Fair play to MotoGP, it knows its dying on its arse as a spectacle and is doing something about it. But are CRT teams the right thing?
MotoGP grids have been shrinking for years now and more and more dependent on manufacturer input (ie, cash). But when Kawasaki pulled out, the warning bells should have sounded way louder. Now, with Suzuki out for 2012, the jig is up. MotoGP organisers Dorna announced a change to the rules, allowing 'Claiming rules teams' onto the grid using either their own modified engines or leasing power plants from Yamaha, Honda, BMW and Aprilia. The first outing these bikes had was at the post-Valencia MotoGP test. It doesn't look good – although we'll be seeing lots more overtaking in 2012 as CRT bikes get lapped.
The big news from the Valencia MotoGP test (which took place
two days after the final race of the year) was that Ducati finally abandoned
its carbon monocoque frame and swingarm design which it had been persevering
with for years. After the design had effectively ended the MotoGP careers of
Marco Melandri, Nicky Hayden, Sete Gibernau and every satellite team running
it, it took the 2011 travails of Valentino Rossi and plenty of ‘discussions’
between Rossi’s tech team and the Ducati Corse director Fillipo Preziosi to
finally ditch the hard-to-set up GP11 (and GP 11.1) and revert to a more tried
and tested technology – a twin spar aluminium frame and swinging arm.
And of course, the Ducati chassis was cradling a new 1,000cc
V4 engine, along with the other 2012-spec bikes that took part in the two-day
test at Valencia. Andrea Dovizioso was out on his new Tech3 Yamaha going slower
than Cal Crutchlow, and there were a host of Claiming Rules Team (CRT) bikes as
much as seven seconds off the pace, which wouldn’t have impressed anyone who
was tempted to take a punt in the new class in its debut year. Maybe there are
teams and sponsors out there waiting to see how the first season shakes down
before they decide to take the plunge.
Early test times suggested CRT would be a money pit with little return, with some CRT bikes and riders over five seconds off the pace around Valencia. Five seconds off the pace, about as quick as a European superstock bike which cost less than one tenth the price. Way to go Dorna…
And, to the surprise of nobody, it was the Repsol Honda duo of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa who were setting the pace on the 1000cc Honda RC213. In fact, on the opening day they were more than one second clear of Ben Spies on the Yamaha, while Jorge Lorenzo was out, still recovering from an operation on his finger. Early days of course…