By Lisa Lewis
|Espagaro, the 2012 CRT champion
Photo: Marc Jans / www.grandprix-photography.com
During it’s first season CRT came in for some heavy criticism from within the paddock and the
media for not being competitive enough.
It is easy to see why. In Sepang, working with new ECU units while testing in Sepang the Claiming
Rules Teams, with the exception of the Aspar ART which has taken back up where it left off with
Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet capable of mixing it up with the satellite teams, remain firmly
towards the bottom of the timing sheets.
Yet Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has hailed the inaugural CRT season as “a big success”. In many
respects he is not as far off the mark as you may initially think.
The class was introduced to swell grid numbers and provide an alternative to leasing or buying a
bike from one of the major manufacturers at an ever increasing cost. It meant that Jorge Martinez was able to field a team in the MotoGP class when the cost of running
two Desmosedici’s became too much at Aspar. The team, who also run in the Moto2 and Moto3
classes, made the move after much agonising over costs. The decision to make a full switch to CRT paid off for Aspar, the Aprilia worked well for them and
both riders had top ten performances, with Espargaro enjoying the honour of being top CRT rider at
the end of the season.
Joining them in an identical switch from Ducati to Aprilia CRT for 2013 are the Cardion AB team,
who run Karel Abraham. Team owner and Karel’s father, Mr Abraham Sr. describes the move positively: “The transition from prototype is not a step backwards but rather a side-step”.
The bikes increased too – 21 contested the 2012 championship.
As well as retaining Aspar the new rules allowed Gresini to be able to field a two man squad.
A total of five new teams raced: Avintia Blusens, Paul Bird Motorsport, Forward Racing, Ioda and
Speed Master all helping the grid move away from the lowly 17 bikes present in 2011, the year
Suzuki parted company with MotoGP citing the recession as the major factor in their decision.
2013 sees 24 bikes on the grid thanks to Ioda, Forward and PBM all choosing to field two riders for
the forthcoming season.
It may have taken the whole of the 2012 campaign and some wet weather but at the closing race in
Valencia the CRT bikes showed how far they had come in just a few months, the drying conditions
allowed Espargaro to lead the race for the first two laps then Michele Pirro scooped the highest
finish for a CRT all season with a fifth place for Gresini.
Ezpeleta made this achievement a focal point of his argument for success, telling the official
MotoGP website: “I know(it was) in wet conditions…but in any case a CRT was leading the Valencia Grand Prix”.
It also allowed American teams Attack Performance and GP Tech the opportunity to put in wildcard
performances, something the will be repeating at all three American rounds this year. In addition
Austrian team Schwarz and Bronnen have been entered for Brno.
Ezpeleta also shared his view that until a frontrunner gives a CRT an outing we will not see the full
potential of the class: “Theoretically the riders that are using CRT are not the top riders and I want to see … though thisis impossible… if any of the top riders would use a CRT, I don’t know how big the difference would be”.
The only race winner to have used a CRT so far is Chris Vermeulen who made a one-off
appearance last season, though both Colin Edwards and Randy de Puniet have experienced the
podium regularly over their racing years. It could be argued that these more experienced, popular
riders may have left the paddock if they had not found a development role in a claiming rules team.
In an effort to narrow the gap in 2013, alongside the higher engine allocation and increased fuel
allowance from the inaugural year the teams will also benefit from Bridgestone supplying the
choice of a softer rear tyre and when they have got to grips with it, the new ECU, which is currently
to be compulsory from 2014.
The claiming rules teams and their riders certainly have their work cut out to be as competitive
as the press and motorsport fans would like, but Espargaro being able to set similar times to the
Pramac and Ducati teams as Michael Laverty makes early progress for PBM despite his huge
learning curve are certainly positives to start the new season on.