With the names of the teams admitted to the next stage of the entry process for the 2012 MotoGP season, attention is turning to who will be supplying the future teams with bikes. It is an open secret that Norton have submitted a request for two grid slots for next season, entering as a factory team - therefore limited to 9 engines for a season and 21 liters of fuel. But the more interesting prospect is who will be riding what as a CRT team, with a range of possibilities open.
As far as chassis are concerned, Suter, FTR, Kalex and Moriwaki are all either building or believed to be building a CRT frame. But what engine to hang in that frame is a rather different question. The rules state that the engines may have a maximum of four cylinders and a maximum bore of 81mm, and outside of custom-built MotoGP engines (rumors abound of KTM putting their old V4 MotoGP engine back into service), the two production engines being pointed to as a starting point for a MotoGP CRT machine are the BMW S1000RR lump and Aprilia's RSV4 unit. Both engines are close to the 81mm bore limit, and both have proven they are easily capable of producing the horsepower. That the BMW engine will be used is beyond question, as Suter are already testing the lump in their CRT machine.
Now, Aprilia have revealed that they have received several requests about using their RSV4 Superbike engine from CRT teams. Speaking to Italian website GPOne.com, the head of Aprilia's World Superbike program, Gigi Dall'Igna confirmed that several teams had expressed an interest in the engine. The Italian was careful to avoid any hint of factory involvement with the CRT teams, though. "If someone decides to buy an RSV4 to racing in MotoGP with a CRT bike, I would not be able to stop them. Obviously they would receive no assistance from us. It's just business." So, GPOne.com asked, if a team wanted to compete as a CRT team in 2012, they could buy an Aprilia RSV-4, and modify it and lighten it to their own ends? "That's exactly the case," Dall'Igna responded.
There are a number of benefits to using an RSV4 engine as the starting point for a CRT powerplant. Not least because the original cylinders are already machined to allow the use of gear-driven cams, a modification which the factory World Superbike squad employed last season, until a rule change made the sets illegal. Given that there will be no limits to engine modification for the CRT bikes (other than the stated limitations of 1000cc and a maximum bore of 81mm), fitting gear-driven cams will be one of the first things a team will want to do, to allow for more precise valve timing.
The major difference between the World Superbike rules and MotoGP is of course the engine allocation limit. In World Superbikes, teams are free to use as many engines during the season as they see fit, but in 2012, the MotoGP CRT teams will have just 12 engines to last an entire season. That should not be a problem, Dall'Igna avowed. When asked how many races a WSBK-spec engine could run inbetween being stripped down for revision, Dall'Igna said "Easily two before revision."
Given that at a recent private test, Max Biaggi was comfortably matching the top speed of the Ducati Desmosedici GP11 MotoGP machine along Mugello's searingly fast front straight, there is no doubt that the Aprilia RSV4 produces sufficient horsepower to make it competitive. The only question remains just how well the privateer CRT teams will be able to master the electronics that racing in MotoGP demands, even with an extra 3 liters of fuel over the factory bikes.