Aprilia’s new MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales will start racing for the brand sooner than anticipated, by making his race debut for the Italian marque at next weekend’s Aragon Grand Prix.
The news comes after the culmination of a successful two-day test at Misano, and will see him replace current race rider Lorenzo Savadori effective immediately.
It’s already been widely expected that Vinales would join the team to race before the end of the current season following his high-profile departure from the Yamaha team last month, but it was expected that his debut wouldn’t come until the series’ first visit to Misano later in the month.
However, following an impressive debut at Misano that saw him end the first day less than a second off new team-mate Aleix Espargaro’s qualifying time from 2020, Aprilia boss Massimo Rivola says their schedule has been moved up.
“We are extremely proud to be able to announce our plans for the current season and for 2022,” said the former Ferrari F1 man, “with the goal of optimising the contributions of our three riders to the utmost.
“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.”
The decision to see Vinales in race action is a direct result of his strong test for the team at Misano, too, confirmed team technical lead Romano Albesiano, who says Aprilia has been impressed with what it has seen at the two-day outing.
“The decision to have Maverick on the track from Aragón is a direct result of the tests done in Misano,” he 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.”
The news of Vinales’ arrival does not signal the end of Savadori’s role with the team either, with Rivola also confining that the former Italian Superbike champion will remain with Aprilia in a testing role and should still get further race outings this year when he recovers from the after-effects of the ankle fracture he sustained at the Red Bull Ring.
“At the same time, we are also confirming Lorenzo’s role as 2022 test rider,” Rivola said. “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.”