Though highly anticipated, the return of the 1000cc machines to the MotoGP from 2012 could end up having an unexpected effect on grid numbers. Reports have been rife that Honda will be reducing their involvement in MotoGP from 6 to just 4 bikes from 2012, dropping the third Repsol Honda and leaving the San Carlo Gresini Honda with just a single bike for 2012.
According to reports in today's Corriere dello Sport, as reported by GPOne.com, team boss Fausto Gresini is looking to adapt to the new situation by splitting his garage in two. On the one side, Marco Simoncelli is likely to continue on a Honda RC213V, though negotiations are still ongoing as to the level of support from HRC that Simoncelli can expect. On the other side, Gresini has a problem, for though he has the budget for a two-rider team, he has so far been unable to persuade Honda to give him a second RC213V, he told the Corriere dello Sport.
Instead, Gresini could solve the problem by becoming a hybrid team. Simoncelli's Honda would be entered under the rules for factory machines - 1000cc, 21 liters of fuel, 6 engines per season - but the second bike could be entered under the CRT rules. Gresini has been in talks about entering an Aprilia-powered machine as a CRT bike, which would allow the San Carlo team's second rider more fuel - 24 liters instead of 21 - and twice as many engines. Precisely which chassis such an Aprilia-powered bike would use was not clear, though the CRT rules ban the use of a production chassis, as used by the Aprilia RSV4 Superbike.
The reaction of the MSMA will be interesting to hear. The CRT rules have been introduced as the existing manufacturers - assembled in the MSMA - have consistently failed to supply a full grid, yet the claiming rule was put in place precisely to prevent the entry of factories currently not competing in MotoGP from sneaking in under the guise of a CRT. Their fear is that factories such as Aprilia may provide bikes and support to a team such as Gresini and be a factory team in all but name.
If Gresini is to be accepted as a CRT entry, his entry must first be put to the Grand Prix Commission. The Grand Prix Commission must accept the entry unanimously for Gresini to be accepted as a CRT, which means that the MSMA have the power of veto over such an entry. Gresini could end up functioning as the first test case of the CRT regulations.