Should we declare MotoGP Aprilia 2022 champions after Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales finished the first day of the MotoGP test in Sepang in the first two places? Apparently not. The Aprilias already had extra time in Sepang, Maverick Viñales spent two days on the track during the Shakedown test, Aleix Espargaro one more day. So they were already up to date and got used to riding a MotoGP motorcycle again.
This does not mean that Aprilia’s speed is not real. The 2022 motorcycle is a step forward, partly because Aprilia has changed course after a disappointing test in Jerez in November. A new undercarriage improves the handling of the motorcycle, the engine is more refined and the whole is much narrower. “It was like a Moto2 motorcycle,” Espargaro said after sitting on it for the first time at the Aprilia factory.
He had spent a lot of time in the Garage after his team rebuilt the bike after the Shakedown test, where he had alternated between the old and the new bike. Making the bike narrower was quite an achievement, with a lot of parts to fit in a small space, but the effort was worth it, Espargaro said. “The difference with last year’s bike in this area is huge. From the first lap, it is very useful to launch the motorcycle into the turn. The strongest thing on the bike, the best thing is to turn,” he told us.
Back to speed
There was another aggravating factor in the interpretation of the times. All the factories have so much to do that there was not much time, especially on the first day of testing, to do a single quick lap. Usually, riders spend the first day getting acquainted with the warp speed at which a MotoGP motorcycle moves on the two long straights in Sepang and the many fast turns around the track. But with only two days on a familiar track before heading to the not-known area of Mandalika, a lot of work needs to be done to prepare for the 2022 Season.
Some factories also have a lot to test. Ducati went through different fairings and adapted the electronics to the updated version of the new engine that they had tested last year. They also worked on the new front ride height system, which I wrote about in much more detail today (Subscription to MotoMatters required). Suzuki has a new engine, a new chassis, a new swingarm and a new Aero. And of course, Honda has a revised Version of its brand new 2022 Honda RC213V, which is quite different from the Clips to the exhaust pipe. KTM has taken a different path. Their problem in 2021 was to bring too many parts throughout the year and confuse drivers with too many choices. They have taken a very simple approach for this year.
“Last year we threw out a lot of different things throughout the year,” Brad Binder said. “We couldn’t find anything better. I think the guys took a slightly different approach to this Test. We focus on two or three key elements. And we will try to improve them.”
Output vs. Speed
One of these elements is Aerodynamics, because during the Test, KTM has two different aerodynamic packages: a very aggressive and wide front wing section and a finned wing section that seems to have less downforce. Factories are allowed to use two different aerodynamic packages during the year, and it makes sense to have a high lift package for slow tracks where you try to limit the Wheelie that costs acceleration, and a low lift package that offers a little more Wheelie has less drag and allows higher maximum speeds. Yamaha also worked there. They also have a larger wing package for more support. “I won’t say it’s better, I won’t say it’s worse, but it’s a kind of aerodynamics that is not the best track here to use it,” Fabio Quartararo told us.
“Because the goal of this spray was to have less Wheelie, but then we lose top speed because the straights are really long. But for me, this kind of aerodynamics, we should try it on a track like Jerez, which is one of the most important for me.” The cost of a larger Aero was the maximum speed, although the price is worth it on some roads.
“It’s a little less, but that’s normal because it’s bigger, and in the end we gain a little in acceleration, but then we lose in top speed. It certainly depends on the track, but we can have two fairings throughout the year, so we can of course swap.”