Wednesday, February 1, 2012

HRC boss talks CRT MotoGP

HRC executive vice president Shuhei Nakamoto is ready to discuss how to close the performance gap between the new CRT bikes and established manufacturer prototypes - but made clear Honda is 'not interested' in an all-CRT MotoGP championship. 

CRTs, Claiming Rule Teams, are a new initiative to boost MotoGP grid numbers, to coincide with the move from 800 to 1000cc engines. Essentially privateer constructors, the nine CRT entries will be using modified Superbike engines in a racing chassis. 

They are able to benefit from fuel capacity and engine-change concessions relative to the twelve bikes built by Honda, Yamaha and Ducati - but cannot 'represent' any manufacturer and must sell their engines, if requested, for 20,000 euros. 

The problem at present is that whenever CRTs have shared the track with the 'full' prototypes, they have languished significantly off the pace, prompting fears of a two-tier championship. 

The best CRT was 4.1sec from the top at Valencia last November and 6.5sec adrift during Tuesday's opening day at Sepang in Malaysia. 

Times from a private CRT test with the Aprilia (ART) bike at Valencia this week look more promising (see separate story), but the question remains - how fast should a CRT be? 

On the eve of this week's Sepang MotoGP test Nakamoto made an interesting comparison between the previous 800cc bikes and a Superbike, around the Suzuka circuit in Japan. 

“The CRT concept is ok, but at Valencia the lap time difference was too much. So we have to think how to make the gap closer,” said Nakamoto, whose Repsol Honda team won the 2011 MotoGP title with Casey Stoner. 

“In Honda's experience, a Superbike machine with HRC test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi set a lap time at Suzuka only one-second different to the time with an 800cc prototype. 

“But at Valencia the difference was much bigger. We must think about this area. I don't think this difference is only the machine. It is very difficult to find a good rider for a CRT machine. I would like to discuss this area as well.”

As well as making CRTs more competitive, Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta is also keen to cut the cost of a 'customer' MotoGP bike to around 1 million euros for 2013.

Negotiations with the manufacturers are on-going for both these issues. Nakamoto made clear that Honda is willing to compromise, but would not be interested if all MotoGP bikes had to race under CRT-type rules.

“The economic situation is very bad for everyone. Technically and from a sporting point of view [the manufacturers] will make some suggestions to Carmelo regarding CRT and the future of MotoGP,” he said.

“If only CRT, we at Honda are not interested,” Nakamoto declared.

May has been targeted as the deadline for an agreement on the 2013 rules.


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