The changes to MotoGP for 2012 are getting into full swing. After the first mixed test of old-style factory prototypes and CRT machines at Valencia, more projects for 2012 are starting to break cover.
The latest project to emerge is the San Carlo Gresini Honda team's CBR-powered project. While Alvaro Bautista is to pilot the prototype Honda RC213V machine originally destined for Marco Simoncelli, Gresini did not have the budget to run a second factory prototype, and so the team elected to run the second bike as a CRT entry. Today, Gresini announced that the bike is to be built by FTR, and will be powered by a Honda CBR1000RR engine. The rider is yet to be announced, though with the Spaniard Bautista signed to the RC213V machine, the chances are high that it will be an Italian, to keep Gresini's sponsor San Carlo happy. Michele Pirro, currrently racing for Gresini in Moto2, is the current favorite candidate, though his teammate Yuki Takahashi has also been linked to the ride.
Though Gresini's intention to run a second bike as a CRT entry had been known for some time, it took a long time for the exact details of the project to materialize. Gresini's original plan was to run an Aprilia-powered machine, but HRC apparently insisted that both bikes in the garage must be powered by Honda engines. When Ronald and Gerrit ten Kate appeared - the cousins who run the Ten Kate World Superbike squad, currently competing as Castrol Honda - in the paddock at Valencia, rumors emerged that Ten Kate would be building the MotoGP bike for Gresini. Now, Gresini have announced that they have selected FTR to build the chassis for their Honda CBR1000RR-powered machine, though doubtless the experience gained by Ten Kate in WSBK would come in handy when preparing a CBR1000 engine, especially given that whoever tunes the engine will have a free hand to modify and tune the engine as they wish. As the Honda has the narrowest bore (76mm) of the current generation of 1000cc sportsbikes which look likely to power next year's crop of CRT machines, it will be harder to produce the power needed to make the bike competitive. Though the rules allow complete freedom to modify an engine as the team sees fit, increasing the bore of the Honda to the maximum allowable 81mm would require extensive headwork as well, and that would drive up costs significantly.
Producing the chassis for Gresini's machine will be the easiest part of the project. The CBR1000RR engine is not radically different to the CBR600RR powerplant currently being used by the Moto2 machines. FTR also have experience in building a CRT machine for an inline four, having produced the Kawasaki-powered machine to be raced by Yonny Hernandez for BQR next year.
Below is the official press release from Gresini announcing the tie-up:
TEAM SAN CARLO HONDA GRESINI JOINS WITH FTR FROM 2012
Team San Carlo Honda Gresini will join forces with British bikes manufacturers FTR Moto as they embark on a new adventure as a CRT (Claiming Rules Team) in the MotoGP World Championship in 2012. The new FTR MGP12 machine will assemble an Honda CBR 1000R engine and will begin testing soon with a rider soon to be announced as the team embarks on the necessary technical development ahead of the new campaign.
Fausto Gresini "It is a source of great satisfaction that we have reached an agreement with FTR Moto to take part in the new MotoGP series, CRT. The battle between the Claiming Rule Teams will be an exciting one and we are entering it with great enthusiasm. Our willingness to take part was always based on the condition that we had the right technical partner and with FTR Moto and a Honda CBR 1000R engine we believe we can build a competitive bike for this new category. It is a new adventure that appeals to our racing spirit and it could prove to be the future of MotoGP. We will work our hardest and I am sure we will have great results together."
Steve Bones (CEO – FTR Moto) "We are absolutely delighted to start up a partnership with Team San Carlo Honda Gresini and to join them on a new adventure in MotoGP. Team Gresini have shown over the years that they are technically competent, as their numerous successes prove, and we are sure that will continue alongside FTR on this new adventure. The growing interest in the new MotoGP-CRT category is exciting for all of us and we can't wait to get on track as soon as possible to start developing the bike and breaking new technical boundaries."