Dakar

Aprilia creates rally raid team

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Credit: Aprilia

Aprilia might be known for their MotoGP and road racing teams today, but the Italian manufacturer’s first foray into motorsport came in motocross. On Friday, the company announced they will return to the off-road realm as they form a rally raid team with the goal of competing in the Dakar Rally and other major races as early as 2024.

The team will field the Aprilia Tuareg 660, an adventure bike that features a straight-twin engine. In a sense, due to their engine similarities, it is an off-road cousin to the Aprilia Tuno 660 and RS 660, both of which are sport bikes intended for pavement.

The first Tuareg was introduced in 1986 for rally raids and enduro riding. It débuted at Dakar in 1989 before returning in 2010 with Francisco López Contardo, who finished third that year with three stage wins. López has since become one of the top drivers in the T3 class, winning the category’s World Rally-Raid Championship in 2022.

“With its ‘Back to Africa’ project, Aprilia Racing is returning to the world of off-road racing, to the races that forged the division,” said Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola. “We want to keep growing in the world of Grand Prix motorcycle racing and in on-track races. We want to discover new talent through our SP 250 Championship and the RS 660 Trophy, but we are also embarking on a completely new project with the extraordinary Aprilia Tuareg. It’s an additional sign of development for a racing division that has grown significantly over the past years achieving results never before seen by Aprilia.”

The racing version of the Tuareg 660 will be built with support from GCorse. A variant prepared by GCorse currently races in the Italian Motorally Championship with Jacopo Cerutti and Francesco Montanari. The duo will also oversee the rally raid team, with Cerutti as the lead rider.

Cerutti competed at Dakar from 2016 to 2020 with a best finish of twelfth overall in 2016. He is a five-time enduro champion.

“I’m very happy to be a part of this project, to work with a brand that’s 100% Italian and that has such a great history in sports is a source of great pride,” Cerutti commented. “This will be a new challenge for me, coming from experience with the Enduro 450. I will be riding a twin with enormous potential and will have a key role to play in development. It’s an exceptional opportunity for a rider, and I can’t wait to start.”

Besides the factory division, Aprilia will also provide support for privateers and amateurs riding Tuareg 660s in the Italian Motorally’s GPX category for rally raid newcomers. Yamaha recently launched a similar programme for their Ténéré 700 bike.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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