track Off Road contributor, Paddock Pass Podcast co-host, and Dorna world feed commentator, Neil Morrison, tweeted that Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis believed that RNF was Yamaha’s only satellite option for 2023, with other independent teams locked into tighter contracts with other manufacturers.
After the departure of Suzuki at the end of 2022, Yamaha will be the only non-V4 factory left in MotoGP. The loss of their satellite effort would mean that there will be only two inline-four-cylinder bikes on the grid in 2023, those of the factory Yamaha team. 

The deal is also an historic one for MotoGP. Spanish journalist and Motociclismo contributor Nacho Gonzalez tweeted that the RNF-Aprilia deal means that, for the first time in the history of MotoGP, there will be more Italian bikes on the grid than Japanese. Currently, of course, there will be eight Ducatis in 2023 MotoGP, and now four Aprilias, whereas there will be only two Yamahas and four Hondas. So, in fact, between RNF’s departure of Yamaha, and Suzuki’s departure of the championship, there will be twice as many Italian bikes than Japanese. Even if VR46 went to Yamaha, there would be 10 Italian bikes to the eight of Japan.