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Aprilia: four 2018 bikes in the box at the #QatarTest

For the first time so far this preseason, the Noale factory have four new RS-GPs to work with

“Now we can double the speed of development,” says Aprilia Racing Manager Romano Albesiano of the #QatarTest, where the Noale factory have four new RS-GPs in the box for the first time – two each for riders Aleix Espargaro and Scott Redding. “This is the first time we have four new bikes in the garage because at the first two tests, we concentrated on comparing the old and the new.”

The outcome of that, says the Italian, was that the new 2018 RS-GP is most definitely better. “The new one was better, and now we can double the speed of development, having two per rider. We still have some component tests to perform but we’ll start working on the first race and setup.”

First test for Aprilia with four 'new' bikes

One thing that Albesiano also pinpoints as a constant talking point for the Italian marque is the engine – which he says they’re “fully happy” with: “The engine has a good level of peak performance, a wide range of use, it’s easy to use and it’s a good engine. We’ve increased the power and torque a lot since 2016 and we’ll continuously develop the engine. We have some new stuff here and we’ll bring the racing engine to Qatar.”

Both Espargaro and Redding also sound positive, and Albesiano says their feedback has largely been similar – but that it needn’t necessarily remain so, as development can go in two different directions if needed. “Aleix and Scott have had similar comments,” he adds, “But we’re not rigid on keeping one line of development for the bike. So if one rider wants something different, we can do both.”

One thing both riders are working with in Qatar – aside from race setup – is carbon forks, and another aero innovation is expected to break cover during the tracktime at Losail. Redding is focusing on getting the bike stopped and getting it to turn, and Espargaro on rear grip.

“I’m quite happy,” says Redding. “We tested a few things and had to give one of the new bikes a shakedown…in general what we worked on worked well. Now it’s narrowed down, we can work more on setup.”

Looking ahead, Albesiano is positive – but says the proof will be in the racing, which begins in Qatar mid-March.

“The second half of last season we were consistently fighting for the top five. The level was ok, and I expect the level will be very good again this year. But we’ll understand the situation after the first couple of races…”