Three-time MotoGP runner-up Andrea Dovizioso will make a dramatic return much sooner than anticipated, as he accepts a trial offer to join Aprilia’s MotoGP effort at a one-off test at Jerez next month.
The agreement, reported by The Race earlier today, does not mark a new role for Dovizioso as the Italian manufacturer’s test rider – at least not yet – as it’s believed that he will instead test out the bike for the team to give some feedback on the RS-GP’s current level.
Yet the test, scheduled for April 12-14 in the lead-up to the third race of the season at Portimao, does open the door to Dovizioso joining the team in a more full-time role for the remainder of the 2021 season, as his sabbatical from the premier class – with a view at returning for 2022 – continues.
In a press release confirming the news, Aprilia team boss Massimo Rivola stressed that for now, the test remains just that – an opportunity for the two parties to gauge each other.
“It was a pleasure to invite Andrea,” he said. “The days in Jerez will simply be a chance to get to know one another better, also on the track.
“It will not be a ‘trial matrimony’ but an opportunity to turn some laps together without any binding commitment for the future. We are well aware of all Andrea’s qualities and his contribution will be important, even for just one test.”
Dovizioso sensationally walked away from the factory Ducati team last season after failing to agree terms with the team in the midst of a bitter falling out with management.
That’s not a relationship that’s likely to be repaired any time soon, either, as he helps out Ducati technical manager’s Gigi Dall’Igna former employers at Aprilia.
Dovizioso was initially offered a deal both to race and to test for Aprilia at the end of last year but turned the Noale factory down, holding out for offers from a more competitive manufacturer.
However, the chance for a trial Aprilia’s rapidly-improving RS-GP bike is an olive branch that may potentially offer the 34-year-old a route back onto the grid for 2022.
“I was pleased by Aprilia’s interest,” he admitted, “and when we spoke about the possibility of doing this test, I gladly accepted the invitation to be able to ride a MotoGP bike again and to stay in form, giving the engineers my feedback. I wish to thank Aprilia Racing for this opportunity.”
Aprilia’s lead rider Aleix Espargaro enjoyed a highly successful pre-season testing program at the Losail circuit last week, ending five days of testing in sixth overall and looking like a genuine podium contender for the opening two races of the year.
Aprilia is currently without a test rider after promoting former test rider Lorenzo Savadori to a racing role for 2021 over former tester Bradley Smith.
However, even that deal is not yet set in stone, with rumours linking Smith to a new role within the team, both as a tester and even as a stand-in for Savadori.
Savadori, the reigning Italian Superbike champion, continues to recover from shoulder injuries that have hampered his pre-season mileage in Qatar, and admitted during the test that he wasn’t sure he’d be 100 percent fit for the season opener.