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Rival complaint forces Aprilia to withdraw latest MotoGP clutch system

Aprilia was forced to withdraw a semi-automatic clutch system it had been using prior to the Australian Grand Prix following a complaint from a rival MotoGP manufacturer, Autosport has learned.

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team

Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Maverick Vinales lamented on Thursday at the Malaysian Grand Prix that he could no longer use the latest starting system introduced by the Noale brand.

"That is hurting us. But I can't say anything more," the Spaniard limited himself to saying.

Asked afterwards by Aleix Espargaro, his team-mate, put his foot in his mouth: "Did Maverick say that? We can't talk about this subject," he replied to the question posed by Autosport.

When Autosport tried to make sense of the mystery, the answer from all the Aprilia voices consulted was the same: "We have been forbidden to talk about this".

However, Autosport can certify that a complaint from a competing manufacturer has forced Aprilia to stop using, since the Australian Grand Prix, the latest clutch specification incorporated into the RS-GP.

This system helped improve the Aprilia's starting capabilities, after both Vinales and Espargaro struggled earlier in the season off the line in races.

Several of the sources consulted suspect that the complaint came from KTM, which considers that this version of the clutch in question is in breach of the technical regulations, given that its operation depends too much on the electronic control unit.

In fact, this is an area of the regulations that is currently under review, as it has some grey areas.

At first, the championship's technical managers gave the go-ahead to the component, considering that it did not work fully automatically, but required the rider's input.

"You only have to see the video of how the Aprilia's come out, to understand that it is an automatic clutch, like the one used by Formula 1," a track engineer in the Sepang paddock explained to Autosport.

The most amazing thing about the case is that, since the beginning of the season, KTM had developed a new starting system on its RC16 that had allowed it to make a huge step forward.

At Mugello, Jack Miller had time to move from fifth on the grid to first in half a straight, and show the 'V' for victory sign to poleman Francesco Bagnaia by raising his hand from the left fist of his bike's handlebars.

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

The system, introduced by KTM in June, allowed them to be the best starting bike on the grid. "It's unbelievable that Binder starts from the fourth row and in the first corner he's leading the race, that really needs to be investigated," a veteran technician from Noale told Autosport.

Following complaints from its riders about problems when starting on the grid, Aprilia designed a clutch that, theoretically, is not automatic but works as if it was, which led to the aforementioned complaint and it having to withdraw it.

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KTM, in addition to the complaint about Aprilia's clutch, asked the technical commission for a modification of the current regulations in order to get its own clutch homologated, which works very similarly to Aprilia's clutch.

For the time being, the Austrian manufacturer voluntarily removed the system from its bikes at the last race in Thailand, awaiting a possible modification of the regulations that would allow them to use it again.

With Aprilia and KTM unable to use their new clutches, Ducati, which is the manufacturer that three years ago started to work with carbon and electronic assistance in its friction system, has, right now, the best and fastest starting device of the MotoGP grid.

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