MotoGP testing: has Aprilia now got a front shapeshifter?

MotoGP title-challenger Aprilia has a new shapeshifter unit, which potentially drops the front of the factory’s RS-GP bike as well as the rear as the motorcycle exits corners.

Front shapeshifters are banned from the end of this season, but this hasn’t stopped Ducati, previously the only MotoGP factory with a front system, from continuing development.

Aprilia’s latest shapeshifter unit has the hydraulic actuator in the fairing nose, like Ducati’s latest. It’s also linked to a hydraulic unit parallel to the RS-GP’s left fork leg, which suggests it compresses the front suspension under acceleration, to further reduce wheelies and therefore improve acceleration.

The Ducati’s front shapeshifter – raced by Johann Zarco since the start of the season – is actuated by a hydraulic unit next to his Desmosedici GP22’s right fork leg.

Aprilia’s test rider Lorenzo Savadori used the system during the Portuguese and Spanish GPs, while Aleix Espargaró ran it on both his bikes during Monday’s post-Spanish Grand Prix tests at Jerez.

Meanwhile Ducati continues to push forward with its front shapeshifter, which had only been used by Zarco since pre-season testing, until Monday, when Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin tried the system on one of his bikes.

Pramac Ducati with front shapeshifter

Martin’s GP22 equipped with the front shapeshifter at Jerez on Monday


Zarco says the front shapeshifter definitely helps and gave him a useful acceleration advantage over the brow of the hill that precedes the straight at Portimao, where he finished on the podium. The system also helped him at Jerez last weekend, especially during the downhill exit from Turn 5 onto the back straight, until he crashed out.

If Ducati is adding riders to its front-shapeshifter development roster it suggests the plan is to eventually use the system on the bikes of number-one title-challenger Pecco Bagnaia.

Revealed: KTM’s RC16 stripped

KTM engine being worked on

KTM’s RC16’s steel tubular frame gives it a cooling advantage over rival bikes, which have their engines wrapped in huge aluminum frame sections


MotoGP bikes are never stripped down in the open. Instead teams close their garage doors or erect screens around their motorcycles. But occasionally photographers get lucky.

There are no great revelations in these photos of KTM’s RC16, stripped of its bodywork at Jerez last weekend, but they certainly highlight the complexities of packaging an engine and all the electronics ancillaries in the available space.

Worthy of note on the right side of the engine is the starter dog assembly in front of the clutch, with black anodised outer section supporting the starter gun itself, to prevent gun rotation.

In front of the engine are the vast water radiator and oil cooler (top and bottom), always a huge packaging nightmare for MotoGP designers.

On the left side of the engine the torductor mounted outside the gearbox sprocket – to measure torque output – seems to include hydraulic connections. Why could that be? I have no ideas.

Also note the large cooling duct on the left side, to cool the electronic modules mounted next to the engine.

Red Bull carbon fiber chassis

The pretty unpainted checkered carbon-fibre bodywork tested by Oliveira, featuring strange deflectors at the back edge of the fairing


Red Bull KTM worked especially hard in the post-race tests at Jerez because the team is struggling this year, trying to make its big aero work with the bike.

Miguel Oliveira tried a new fairing, but with no obvious differences to the bike’s current aero package, apart from strange deflectors attached to either side of the fairing.

KTM also tried a radical exhaust system, which might explain why engine designer Kurt Trieb was in attendance.

Goodbye Suzuki

Suzuki team celebrates 1-2 finish at the 2020 MotoGP European race

Suzuki in happier times, after its one-two at the 2020 Grand Prix of Europe, the week before Joan Mir wrapped up the world title


The biggest thing that happened at Jerez on Monday had nothing to do with testing. Suzuki’s MotoGP team was gathered together and told that company management had decided to quit MotoGP at the end of this season.

The announcement sent a chill wind through the paddock, for these are difficult times. Most big companies have been hurt by the pandemic, plus the invasion of Ukraine and its potential for escalation has added a further nervousness in business circles.

Suzuki has never been as committed to MotoGP as its fellow Japanese brands Yamaha and Honda, which have contested the category non-stop since the early 1970s and 1980s. Suzuki quit for several years in the mid-1980s, at the end of its first fully prototype premier-class project, the RG500 square-four two-stroke, then returned a few years later with the RGV00 V4 two-stroke.

Japanese machinery has dominated MotoGP since the early ’70s — is there a generational shift going on?

At the end of 2010 Suzuki tried to shut down its first four-stroke MotoGP project, the GSV-R V4, but Dorna convinced the factory to stay for 2011, with just one rider. This compensated Dorna for Suzuki breaking its MotoGP contract.

This was all in the wake of the global financial crisis. Recent events have only added to the tricky financial outlook.

Meanwhile Suzuki’s interest in the motorcycle market has waned. The company has produced no significantly new models for years, instead recycling and tarting up old designs within a shrinking range.

Therefore why spend tens of millions going racing in the class of kings, where costs are rising as the keener factories commit more and more resources to winning?

Suzuki’s exit – if Dorna cannot convince it to stay, if necessary through threatening a painful contract-breaking financial penalty – will see MotoGP dominated by European brands for the first time in half a century. Aprilia, Ducati and KTM versus Honda and Yamaha.