Following weeks of speculation, Aprilia has finally confirmed its return to the World Superbike Championship with a factory-supported team including Eugene Laverty and Italian Lorenzo Savadori in 2017.
The Italian manufacturer has announced a two-year deal with British outfit Shaun Muir Racing [SMR] with the team securing title sponsorship from Milwaukee.
Northern Ireland star Laverty has been silent on the deal over the past few weeks pending the official announcement on Thursday, but the 30-year-old took to Twitter to shortly after the statement was released, saying: “Glad the news is finally official: I’m off to @WorldSBK next year with SMR Aprilia to fight for some world titles!”
Laverty opted to return to the championship instead of remaining in MotoGP after learning that only one Desmosedici GP16 would be made available next season, which has been earmarked for new Aspar Ducati signing Alvaro Bautista.
Rather than staying in the premier class and riding less competitive machinery than his team-mate, Laverty decided to cut his losses and signed with SMR in a move that will see him go up against compatriot Jonathan Rea, who remains on course to retain the world title this year for Kawasaki.
Laverty, who has been in excellent form in the MotoGP class in 2016, said: “I’m excited to return to Superbike with Aprilia and the RSV4 – a bike with which I took ten wins and second place overall in the championship [in 2013].
“I hope to be able to pick up where I left off with those results thanks to the support of Aprilia and a fantastic team like SMR. Everything is in place for us to be competitive straight away.”
The official announcement said Aprilia has agreed ‘technical material and related direct assistance and support will be provided by Aprilia Racing, including bike development’.
Aprilia Racing Manager, Romano Albesiano, said he had the ‘utmost respect’ for Laverty, who rode for the factory Aprilia team alongside Italian legend Max Biaggi in 2012 and went close to the title on the RSV4 in 2013, narrowly losing out to England’s Tom Sykes.
“Shaun Muir’s team, after making a good name for themselves in the British championship, wants to get to the top of a world category,” Albesiano said.
“Our agreement includes – in addition to providing bikes and materials – support from Aprilia Racing personnel to manage and develop the RSV4 within a factory support-type relationship.
“The birth of the Milwaukee Aprilia Racing Team also marks Eugene Laverty’s return to WSBK, a rider who we know well and whose professional and personal qualities have our utmost respect.
“He will have Lorenzo Savadori working alongside him, a young rider who has been part of our sports project for two seasons in which he won the Superstock 1000 title first [in 2015] and then drew attention in WSBK with an extremely positive rookie year.”
SMR General Manager Shaun Muir said he was thrilled to have Laverty and Savadori on board in what he hailed as his ‘dream team’.
“For SMR, collaboration with Aprilia Racing for 2017 and 2018 means a real chance to fight for the win. Aprilia has a strong and victorious history in World Superbike and we are determined to continue on the same path,” he said.
“Having Eugene and Lorenzo on board makes this a dream team. Without a doubt, Eugene is coming back to WSBK for one reason only – to win. “Lorenzo, on the other hand, is the fastest rookie and a sure protagonist. I wish to thank Milwaukee, Gulf and all of the partners who are supporting our project.”
Confirmation of the deal heralds the end of Muir’s partnership with Josh Brookes and Karel Abraham, who joined the Milwaukee BMW team to ride S1000RR machinery in World Superbikes this season.
Brookes made the step up after winning the British Superbike Championship for the Milwaukee Yamaha team in 2015.
The Australian rider has already generated plenty of interest among the top teams in the BSB paddock for 2017 and it would be no surprise if Brookes renewed his former association with Ulster’s Tyco BMW team next year.