With the engine allocation rules now in their third season, the factories have the system down to a tee. So much so that even though Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies have both lost an engine due to a blow up, both men should make it easily to the end of the season, needing only to shuffle their engines slightly more often than normal. The fact that Casey Stoner made it to the end of the 2011 season having used just 5 of the 6 engines allowed show just how well the current factories have the situation in hand.
Things are not quite so simple for the CRT teams, however. The teams face two challenges. The first is rather obvious: this is the first year that the teams are racing under the Claiming Rules, and they have no experience of running these engines with a restricted allocation of engines. In World Superbikes, where the racing versions of these engines have been developed, there are no limits on engines, and the teams can swap the engines as often as they like.
The second challenge faced by CRTs is related to the first: the engines currently being used by the CRT teams were not developed with the engine allocation rules in mind. Where the factories have built their prototypes taking the allocation rules into account - building the engines to allow valves and internals to be inspected without breaking the engine seals - the CRTs are using engines originally developed for road bikes and modified for World Superbikes, built to be stripped and rebuilt whenever there is a need to access the engine internals. Checking the state of the engine without breaking seals was simply not a consideration during the design phase.
The problem is apparent from the engine usage charts provided by Dorna. Where the usage charts from the factories make for fairly dull reading, the CRT engine charts tell tales of struggling to juggle engines to ensure that the teams will make the end of the season without being forced to start from pit lane at some point.
Armed with the engine usage charts, we spoke to Gino Borsoi, manager of the Power Electronics Aspar team currently fielding Randy De Puniet and Aleix Espargaro in MotoGP. We asked Borsoi about the teams concerns over engine usage: Both De Puniet and Espargaro have had four of their twelve engines withdrawn from their allocations, and are well into their allotment of engines. De Puniet has already taken his ninth engine, while Espargaro is on his eighth.
Q: It seems you're using quite a lot of engines.
Gino Borsoi: Not a lot. We use a little bit more than we expected, but not too much. At the moment, we are on schedule. So, perhaps one engine more would be better, but anyway, we are on schedule.
Q: How well do the engines last in MotoGP with the engine restrictions? We know in World Superbikes, they can freshen the engines a lot more often. Are these engines strong enough to race in MotoGP with these restrictions or would it be easier if you could have more freedom to change them? Is there any weak point in the engine?
GB: At the moment, one engine per season more would be better, for sure. If they change the rule and allow us one engine more, for us it would be better. But anyway, this is the rule, so we need to work on it and fix our problem. The engine from Superbikes we cannot use. They have more power, but they do just 200 km, so for us it's impossible. We found a good solution right now, because if we don't get a problem, the life of our engine is 1,200 - 1,300 km, which is on schedule. But sometimes this season we broke an engine before 1000 km. So this is our problem right now, not because the engine is not able to do more than 1000 km, but just because we had a problem.
Q: Not because there is a particular weakness?
GB: Two times we were unlucky. And also for us and for Aprilia, this is the first season with these kind of rules, so they have to understand what they need.. So it's not so easy, because it's a completely different system to Superbikes, they must understand, they must learn and we must learn. During the season we get two stupid problems with a stupid story, and we lost two engines, so … But at the moment we are on schedule. Of course, if we break another engine, we are in trouble.
Q: From 2014, there will be a spec ECU, and this is to be offered to the CRT teams for 2013. Would a spec ECU be a problem for you, or would you prefer to keep the Aprilia electronics?
GB: We just talked yesterday about the future. We really didn't know how the electronics worked, so perhaps [standard] electronics would help us or maybe not. We need to compare, understand, if it's better or not and then decide. Anyway, for me it's the right way, to have standard electronics for everybody. Reducing RPM and standard electronics is the right way for everybody for sure. For sure it would close the gap to the prototypes. We are already quite close, but if they reduce RPM for next season, we are more close for sure, around 1 second.
Below is the engine allocation list for the two Power Electronics Aspar riders, Randy De Puniet and Aleix Espargaro:
|Randy de Puniet||Aleix Espargaro|