Chaotic First Day of CRT Test at Sepang Sees Little On-Track Action
The first day of the extra two-day test for the CRT teams laid on to allow the teams using the new Magneti Marelli spec ECU has been almost entirely wasted. A lack of parts and above all, a lack of data with the new system meant that the day was spent mostly in the garage, with very few laps turned out on the track.
Only CAME Ioda's Danilo Petrucci got in any serious track time, the Italian posting a total of 27 laps. All of those laps were set without any assistance from the electronics, however: with no data, the team had no base set up to work from, and Petrucci was lapping without any electronic aid. "It's really hard to ride a bike without any electronic controls," Petrucci posted on Twitter afterwards, a fact that is borne out by his times. Petrucci's fastest lap was a 2'06.841, two seconds slower than his best time from the race weekend at Sepang, and four seconds behind the best CRT time set back in October of last year.
Petrucci's problems illustrate that this test was more of a shakedown than a genuine test. Speaking to MotoGP.com, Colin Edwards described the state of play as succinctly as usual. "It runs and it burns gasoline," he said of his FTR Kawasaki, but even that was only just true. Edwards had only gotten out for a single hurried lap at the very end of the day, as he and teammate Claudio Corti had sat around all day while his team assembled the bikes with parts that had not been delivered to the team in time to be fitted at the workshop. Once he did get out, he reported that there was still masses of work to do to get the electronics working, reporting a sputter at the bottom end off the throttle.
The Blusens Avintia team had similar issues, despite the bike already having been run on the dyno at their home base in Barcelona. Problems with the wiring loom meant the bike kept cutting out, preventing Hector Barbera and Hiroshi Aoyama from posting many laps. When the bike was running, it was clear that a lot of work still needed to be done on getting the fueling right, before the teams can start work on finetuning the electronics.
Hiroshi Aoyama also spent some time testing the wrist he injured in a motocross training crash a few weeks ago. The wrist was still painful, leaving the Japanese rider to assess the condition of his wrist day-by-day. Aoayama is uncertain of completing the test.
The outing for the CRT teams with the new Magneti Marelli electronics package can hardly be viewed as a test. It was more of an initial shakedown, trying to iron out the problems which arise whenever a system is tried for the first time. On the one hand, it is a good thing that the teams have the extra two days of testing to do the initial set up work on the spec electronics package. But on the other hand, having the package available only ahead of the first test at Sepang puts the CRT teams on the back foot, further increasing their disadvantage over the factory prototypes. A longer lead time would have given the teams more time to do shakedown tests of their own, to iron out the inevitable glitchs. Now, they are doing it in public view, and with just a few short weeks before the season starts.
The CRT teams using the spec electronics package have a mountain of work ahead of them. Colin Edwards told MotoGP.com "If we had to race tomorrow, we'd be in really bad shape, so we need to get to that point." Getting to that point requires a huge amount of work gathering and analyzing data, and testing the bikes out on track. As Danilo Petrucci said on Twitter, the team have "no base setup, and about 15,000 numbers to write inside the ECU for complete control." Despite that, the new ECU should be a step forward in the long run. It was "a small step forwards, coming from Bosch, but it's really too early to say," Petrucci told MotoGP.com. The Magneti Marelli ECU may be better in the long run, but in the short term, things are going to be tough.