Sunday, October 3

APRILIA: "NO INTENTION" OF JOINING MOTOGP

By MICHAEL ESDAILE

EVER since it was announced that the MotoGP class would go to 1000cc engines in 2012, there have been rumours - perhaps wishful thinking is a better term - that Aprilia would join the party in 2012 with a racer based on the RSV4.

It is no secret that Dorna, the commercial rights holders for the MotoGP series, is desparate to attract more than the four is currently has. Ducati will be propping up the class to a major extent in 2011, with six riders on its 80cc V4s, while Honda will have five riders, Yamaha four and Suzuki two (or perhaps just one if rumours are to be believed).

Meantime there are six manufacturers represented in the Superbike class and with suggestions that this year's championship-winning V4 Aprilia is a MotoGP bike in disguise, there has been talk of the Italian manufacturer switching to MotoGP.

Evern former World 500 Champion Wayne Gardner in his regular column has said: "I'll bet my bottom dollar on it."

However, if anyone has taken Wayne up on this, they could be soon in the position of extracting a few dollars from the notoriously tight-fisted Aussie.

That's because Piaggi Group CEO Roberto Colaninno said, "at this moment, we have no intention of doing that," when asked at a presentation to financial analysts if Aprilia had any plans to return to MotoGP.

Of course, the key words here are "at this moment."

Aprilia has a distinguished record in grand prix racing, and recently overtook the legendary MV Agusta in race wins. However those wins were in the 125 and 250cc classes. Its efforts in the 500 class, and the MotoGP class that followed it, are not nearly so impressive. It fielded a 400cc V-twin, that while nimble, was outgunned by the four-cylinder 500cc two-strokes. It also tried its hand with what came to be known as the ill-fated RS3 Cube, a motorcycle powered by a three-cylinder Cosworth developed engine that proved unrideable.

But that was under Ivano Beggio's leadership. And it was in this period the company ran into financial difficulties and was eventually bought by the Piaggio Group.

There can be no doubt that there will be plenty of personnel at Aprilia who would love to go back to MotoGP, but the management will be very wary of the collosal costs involved.

And when a company with the resources of Suzuki is questioning its involvement in MotoGP, and cutting its Superbike involvement, it seems unlikely Aprilia could afford it.

No doubt Colaninno's comments eased the fears of financial analysts, who will be worried about the effect a MotoGP foray would have on the company's finances.