until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


How new Aprilia makes Vinales a 2023 MotoGP dark horse

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Maverick Vinales says the 2023 Aprilia MotoGP bike is allowing him to recapture a past strength – one that can be key to him getting back onto the top step of the podium.

The Spaniard was third-fastest in the first collective test of 2023 at Sepang, placing a tenth and a half behind pace-setting VR46 rider Luca Marini. Vinales and Aprilia team-mate Aleix Espargaro were the only two riders in the top nine not riding Ducatis.

Vinales was in a good mood from early on in the test, describing the 2023 bike as having no negatives relative to its predecessor after the first day and saying it felt lighter and better in cornering.

At the conclusion of the three days of running, he said he had been focusing on “the things I missed last year”, adding: “It seems that in those parts we made an improvement, especially on my side. Not much to say – I just want to start racing.”

One particular aspect that encouraged Vinales was torque delivery/acceleration – and it could be a very meaningful development for the coming season.

“In that area I made a big improvement during the days,” Vinales said.

“I want to try on another track, because the way I controlled the [rear tyre] spin in this track was excellent. So I want to see if on another track I have the same feeling. Which I think for used tyres will be crucial.

“Of course, when there’s a time attack, you can push and you can spin [the tyre]. But when there’s a race, when you need to get in the range of good spinning, I think this year I’m much more able to control it.


“At the end, always in my career that was always the strong part. Which last year I didn’t have.

“In Silverstone I had the chance to win, but dropped the tyre. In Assen the same. But this year I have it [back] again. Quite pleased about this.”

It is a curious assessment to hear from a rider that at one point of his MotoGP career seemed like more of a Saturday performer – he has 13 MotoGP poles versus nine wins – but a clear late-race prowess was indeed on display during Vinales’ pre-Aprilia stint at Yamaha.

He was often left to rue, either intermittently or at the same time, slow starts and poor pace with a full fuel tank, but tended to recover further into the race distance. Though arguably most of his wins were extremely controlled performances throughout, his most recent triumph – the 2021 Qatar opener – featured a drop to sixth place on the opening lap.

The two Aprilia performances referenced by Vinales – at Silverstone and Assen – weren’t anything resembling late-race collapses, as in both cases he actually outpaced the eventual race winner Pecco Bagnaia over the second half of the grand prix.


But at Silverstone in particular he just ran out of grip late on while scrambling to find his way past Bagnaia – and at Misano (another race won by Bagnaia) a month later, he was harrying the Italian for the lead but had to settle for third, having not retained as much grip as either Bagnaia nor closing-laps maestro Enea Bastianini.

Vinales and Aprilia then had an unmistakably terrible run-in to the 2022 season, but Sepang seemingly showed them as being back in form in terms of overall pace.

“I’m really pleased and satisfied with the work that Aprilia did in the winter. Honestly, I’m grateful for that,” said Vinales.

He followed that up by claiming he now felt “very natural” on the bike – having had to adapt to the V4-engined Aprilia after stints with the inline-fours of Suzuki and Yamaha.


“And still I feel we can improve quite a lot.

“We tried a lot of parts, we didn’t do anything on the setting, we just tried parts and parts and parts. So I’m happy, I’m honestly very pleased about the test.”

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