Ban Incoming? - Why KTM Has An Issue With Aprilia's New MotoGP Clutch
A new clutch system recently helped Aprilia to better race starts. However, following a KTM complaint, its use is now prohibited.
At the start of the MotoGP season, the Aprilia RS-GP faced a significant challenge with race starts, consistently losing positions in the initial moments. Notably, Aleix Espargaro’s experience in Jerez highlighted this issue.
Despite starting from pole position, he witnessed KTM riders Brad Binder and Jack Miller effortlessly overtaking him in all four starts on the way to the first corner.
Aprilia diligently addressed this weakness, leading to improved starts for Espargaro and Maverick Vinales by mid-season. However, recent races in Australia and Thailand saw a return to difficulties.
The reason for this setback appears to have surfaced at the beginning of the final triple-header of the 2023 MotoGP season in Sepang.
According to Motorsport.com, Aprilia was compelled to discontinue the use of the latest clutch specification following a complaint, reportedly from KTM.
The contention is that Aprilia’s clutch breaches technical regulations due to excessive support from an electronic control unit. While MotoGP’s clutch rules are concise, allowing the rider full control, there are gray areas.
Aprilia’s clutch system may have violated the rule prohibiting the use of electronics between the lever and clutch discs to preset torque.
A source mentioned to ‘Motorsport.com’ that watching Aprilia starts on video suggests an automatic clutch similar to those used in Formula 1.
Despite reports, Aprilia riders refrained from commenting on the matter. Vinales expressed discomfort, stating he couldn’t elaborate, while Espargaro added they couldn’t discuss the issue.
Nevertheless, Vinales later disclosed that they had a clutch system in place earlier in the season, but it was banned by the technical directors, forcing them to revert to the standard clutch and making starts more challenging again.
Official confirmation from MotoGP is awaited. The technical directors initially approved Aprilia’s clutch system because it wasn’t fully automatic and required rider input.
However, KTM’s complaint prompted a review of clutch regulations for potential loopholes, with the outcome pending.