Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola has dropped a veiled hint that the team is considering ‘a WorldSBK rider’ widely assumed to be Chaz Davies to replace the suspended Andrea Iannone for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season.
The Italian team finds itself with slim options on the rider market after its foolhardy method of waiting until a decision on Iannone’s drugs appeal – which was originally set for August before being delayed to October and then again to November – failed to reap dividends.
With Iannone’s ban extended to four years, the vacated Aprilia RS-GP alongside Aleix Espargaro is now the only seat to fill for 2021.
However, Rivola in multiple interviews has said the WorldSBK series – where the manufacturer won three world titles before moving on to MotoGP – may also be an option for its selection process.
“I always said our bike is not an easy bike so a rider with experience would be better but I see many young riders will start in MotoGP so maybe it is another good opportunity to go with the younger talent.
“Moto2 is a very good gym for MotoGP and Moto2. Even WorldSBK, we saw an American rider [Garrett Gerloff] being very fast in the wet…”
While all factory seats for 2021 have been confirmed, there are three notable out-of-work WorldSBK riders seeking a spot still – Davies, Loris Baz and Eugene Laverty.
Of these, Chaz Davies is the most successful in Superbiek terms and arguably the most intriguing, even if he lacks the MotoGP experience of the aforementioned Baz and Laverty.
He has of course stepped foot on the MotoGP grid before, albeit 14 years when ago. The Welshman was selected for three substitute starts way back in 2007 with Pramac Ducati, which even then was long before he began to make international headway in WorldSBK.
A 31-time race winner in WorldSBK and triple runner-up, Davies’s seven-season tenure with Ducati came to a rather abrupt conclusion last month, making any Aprilia offer no doubt a tempting one. Working in his favour too is the influence of Dorna on any contract negotiations around its desire (née necessity) to ensure there is always British rider on the grid.
Baz and Laverty, meanwhile, both have MotoGP experience working in their way. Frenchman Loris Baz was the most recent contender in 2017, the last of a three-year stint with Forward Racing and Avintia Ducati that yielded some strong points’ finishes on two-year old machinery. He has also gone a long way to impressing since his return to WorldSBK, often matching the works’ Yamahas aboard his semi-privateer Ten Kate Racing R1.
While Eugene Laverty hasn’t enjoyed the best run of form recently, he also has two seasons of MotoGP under his belt. He also has a good relationship with Aprilia from WorldSBK, finishing runner-up in 2013 to Tom Sykes.
Who else is being considered by Aprilia for MotoGP 2021?
Should Aprilia decide to keep things GP centric, VR46 Academy’s Marco Bezzecchi has been identified as the most likely beneficiary. The Italian has been a standout of the 2020 Moto2 World Championship in only his second season at intermediate level and heads into this week’s Portimao finale as one of four riders still capable of winning the title, albeit 23 points adrift.
Beyond him, Fabio di Giannantonio is widely rumoured to have signed a pre-agreement with Aprilia to join Gresini Racing in 2022 when it spins off to become the satellite entry to the manufacturer’s full factory effort.
Tito Rabat may be an outside option having lost his Avintia Ducati seat, despite being mid-way through a two-year contract. Though the Spaniard is understood to have backed the move, citing a lack of motivation, he might find new impetus with an Aprilia factory deal, while he comes with significant backing too.
Finally, Lorenzo Savadori – effectively ‘interviewing’ for the ride right now with his three-race stint on the RS-GP – remains in contention, together with the ousted Bradley Smith.