Aprilia ART – A Thinly Veiled World Superbike?

03/30/2012 @ 7:48 pm, by Jensen Beeler9 COMMENTS

The Aprilia ART, as it has become known in the GP paddock, is so far the most competent claiming rule team package (CRT) on the MotoGP grid. Powered by an Aprilia RSV4 Factory motor that is World Superbike spec and beyond, the Aprilia ART also features a chassis that has been developed by the very same Italian company. A turn-key CRT package offered by Aprilia, if you believe the rumors circulating in MotoGP, the Noale-based company’s involvement with the ART doesn’t stop at delivery.

Rumored to be the byproduct of Aprilia’s aborted MotoGP campaign, in the World Superbike paddock the RSV4 is described as a MotoGP bike that was sold to consumers with WSBK domination in mind. Taking the World Superbike Championship in only the team’s second year in the series, Max Biaggi and Aprilia have helped perpetuate that rumor further, and currently lead the 2012 Championship as it races into Imola this weekend.

If a few years ago all the paddock gossip was about how Aprilia managed to campaign a thinly veiled MotoGP bike in WSBK, then this year the talk will surely be how the Italian factory snuck its superbike onto the MotoGP grid. Despite the irony in that statement, it takes only a casual glance at the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK to see the immediate similarities between the two machines.

When the great CRT experiment started last year, there were several clear caveats as to how this adventure to “reduce costs” and “fill the grid” would work. Getting pressure from Infront Sports & Media, the media rights holder to the World Superbike Championship, it was made very clear that MotoGP’s CRTs could not be production bikes, and thus Dorna’s response was instead to have motorcycles that feature production motors in prototype chassis competing on the GP grid. Another important aspect of the CRT accord was the non-involvement of OEMs, as Dorna was keen on not seeing manufacturers enter the series by using CRTs as a sort of backdoor entrance to the Championship — this rule was made specifically with Aprilia in mind (Dorna is slow to forgive OEMs that leave the MotoGP Championship).

Fast-forward many months later, and we stand just a week away from the start of the MotoGP season in Qatar. The pace of the CRT machines is noticeably slower than that of the factory prototypes, with only Team Aspar’s Randy de Puniet able to give chase to the satellite prototype machines with his Aprilia ART CRT machine. This should surprise no one, as RdP is one of the most underrated riders in the MotoGP paddock, with the Frenchman improving his craft each consecutive season.

The Aprilia ART is also surely part of the equation as well, as it is based off the Aprilia RSV4 Factory — on the most potent production sport bikes on the market. If the rumors are true that the RSV4 is the remnants of the bike that was to replace the Aprilia RS3 Cube, then no one should be surprised that the RSV4, even near its WSBK-spec should be a potent package for MotoGP.

Adorned in 16.5″ wheels, carbon fiber brakes, and Bridgestone rubber, Randy de Puniet tested an Aprilia RSV4 Factory WSBK in good form around the Jerez circuit during last year’s testing. What was most intriguing from that event though was that the Aprilia’s frame had been taped over with black gaffer tape — covering the presumably stock frame of the RSV4, and the mounting positions/geometry that Aprilia would use to update the RSV4 for MotoGP duty.

Getting a glimpse now of the “prototype” ART frame, it is clear that there are many similarities between the WSBK and MotoGP chassis designs. Inconspicuously sharing the same swingarm as the WSBK-spec RSV4, the Aprilia ART’s chassis also has the same swingarm pivot points, rearset mounts, and welding lines. The fuel tank and air intake designs are very similar, with the only real obvious changes occurring with the ART’s bodywork.

Presumably down on power compared to the prototype bikes on the grid, the Aprilia ART’s front fairing has been noticeably made taller than the WSBK-spec version. This should give Aprilia riders better aerodynamics and a fighting chance at faster circuits like Losail and Mugello. The tail section has obviously been modified, as well as the sides of the front fairings, which cover the triangular aluminum engine mount. Otherwise, as these photoshopped images illustrate, the Aprilia ART and Aprilia RSV4 Factory are very similar machines visually, and presumably mechanically as well.

There of course should be some resemblance between the GP machine and its WSBK sibling, after all the are both based off the production RSV4 engine, and with that common thread, common elements are sure to avail. What really defines a bike as a CRT entry is its frame, so it is interesting to note that while the Aprilia ART does not have an exact copy of the Aprilia RSV4’s twin-spar aluminum chassis, the frame designs are eerily similar.

The carryovers between the two designs surely come down to two factors. First, the use of the same engine is not only going to necessitate similar mounting points on the frame, but will also require chassis characteristics and geometries to be similar between the MotoGP and WSBK machines. Second, because Aprilia is the designer of both frames, similar attitudes and philosophies on chassis construction are surely at play. Having to the solve the same engineering problems, while using the same engineering philosophies, similarities between the two machines are all but a guarantee.

Whatever the design conspiracy theories my unfold as far as the truth is concerned, it all may be for naught. With Aprilia rumored to be giving direct technical support to the CRT teams using the Aprilia ART, and let’s be clear, how could they not be supporting these teams since they designed all the principle components? Any inaction by Dorna thus far should be taken as a sign of support, and change of doctrine regarding the principle purpose of the CRT experiment.

Given that BMW has made a similar statement that it will be offering similar technical support to the NGM Forward BMW/Suter bike, it seems the line between CRT efforts and factory regimes has been blurred outright, perhaps all in the name of better lap times and a more competitive grid. Considering 8 of the 21 MotoGP bikes that will take to the grid at Qatar are CRT entries, Carmelo Ezpeleta is certainly more than hoping that his project isn’t stillborn in the 2012 season.

It also is entirely possible that Ezpeleta has turned a blind eye to some of the details regarding CRT entries in MotoGP, and begun a more pragmatic approach to closing the gap between CRT bikes and full-blown prototypes. What will be interesting to see is whether the line will get blurred further as MotoGP continues its metamorphosis over the coming seasons, and whether this means more direct factory involvement will enter into the CRT fray.

Photoshops: © 2012 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0

  • motogp fan

    If Aprilia’s involvement is as extensive as it seems to be then Ezpeleta’s experiment has already failed in some ways. In order to make their CRT bikes more competitive, Aprilia is dedicating factory resources to the project, resources that cost money. The more they push for a competitive package, the more money they’ll have to spend and so on, until the idea of “cheap” CRT bikes has gone out the window. Remember, getting a WSBK to go 95% as fast as a MotoGP is relatively simple. The reason MotoGP bikes are so expensive is that they are chasing that last 5%, and as the old saying goes “Speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?” If the CRT bikes are ever going to be fast enough to compete with true prototypes then they will indeed end up costing just as much. I believe that if there were a cheaper way to make a bike as fast as an RCV213, Honda would have simply done it that way.

  • sunstroke

    It’s supposed to be a thinly veiled SBK.

    CRT is purposed to create a fleet of cost-contained machines that replace the need for satellite bikes. IRTA were never going to achieve competitiveness without WSBK engine internals. Aprilia and BMW have provided the parts, but Kawasaki (BQR) and Honda (Gresini) have also provided WSBK internals, and perhaps electronics.

    The MSMA complained against the ART b/c they objected to chassis development by a major factory. The complaints have been unfounded for 2 reasons, imo. First, Aprilia are mainly interested in making money and improving brand awareness. They lightly modified the WSBK frame and reworked the fairings to abide by the rules while reducing development costs. Second, Iota (ex-Aprilia engineers, IIRC) are developing their own Aprilia chassis, and they are only a few tenths off of Espargaro on the proper ART machine.

    Big picture, CRT is what Dorna want for the future of IRTA. Manufacturers build GP replicas, and those bikes serve as the basis for IRTA GP teams.

  • Sean in Oz

    There are no such things as CRT bikes as such, its Claiming Rule TEAM. That may seem pedantic but it has implications for what can and cant be done. My understanding is that the rules don’t stop Aprilia developing engines and chassis as long as they dont OWN the bikes that are raced. Im not sure Honda, Yamaha or Ducati could get away with the same thing though.

    … and the engines dont have to be production based under the CRT rules, its just a risk to develop a new engine with the claiming rule in place. But then some people have suggested that the prototype teams are highly unlikely to claim an engine and ‘lose face’ anyway.

    … however, if Dorna and the prototype teams decide Aprilia are getting too successful, the teams running their engine and chassis could have their CRT status removed by the GP commission.

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  • Ape Factory

    You pointed out very well in your article why this is such a non-story (the similarities between the two). Instead we should be applauding Aprilia for producing something that’s damn close to the top bikes in performance with an off-the-shelf electronics package for 1/8th of the cost.

  • RSVDan

    The conspiracy theory that the RSV4 is the aborted replacement for the RS3 Cube is utterly ridiculous and can be proven false with just the tiniest bit of investigation. Considering that the final iteration of the Cube (wildly different frame, bodywork, swingarm and pivot location) only tested once and never saw a race, it’s clear that Aprilia was still developing the Cube before pulling the plug due to internal issues with the company and lack of funds.

    Further more, the designer of the RSV4 motor, Ingegnere Claudio Lombardi (former of Ferrari F1) was not even employed by Aprilia during their time in Moto GP. Development of the new motor did not begin until several years after the GP team folded.

    Remove your tin foil hats, folks. The RSV4 is a brilliant machine no matter in what light you look at it, and I believe the ART to be exactly what Ezpeleta had in mind when conjuring up this whole idea. It harkens back to the days of factory supplied turn key race bikes like the RG’s, TZ’s.

  • MikeD

    I just love the TACTICAL bullying/technical harrasment/poking/shoving/pushing, etc among Dorna and the OEM…

    Im dying too see who will come out BROKEN….Popcorn anyone ? (^_^)


    Thank you very much for mentioning the obvious that many are still on DENIAL about…the RSV4 is a great piece of machinery……..BUT IT AIN’T NO GP Prototype…folks, stop daydream…is like masturbating, u are only $#%*ing yourself.

    Motogp fan said:

    ***“Speed costs money, how fast do you want to go?” If the CRT bikes are ever going to be fast enough to compete with true prototypes then they will indeed end up costing just as much. I believe that if there were a cheaper way to make a bike as fast as an RCV213, Honda would have simply done it that way.***

    I, MikeD, rest my case. LOL.

  • Dan

    This is all working very well for dorna because if the aprilia is successful in any capacity it will not undermine the crt effort but the prototype team effort.
    What we will end up with is a poor man’s F1 where the team is responsible for the chassis and the factory provides the engine, only difference being the that same engine can be bought in a factory model down at the local dealership.
    I think that the F1 is ultimately the best format, the factories bare the expense of developing new engines and right it off as R&D but are not responsible for the full expense of competing in a world competition and the teams will each bring their own flavour and disciplines and sponsors that add to the spectacle that is MotoGP.

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