The Team Aspar ART piloted by Randy de Puniet has been the most successful CRT entry in presesaon testing.
The results have been varied as well. Initial testing saw alarming lap times, which seemed to confirm the worst fears of skeptics. However, further testing has closed the gap some as the CRT mounts develop. The top CRT riders should be able to shame some of the satellite prototypes. Meanwhile, others will be definite backmarkers, likely lapped by the GP front-runners during races. During preseason testing, the laptime disparity between the fastest and slowest CRT was actually greater than the gap between fastest CRT and MotoGP champion Casey Stoner.
The CRT riders are mostly young, with a couple cagey vets mixed in. The bikes themselves are a mix of production-based Superbike engines mated to prototype chassis. The most prominent mount in the CRT stable is the Aprilia-powered ART, featuring the RSV4 V-Four engine and a chassis also from Aprilia. Four teams, and five riders, will campaign the ART. Other projects include a BMW/Suter project from Forward Racing, a Honda/FTR Gresini bike and two Kawasaki/FTR mounts from Avintia Racing. Love it, or hate it, the CRT entries should make for an interesting race within a race.
POWER ELECTRONICS ASPAR
The 31-year-old De Puniet will have some of the satellite prototypes in his sights during the 2012 season.
#14 Randy de Puniet – 16th MotoGP 2011 – 0 wins/0 podiums/0 poles
De Puniet has topped the CRT class in testing. Piloting the Team Aspar ART, the French rider has already humbled a handful of satellite prototypes on the timesheet. The 31-year-old stepped backwards last year, with a disappointing season on the Pramac Ducati. Before that single-year Pramac stint, he enjoyed steady improvement with a three-year run on the LCR Honda. The good race-within-the-race plotline for 2012 will be De Puniet gunning for Hector Barbera, the former Team Aspar rider who filled De Puniet’s seat on the Pramac Ducati.
#41 Aleix Espargaro – 12th Moto2 2011 – 0 wins/1 podium/0 poles
Espargaro gets his second go round in the premier class on the Power Electronics Aspar ART. The 22-year-old spent last season campaigning in the Moto2 series, where he placed 12th overall with a single podium to his credit (Catalunya). The Spanish racer’s previous stint in MotoGP was with Pramac Racing in 2010, where he tallied seven top 10s and nearly as many DNFs.
#9 Danilo Petrucci – 2nd FIM Superstock 2011 – 4 wins/7 podiums/6 poles
Petrucci campaigns his rookie GP season for the Came IodaRacing Project. A true Grand Prix rookie, the 21-year-old Italian’s experience is limited to the FIM Superstock championships (racing both 600 and 1000). Last year Petrucci finished second in FIM Superstock. He will pilot the IodaRacing TR003, which sources the Aprilia RSV4 engine but runs on a trellis framed chassis designed by Ioda.
PAUL BIRD MOTORSPORT
#77 James Ellison – 7th World Supersport 2011 – 0 wins/2 podiums/0 poles
Ellison doubles the British contingent on the MotoGP grid (along with fellow Englishman Cal Crutchlow), racing the Paul Bird Motorsport ART. PBM jumped to MotoGP from World Superbike, where it had long run the factory-backed Kawasaki SBK effort. The PBM squad had a controversial 2011 campaign, which included a drug trafficking incident linked to the team transporters when returning to the UK from Assen. The 2012 CRT season gives the team a clean GP slate to work off, with Ellison having campaigned two full seasons (2005-2006) in MotoGP.
#54 Mattia Pasini – 24th Moto2 2011 – 0 wins/0 podiums/0 poles
Pasini will pilot the Speed Master ART for the 2012 season. The 26-year-old Italian arrives in the premier class having moved up the 125, 250 and, for the last two seasons, Moto2 ranks. Pasini got his MotoGP ride amidst controversy, the Speed Master squad having already paired up with Australian Anthony West. Speed Master dumped West for Pasini, with the Aussie kicking around with a BSB ride before landing back in Moto2.
NGM MOBILE FORWARD RACING
#5 Colin Edwards – 9th MotoGP 2011 – 0 wins/1 podium/0 poles
Edwards teams with Forward Racing on the BMW/Suter project. The first CRT outfit to break cover, rumors initially placed Edwards aboard a Yamaha-powered/Tech 3 Forward Racing project before the BMW/Suter package became finalized. In 2011 the 38-year-old finished within the top-10 in the championship, once again, with the Tech 3 squad. Beginning his 10th campaign in MotoGP, Edwards figures to be one to the better performing CRT riders, along with fellow veteran De Puniet.
SAN CARLO HONDA GRESINI
#51 Michele Pirro – 9th Moto2 2011 – 1 win/2 podiums/1 poles
Pirro campaigns for the San Carlo Gresini Honda team, the only hybrid factory prototype/CRT squad in the MotoGP paddock. The Gresini CRT mount is powered by a Honda CBR1000RR engine tuned by SBK’s Ten Kate, and an FTR chassis. Pirro was one of the last riders to test his new mount, though he tallied some respectable times amongst the CRT field. The 25-year-old Italian moves up from Moto2, where he finished ninth in the championship with one win, two podiums and one pole position to his credit.
#68 Yonny Hernandez – 19th Moto2 2011 – 0 wins/0 podiums/0 poles
Avintia Racing fields a two-rider squad piloting Kawasaki-powered FTR chassis. Hernandez is the young talent in the Avintia duo, the 23-year-old Colombian moving up within the BQR team from Moto2. After an off-season hand injury, and rumors that he might lose his seat without sponsorship (like Anthony West), Hernandez got his first testing in at Sepang. Thus far the Avintia mounts have trailed even other CRT entries by a significant margin.
#22 Ivan Silva – 2011 CEV Stock Extreme Champion
Silva joins Hernandez on the Avintia racing squad. The Spaniard most recently competed in his domestic CEV Buckler series, where he took the Stock Extreme title in 2011. Silva does have limited MotoGP experience, having served as a replacement rider back in the 990 era as well as a single Grand Prix start in 2007 – all with Ducati teams.