Italian motorcycles have a great history in Grand Prix racing – MV Augusta dominated its era, Ducati has written a history of its own with riders like Casey Stoner, and Aprilia... maybe not so much.
That might be about to change after the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix 2019 at Phillip Island, as the small team had its best results since it launched its MotoGP™ program in 2002.
After both Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone qualified in the top 10 – a first for the team – hopes were high for the 27-lap race. But even the most hardcore Aprilia fan would not have predicted that Iannone would have been able to pass Marc Marquez for second and, on Lap 3, overtake Cal Crutchlow for the lead.
In the end, both those riders and Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) flexed their muscles and went past, but at the end of the race, sixth for Iannone was still an impressive result. Almost as good, Espargaro was 10th, and the speed of the Aprilia RS-GP was such that both men were within 12 seconds of finishing on the podium.
“It was a positive race for us, but we worked well throughout the weekend,” said Iannone. “I had a good feeling straight away and I realised from the first practice session that it would be a good opportunity for us.
“There were obviously many details that helped, beginning with the characteristics of this track, and it’s a pity about some contact in the finale. I lost a winglet and the bike was no longer perfectly balanced.
“This is only my first season with Aprilia and it was not exactly simple, but we were never lacking in determination and commitment."
His Spanish teammate said: “This is a special track for us, different from the other circuits, and I had fun straight away as soon as we got here. We stayed consistently with the best group which was battling for the podium in a fun race with a lot of overtaking.
“It seemed like a Moto3™ race, but with a lot faster and heavier bikes!
“In order to be even more competitive, I would have needed more grip on the rear, so I was unable to ride exactly as I expected, having to make up a lot of ground in braking.”
As a result, the riders are now 14th (Espargaro) and 16th (Iannone) in the riders’ championship, before heading to Malaysia with high hopes for more success as Sepang.