As it is a concession manufacturer, Aprilia is one of only two manufacturers, after KTM, allowed to start the 2021 campaign with a completely new bike as COVID-19 cost-saving rules mean non-concession marques have to carry over their 2020 engines.
Despite finishing last in the constructors’ table, Aleix Espargaro repeatedly stated the 2020 RS-GP was the best bike he’d ridden since joining Aprilia in 2017.
With the current rules, 2021 represents Aprilia’s biggest chance since returning to MotoGP in 2015 to close the performance gap to the top manufacturers.
When asked by Autosport if he considered 2021 to be Aprilia’s most important year because of this, Rivola said: “The answer is yes.
“For me, it’s the third year and my second bike, because in ’19 the bike was already done.
“It is the most important year, even more now without Fausto [Gresini].
“The ambition was to become official and maybe to even have a satellite team [in 2022], as having four riders and four bikes makes everything easier from the growth and all the performance.
“So, yes, it is the most important year for us. But I’m quite positive.”
Rivola revealed Aprilia has been given a deadline of May by Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta to submit plans for a satellite operation for 2022, but declined to comment further on this given the recent death of Gresini team boss Fausto Gresini.
As well as a new bike, Aprilia will field a revised line-up, with its former test rider Lorenzo Savadori joining Espargaro.
Aprilia’s original plan was to evaluate both Savadori – who rode in place of Bradley Smith in the final three rounds of 2020 – and Smith during pre-season testing, but Rivola says signing the Italian had a knock-on effect internally.
“Well, it was a company decision,” Rivola said on signing Savadori over Smith.
“We decided to move a bit earlier than expecting all the tests to be done because it had a chain effect also on other people and the choice of other people in the team to develop the team was also very important.
“It’s true that Bradley has an experience and a characteristic that fits much more to being a test rider compared to Lorenzo, because Lorenzo has no experience.
“So, that was part of the choice.”
Rivola also expressed a desire to retain Smith as a test rider for 2021, but conceded the decision to put Savadori in a race seat over the Briton meant continuing together wasn’t a given.