Aprilia has officially confirmed that Maverick Vinales, currently completing his debut test for the factory at Misano, will race the RS-GP for the first time at the upcoming Aragon round.
Vinales, who made an early split from Yamaha after being suspended in Austria and was duly confirmed at Aprilia for 2022, was said to be ‘extremely impressed by the first contact with the Italian team’, clearing the way to join Aleix Espargaro at Aragon on September 10-12.
The news is yet another boost for Aprilia, following hot on the heels of Espargaro handing the factory its first-ever MotoGP podium at Silverstone on Sunday.
Vinales, a nine-time MotoGP race winner for Suzuki and Yamaha, takes the place of rookie Lorenzo Savadori, who will now switch to wild-card appearances and test riding duties.
“The decision to have Maverick on the track from Aragón is a direct result of the tests done in Misano,” said Aprilia technical director Roman Albesiano.
“It was not a given that, after a career spent up to now on a bike with an in-line engine, Maverick would have a good feeling with our V4 straight away. This is why the test on this track, historically not an easy one for our bike, was an important moment of assessment.
“Therefore, we are satisfied with Maverick’s immediately positive reactions, which demonstrated a good feeling both with the RS-GP and with the team and our work method. His and Aleix’s talent, combined with the experience Lorenzo has gained this season, make us optimistic about the future of our MotoGP project.”
Vinales reported a best lap time of 1m 33.0s on Tuesday, which was under Espargaro’s best 2020 race lap and half-a-second from his own best, set on the way to victory with the Yamaha M1.
“We are extremely proud to be able to announce our plans for the current season and for 2022 with the goal of optimising the contributions of our three riders to the utmost,” said Massimo Rivola, Aprilia Racing CEO
“Alongside our confirmed rider, Aleix, it is our pleasure to welcome a talented athlete like Maverick to the Aprilia Racing team, who demonstrated a great feeling with the team and the bike straight away and who I am confident will be able to give his best as early as the Aragón GP. At the same time, we are also confirming Lorenzo’s role as 2022 test rider.
“This is a fundamental position that rewards the great efforts he has demonstrated in developing the new RS-GP, whereas he will finish out the 2021 season taking advantage of the wild cards that we’ll decide on together as soon as he is back to 100% fitness.”
Aragon has often been a happy hunting ground for Aprilia in the past courtesy of Espargaro, who matched what was then the bike’s best finish of sixth in both 2017 and 2018, followed by fifth on the grid and seventh place in 2019. However last season’s events (delayed until mid-October by the pandemic) were less successful, with a best of 13th.
Vinales was a winner at Aragon in Moto2 but has missed out on the podium in MotoGP, claiming fourth place finishes in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020.
While Aprilia has now completed its rider reshuffle, Yamaha is set to wait until the following Misano round before bringing in Franco Morbidelli (who rode an R1 at the test to evaluate his healing knee) from Petronas to take over the former Vinales ride alongside world championship leader Fabio Quartararo, with Andrea Dovizioso then in-turn filling the Morbidelli seat at SRT.
As a result, Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow expects to remain alongside Quartararo in Aragon, with SRT yet to confirm if Silverstone stand-in Jake Dixon or another rider will join Valentino Rossi.