until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Aprilia needs a best-of-both-worlds 2025 MotoGP line-up

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Four years ago, Aprilia was the MotoGP factory with the least pull on the rider market. Moto2 riders were favouring new deals in Moto2 over hopping on to one of its factory bikes.

That very quickly stopped being the case as Romano Albesiano's increasingly intricate RS-GP designs took Aprilia to first a podium, then a win, then some facsimile of even title contention - and while the project has had its ups and downs, it unmistakably carries a lot of respect as a potential gig.

Sure, Aprilia could not compete with Yamaha - financially, it would seem - for the services of Fabio Quartararo, but its position in the rider market remains an enviable one. It is a more attractive ride than being number two to Quartararo at Yamaha, and certainly a more attractive ride than whatever is going on at Repsol Honda.

Riders who would not have contemplated even for a second chucking a CV Aprilia's way some years ago would be wise to do so now - and Aprilia is actually in a position to turn them down.

Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, Aprilia, MotoGP

Its current line-up is good. It will be fine if it decides to just roll the dice with keeping Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, both now grand prix winners on the RS-GP (one of whom may well add another trophy at the Aprilia-friendly confines of the Barcelona circuit this weekend).

Equally, it could go for a full line-up reset and still be in decent shape next year, given the quality of the free agent class even with Quartararo off the board.

The optimal solution, though, is probably the middle one. It feels like the right time for Aprilia to break the mould a little bit on the rider line-up front and bring in a splashy outside hire, while also keeping some continuity on the other side.

The rider hire is arguably the simpler part of the equation. As attractive as the Aprilia is, it's still not as attractive as a factory Ducati Desmosedici - but the game of musical chairs there will leave someone standing. Chances look good it will be either Enea Bastianini and Jorge Martin, and both would be no-brainer pick-ups.

But even in a scenario where, say, Bastianini stays in the camp in some capacity (as does Marc Marquez) and Martin gets a satisfactory offer from former employer KTM, Aprilia could still turn to Marco Bezzecchi

The Italian's mediocre start to 2024 at VR46 shouldn't override his superb 2023 and the made-for-Aprilia moments of low-grip wizardry it included - while it might also give the team a useful reference point for mixed weather conditions.

Marco Bezzecchi, VR46 Ducati, MotoGP

But what of the incumbent? Who should be the reference that Aprilia retains going forward?

Perhaps this too is easy, but it won't feel that way, and using the word 'easy' feels disrespectful to Espargaro - who has been the programme's standard-bearer for years and years now.

But team-mate Vinales is both five years younger at 29 and in some stellar form. Ever since Qatar, where it had looked like it'd be a long season for any Aprilia rider not named Aleix Espargaro, Vinales been the quickest RS-GP rider in a ridiculous 22 out of 28 GP weekend sessions.

Aprilia wasn't as strong at Le Mans this year as it had been in 2023, but Vinales came home with a healthy haul of points and a sprint podium, instead of folding like he had done on occasion in the past when the bike wasn't at its peak.

Espargaro has not been bad, has not been hopelessly outmatched, but if it's Vinales or him, it should be Vinales right now.

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia, MotoGP

"The feeling is - I have some speed during the weekends, but I cannot find the stability, I cannot push like I did during the past," Espargaro admitted at Le Mans. And yet it is entirely plausible that he may win next time out at Barcelona.

But Aprilia needs to succession-plan for Espargaro sooner rather than later, and he knows that. And there is a way for Aprilia to enact it without having to lose Espargaro's experience and forsaking the emotional connection there.

"I would like 100% - it's not everything in my hand - but I would love to be riding the 2027-spec bikes," Espargaro said at Le Mans of the new 850cc ruleset MotoGP had published in the lead-up to the French GP weekend.

"I don't know [whether] as a permanent rider, as a test rider. I don't know yet. It's very far [away], eh?

"But I would really like to. It's really promising. You guys know how much I enjoyed and I learned developing the Suzuki and the Aprilia."

Aleix Espargaro, Suzuki, MotoGP

That, of course, doesn't mean he'd happily step into a tester role for 2025 - Espargaro will probably rightly feel he still has a lot to contribute as a full-timer - but it might be the most elegant solution for Aprilia.

And that solution does at least seem achievable given the alternatives out there, which reflects Aprilia's improved stature - something Espargaro is bound to take some pleasure in even if it ends up getting him phased out of the race line-up.

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