The final CRT machine has at last taken to the track. Today at Imola, Michele Pirro took the San Carlo Gresini FTR Honda machine out on track for the very first time, putting in some 20 laps of the Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit. The test was very much a shakedown, Pirro and his crew focusing on making sure that everything worked correctly before starting work on setup from tomorrow.
The times were a long way off the pace that will be required, GPOne reporting that Pirro lapped some 4 seconds slower than the World Superbikes do at Imola. But lap times were not at stake on Friday: this was the first time the bike saw the track, the first time Pirro had ridden the bike, and the first time Pirro had ever used the MotoGP Bridgestone tires. Setting the times of a rookie rider on a brand new bike and unknown tires against a series which races regularly at the track does not make for a particularly accurate comparison. With Pirro due to work on his riding position, the ergonomics of footpegs, seat and bars, and the first few steps on the Cosworth Pi electronics, the bike should make some progress over the next couple of days.
Pirro had been particularly impressed by the power of the engine. The Ten Kate-tuned Honda CBR1000RR engine has a claimed 225 horsepower, and Pirro described the power as "frightening". Much of the work to be carried out at Imola and next week at Jerez will focus on the electronics, to make the power delivery more manageable. The Italian had also been worried about using the Bridgestone tires for the frist time, and had spoken to former MotoGP rider Marco Melandri ahead of the test. The BMW World Superbike rider had warned Pirro to treat the tires with care, but Pirro's first acquaintance with the tires had been positive, the tires behaving as he expected.
Work for Pirro and his Gresini team continues on Saturday and Sunday, before they head to Jerez for the final IRTA test ahead of the season opener at Qatar.