Aprilia once again is running away with the "best of the rest" title this year in MotoGP, as its Aspar ART bikes are the best of the Claiming Rules Team machines for the second consecutive year.
Aspar rider Aleix Espargaro has finished in the top 10 in seven of the 12 races this season on his ART, and he is 10th in the World Championship standings.
But Aprilia will face much stiffer competition in 2014 from "customer" prototypes from Yamaha and Honda, with a factory Suzuki bike on the horizon for the 2015 season. So Aprilia is responding by adding more technology to its MotoGP machines next season to keep pace with the customer M1 and RC213V, European media reported.
The 2014 Aprilia four-cylinder engines may feature pneumatic valves and a seamless-shift transmission, a combination that the all-conquering Yamaha M1 still lacks this season. Aprilia also will unveil a new chassis and aerodynamics, but those components of the bike reportedly will receive less focus than the engine and transmission.
Aprilia is debating whether to use proprietary software for the Magneti Marelli electronic control unit or use the spec Dorna program. Teams using their own bytes in their black boxes will be restricted to just 20 liters of fuel each race and be considered full factory teams, while those using the Dorna software can carry 24-liter tanks.
These changes were enough to convince Aspar boss Jorge "Aspar" Martinez to stick with Aprilia for next season even though he considered a move to customer bikes from Honda and Yamaha.
But Martinez fears the promised upgrade from Aprilia may be too small of a carrot to keep Esparagaro on his team next season. The Spaniard reportedly is high on the list of candidates for a customer Yamaha M1 at Forward Racing, where a strong performance next season could put Espargaro into direct competition for a Yamaha factory seat with his brother, Pol, who will join Tech 3 Yamaha next season anointed as a rider to watch by Yamaha Factory Racing boss Lin Jarvis.