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MotoGP vs CRT: how close will they really be?

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta is determined to reduce the advantages of manufacturer supported MotoGP machines over the CRT newcomers

By Barry Russell

After a MotoGP season in which nobody was able to compete consistently with the factory-supported Hondas, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has become increasingly evangelical about the Claiming Rule Teams (CRT) system.

With a leased factory Honda believed to cost US$4m for a season, he is resolute that the premier class has become too expensive and provides a poor spectacle for spectators.

"I don't like the way things are going," Ezpeleta recently told Motosprint magazine. "I don't like MotoGP these days. We have a series where the Hondas go very quick, some others a bit less, and others even worse. This way there is little fighting, so the spectacle is unsatisfactory.

"This isn't just a technological challenge, it's also a sport and entertainment. I don't like this situation, so things won't go on this way for much longer."
Indeed, it is hard to argue that rising technical costs and falling revenues as crowds and TV audiences drift away is a sustainable model for the sport.

The CRT rulebook is a pumped-up version of the one that has made Moto2 one of the best racing spectacles to be seen anywhere in the world. Instead of restricting the engines to one manufacturer, CRTs can use any production engine in a race chassis.

As entrants are confirmed some fascinating hybrids are emerging, with chassis manufacturers FTR, Suter and possibly Aprilia being matched with engines from Kawasaki, BMW, Aprilia and Honda. This week's announcement that Michele Pirro will ride for Gresini with a Honda CBR1000R engine in a FTR chassis was the latest example.

CRT bikes will initially be allowed an additional three litres of fuel per race and twelve engines per season, as opposed to six for the factory-built MotoGP bikes, but the rules will be under constant review as the inaugural 1000cc season gets underway.

At the same time Ezpeleta is looking at ways to reduce the importance of electronics, so a good deal of tweaking is likely during 2012 to create a more level playing field from 2013 onwards. He has also declared that Dorna will in future only provide financial support to CRTs.

The prevailing wisdom from early tests that CRT bikes will be around four seconds a lap slower than the prototypes next season is not supported by the crude survey below.

The fastest race laps of World Superbikes (Pirelli tyres), as a proxy for CRT bikes, and 800cc MotoGP machines (Bridgestone tyres) during 2011 were compared in the four events at shared tracks where conditions were dry. The 1200cc WSBK Ducati was excluded from the survey because the bore size exceeds the 81mm MotoGP limit.

Assen:
MotoGP 1:35.240 (Spies) - WSBK 1:36.476 (Camier) = -1.236s
Brno:
MotoGP 1:57.191 (Stoner) - WSBK 2:00.058 (Melandri) = -2.867s
Misano:
MotoGP 1:33.906 (Lorenzo) - WSBK 1:36.722 (Biaggi) = -2.816s
Phillip Island:
MotoGP 1:30.629 (Stoner) - WSBK 1:32.012 (Biaggi) = -1.383s

When 800cc and 1000cc MotoGP bikes were on track, at the Valencia test, the best 800cc lap time (by Randy de Puniet on his Suzuki debut) was just over one-second from the best 1000cc time of the day.

So perhaps the factory/CRT MotoGP gap could close to around two seconds at some tracks, with more development time for the CRTs.

Either way, it seems that the course is set for CRT to be the future for MotoGP. While many die-hard fans will argue, as they did over the switch to a one tyre rule, that development will be compromised, the experience of Moto2 suggests that improvements in the racing spectacle and therefore the long-term health of the sport will be the main outcomes.

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