december 30, 2018 - Aprilia

THE HISTORY OF APRILIA

Aprilia was founded immediately after the Second World War by Alberto Beggio, as a bicycle production factory in Noale, in the province of Venice, Italy. The products of a small artisan company, that range from components to the finished product, achieved success and, in 1962, the sole proprietorship was transformed into a collective partnership.

Alberto's son, Ivano Beggio, took over at the helm of the small company in 1968 and it appeared clear that his great interest was not in bicycles when, along with the dozen company employees, he built the first Aprilia "motorcycle", a gold and blue fifty cc.

The product gained popularity. Colibrì and Daniela were the names of the first Aprilia bikes, but the vehicle that gained the most notoriety was the 1970 Scarabeo motocross bike. In fact, motorcycles, and motocross bikes in particular, were the true passion of those who cultivated the dream of being able to race in national competitions in a speciality that was rapidly gaining popularity in those days. Manufactured until the mid-seventies, Scarabeo was introduced in various versions with 50 and 125 cc engine capacity, with sometimes truly unique and innovative aesthetic solutions (launching what was to become a tradition for Aprilia products), as in the case of the 1971 model, metallic gold in colour.

1974 was the year that the first true motocross bike was born, entrusted experimentally to Maurizio Sgarzani, a rider in the Cadet class who performed respectably in the first races. From that bike, Aprilia engineers drew the RC 125 model introduced at the Milan Show, beginning that inseparable combination of sport and factory production that has always characterised the company from Noale.

In 1975, the first competition Aprilia was introduced with ambitions of victory. For the rider, they relied on Ivan Alborghetti, a motocross rider from Milan who had already shown that he had the stuff of champions, and results arrived quickly. The first wins helped introduce the new Italian brand to off-road enthusiasts and, with the sale of the RC and MX 125 "replicas", the fledgling racing department was able to increase its budget from the 6 million Lira that had been set aside for the first season.

The first titles came in 1977 in the Italian motocross championship in the 125 and 250 classes, whereas the following year, Alborghetti finished the season with two third places and sixth in the overall standings.

In the meantime, the notoriety of the Manufacturer from Noale had breached the Italian border. In the foreign markets, for which 20% of production was destined, and in particular in the American market, the popularity of Aprilia bikes was very high. The decade ended with a constant increase of production, divided between mopeds and motocross bikes. In ten years, the company grew significantly: from 1969 to 1979, annual moped production went from 150 to 12,000 units, whereas for motorbikes, in just four years, production exceeded 2,000 units annually.

The early eighties was a crisis period in the national motorcycle market and the European market in general. Precisely in those difficult years, the foundation was laid for new and prestigious objectives which stemmed from an extraordinary passion for motorcycles and faith in a relaunch of the Italian motorcycle market. No longer just motocross bikes and mopeds; production would therefore be directed to new lines, expanding the range to enduro, trial and street bikes with engine capacities that would go from 50 to 600 cc.

So, despite the crisis, in the early ‘80s, Aprilia became a laboratory of ideas and designs that would generate its great international affirmation over the years to come. The first important feedback from the new strategy came in 1983 during the presentation of the first Aprilia street bike: the ST 125.
With a strong personality and its sleek and elegant lines, the ST 125 behaved admirably both in sport riding and street use, garnering excellent feedback from critics in the specialised press. The following year, the STX came out, an improved and sportier version of the ST, as well as the first enduro model from the Veneto-based manufacturer, the ET 50 which, in its small engine capacity, embodied all of Aprilia's off-road experience.

In 1985, the last year they officially took part in motocross racing, the ETX came out in the 125 and 350 version. The decision made a few years earlier to expand the production range was proving to be farsighted, while the first signs appeared of a contraction in the motocross market, which was becoming extremely specialised to the favour of the street and Enduro market.

Aprilia's jump in quality could also be seen in the small engine capacity units with the introduction in 1986 of the AF1, a vehicle aesthetically and technically reminiscent of the larger engine size sport bikes, as well as in the enduro field where, alongside the ETX, the Tuareg came out, inspired by the big African rally bikes that were in vogue in those years, with the maxi-fuel tank and more plentiful equipment.

Along with the technological content, Aprilia bikes stood out for their absolutely innovative and original design and graphic style which broke up the chromatic monotony of the two-wheelers, based on the traditional red and silver colours.
This path of colour and design, paved by Aprilia, launched a popular trend that was then followed by almost every other manufacturer, so much that the Milan Show in 1989 was dubbed an "Aprilia Show" because of the general use of pastel colours.

In the sports field, the eighties registered an amazing leap of quality.
Beginning its first experiences in Trial with the TL 320 in 1981, in 1985, the first year of racing in the world championship, the Aprilia ridden by Philippe Berlatier finished in fifth place.

That same year, the extraordinary adventure in speed began, with the GP 250 ridden by Loris Reggiani making its début in the World Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing Championship. The challenge of a small Italian manufacturer, without any experience, going out on the track to race against the strongest Japanese brands, was considered a huge gamble by many observers. However, at the end of the first season, the Aprilia GP 250 finished sixth in the overall standings. It was a brilliant result, considering the extremely small racing department, entirely experimental and set up for the first year ever. The big day came two seasons later after the Grand Prix of San Marino when, on 30 August 1987, at the ceremony on the Misano podium, the Italian national anthem rang out: Loris Reggiani's AF1 won the first World Speed Championship in their history.

Fortified with the experience they were gaining in World Grand Prix  Motorcycle Racing, the Aprilia strategy in street bike production focused on technical features and chassis architecture at the top of the category, attractive aesthetics and strong ties to sports activities, such as, in particular, in the 125 cc AF1 Replica. But success with street bikes did not lead to an abandonment of off-road, which was still one of the specialities of the manufacturer from Noale: 1990 was the year of the Pegaso 600, the bike that revolutionised the sector with a chassis architecture closely derived from the off-road discipline, but intended primarily for street use.

After the first years of experience, five years after the first victory and after numerous other racing successes, the big dream came true in 1992 with the World Title in the 125 class with Alessandro Gramigni. This was joined, later that same year, by the Trial title with Tommy Ahvala on an Aprilia Climber. From the beginning, Aprilia Racing proved to be a forge of talent and many of the most successful champions of recent seasons got their start on the road to success with Aprilia, who crowned world champion riders the likes of Biaggi, Capirossi, Gramigni, Locatelli, Sakata and Rossi. The victories in the sports world grew along with the production, dimensional and technological increase of the company which gained more and more of a foothold on the international motorcycling scene thanks to its characteristics of innovation, image and dynamic nature.

In the nineties, Aprilia boldly entered the sector of vehicles intended for use in urban mobility. In fact, the scooter market experienced a long period of growth. In this case, creativity and non-conformity once again proved to be the keys to success. Beginning from the first entirely plastic scooter, the 1990 Amico, Aprilia confirmed its ability to stay ahead of the times, set trends and offer products that are always innovative, both aesthetically and technologically in terms of performance, reliability and low environmental impact. On this front, the manufacturer from Veneto has always placed particular emphasis, staying at the head of the line in searching for the most cutting-edge solutions.

In 1992, Aprilia was the first company to launch a 2-stroke scooter and motorcycle on the market with a catalytic converter, respectively the Amico LK and the Pegaso 125, whereas the following year, development began on the first scooter with a four-stroke, four-valve engine. Aprilia's attention to the environment proved to be one of the primary strategic objectives, and years of heavy investment in research, intensified constantly even to the present, led to the creation in the year 2000 of the "cleanest" of engines: the Ditech (Direct Injection Technology) engine which, with its revolutionary technology, allowed great performance, record consumption and extremely reduced emissions to be achieved. In 1993, a legend was born in Noale. It was the high-wheeled Scarabeo scooter, still unparalleled today with its extraordinary combination of retro and modern lines which set the bar for every other manufacturer in the sector.

The list of successful Aprilia scooters could go on with Leonardo, SR and Gulliver, just to name a few of the most famous models.

In 1995, Aprilia amazed with the Motò, an admirable example of design on two wheels designed by Philippe Starck which, with its unique style, earned a spot on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. That same year, the exceptional RS 250 was born, one of the most successful sport bikes of all times.

In 1998, Aprilia launched what is its current flagship model the RSV Mille, with big engine capacity, being awarded in 1999 the title of bike of the year in the reference market. Aprilia owes its business and image success to its style and technical innovation, to the solutions materialised as an outcome from racing experience and above all, to the passion and commitment in the care of details. The production of large engine capacity bikes intensified further and continued with the SL 1000 Falco, RST Futura, ETV mille Caponord and Tuono, the first true hypernaked on the market, while production continued on successful scooters such as the Atlantic, introduced in the various engine sizes from 125 to 500, and Sportcity. In 2003, the new RSV 1000 was launched which set the bar on sport twin-cylinders even higher.

In 2004, Aprilia re-entered the off-road sector and immediately won the Supermoto S2 title (which was, among other things, the first world title earned in the history of Aprilia with a four-stroke engine), with the revolutionary twin-cylinder SXV 4.5 Supermotard, a vehicle that relaunched the Aprilia keystone concepts of technical innovation, sportiness and style. But more than anything else, 2004 was a year that marked the corporate change: a global motorcycle market in a time of crisis and the weight of the acquisition of the Moto Guzzi and Laverda brands (which took place in the year 2000) made a corporate change necessary. In fact, on 30 December 2004, Aprilia was acquired, along with Moto Guzzi, by the Piaggio Group, contributing to the establishment of the most important European two-wheeler hub. The strategic plan of the Piaggio Group for the Aprilia brand set a goal of reinforcing its position and market leader in the motorcycle and scooter segments, as the only European “full liner” manufacturer of two-wheeled vehicles from 50 to 1000 cc in the spirit of maintaining and developing the brand's identity, also through confirmation of the R&D and production hubs in Noale and Scorzè, as well as an important investment plan aimed at developing new model ranges.

The revamping of the motorcycle range began to come to fruition in 2007, with the introduction of the Shiver 750. Fitted with a twin-cylinder engine conceived, developed and built by Aprilia, the Shiver was also the first factory bike to use the Ride by Wire throttle control. The Dorsoduro was then born around the twin-cylinder engine (2008), a fun-bike reminiscent of the supermotard style and philosophy.

2007 also marked the début of the Mana 850, a true revolution on two wheels, thanks to the sequential, six-speed automatic transmission. This was an idea that confirmed Aprilia's status as a brand capable of always offering products technologically ahead of their times.

The spearhead of Aprilia production was introduced to the public in 2009. It was the RSV4 superbike, the only one in its category with a narrow V-4, born out of the collaboration between factory design and Aprilia Racing with the clear intent to demonstrate its competitive potential in the world championship for factory derivative bikes. Ridden by Max Biaggi, the RSV4 won the World Superbike Championship in 2010, its second year of official participation, at the end of an exciting year: it was the first time in WSBK for an Italian rider and, what's more, astride an Italian bike. The climb to technological firsts for two-wheelers continued in 2011 with the introduction, precisely on the RSV4, of the aPRC electronics package, unanimously acknowledged as the most advanced and most effective package available on the market. in 2012, Aprilia RSV4 Factory aPRC was at the top of all the comparative studies done by the most important international magazines. 2012 was also the year of the SRV 850, a maxiscooter with a twin-cylinder engine and a competitive DNA. With its 76 horses, SRV was the most powerful scooter on the market, with a chassis architecture capable of enhancing its already dynamic attitude. Like the entire Aprilia motorcycle range, SRV also came with aTC traction control and ABS.

In the sports world, 2012 was the year of Aprilia's return to MotoGP with the ART project and triumph in the SBK championship with the Rider title (Massimiliano Biaggi) and the Manufacturer title.

In 2013, the Caponord 1200 made its début on the market with ADD Aprilia Dynamic Dumping and AMP, Aprilia Multimedia Platform, both exclusive patents. That same year, Aprilia took the World SBK Brand title. In 2014, the double win in World SBK brought the Manufacturer title to Noale and gave French rider Sylvain Guintoli the Rider title.
The 2015 season marked Aprilia's return to the MotoGP class a year ahead of the originally announced schedule. In fact, the strategy defined by the Piaggio Group for Aprilia's efforts in the premier class, was aimed at favouring rapid growth of the competitive level, concentrating all technical and organisational efforts of Aprilia Racing on the developing the prototypes for the top category. In parallel with their efforts in MotoGP, the RSV4 confirmed its status as a victorious bike in the World Superbike Championship, winning 3 races and finishing on the podium 10 times as confirmation of its competitiveness.

The 2016 championship season saw the track début  of the Aprilia RS-GP, the first MotoGP prototype bike designed and built entirely by the Noale racing department, beginning with the exclusive "narrow" V4 engine which had by then become Aprilia's calling card. The Aprilia range of products - in constant evolution - included new, high performance versions of the Shiver and Dorsoduro (900cc) and the 1100cc version of the Tuono, an extraordinary bike destined to dominate all the comparative tests with the best competitors in the world in the sport naked segment.

Development continued in 2017 on the Aprilia RS-GP in the premier world motorcycle racing championship. The Italian bike demonstrated encouraging progress that led it to consistently occupying a top-10 spot with Spanish rider Aleix Espargaró.

In 2018, Aprilia competed in the MotoGP world championship with confirmed rider Aleix Espargaró and Brit, Scott Redding. In a season of ups and downs, at the GP of Aragon, Espargaró repeated the sixth place result that represents the best placement in Aprilia's history in MotoGP. 2018 ended with the presentation at the EICMA show of the new RSV4 1100 Factory, the street-legal supersport bike which, with its 217 HP, has every intention of reaffirming Aprilia in the street-legal superbike segment.