MotoGP: Maverick Vinales to race for Aprilia for remainder of 2021 season
Maverick Vinales will make his racing debut with Aprilia at the Aragon Grand Prix next weekend and will remain on the grid for the remainder of the 2021 MotoGP season.
The decision was made following a successful two-day test at Misano, which gave Vinales his first chance to test the RS-GP. With both parties happy, it was decided that Vinales will line-up alongside Aleix Espargaro not only at Aragon, but for the rest of the season.
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Vinales' move straight onto the grid with Aprilia is just the latest chapter of an astonishing year for the Spaniard. The nine-time MotoGP race winner won the first race of the year in Qatar with a fantastic performance, however, an up and down few months would follow.
Vinales finished last at the Sachsenring and Red Bull Ring, yet finish second at Assen in-between those two races. At Assen it was confirmed that Vinales would leave Yamaha at the end of 2021, despite his two-year contract. Aprilia then confirmed that Vinales would join them in 2022.
However, things then escalated when Vinales was suspended after the Grand Prix of Styria, accused of purposely trying to damage his engine by hitting the rev limiter multiple times. He was later dismissed, which allowed him to start his venture with Aprilia earlier than planned.
"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," Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Ravola said. "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."
Vinales' debut couldn't have come at a better time for the Noale-based manufacturer. Espargaro secured Aprilia's first podium in the MotoGP era at Silverstone, beating Jack Miller to third spot in the British Grand Prix. It was a richly deserved result for Espargaro, one which was celebrated amongst fans, media, and members of the paddock alike.
The RS-GP continues to improve race by race and Espargaro now finds himself ninth overall with 83 points. Already, he has accumulated more points than he achieved in each of his first four seasons with Aprilia.
At the Misano test, Vinales completed a total of 179 laps across the two days, with a reported best lap-time of 1:32.4 - however no official lap-time were released as it was a private test. Remarkably, if reports are true, Vinales' lap-time is only a second off his own pole position lap, set on the Yamaha M1, last season.
"The decision to have Maverick on the track from Aragón is a direct result of the tests done in Misano, Aprilia Racing Technical Directior, Romano Albesianao added. "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."
As a result of Vinales' immediate introduction to the race team, Lorenzo Savadori will return to the role of test rider for the 2022 campaign. For the rest of the 2021 season, Savadori, when fully recovered from the injuries he sustained at the Grand Prix of Styria (a fractured right malleolus that required surgery), will take advantage of the wildcards which Aprilia has available.
"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," Rivola said regarding Savdori's role.
The arrival of Vinales and new role for Savadori brings an end to Andrea Dovizioso's brief time with Aprilia as a test rider. The Italian will join Petronas Yamaha (SRT) at Misano and is expected, like Vinales, to remain with SRT for the remainder of 2021 and then into the 2022 season.