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MotoGP 15

CRT bikes: some perspective

The question is: are CRT bikes too slow? It depends on your viewpoint. If you are Jorge Lorenzo, under pressure from Dani Pedrosa as you come upon a backmarker at a crucial corner, then, yes, they probably are too slow. But if you are able to stand back and look at CRT bikes from a historical perspective then, no, they are not too slow.

The fact is that during six decades of Grand Prix racing the sport has never been rich enough to afford a grid full of machines of similar performance. Well, that did happen once, in those heady few years between 2002 and 2006 when the new MotoGP class was bankrolled by the tobacco industry – anxious to spend, spend, spend before the advertising ban kicked in – and a motorcycle industry that hadn’t yet worked out that it couldn’t afford four-stroke GP bikes and hadn’t yet been be knocked flat by the global economic crisis. Once the factory accountants had taken a good look at the books, most of them made a swift exit: Kawasaki, Aprilia, KTM, Suzuki and others.

At all other times, from the birth of GP racing in 1949 until now, grids have consisted of a dramatically contrasting mix of cutting-edge factory machines at the front and budget-priced bitzas at the back. That’s just the way it is.

motogp race  CRT bikes: some perspective

Qualifying times reveal all. If we take a random selection of grid times from history – comparing pole position to 15th fastest – you will see that CRT bikes aren’t very slow at all.

At Sepang last year, 15th place on the grid was 3.8 seconds off pole. Ten years earlier, when MotoGP was brand new and chock full of factory prototypes, the gap at Estoril was just 1.3 seconds. But if you go further back the gap widens again, quite considerably. At Brno in 1991 there were 7.1 seconds between pole and 15th, at Assen in 1982 the difference was 6.9 seconds and at Mugello in 1976 it was 6.5 seconds. Qualifying times aren’t recorded from much earlier than that, but look at the 1967 championship and you will see that it wasn’t unusual for the winner (usually Giacomo Agostini on his MV triple or Mike Hailwood on his Honda four) to lap everyone – usually privateers mostly riding ancient British singles – all the way to second or third place. At Hockenheim in ’67 Ago lapped everyone twice, including the considerably talented Peter Williams, aboard a Matchless G50, who finished second! That’s a lap difference of something like 9.6 seconds, between first and second place.

I’m not saying that the facts of history make ultra-slow tail-enders okay, but they do allow one to examine MotoGP’s current predicament with a little objectivity, which is always crucial to the true understanding of anything. During 64 years of GP racing, there have only been five or six seasons of equal machinery. In other words, don’t panic Mr Carmelo Ezpeleta.

Quite rightly, Dorna is trying to narrow the gap anyway. And already it is narrowing. At last year’s first Sepang tests the best CRT bike was 3.2 seconds down, eight months later at the Sepang GP the gap was 2.9 seconds and at Sepang last week it had shrunk to 2.5. Now, if you put Pedrosa or Lorenzo on Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia ART perhaps the gap would shrink another half a second or so. In other words, there’s not a huge difference between the best protos and the best CRTs – let’s say about 1.7 per cent. That’s not a lot when a full-factory RCV costs – at a wild guess – five times more than an ART powered by a streetbike engine.

motogp race  CRT bikes: some perspective

Next year, when new rules designed to curb the performance of the prototypes and boost the performance of CRT bikes come into force, the gap will narrow some more. The arrival of Honda’s production RCV may also give privateers a chance of getting closer to the front, though some CRT teams are already shaking their heads at the predicted price of the machine. The RCV is expected to cost about £870,000, or about three times as much as an FTR Kawasaki or Suter BMW. Honda’s announcement of the ‘budget’ RCV led many (including myself) to predict the demise of CRT bikes from next year, but now I’m not so sure. Motorcycle racing has always been a mostly skint sport and especially in these straitened times 800 grand is too much for many teams.

PS: thanks to my Twitter followers for helping me work out the difference between Ago’s and Williams’ Hockenheim lap times. I wish I was clever like that…

motogp race  CRT bikes: some perspective

Add your comments

15 comments on CRT bikes: some perspective

  1. Screamin', 13 February 2013 15:40

    Very nice article.. thank you for that historic perspective on the CRTs…

    I still don’t understand how the Honda production racer follows any rules (it’s not an MSMA or a CRT). If teams won’t be able to claim the engine for the same price as current CRT engines, then whats the point of having the claiming rules?

    The production racer shouldn’t be able to use the extra fuel that the CRT bikes use unless teams can claim the engine for the standard CRT price.

  2. Mat Oxley, 13 February 2013 17:53

    To screamin… the CRT claiming are being quietly forgotten about. From 2014 you will have factory protos and then everything else, inc the RCV, so-called CRTs and other stuff, possibly leased YZR-M1 engines in FTR chassis etc (though Dorna want Yam to sell engines, not lease them, while Yam say they don’t wan to sell their MotoGP tech to just anyone). There will be various rules that aim to bring the two groups closer together, to ,say, a 1.5 second gap, which is pretty good. Re production RCV, remember that CRT bikes don’t have to use street engines.

  3. N. Weingart, 13 February 2013 18:40

    Looking back at the history of Grands Prix is a good exercise. It re-balances our preception of the present by stepping away from all the static. Interesting comment on the pricing of the “Proddie” RCV. I had not read any private team comments on this subject.

  4. Roger Downes, 13 February 2013 19:46

    Interesting write up. Certainly we have all been spoilt by so many factory bikes on the grid during the early 2000s, and it comes as a bit of a disappointment to many fans when there are only 12 full prototypes on the grid. Initially i was sceptical about the CRTs, but i think they have fitted in well. In fact i find it intriguing when a CRT beats one of the prototypes!

  5. thebrokenbone, 14 February 2013 00:05

    i would like to point that, in the 70′s Ago would lap every soul on, like you said, old singles. their comparative cost was waaaaaayyy lower than the mv ago was riding. so the crt in this relation price vs time differential over the prototyp,es vs the old machines blah blah.. i think that crt´s ARE slow. ;)

  6. Karthik, 14 February 2013 06:37

    last year was wait and watch, this year i can see the CRT’s improving lil by lil, how many times i wished last year the ART’s would pass the factory Duc’s.
    Ahem maybe this year afterall.
    i Wish Uncle Carmelo gives a consession of 18 engines ie – engine rebuilds essentially, that should make the engines more powerful and the laptimes drop by .5-1 second for sure.
    Maybe CRT’s will have Engines in a better state of tune this season making a reasonable jump in horsepower…

    the if’s and maybe’s cant wait for the season to get started.
    Peace MATT :)

  7. P.E., 14 February 2013 12:54

    I see a problem here, some moto2 bikes run faster than CRTs.
    But anyway, couldnt honda make some 1000motors (moto2 style) hand them to geotech for tunning and sell them or rent them to teams? Couldnt other factories do that also? Kawasaki renting high tunned motors to private teams for example.

    By the way, from my point of view, I wouldnt mind having no official teams racing. I feel wathching private teams fight to take the glory is more satisfying.

  8. Marty Harris, 14 February 2013 14:49

    “… a little objectivity, which is always crucial to the true understanding of anything.”

    Truer words have never been spoken Mat!

    Nor, sad to say, so frequently ignored…

  9. Rahman, 16 February 2013 02:36

    Quite sad to see ole Colin Edwards puttering around on a CRT no matter how “fast” they are.

  10. bkwanab, 18 February 2013 02:53

    While not on subject, this brings to mind the question, just how many championships did Read and Ago ‘win’ without any real competition?

  11. Michael Esdaile, 27 April 2013 23:29

    Does anyone else sense the irony in Carmelo Ezpeleta pushing the Moto2 barrow with the argument that the putative 1.2 million Euro lease price for the best Aprilia 250s was too high. But now he is happy for similarly priced MotoGP bikes that will doubtless require mountain of money to maintain. My understanding is that under the old Aprilia 250 lease deal, teams were regularly supplied with fresh engines etc as part of that package. But with the Honda, you buy the bike for about the same money, then you’re on your own. Or is there more in it?

  12. Victor H., 1 June 2013 13:53

    I am not opposed to the CRT bikes and I do enjoy watching the races. Having said that, I have always wondered what MotoGP would look like with no restrictions on weight or horsepower or anything for that matter. I only say this because in my opinion, I think that the technology could leap much farther ahead of where it is if there were no restrictions.
    So what would our racing look like if all the restrictions were gone for the machines for either CRT or Factory prototypes?

  13. kiran, 2 June 2013 13:53

    Great information. Thanks. It is a great sport, much more thrilling then a Formula 1 and much faster too @ 345 kmph in some straights. Hope the sport lasts for ever. Greatest crop of riders too. Of course after reading this article CRTs need deep pockets too. Never thought it costed that much, now cant even imagine how they can manage if a rider crashes his bike on a regular basis & how they foot the costs of constant travel and other over heads.

  14. Dayle, 3 September 2013 12:07

    I think it’s not fair for the Factory Machine Prototypes to decrease the Power of the bikes.It’s just like came back to 800cc years. Rather to evolve to be more powerful every year instead its coming back to be less powerful. So the full potential of the bike will not be seen this years to come if these rules will be apply & continue.DORNA must change the rules. It’s bad for the fans…

  15. Gerard Isaac, 15 September 2013 13:49

    I agree the CRTs are going OK, especially as I want to see more brands of motors being used. I have also followed the cars for about 50 years and am disappointed that all the F1 cars have only one of four brands of motor with only 3 capable of winning races (Renault, Mercedes and Ferrari). The motors all seem to have comparable power with Red Bull using Ferrari motors instead of Renault in their “second string” Toro Rosso team. I think the biggest obstacle to more versatility in either sport is the size of the bank balance, but that has always been an issue at the premier level of motor sport. As for the potential addition of extra teams in Moto GP, I believe Suzuki should definitely be allowed to field a team. They have, after all, been there plenty of times in the past. Also, they have actually won a couple of world championships in the premier class through Barry Sheene, so they have good history on their side. If we can’t have a bigger grid to accommodate a major manufacturer like them then maybe there could be an earlier non championship race at each meeting, perhaps held quite early in the day. It could be open only to teams that have grid positions below 15. We could then allow only the top 10 from that earlier race to compete in the main event.That way the weaker teams could provide great racing while having the extra chance to get good exposure to the spectators. The extra track time would also help to close the gap in lap times.

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