The future of the IODA Racing project for 2014 is looking extremely uncertain. The Italian team, scheduled to race Aprilia ART machinery in the Open class in MotoGP this year, were absent from the first Sepang test, and it appears they will also be absent from the second Sepang test as well.
With so much happening at the front of all three races at Silverstone last Sunday, it is easy to overlook the battles behind. Especially when those battles seem to be falling into a fixed pattern, repeating the results of previous races.
A glance at the results of the MotoGP race Silverstone gives you a sense of déjà vu. While the top three swapped places, positions four to six were identical to their finishes at Brno, places seven to nine differed only in the riders who crashed out, and Aleix Espargaro took tenth spot, as he did in the Czech Republic. A pattern is definitely starting to form here.
With all of the prototype seats occupied for 2014 – barring a contractual bust up between Ducati and Ben Spies, which is only an expensive theoretical possibility at the moment – battle has commenced for the rest of the MotoGP seats regarded as being most competitive. While the factory bikes – the bikes in the factory and satellite teams being raced as MSMA entries – are all taken, the privateer machines – using Dorna spec-ECU software and extra fuel – are still mostly up for grabs.
The three most highly sought after machines are the 2013 Yamaha M1s to be leased by the NGM Forward squad, Honda’s production racer (a modified RC213V with a standard gearbox and metal spring instead of pneumatic valves) and the Aprilia ART bikes, which are a heavily modified version of Aprilia’s RSV4 superbike.
Of the three, only the ART machine is a known quantity, with Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet having raced the bikes with some success in 2012 and 2013, joined by Yonny Hernandez and Karel Abraham this year. Teams and riders will have to guess about the performance of the Yamahas and Hondas, though given the basis of the two machines, it is a safe bet they will be relatively competitive.
The most popular machine among riders is the Yamaha M1, naturally enough. The bike is a near complete 2013 machine, with a few parts excluded, such as the fuel tank, and will utilize the spec-ECU software from Dorna, being developed by the current CRT teams.
Given just how good the 2013 M1 is – Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have won races on it, Cal Crutchlow has scored regular podiums – it is expected to be the best privateer machine on the grid next season, and anyone hoping to advance in the series is angling for a ride on it.
The performance of Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet has made it clear that Aprilia’s ART machine is the bike to be on for any rider not on a factory or satellite machine. There are a lot of reasons for the bike’s success: the engine in its standard state is very strong, the bike handles exceptionally well, and is very easy to ride.
But perhaps the biggest advantage which the Aprilia has is the use of Aprilia’s WSBK-derived electronics package, which is helping to make the bike extremely competitive. “Electronics are 75% of the bike,” Aleix Espargaro said in a recent interview with the Dutch MOTOR Magazine.
And here lies Aprilia’s dilemma. From 2014, Aprilia will be forced to choose. If they wish to continue as a non-factory entry (as the category replacing the CRT will be called), they must use the Dorna-supplied spec-software, written by Magneti Marelli for the spec-ECU.
Though the spec-electronics has made huge bounds in the six months since it was introduced, it is still very much a project under development. However, Aprilia’s software is a proven package, with many years of development behind it.
We have already extensively reported the coming rule changes for the 2014 MotoGP Championship season (most recently the conclusion of the engine claiming rule), so the news today is really more about the FIM has giving its blessing to the new direction that Dorna is taking for the premier class.
Drawing a new distinction now as to how teams are classified as “factory” entries, and thus subject to differing fuel, engine, and entry requirements, the real crux of the equation revolves around whether a team uses the the spec-electronics software from Dorna, or decides to use its own software (note: all teams will be on a spec-ECU from 2014 forth).
The Power Electronics Aspar team have seized the opportunity offered by the CRT rules with both hands. By teaming up with Aprilia and employing two talented and fast riders, Aspar has helped turn the RSV4-based ART machine into a genuinely competitive machine, in every respect except for horsepower.
At Assen, Aleix Espargaro finished eighth, ahead of two factory Ducatis and three other satellite MotoGP machines. The bike is clearly good.
For 2014, however, Aspar must face a dilemma. With the introduction of the spec-electronics system, teams choosing to race the ART bikes will lose the current advantage those machines have, a highly-developed and very effective electronics package.
Teams running ART machines must choose, either to accept the Magneti Marelli developed software, and keep 24 liters of fuel and 12 engines, or persuade Aprilia to port their software to the spec-ECU Marelli, and try to race with 20 liters of fuel and either 5 or 9 engines, depending on whether the Grand Prix Commission decided Aprilia had already been competing in MotoGP as an MSMA member or not.
The Czech Republic’s favorite rider, Karel Abraham, is ready for the 2013 MotoGP Championship, as his Cardion AB team has debuted its Aprilia ART entry. Making the jump from the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 prototype, Abraham will contest his third season in MotoGP on a CRT entry.
With not all CRTs proving to be equal, Cardion AB’s choice of the Aprilia ART seems to be the sensible approach from all the entries available. Built off the Aprilia RSV4 superbike, which itself was built off Aprilia’s failed MotoGP program, Aprilia Racing has developed the entire bike in house, including the ARTs robust electronics package.
Competitive out of the box, it should be with little surprise that leas year saw two ART machines battling closely for the top honors in the makeshift sub-class (Team Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet).
Choosing the Aprilia ART doesn’t guarantee success for young Abraham however, as we saw the ARTs of Speed Master and Paul Bird Motorsports struggle for good results against the other CRT entries.
With the likely factor being money paid to Aprilia Racing (PBM didn’t even bother testing the Aprilia ART once during the 2012 season, instead choosing to develop the bike on race weekends), Cardion AB seems at least well-situated in that regard, having already weather the prices of Ducati Corse’s lease costs on the Desmosedici.
Using a sole Aprilia ART racing machine last season, Paul Bird Motorsports is looking to double-down with the Italian V4 power plant, though for 2013 the British team will split its time between continuing to develop the Aprilia ART with Yonny Hernandez on-board, as well as developing its own racing platform for Michael Laverty.
Building the PBM-o1 with the help of chassis-builder GPMS, PBM will have Laverty also ace with an Aprilia RSV4 engine between his legs, though the rest of the machine will differ from his teammate’s more “factory” machine. Teasing out the first pictures of the PBM-01 chassis by GPMS, Team Principal Paul Bird has teased out some pictures of the team’s new GP chassis with the V4 motor mounted.
Paul Bird Motorsport has finally announced its rider line-up for the 2013 MotoGP season, and unsurprisingly James Ellison is not a part of the team. Bumping up to a two-rider squad, PBM will have Yonny Hernandez and Michael Laverty on dueling, but differing, Aprilia-powered bikes. The Colombian Hernandez will continue PBM’s efforts on the Aprilia ART racking package, while the British Laverty will campaign a British built CRT bike that uses an RSV4 motor.
Laverty’s chassis is reportedly being made by GPMS Technology, and the project is being headed by Phil Borley. PBM’s move to field a team-made bike is an interesting one, especially as the Aprilia ART is one of the most developed CRT packages on the MotoGP grid. Additionally, the team’s choice is interesting after Ellison’s comments about the PBM’s lack of testing and development for the 2012 season, an issue that will have to be turned around if the PBM-CRT project is to have any success.
For qualifying at Phillip Island, it would be safe to say that the weather conditions were tricky. Cold, cloudy, windy, with at times drops of rain, both MotoGP and Moto2 had to overcome the variable climate at the coastal Australian track.
With three turns clocking well over 200 km/h (~125 mph), Phillip Island is a fast circuit, but not necessarily a circuit dominated by bikes with a lot of horsepower. Instead, rhythm is the name of the game at PI, with the riders who are able to navigate the circuit’s intricacies benefiting the most: cue Casey Stoner.
Almost a full season now into the great CRT experiment, Phillip Island is one of the circuits where the production-motor machines can shine brighter, and none of them shine brighter than Team Aspar’s Aprilia ART.
Embarrassing some prototype machines during Saturday’s sessions, Randy de Puniet will start on the grid Sunday right next to Valentino Rossi, having qualified only 0.006 seconds behind the factory Ducati rider. Behind him will be the other prototype Ducatis, with Aleix Espargaro also in the mix.
The progress of the Aprilia ART is said to be down to Aspar getting a new set of motors from Aprilia Racing for the Australian GP, with those new motors making a sizable step in horsepower (+10hp according to Cal Crutchlow).
With the WSBK-spec Aprilia RSV4 Factory proving to be a potent machine in its own right, MotoGP’s CRT riders are clearly benefiting from getting closer to Aprilia Racing’s capabilities, but what about the Honda-powered 600cc Moto2 machines?