Brembo S p A: The Aprilia workshop for winning ideas on the track – brakes included
You never forget the first time. This is also true for Aprilia and its millions of fans, who celebrated Aleix Espargaró’s success in the Argentinian Moto GP on Sunday April 3, 2022, after a thrilling head-to-head with Jorge Martin. It was a historic success, as never before had the Noale-based manufacturer won a MotoGP race, leaving it behind the big Japanese brands as well as big local 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 motorcycle world championship. An astonishing story that dates back to a time when Aprilia was accumulating records in the categories that preceded the 500cc.
To be completely honest, in the 500cc class Aprilia failed to win a race, even when the 500cc two-stroke was the premier class – despite the fact that it started competing in the class in 1994. The choice of the engineers, led by Jan Witteveen, first came across a 400cc twin-cylinder engine, which was much lighter and more nimble than its four-cylinder rivals – but also less powerful.
The Dutch genius, who was technical director at the time, repeatedly explained his unusual choices, saying: “Let’s try to beat the Japanese with other weapons. If we copied the characteristics of these manufacturers, we would lose each time, because we have fewer resources. I have always placed my trust in Italian and European technology.”
These technologies included the Brembo brakes which were fitted to the first Aprilia track bike in 1985, ridden by Loris Reggiani: the AF1 250 boasted a number of advanced technical solutions, from the aluminum deltabox chassis to the Rotax engine with rotating disc intake. and electronic digital ignition. The driver appreciated it from the start: “Hard braking was my best weapon, I could brake far ahead because I had a low center of gravity”.
The manufacturer’s successful partnership with Brembo continued in the years that followed – so much so that Brembo brakes were also fitted to the 250cc bike, which won the 1987 San Marino GP with Reggiani in the saddle. , crushing the Japanese giants with a double overtake. to the Carro braking section, which saw him overtake the Yamahas in front of him – those bikes only managed to catch him at the finish line.
This is the first of the 294 GPs won on track by Aprilia between 1991 and 2011, split almost equally between the 125 and 250 cc classes, which also saw the brand win 19 Riders’ titles and the same number of Manufacturer’s titles – always with Brembo technology. on board. The first of these was won by Alessandro Gramigni in 1992 in the 125cc class after two wins, two second places and two third places, leaving him 16 points clear of the late Fausto Gresini.
In the 90s, Aprilia was producing just over 50,000 vehicles a year – less than a twentieth of those made by Honda and Yamaha – and as such the racing budget for these powerhouses was simply unattainable. For Aprilia, the funds needed to develop new racing models came from sales of the brand’s racing replicas, starting with the AF1 125 project 108 in 1987; this model was the first European bike with single-sided swingarm suspension as standard, and also came with Brembo brakes, which, along with the colorful graphic markings on the bike, made teenagers of that era very happy!
Aprilia’s confidence in Brembo and the brand’s tireless quest to find technical solutions that could give it an edge 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 during the trials in Jerez in February 1998, and following the extremely positive results, the technology was introduced on the 250cc motorcycles ridden by Valentino Rossi, Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada.
In addition to the production challenges of this brake element at the time, in favor of the axial mount calipers which seemed unbeatable, another problem had to be overcome. The radial caliper prototypes could not be integrated with the forks used by Aprilia, and as such, Brembo engineers were called in to assist in the design of the fork connecting legs.
It’s amazing to think that many years before, in an effort to replicate the success of the radial caliper introduced in Formula 1, Brembo had submitted a similar solution for Grand Prix bikes to the Honda team’s technical director. However, the Japanese technician, a real guru with a wealth of experience, was baffled by this new technology, and felt that the radial calipers were useless, even useless.
Aprilia’s 13 victories in 14 GPs in the 250cc class in 1998 earned Capirossi the world championship title, with Rossi second and Harada third, and led Brembo to develop a radial caliper for the class queen. This new solution made its debut in the 500cc class in 1999, on the Aprilia driven by Harada, which earned him a pole and two podiums. In 2000, it was the turn of Jeremy McWilliams who scored a pole and two podiums in the Aprilia 500cc.
However, the arrival of MotoGP brought Aprilia back to square one, as the RS Cube did not achieve great results. It was a real shame: thanks to the brand’s partnership with various Formula 1 studios, it was the first motorcycle to use air valves, traction control and ride-by-wire, and was also equipped with radial calipers. Brembo which had become the norm. in this category.
The modest performance led the management team to stop participation in MotoGP competitions at the end of 2004. Also, in the early 2010s, following the fact that two-stroke motorcycles were expelled from the World Championship and replaced by Moto3 and Moto2 , Aprilia stopped competing in the World Championship, preferring to focus on Superbikes.
The turning point came in 2015, but success only began to be felt in 2021, thanks to the new RS-GP, the decisions taken by technical director Romano Albesiano, the direction of team manager Massimo Rivola and the talent of Espargaro. Indeed, a year ago, the Spaniard brought Aprilia back to the podium after 21 years of absence, a prelude to this year’s success: pole position and victory in Argentina.
A first but not the last for Aprilia, a shining example of Italian ingenuity and technology – brakes included.
Brembo SpA published this content on April 11, 2022 and is solely responsible for the information contained therein. Distributed by Audienceunedited and unmodified, on Apr 12, 2022 09:50:10 AM UTC.
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