MotoGP grid sizes to swell with CRTs

This week saw confirmation by the FIM, world motorcycle racings governing body, that six “claiming rules teams” have been granted places on the MotoGP next season in a bid to increase grid sizes in the premier class.

The new teams, all promoted from Moto2, will race production based engines with customer chassis. As a result there is little chance of the new teams competing at the sharp end of the field. However with dispensations, such as an extra three litres of fuel and additional engines to use throughout the year, the new teams could be well placed to spring a surprise at some races where fuel is marginal for their factory rivals.

The new teams are Kiefer, BQR, Forward, Marc VDS, Paddock GP, and Speed Master. Each team is exceptionally well funded for the intermediate Moto2 class and should be well placed to get a sufficient budget for next season. But with little to no knowledge of the complex electronic systems that a MotoGP bike needs to use they will be at a severe disadvantage.

Moto2 the teams are given a standard ECU (electronic control unit) that they cannot modify in any way. While the Moto2 teams are unable to change the electronics the MotoGP teams have free reign to do as they please with their systems. As a result some of the most amazing technology found in the premier class is actually programming code.

An example of this area of development is the system that Yamaha uses that allows the bike to “learn” throughout a wet race. Taking data from the opening three laps, and every subsequent lap, Yamaha have developed a system that allows their bike to understand the grip levels at each corner of the lap. With an array of sensors feeding information to the ECU the bike can determine what percentage of throttle will lead to an accident and will cut the power to the rear wheel if the rider is too aggressive and thus avoid a crash.

How can a Moto2 team possibly get up to speed in using such a system between now and the start of 2012? With development and adjustment to their machinery limited the Moto2 teams have gained some experience of using a four-stroke engine and been able to teach their riders how to adapt to 600cc machinery but the ability to make drastic setup changes is limited in Moto2. Unlike in the predecessor to the Moto2 class, 250GP, riders and engineers crucially no longer learn the intricacies of developing a bike and setting it up in as much detail.

This will obviously handicap them in their first year in MotoGP and make the step up to the premier class exceptionally difficult. The new teams and riders therefore will be hard pressed to show their capabilities and while it will look good to have 24 bikes on the grid once again, assuming that new factories do enter the fray, will there actually be any changes to the racing next season?

While their competitiveness will be at the centre of discussions about the new teams in the lead up to the start of next season the big question is who will ride the machinery. There is little doubt about four of the seats. Moto2 championship leader, Stefan Bradl, is sure to move into the premier class about the Kiefer Racing machine. The team will also be all but certain to use the Kalex chassis that the German manufacturer is developing and it would be of little surprise to see it powered by a BMW engine and thus form an all German entry.

Bradl is clearly a star of the future and the CRT rule could be quite helpful for him in many ways. He will learn, with no pressure on his shoulders, about riding the bigger machinery before moving to a factory team in 2013 and thus bypassing the “rookie rule” in the process. The rookie rule stipulates that riders need to spend at least one year in the MotoGP class before becoming factory riders but with the speed and consistency that Bradl has shown so far in 2011 there is no doubt that factories will be clamouring to get hold of him in 2013.

The Marc VDS squad have already been testing a Suter chassis with a BMW engine. The team have struggled in Moto2 this year but have shown signs of progress lately, particularly at Silverstone. Scott Redding, the youngest ever Grand Prix winner, will be the favourite to take the ride. The Englishman has consistently been hampered by his size as he has progressed through the ranks of Grand Prix racing but he should be perfectly suited to riding in MotoGP

Paddock GP will race Thomas Luthi next season. The former 125cc world champion has been very impressive this year with consistent performances. His previous problems of qualifying at the front of the field have been all but eliminated and now the Swiss rider looks ready to take his first intermediate class victory.

The Speed Master squad was set up last year around Andrea Iannone and therefore it would be a massive shock if the Italian was not involved. It remains to be seen what chassis and engine combination is used but an Aprilia World Superbike engine twinned with an FTR chassis would not be too surprising.

BQR and Forward Racing are the only entries that do not have what could be considered as “sure fire” riders. The teams will therefore be looking to hire riders from other Moto2 teams or from World Superbikes.

With BQR linked to a Kawasaki engine a rider such as Loan Lascorz might to appealing to the team. MZ Moto2 rider Anthony West would also be an interesting rider choice. The Australian has ridden in MotoGP before and his development skills are highly regarded by Kawasaki for whom he has raced in numerous series.

Riders such as Alex de Angelis and Aleix Espargaro would also be of interest to both squads. Both riders have relevant, and recent, MotoGP experience and are exceptionally fast. Whether either rider would be willing to return to the premier class on machinery that is all but guaranteed to be uncompetitive though would be the biggest stumbling block.

As a result the teams will surely have to look for other riders and with Mika Kallio unhappy at Marc VDS the Finn, a former factory Ducati rider, could be a very attractive proposition for Forward Racing.

For years MotoGP was able to say that two wheeled racing was far more exciting than Formula 1. But with F1 thriving with exceptional racing it is now imperative that the new 1000cc MotoGP regulations work. The new CRT teams are integral to the future success of the class but don’t hold your breath on their competitiveness straight off the bat.

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