The status of the FB Corse project has been shrouded in mystery ever since the Italian team announced they would be contesting the 2010 MotoGP season. Though the bike has been officially presented, and details about the three-cylinder MotoGP machine widely circulated, the bike has yet to turn a wheel in public, and no one knows whether the bike is even capable of achieving race speeds. This latter point has caused some concern inside IRTA, the organization representing the race teams and charged with ensuring the quality of the teams involved. IRTA boss Mike Trimby told MCN last week that FB Corse would not be allowed to take part in MotoGP until the bike had demonstrated its competitiveness, by lapping at a Grand Prix circuit within three seconds of race pace.
FB Corse has now risen to that challenge. Today, the team issued a press release stating that Garry McCoy is to test the FB01 at Valencia on the 15th and 16th of March, before running a timed test in front of Franco Uncini, who will be watching the test on behalf of Dorna. A representative from IRTA will also be present to monitor the test, to ensure the team is proficient enough to be allowed into the MotoGP paddock.
With the announcement of the test, the FB Corse team takes a step towards reality, leaving the status of vaporware behind it. But the challenge ahead should not be underestimated: To satisfy Dorna and IRTA, the FB01 will have to lap at around 1'35. The last time a brand new MotoGP machine was introduced at Valencia, the Ilmor X3 managed that pace relatively comfortably. It was Garry McCoy who set those times then, at the last race of the year in 2006, but the Ilmor had the weight of a long-established racing engineering firm behind it. Though the FB Corse is being developed with Oral Engineering - a similarly well-established firm - the team itself is less of a known quantity.
But in 12 days time, any such questions will be answered. By then, we should know whether the MotoGP grid will have 17 or 18 bikes on the grid at Qatar.