The Italian marque made its biggest stride towards the front in MotoGP in 2021 seven seasons into its return, having been one of only two manufacturers allowed to build an all new bike amidst the COVID-enforced development freeze.
Aleix Espargaro proved to be a consistent top eight finisher across the campaign and scored Aprilia’s first-ever podium in the modern MotoGP era when he was third at the British Grand Prix.
The Spaniard went on to finish the year eighth in the standings with 120 points.
“Yeah, it was a good season compared to the past for sure,” Rivola said at the end of the 2021 campaign.
“We are very keen to fight for 2022. First of all, we will be a factory team in the championship, but if we look at our progress from ’19, ’20, ’21, hopefully ’22 will keep that progression and we will close the gap to the front.
“But still we are behind, so there’s a long way to go.”
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Behind the scenes, Aprilia’s 2021 season was unstable, with the marque rocked by the death of Fausto Gresini – whose team ran Aprilia’s entry from 2015 to 2021 – in February.
Before that, Aprilia was left with few options to fill its second seat when Andrea Iannone was hit with a four-year doping ban – with a number of names from MotoGP, including Andrea Dovizioso, and Moto2 turning down the team.
Lorenzo Savadori was given the ride, before being replaced from the Aragon GP by Maverick Vinales following his ousting from Yamaha.
Vinales managed a best of eighth at the Emilia Romagna GP, but only scored points twice in the final six races as he tried to adapt to the RS-GP.
Rivola is “convinced”, however, that Aprilia will be able to extract the best out of the nine-time MotoGP race winner in 2022.
“The approach we had with Maverick was to do the races as a test, so trying different parts and set-up configurations to understand what’s better for him,” he added.
“This is for sure sacrificing the results of the race itself, and a bit his confidence, which has been a bit more difficult to build.
“But I’m sure we have in Maverick a super talent and I am convinced we will find the way to match our resources with his talent.”