How To Solve A Problem Like CRT?

Danilo Petrucci with an expression that sums up CRT’s

CRT was meant to be the savior of Grand Prix racing. It was meant to offer teams affordable, competitive bikes, conducive to good racing. It was meant to mean cost efficient racing meaning more than 4 bikes can win. Now we are over half way through the inaugural season of CRT machines, how are they going? and what the general consensus from fans regarding he CRT project?

In short CRT stands for claiming rule team, it gives satellite teams the chance to own bikes for around $1m rather than pay around 4 times that to lease a prototype for a season. Last season CRT managed to lure some of the big names of GP racing into their so called mini class. Colin Edwards and Randy De Puniet to name but a few of the stars on the new machines. Edwards was on the NGM Forward racing BMW Suter, De Puniet was on the Aspar Power Electronics ART. The idea was that they would bring close exciting racing, turning the heads of the factory machines. It hasn’t quite worked out like that.

Last season at the mid season test when the first of the CRT machines were being tested they found themselves around 6 seconds off the back of the slowest prototypes, a lot of head scratching from Dorna and a lot of worried faces at Mugello showed just how much work was needed. Optimism and time would surely cure these?

Well the next time we saw the pioneers on the new CRT machines was at the end of January in the first IRTA pre season test at Sepang. After the 3 day test, the fastest of the CRT machines found them self +5.11 seconds from Casey Stoner’s RC213V and eve, +2.50 from the slowest prototype, that of Karel Abraham on his Cardian AB Ducati GP12. The man was Colin Edwards. That wasn’t meant to happy, development and testing was meant to bring these machines closer, well closer that 5 seconds away. Not to mention Ivan Silva, the slowest man that day being +8.6 seconds off Stoner.

Now nobody in Dorna, nor Aprillia or BQR or anybody else thought that come Sepang we would see De Puniet and Edwards battling at the front of the GP grid, and nobody even thought they would find them self with prototypes, but 8.6 seconds was alarming. The problem was that after 4 more tests and 4 months, in qualifying in Losail, the fastest CRT, Edwards again, just over 3 seconds behind pole sitter Lorenzo. This was progress, a circuit with a long straight, fast corners, and the competitive debut of the CRT’s real progress! Edwards finished top CRT and 58 seconds off Lorenzo, but that’s largely irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

We are now 12 rounds into the virgin season of Claiming Rule Teams season, and what now? Well the closest that any CRT rider has been this season was when Randy De Puniet crossed the line 53 seconds behind Dani Pedrosa at the Sachsenring in Germany, the biggest, Aleix Espargaro behind Casey Stoner at Estoril in Portugal round 3. Not really the process that was desired or expected. It is never good for the reputation and credibility for the bikes when there are Moto2 bikes lapping faster, but patience is required from all.

With new season rules being released, and people getting used to the pattern and who to expect at the sharp end of the CRT class, what is the way now for CRT? We have seen the ART machine working, and working well. Winning the CRT class 10 of the 12 times in the shape of 3 different riders, That’s the bike to be. The FTR Kawasaki in the BQR squad along with Gresini’s FTR Fireblade have been the surprise packages of the season, while the BMW Suter has flattered to deceive, especially with the pilot and budget involved. The IODA homemade project has shown how much work is still involved in these machines, along serious kudos must go to Danilo Petrucci who has punched above his weight all season, and not escaped the attention of Ducati (incidentally Danilo has been dubbed to ride for the Ducati junior team next season and has been invited to private tests at Mugello for the Bologna brand). With new rules of a control spec ECU being made by Magneti Marelli for the CRT class for 2013 and that ECU being made for the whole field for 2014 (much to the frustration and annoyance of the factories, but that’s something for another time and another place) can we expect to see CRT machines closer to the front in the future?

Personally I think the CRT project needs the backing of the whole grid, not just Dorna, not just the privateer teams, the whole field, rather ironically the people who hold the cards are the factories, namely Yamaha and Honda. They are the boys with the power, if they don’t like it, they walk, along with millions and millions of dollars. But factories seem keen to take the cost cutting on board, despite threats from Honda, and if they do that the project will work. It’s good to see grids becoming fuller, and with teams like AB Cardion not renewing their lease of a prototype Ducati, and PBM wanting another bike was can expect CRT grids to only get bigger next season.

I understand that times may be hard, and Edwards was recently quoted as saying, it’s hard traveling the world and risking your life every time you get on the bike to finish twelfth. It is true, and riders really need to keep motivated, as in effect these first few seasons teams are in effect testing on Sunday afternoons, gaining data and progressing the bike every weekend. Maybe it’s a job for a young rider rather than a seasoned pro? A motivator to get onto the prototype rather than a ride around on a Sunday afternoon. Whether that’s the answer I don’t know.  But what I do know, is that if the teams, if the riders, and if DORNA remain committed to the project it will work, and riders who before seemed not keen are even starting to understand that sometimes it’s a needs to a must.

If speeds can be increased to ensure safety for all riders, and if the bikes can be developed to ensure they are a progression to Moto2 machines it will work, if the bikes don’t continue to improve and lap faster then it would be advisable to cut ties with the new class before it’s even kicked off.

What do you think CRT machines need to do? And what’s your answer? Feedback and views always welcome!

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