Could Aprilia ever return to WorldSBK Championship?

The Aprilia RSV4 is set to return to the 2020 WorldSBK grid in a handful of wild-card rounds - but could the Aprilia factory ever return in future?

Sylvain Guintoli, Marco Melandri, Aprilia

The Aprilia nameplate is set to return to the 2020 WorldSBK Championship in a handful of selected events through an officially supported privateer effort.

Though not acknowledged by WorldSBK in official communications, an Aprilia was present during the most recent two-day test as Italian set up Nuova M2 put its RSV4 through its paces with new signing Christophe Ponsson.

Though the Frenchman – fresh from winning the Spanish Superbike Championship – will focus on the CIV Italian Superbike series in 2020, reports the team has committed to three 2020 WorldSBK outings at European venues. It will be the first time an Aprilia has been represented in WorldSBK since 2018 when Shaun Muir Racing ran a semi-works effort for the firm.

Indeed, though Aprilia – title winners with Max Biaggi and Sylvain Guintoli in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – never officially exited WorldSBK, its decision to focus primarily on its MotoGP effort largely starved resources towards its Superbike effort, prompting SMR to jump ship to BMW for 2019.

Is there a future for Aprilia in WorldSBK?

It’s no coincidence Aprilia’s interest in WorldSBK waned after openly bemoaning the direction the series was taking towards a MotoGP-derivative formula with electronics and wings, but with its fortunes on the premier stage stalling at best (dwindling at worst) it raises talk it could well consider reviving its WorldSBK effort.

Indeed, Aprilia has just completed its fourth full season in MotoGP but progress has remained relatively stagnant as it laboured to sixth out of six manufacturers, scoring only one top six finish.

By contrast, Suzuki – who also returned the same year as Aprilia – scored two wins and finished fourth overall with Alex Rins. It also finished adrift of KTM, who entered MotoGP from scratch a year afterwards.

It has been quite the humbling experience for a manufacturer that at its peak was difficult to beat in WorldSBK with its evergreen Aprilia RSV4 weapon, a machine that remains among the best in class on the road too in the face of newer opposition from Ducati, Kawasaki and most recently Honda.

However, with Aprilia’s own MotoGP riders decrying a lack of investment from parent company Piaggio (despite claiming they have the resources to up their involvement), it’s difficult to see how the company would be willing to race in both.

Then again, with Kawasaki formidably proving that it doesn’t need to race in MotoGP to get the publicity it needs when winning in WorldSBK is worth more than being an also-ran in MotoGP, one wonders whether Aprilia is doing its brand more harm than good by spending more money for less success.