Free Practice 2 for the Qatar GP has just finished at the Losail International Circuit, and the speed gap between the prototypes and the CRTs is abundantly clear. One of the faster tracks on the MotoGP calendar, everyone in the paddock knew going into the Qatar GP that the power advantage held by the Ducati, Honda, & Yamaha prototypes would be apparent down Losail’s .664 mile front straightaway. But now after getting to see how the two bike classifications stack up on the same course and on the same day, the results from FP1 & FP2 show a 13.6 mph gap between the tops CRTs to the top prototype GP bikes.
Likely to be marked as the start of significant chapter in MotoGP history, the claiming rule teams (CRTs) were out in Jerez the past three days testing their MotoGP machinery, which is comprised of production-motorcycle motors with custom-built chassis. While not the first time we’ve seen a CRT bike on the track, the outing was the first time that a”top-tier” rider was on-board the new racing format motorcycles, as Colin Edwards lead the charge with his BMW/Suter machine with NGM Forward Racing.
Many in the MotoGP paddock have been waiting to cast their verdict on the CRT endeavor, withholding their judgments until a top GP rider took to the helm of a CRT machine and properly put the bike through its paces. With tests earlier in the year showing Mika Kallio on-board the BMW/Suter to be over six seconds off the pace of the 800cc-era machines, the CRT future of MotoGP looked to be in jeopardy. Those lap times improved over the year to be “only” four seconds off that 1,000-era bike pace, showing improvement, yet a gap to the front-runners.
Now with Edwards finally swinging a leg over the BMW S1000RR-powered Suter prototype, surely more comparisons between the factory prototypes and CRT offerings are to ensue. Posting a best lap time of 1’40.188 at the Spanish GP earlier this year, Edwards was roughly 2.5 seconds off his own pace, finishing the three-day test with a best lap to f 1’42.6. That news seems discouraging on its face, though it should be noted that the team dropped 1.3 seconds between Wednesday and Thursday’s tests.
Edwards also rated the bike at about 65% of its potential, while the Texan’s own fitness was questionable, as Edwards was till recovering from the injuries he sustained at the Malaysian GP. WIth all those caveat, does this week’s test equate to excuses for a lackluster performance, or justify that more leaps and gains will be made before the start of the 2012 MotoGP Championship?
With the announcement that Colin Edwards would be unable to attend and race the Valencian GP because of injuries he sustained during the tragic incident that killed Marco Simoncelli, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 said earlier today that it was looking into a replacement rider for the last MotoGP round. With speculation swirling after Tech 3′s announcement, Asphalt & Rubber has now been able to confirm that AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes will be the Texas Tornardo’s replacement at Valencia.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Colin Edwards will miss the 2011 MotoGP Championship’s final round in Valencia next weekend, as the 37-year-old Texan will require surgery on his left arm after the tragic three-rider incident at the Malaysian GP that ended the life of Marco Simoncelli. Edwards was assessed by orthopedic specialist Dr. Henry Small at the University General Hospital in Houston on Wednesday, and it was confirmed that the veteran MotoGP rider has multiple small fractures to the top of his left humerus bone, as well as damage to the cartilage around the tip of the humerus bone.
Also suffering severe bruising and swelling to both wrists as well as his right heel in the accident, Edwards was fortunate not to sustain any additional fractures in these areas. Scheduled to undergo surgery on Tuesday next week, the required four-week recovery period will preclude Edwards from competing in the Valenican GP, and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 is currently considering a replacement rider for the Texas Tornado. With 2011 the last season Edwards was to race with Tech 3, this end to the season is certainly not how either party wanted to end their relationship together.
With just two rounds left in the season, MotoGP comes to Sepang this weekend for the Malaysian GP. Dominating the Free Practice sessions, Honda clearly has the Asian track’s number, while the rest of the field shows signs of a long season. Hector Barbera leads the walking-wounded, as the Spanish rider has fought through the race weekend, nursing his stapled shoulder through each session. Barely able to complete a few laps at a time, there are serious doubts about the Mapfire Ducati rider’s ability to ride the full-race distance, though no one is questioning his determination.
While Barbera will likely give the race his best effort, Rizla Suzuki wild card John Hopkins has already thrown in the towel, as the extreme physical demands have aggrivated Hopper’s hand injury beyond his tolerance. In the Yamaha tent, Jorge Lorenzo is of course absent, after his traumatic finger injury in Phillip Island. Replaced by Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Lorenzo’s absence and an ailing Ben Spies have made Sepang another forgettable race weekend for Yamaha Racing. Still sore from his high-speed crash in Australia, the American Spies has noticeably not been himself, with his chest and ribs still bothering him considerably. The one glimmer of hope for Yamaha in Malaysia has been Colin Edwards, who has been one of the few riders able to mix things up with the four factory Hondas.
Though grip issues from the intense heat have plagued the field throughout the weekend, Sepang has otherwise provided MotoGP with perfect weather for the Malaysian GP. The heat has been a mixed bag for Ducati Corse, as Valentino Rossi and his crew have noticeably been off the pace, and not able to capitalize on the team’s off-season testing at Sepang. Meanwhile, Nicky Hayden has been shining on the Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1, as the American and former-World Champion has been the Italian bike to beat, and have been showing strong second row potential. How would everyone sort out in qualifying though? You can find out after the jump.
AMA Pro Racing Champion Josh Hayes will get a chance to swing a leg over some MotoGP machinery later this year, as the American rider will get to ride with the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad at the post-season test in Valencia. Taking place immediately after the final 2011 MotoGP round in Valencia, Hayes will ride Colin Edwards’ 800cc Yamaha YZR-M1, as the Texan Tornado will presumably be released from his Tech 3 duties so that he can begin testing his CRT bike at the first 2012 season test. The ride is joint-promotion by both Monster and Yamaha USA, and it also sees Josh Hayes’ better half, Melissa Paris, riding Bradley Smith’s Tech 3 Tech 3 Mistral 610 Moto2 race bike at the Spanish test.
As we published at the Indianapolis GP this past weekend, Colin Edwards’ time in the Monster Yamaha Tech3 garage seemed to be coming to an end, as the veteran MotoGP racer and former-World Superbike Champion was linked to several other possibilities in WSBK and MotoGP for the 2012 season. Making his thoughts clear, Edwards believes there’s some value to the claiming rule team (CRT) formula, saying ”I think there’ll be tracks where it’s going to surprise some people.”
Finally releasing his plans for the 2012 season, Edwards announced today at the San Marino GP that he will race for the Italian NGM Forward Racing team, on a CRT bike, next season. While the team has been linked to a BMW/Suter motor and chassis, Edwards will use instead an R1 motor with a custom chassis. The preference right now is for Tech3′s Guy Coulon to make a chassis for the R1 motor, as the team did for its own Moto2 effort, but nothing has been finalized with the French MotoGP team.
The CRT rumors continue to swell around Colin Edwards, as the American rider is now being linked to the Italian NGM Forward Racing team for the 2012 MotoGP racing season. Slated to make an announcement at Misano about his future, Edwards has made no secret to the fact that he’s intrigued with the CRT’s possibilities. ”I think there’ll be tracks where it’s going to surprise some people,” said Edwards to Asphalt & Rubber while talking about the CRT formula’s potential.
While Edwards also went on to say that “there will be tracks I think where a CRT bike will get its doors blown off,” the two-time World Superbike Champion concluded his thoughts on the subject saying that an R1 motor in a custom chassis would be a lethal combo. “For me, the weapon of choice if you were going to go CRT would be that. 100%.”
Such a Yamaha-derived solution would have likely come from Edwards’ current team: Monster Yamaha Tech 3, which has had a healthy relationship with Yamaha over the years, and also has a strong history of being the top satellite effort in MotoGP. Talking to Guy Coulon, Edwards’s crew chief at Tech 3, A&R has learned that at the very least Tech 3 has explored the idea of a CRT bike with an R1 motor at one point. Coulon briefly outlined to us that he had all the necessary schematics and specifications, based in-part from his Moto2 chassis design, to build a prototype frame for the production motor, but just needed word from on-high to undertake such a project.
Also joining Nicky Hayden at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway teleconference was the venerable Colin Edwards, who took some time off from scoping and loading his new 338 Edge rifle to talk to Asphalt & Rubber and a select group of other journalists about the MotoGP season and the upcoming Indianapolis round. By his own admission, Edwards is not having as good of a season this year in MotoGP as he would like, with many in the paddock wondering if 2011 is the Texas Tornado’s last year in MotoGP. Saying that he wasn’t ready to retire, Edwards hinted that some announcements were coming down the line, though probably not in time for the Indianapolis GP.
“Will we make any kind of announcement at Indy? Probably not. Misano, maybe, I don’t know,” mused Edwards. “We’ve got a few pieces of the puzzle laying around. We’ve just got to put those pieces together. Probably the worst thing is that I’m not ready to retire. That would make it easy for everybody. But at the moment, I’m still enjoying it. I’m still having a good time, and I’m still motivated. Until that goes away, I’m going to ride motorcycles.” Read the rest of the teleconference transcript after the jump.
Make no mistake about the fact that we are well into the 2011 Silly Season, a festive time where paddock gossip is rife with the movings and rumors of where riders and teams will land for the following season. With MotoGP set this weekend to make its second American appearance for the year, we are kicking off the rumormill reports properly with talk of where Colin Edwards will race in 2012. Rumored to be in World Superbike for 2012, the Texan Tornado has been linked to both a factory Ducati ride in WSBK and a factory seat at BMW Motorrad.
Speaking to Asphalt & Rubber and other journalists at a conference call hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday (a transcript of that is in the works), Edwards alluded to the fact that we wouldn’t hear about his future plans at Indy, and likely not at the San Marino GP as well. The Texan did clue the assembled press into the fact that he wasn’t ready to retire his racing spurs yet, and would likely be racing in some form or another for the 2012 season.