After a difficult debut year for the team in 2016, the SMR Milwaukee set up switches from BMW to full factory Aprilia, taking on two new riders in the process. The former British Superbike champions come into 2017 with the determination to put last year complexities and troubles behind them, and take victories and podiums on a bike that is a proven winner.
After leaving the sport in 2014, Aprilia have returned to the championship two years later, with a modified version of the bike they’ve left us. Split throttle control means the likes of BMW and Kawasaki will have to work hard but the Italian manufacturers of Aprilia and Ducati can carry on as normal. Shaun Muir believes that this is one of the main reasons that can see the team challenge from the first race of the season in Australia.
The first new rider is returning World Superbike heavyweight Eugene Laverty. Like Stefan Bradl and Marco Melandri, Laverty is another MotoGP refugee, and although 2016 proved to have many top 10 finishes in the Grand Prix world, the Irishman was not accepting any poor deals, and will come back to a paddock he knows well. With 13 wins to his name thus far, it would be fair to say that Norge will be on it from the word GO! Can the former World Supersport champion prove that he can win races even after two seasons away?
Lorenzo Savadori did such a fine job on a satellite Aprilia last season, that he’s been given an upgrade to the real McCoy. Joining the official factory Aprilia team this year, the Italian is definitely one for the future. Having crashed out of podium places on a few occasions last season, he will be determined to prove that he isn’t just a rider who can challenge for top five placings, but challenge for the podium and wins. The winner of the FIM Superstock 1000 series in 2015, the Italian 125cc champ in 2007 and still only 23 years old, Lorenzo will be riding on a crest of a wave this coming season, as he enjoys a 2nd season aboard the same bike. Just the consistency he needs to become a winner.
The Aprilia team have always enjoyed success at Phillip Island and took podiums at Buriram with Leon Haslam in 2015. The last time that the machine won at Aragon however was back in 2012 with Max Biaggi, and you have to go all the way back to Regis Laconi in 2001 since the team’s last victory at Imola. Laverty and Savadori will be looking to set a few records straight when they mount the Milwaukee Aprilia in 2017.
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Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko