As had been widely anticipated, Colin Edwards today announced that he would be leaving the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team to join NGM Forward for 2012 to race a CRT machine. At a very well-attended press conference, which featured Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, as well as NGM CEO Stefano Nesi and Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari, the Forward Racing team presented its plans for next year. Though there is no official confirmation of which engine or chassis the team will be using for 2012, Edwards was emphatic that the bike would be based around a Yamaha R1 engine, while also hoping that Tech 3 would supply a chassis designed by Guy Coulon to fit the engine in.
The move had come about after Edwards has been persuaded of merits of the CRT project, Edwards told the press conference. "I want to thank Mr Ezpeleta, he had a vision in the economic times where the motorcycle industry is struggling," Edwards said. "This is obviously the future: look at other sports, you take a chassis, put an engine in and this is where we're going." The new rules had been the attraction, Edwards said. "Once I got to talking to the team and understanding what the situation was and understanding the rules, I became more motivated. I've always been a good test rider, I've worked for many years working on developing bikes and I felt that this was my next challenge."
Edwards reiterated what he told Asphalt & Rubber a week ago at Indianapolis: that having the three extra liters of fuel would give the bikes a chance to compete with the factory bikes at some tracks like the Sachsenring and Laguna Seca. At others, such as Mugello they would get "murdered" but that was part of the bargain. He also confirmed that he bike will be based around a Yamaha powerplant. "We will be riding a Yamaha engine," Edwards said, "As far as the chassis, we're still weighing up options. My number 1 option would be for Herve Poncharal, Guy Coulon and Tech 3 build a chassis for us. We're still in negotations about that, but for me, that would be the dream team, to have a Yamaha engine in a Tech 3 chassis."
After the press conference, Herve Poncharal denied that Tech 3 was building a chassis for a CRT bike. Asked by a group of French reporters and MotoMatters.com whether Guy Coulon was building a bike, Poncharal said they were not. "We have nothing on paper, we don't even have an R1 engine in our workshop," Poncharal affirmed, in spite of rumors at Indy that Coulon had already built a chassis for the R1. Poncharal did confirm that Edwards had spent a lot of time in talks with Yamaha USA about the project at Indianapolis, and though the Frenchman was not aware of the outcome of those talks, the fact that Edwards was so emphatic about Yamaha supplying an engine seemed to point in that way. "I'm a part of the Yamaha family, and always will be," Edwards said.
Carmelo Ezpeleta told the press conference that he was delighted to be present at the presentation of the first actual team to confirm its entry as a CRT. The CRT project was the future of MotoGP, he affirmed, telling the press conference "This is a very important day. It is the first step of the regulations we created, and this is the first team to enter as a CRT, but it won't be the last." The aim of the CRT rules was to cut costs and allow a greater participation, Ezpeleta affirmed. "This will be the main category of bikes in the future. In two years, the majoriy of bikes with be CRT, and in the future, all bikes will be this way." The goal was to have six CRT entries in the championship next year, and while it would be hard for a CRT bike to win, the aim was to make them competitive with the satellite entries.
What had made this entry possible was the backing of NGM, an Italian manufacturer of mobile phones. The company had been delighted with the exposure they had received from their Moto2 entry, NGM boss Stefano Nesi told the press conference, and the increased exposure in the MotoGP class would help them to both grow in their domestic market and increase the visibility of the brand in the new markets they were targeting. The CRT concept was crucial, as the much lower price for a CRT machine offered them the opportunity to take part in the premier class. The money required for a satellite machine - rumored to be between 2.9 and 3 million euros a year - was simply not a viable proposition, but a CRT bike would give similar visibility at much less than half the price.
So far, though, the bike has not turned a wheel, indeed, it doesn't even exist yet. Any bike will need a great deal of testing before the season starts in Qatar next year, but Herve Poncharal explained that, just as with Moto2, the CRT teams would not be subject to the testing limits in place on the factory and satellite MotoGP teams. The extra testing is based on a technicality: because the CRT machines will not be official entries until the first race of the year, before then, they do not fall under the MotoGP regulations. The added testing will be welcome, as the only CRT machine to be tested so far - the BMW-powered Suter - was some 4 seconds off the pace at Brno, though this was a significant improvement since the Mugello test, where they had been over 6 seconds behind Honda's 800. Edwards was confident he could do better than that, though. "I'm not gonna come here to run 4 seconds off the pace, I mean come here to work my ass off, and we're gonna get this bike working, pretty simple."