The Aprilia workshop for winning ideas on the track - brakes included


 Aprilia's successes and strokes of genius in the World Championship, including a Brembo solution that is now a must-have for any sporty on-road motorbike


You never forget the first time. This is also true for Aprilia and its millions of fans, who on Sunday, April 3 2022 celebrated Aleix Espargaró’s success in the Argentine motorcycle GP, after a thrilling head-to-head with Jorge Martin. It was a historic success, because never before had the Noale-based manufacturer won a MotoGP race, leaving it trailing behind the great Japanese brands as well as the big home-grown names such as Ducati and KTM.​


The Brembo GP4 caliper - the 4-piston caliper dedicated to the MotoGP championship and used by Aleix Espargaró during the Argentine GP - is the direct descendant of one of the greatest innovations introduced by Aprilia in the world motorcycle championship. An amazing story that dates back to a time when Aprilia was stacking up the records in the categories that preceded the 500cc. ​



To be entirely honest, in the 500cc class, Aprilia didn't actually manage to win a race, even when the 500cc two-stroke was the premier class - despite the fact that it began competing in the category in 1994. The choice of the engineers, who were headed by Jan Witteveen, initially fell to a 400cc twin-cylinder engine, which was much lighter and more agile than its four-cylinder rivals - but also less powerful. 

The Dutch genius, who was technical director at the time, explained his unusual choices on more than one occasion, stating: “Let's try to beat the Japanese using other weapons. If we copied the characteristics of these manufacturers, we would lose every time, because we have fewer resources. I always place my trust in Italian and European technology.” ​


These technologies included the Brembo brakes that were mounted on the first Aprilia track bike back in 1985, ridden by Loris Reggiani: the AF1 250 boasted a number of cutting-edge technical solutions, from the aluminum deltabox chassis to the Rotax engine with rotating disc intake and electronic digital ignition. The rider appreciated it right from the start: "Hard braking was my best weapon, I could brake way ahead because I had a low center of gravity". 

The manufacturer’s fruitful partnership with Brembo continued in the years that followed - so much so that Brembo brakes were also fitted on the 250cc bike, which won the San Marino GP in 1987 with Reggiani in the saddle, smashing the Japanese giants with a double-overtake at the Carro braking section, which saw him overtake the Yamahas ahead of him - these bikes only managed to catch up with him at the finish line.



It was the first of 294 GPs won on the track by Aprilia between 1991 and 2011, split almost equally between the 125 and 250 cc categories, which also saw the brand win 19 Rider titles and the same number of Manufacturer titles - always with Brembo technologies on board. The first of these was won by Alessandro Gramigni in 1992 in the 125cc class following two wins, two second places and two third places, leaving him 16 points ahead of the late Fausto Gresini. 

In the nineties, Aprilia produced just over 50,000 vehicles a year - less than a twentieth of those manufactured by Honda and Yamaha - and as such, the racing budget of these powerhouses was simply unattainable For Aprilia, the funds needed to develop new racing models came from the brand’s sales of race replicas, beginning with the AF1 125 project 108 in 1987; this model was the first European bike with single-sided swingarm suspension as standard, and was also fitted with Brembo brakes, which, along with the colorful graphic markings on the bike, made the teenagers of that era very happy! 

Aprilia's faith in Brembo and the brand’s tireless quest to find technical solutions that could give it an advantage over the competition led to a historic milestone in 1997: the advent of the radial-mount brake caliper. This brand-new component was tested by Marcellino Lucchi at the trials in Jerez in February 1998, and following the overwhelmingly positive results, the technology was introduced on the 250cc bikes ridden by Valentino Rossi, Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada.



​In addition to the challenges of producing this braking component at the time, in favor of the axial-mounted calipers which seemed unbeatable, another problem had to be overcome. The prototypes of the radial calipers could not be integrated with the forks used by Aprilia, and as such, the Brembo engineers were called upon to provide their support in designing the fork connection feet. 

It’s amazing to think that many years previously, in an attempt to replicate the success of the radial caliper introduced in Formula 1, Brembo submitted a similar solution for Grand Prix bikes to the technical manager of the Honda team. However, the Japanese technician, a real guru with a wealth of experience, was bewildered by this new technology, and felt that radial calipers were unnecessary, if not useless. 

Aprilia's 13 victories in 14 GPs in the 250cc class in 1998 earned Capirossi the world championship title, with Rossi in second place and Harada in third, and led Brembo to develop a radial caliper for the premier class. This new solution made its debut in the 500cc class in 1999, on the Aprilia ridden by Harada, which saw him take one pole and two podium places. In 2000, it was the turn of Jeremy McWilliams who scored one pole and two podiums on the Aprilia 500cc. ​



However, the arrival of the MotoGP took Aprilia right back to square one, as the RS Cube did not achieve great results. This was an enormous pity: thanks to the brand’s partnership with various Formula 1 studios, it was the first bike to use pneumatic valves, traction control and ride-by-wire, and was also fitted with the Brembo radial calipers that had become the standard in this category. 

The modest performances resulted in the management team halting participation in MotoGP competitions at the end of 2004. In addition, at the beginning of the 2010s, as a result of the fact that two-stroke bikes were expelled from the World Championship and replaced by Moto3 and Moto2, Aprilia stopped competing in the World Championship, preferring instead to concentrate on the Superbike. 

The turning point arrived in 2015, but success only began to be seen in 2021, thanks to the new RS-GP, the decisions made by technical director Romano Albesiano, the management of team manager Massimo Rivola and the talent of Espargaró. Indeed, a year ago, the Spaniard brought Aprilia back onto the podium after a 21-year absence, a prelude to this year's success: pole position and victory in Argentina. 

A first time but by no means the last for Aprilia, a shining example of Italian ingenuity and technology - brakes included.