‘Give us one month’ – that was the repeated request by Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola as he sought to answer questions on the factory’s future while respecting the tragic loss of Fausto Gresini, boss of their current MotoGP partner.
Aprilia joined forces with Gresini Racing in 2015 and is currently the only Factory project using MotoGP grid places provided by an Independent team.
That is set to change for the next contract cycle with Dorna, from 2022-2026, with Aprilia in talks to match Honda, Ducati, Yamaha, Suzuki and KTM in having its own ‘Official’ grid places. Meanwhile, Gresini has already announced it will return to Satellite status in 2022, with a to-be-decided manufacturer.
Alongside Aprilia’s ‘ambition’ to acquire its own grid places is the possibility that it will double its MotoGP presence from two to four bikes by supplying a Satellite team.
“First of all we need to become an Official team, even if we are actually from the technical side already an Official team,” Rivola said. “Second point is, Carmelo [Ezpeleta, Dorna] gave us the month of May as a deadline to present the programme let’s say, of Official plus Satellite.
“To be honest at this stage, after what happened to Fausto, I don’t want to speak about a Satellite team. Give us one month and then we can start focussing on that.
“We need to concentrate on what we are doing now and, together with the guys from Gresini Racing, grow the bike in the best way.”
Part of the sensitivity of speaking in detail is thought to be because even if Aprilia is planning on a Satellite entry it appears unlikely to be with Gresini, which is one of the team’s linked to a possible Satellite Suzuki deal.
Rivola was reluctant to say which Independent teams Aprilia are currently speaking with: “Unfortunately, I think I have to reply in one month’s time about that!
“But in general, when we will fix the strategy everything else will be sort of a chain effect. If we will have four bikes rather than two, it means that for sure we have to change our strategy from many points of view.
“It could be that we have to invest but we also get more in return from sponsors and so on. It would not a small change and I think now is not the time to do it, just out of respect for Fausto.”
Rivola added: “For sure the fact that you become an Official entry is a logistical task; hospitality, trucks, garage, box. And now the mechanics are all from Gresini Racing.
“After so many years you can understand that it’s difficult to think we will continue with other mechanics, because we are part of the same family. So really give us one month to clear our head and we will think about that.
“We would like to continue with this group because for me it’s a beautiful group. As Aleix said Aprilia is his second family. I’m sorry for my family, but I spend much more time with this family than mine! So obviously, the relationship is quite special.”
The ‘one month’ pause will also apply to Aprilia’s rider plans for 2022.
“I think the strategy on the riders will be done after one month, because it’s very much related to the Satellite team. If we have a Satellite team we can go one way, if we don’t have, we follow another way,” Rivola said.
“But yes we would like to have also a big name rider… And if that big name becomes Lorenzo Savadori we are the happiest team in the world!”
Rivola did play down one Satellite rumour, that VR46 might join forces with Aprilia, the manufacturer Valentino Rossi rode for in 125 and 250cc.
“That would be fantastic, having Valentino’s name close to us, that was the beginning of his story. But I think first we need to show that our bike is competitive… we need to deliver performance,” he said.
And the final words go to the much-missed Gresini: “Fausto gave me tips, but they were personal so I can’t tell you! He was a very clever guy. A champion. To be honest I think all riders always have something special, especially if they are champions and Fausto was also successful as a manager. He had also a very good eye on riders and hopefully Lorenzo is let’s say the confirmation of his long view.”
Rookie Savadori will race alongside team leader Aleix Espargaro at Aprilia this season. Gresini also agreed a (performance related) MotoGP option with his Moto2 rider Fabio di Giannantonio for one of the team’s Independent bikes in 2022.