The final day of testing at Jerez for the CRT machines saw them claim their place as fully-fledged MotoGP machines. Randy de Puniet ended the day as the fastest of the Aprilia ART machines, finishing with a best time of 1:40.3, just three tenths behind Hector Barbera on the satellite Ducati - still basically the GP Zero which was tested at Valencia, and developed over the winter - and perhaps more significantly, right around the pace the satellite bikes were setting at Jerez in 2011, at just the bike's third test. Jerez confirmed that the CRT concept can work - at least, for bikes with an Aprilia engine and electronics.
De Puniet was impressed after the three-day test, at the progress made on the bike and at the potential the bike has. The Frenchman had not expected to be running low 1:40 laps, but the improvements the Aspar team had found in the electronics and suspension settings had helped a lot. Some of the issues with rear grip had been solved, but the chatter the bike suffered with the 2012 Bridgestone tires remained. De Puniet was also pleased to be able to tag onto the back of Hector Barbera on the satellite Ducati, and get a feel for where the CRT bikes stand with respect to the factory prototypes. The Aprilia was plenty fast in the corners, De Puniet opined to MotoGP.com, but they were down on power, meaning that though it was possible to post fast lap times, overtaking any satellite bikes they encountered would be difficult. With more work on the electronics, he hoped they would be able to find more power. That, he said, was the major weakness of the bike, being down on power on the prototypes. Work to improve that would continue at Aragon in just over a week time, and with a new seat unit coming to give him a better position on the bike, De Puniet was confident of taking a few more tenths off the lap times of the bikes.
If De Puniet was happy, his Aspar teammate was positively radiant. Aleix Espargaro had lost most of the first two days to illness, but had made much more progress on the final day of the test. His aim before the test was to leave Jerez with a low 1'42, so to manage to lap in the low 1'41s made him very happy indeed. The one problem which he still faced was grip with the hard tires, but given that they were managing to put a lot of laps on the soft tires, that was not a matter of immediate concern.
Aspar team manager Gino Borsoi was also very happy with the progress made. The team now understood the bike much better, including the new chassis and the 2012 Bridgestone tires. They had worked through a lot of modification to setup, and worked well in improving the electronics. Overall, the bike was much more competitive than everyone had expected, the Aspar manager added, telling MotoGP.com "CRT is not so far back as people said." They would only really know where they stood at the IRTA test in Jerez, once the CRT bikes and factory prototypes were on track together.
But for all of the CRT riders at the Jerez test, the objective was the same: to be the fastest of the CRT bikes, and to try to catch the slower satellite machines. Speed Master's Mattia Pasini felt that he too was in the running to be fastest CRT, and was happy with the amount of progress being made. Taking a second off his best time every day left him ahead of his target, and pleased at the changes being made. He was adapting his riding style to the MotoGP machines, and learning his way around the electronics. Compared to Moto2, the bikes were "a lot more extreme," he told MotoGP.com, adding that getting the bike right was "70% electronics setup".
Pasini's compatriot Danilo Petrucci was similarly impressed at the pace of progress, especially given the current state of development of the IODA bike. IODA's MotoGP program started just one month ago, Petrucci told MotoGP.com, and already they were close to the satellite times. The times were even more impressive given that the steel-trellis-framed IODA machine was fitted with an Aprilia RSV4 engine in Superstock trim and steel instead of carbon brakes. But Petrucci did not underestimate the size of the challenge ahead of him. Understanding the Bridgestone tires was difficult, he said, and he needed to change his riding style to cope with the bike. The crashes that Petrucci suffered had held them back too, he said, losing almost an entire day due to damaged bikes. But Petrucci was also looking forward to Aragon, and getting carbon brakes and a better engine fitted to the IODA bike.
James Ellison had also not spent as much time on the bike as he had wanted, as he and his team all needed to get to know and understand the Aprilia ART. Ellison had also ridden the bike with steel brakes, and had noticed a real difference when it came to braking markers. But most of all, Ellison was impressed by the potential of the bike, bettering his times every single time he left the pits, and learning a lot by following Randy de Puniet around. Where Petrucci had struggled with the Bridgestones, Ellison had been surprised by the massive amounts of grip on offer. That, he conceded, was perhaps because he was still a little way off the pace, and he was looking forward to becoming fast enough to start facing the problems that the other riders were reporting.
The man that the CRT bikes spent all day chasing was Hector Barbera, the Pramac Ducati rider getting a good long session on the bike currently being called the GP Zero, the aluminium twin-spar chassis which Barbera and the other Ducati riders had tested at Valencia, and which had seen some development over the winter, though not as much as the GP12 ridden by factory Ducati men Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. The bike Barbera was testing was the same as the one he had ridden at Sepang, Barbera said, but with some electronic updates to help improve the bike. Barbera was happiest at having another day on the bike before heading back to Sepang for the second MotoGP test, and was glad to have improved on the time that he set here during the race weekend back in April of 2011.
Barbera - and Karel Abraham yesterday - was on the track because of the absence of Nicky Hayden. The Ducati test team had booked the track for Hayden to spend more time on the GP12, but with the American opting to have surgery to fix his shoulder, he was not fit enough to ride this week. So instead, Ducati Corse chief Filippo Preziosi said, they had offered the time to the satellite riders instead, to give them a chance to spend a little more time on the bike. Regular tester Franco "Iron Frank" Battaini was also at the track, and he had spent his time working on electronics strategies, Preziosi said. Despite having ridden the satellite machine and an older version of the bike - the post-Aragon machine with an aluminium subframe, but still using the basic monocoque design - the strategies found were usable on the factory machines of Rossi and Hayden, and would be tested further by the Factory duo at Sepang.
The CRT teams now head home, to work on the data gathered during the test. They now have to wait until March 8th, when the CRT machines will assemble at the Aragon track for the final separate CRT test. After that, their next appointment is back in Jerez, at the official IRTA test, on the 23rd to the 25th of March. There the CRT bikes will face the full MotoGP field, and we will see where they truly stand against the factory prototypes. On the evidence presented so far, they could upset a few satellite bikes sooner rather than later.
Unofficial times as reported by the teams to MotoGP.com:
|1||Hector Barbera||Ducati Satellite||1:40.00|
|2||Randy De Puniet||ART||1:40.30||0.3||0.3|
Jerez MotoGP race lap record: 2010, Dani Pedrosa - 1:39.731
Fastest lap at previous CRT test at Jerez at the end of November: Randy de Puniet, 1:41.5
Improvement over duration of test:
|Pos||Rider||Bike||Day 1-2||Day 3||Improvement|
|1||Randy De Puniet||ART||1:41.6||1:40.30||1.3|