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Aprilia motorcycles is an Italian motorcycle company, one of the seven marques owned by Piaggio, the world's fourth largest motorcycle manufacturer.Aprilia started as a scooter manufacturer, but has more recently come to be known for its race-winning sportbikes. It is also known for its flagship 1,000 cc V-twin Superbike, the RSV Mille and latest V4 based RSV 4.
Despite being a relatively small company by global motorcycling standards, Aprilia motorcycles is very active in Motorcycle sport. It contests many Road Racing formulae, including the FIM 125 cc World Championship, the FIM 250 cc World Championship, and the now-defunct FIM 500 cc World Championship. From 2002 to 2004 they participated in the FIM MotoGP World Championship, and from 1999 to 2003 they participated in the FIM Superbike World Championship. Aprilia motorcycles has now returned to World Superbike for the 2009 season with Max Biaggi and Shinya Nakano as their factory riders both piloting the RSV4.
Aprilia Motorcycles Racing has seen varying successes. They were extremely successful in the smaller displacement categories, winning numerous races & championships in the 125 cc Grand Prix and 250 cc Grand Prix classes. However, their 500 cc Grand Prix bike was less competitive, and their MotoGP effort, dubbed the RS3 Cube, was technically advanced but difficult to ride and performed poorly in the championship.
The Cube did, however, feature many advanced technologies either not seen or only being seen now in other MotoGP bikes - technologies including fly by wire throttle and pneumatic valve actuation systems. In the Superbike World Championship they were third in rider's championship in season 2000 with pilot Troy Corser, and third in manufacturers points and fourth in rider points both in season 2001 with Troy Corser and in 2002 with Noriyuki Haga. These were their highest water marks for that series. They used a homologation special version of their road bike the RSVR Mille. The motor for the racebike was specially built by Cosworth.
In 2006 and 2007, they dominated the 250 class of MotoGP, partly due to the ability of Jorge Lorenzo, partly to the excellent quality of the 250 motorcycle.
Aprilia motorcycles also feature in the off-road racing world, with their 450 cc V-2 motocrosser producing respectable results (including race wins) in both off-road (Motocross) and on-road (Supermoto) categories.
Aprilia motorcycles is also notable for choosing somewhat atypical engine configurations. For example, they progressed with development of a V-2 500 cc Grand Prix bike when other teams were moving to V-4 configurations for what some believed was better and more usable power outputs. Aprilia motorcycles continued this trend, taking advantage of lighter minimum weights with the introduction of their RS3 MotoGP bike – featuring three cylinders in an inline triple layout, the bike had the least number of cylinders on the Grand Prix paddock. Yamaha had gone ahead with an inline four layout, whilst Suzuki and Ducati went for (differently-designed)V-Four layouts. Honda took the idea even further, producing the championship-winning RC211V, powered by a V-5 engine.