Nine years after their last appearance in the premier class of motorcycle racing, Aprilia announced that they would return as a full factory team in 2016. The announcement was made during the annual EICMA show in Milan in November and gives the Italian based factory two years to prepare for their return.
The team last competed as a factory team in 2004 when Jeremy McWilliams and Shane Byrne finished 19th and 20th in the championship respectively, however they have had a presence in the championship more recently since introduction of the CRT class, now the open class. In fact, they have finished as the top CRT bike in each of the previous two seasons as Aleix Espargaro consistently finished as the top CRT. As well as regularly claiming top CRT honours, they also out paced some of the prototype machines on occasion.
However, doubts over the commitment of Aprilia to their ART machine as well as Gig Dall’Igna’s surprise move to Ducati have led to a number of defections from Aprilia machinery as the Aspar team, CRT champions are to race Honda’s 2014 production racer next season as well as Karel Abraham’s Cardion AB team which potentially leaves the PBM team as the only Aprilia on the grid next season, with even the British squad seeking far more commitment from the Italian factory before committing to the grid next season. With Aprilia aiming to return as serious title contenders in 2016, the loss of data from live racing will be a blow to the development of the bike, as it will be a difficult task to begin and immediately challenging for race wins. The level of the current factory machines is at a level that will be difficult to compete, with the current ART machine using metal valve springs and a conventional gearbox, compared to the pneumatic valves and seamless gearboxes which are near standard on the current factory machines. It will take a lot of hard work over the next two years to develop a bike capable of mounting a serious challenge to the current status quo, but like next year’s return of Suzuki to the grid it can only be a good thing for the championship.
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