Aprilia won’t return to WorldSBK while it is racing in MotoGP

Triple title winners Aprilia will not have a full-factory presence in the WorldSBK Championship while it is eyeing glory in MotoGP

Max Biaggi - Aprilia Racing

Aprilia technical director Romano Albesiano says the manufacturer won’t return to the WorldSBK Championship while it is continuing along the path towards success in the MotoGP World Championship.

The Italian firm returned to the top-flight in 2015 a year earlier than planned after securing its third WorldSBK title in five years with Sylvain Guintoli.

The switch to MotoGP led to a steady decline in its WorldSBK involvement, instead providing semi-factory support to privateer teams Red Devils, Ioda and Shaun Muir Racing in the ensuing seasons.

However, when SMR switched allegiance to BMW in 2019 it left Aprilia with no presence on the WorldSBK grid despite never formally withdrawing from the series.

In that time, Aprilia’s fortunes on the MotoGP stage have been unspectacular with a best result of sixth position from five seasons of competition. By contrast, Suzuki – which returned to MotoGP the same year as Aprilia – has notched up three wins during the same period.

Despite this, while many believe the ageing RSV4 would still be competitive compared with the current crop of superbike entries, Aprilia remains committed to MotoGP and thus doesn’t want to divert resources to a WorldSBK effort.

“In SBK we had reached a point where we had achieved all of our goals, while Aprilia was not winning in MotoGP,” Albesiano told GPOne. “We have not yet managed to win in MotoGP, but we go every year closer. When this mission is accomplished, we will think about it again. Realistically we cannot compete in both championships to the level necessary to fight for the title, we should give MotoGP and it is something we don’t want to do.”

What next for Aprilia in MotoGP?

It’s been a tough return for Aprilia, whose fortunes have stagnated in the mid-field mire. Indeed, perhaps the more damning comparison is that of KTM, which started its MotoGP project from scratch and has established itself as a more consistent top ten contender.

However, Aprilia – and parent company Piaggio – seem determined to make the MotoGP work as demonstrated by an overhaul behind the scenes that brought Massimo Rivola into a management position, allowing Albesiano, who masterminded the latter of Aprilia’s WorldSBK titles, to focus on technical matters.

The result is the all-new RS-GP, which showed encouraging lap times during pre-season testing in the hands of Aleix Espargaro, so much so that the Spaniard said he was almost moved to tears.

What sets Aprilia apart from its factory rivals though is the way it delegates its day-to-day running to the Gresini Racing team. This is set to change from 2022 though with Aprilia signalling plans to take its operation in-house as a full factory effort, with Gresini taking on a satellite role to add two more bikes to the grid.

As for WorldSBK, there were plans for an Aprilia to be on the grid at times in 2020 with the Nuova M2 Italian Superbike Championship team planning a series of wildcards for the well-funded Christophe Ponsson.

However, this is as close as we’ll be getting from Aprilia in WorldSBK for the foreseeable future it seems…