To say Randy de Puniet had a tough season this year might be an understatement. Seemingly finding his groove at LCR Honda during the 2010 season, RdP found himself going into the 2011 known more for his well-raced finishes than gravel trap disappointments. The Frenchman showed a new maturity with his riding, and many thought his riding style would suit the troublesome Ducati Desmosedici GP11 well.

While the beginning of the season often saw de Puniet the fastest of the Italian bikes, it was clear that the move to Pramac Ducati was a misstep in the rider’s career. Jumping ship for 2012, and clear that he did not want to race in World Superbike or on a CRT machine, de Puniet seemingly had a number of options in front of him despite the 2011 season winding to a close: a return to LCR Honda, a factory ride with Rizla Suzuki, and ties to the well-run Aspar MotoGP team.

Those options would be limited though, as 2011 Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl was shoe-horned into the LCR Honda squad to keep the pretense alive that Moto2 prepared riders to race in MotoGP. Similarly the rug was pulled out from underneath the Frenchman, as Rizla Suzuki got its plugged pulled almost immediately after RdP tested the Suzuki GSV-R, with promising results we might add. Left with few other choices, and certainly none of them better, it comes with little surprise then that Jorge “Aspar” Martinez’s MotoGP team has announced that Randy de Puniet will be one of its two riders for the 2012 MotoGP season.

De Puniet will be joined by former-MotoGP/Moto2 racer Aleix Espargaró on the two bike team. Dropping Ducati and announcing that Team Aspar will run an all CRT effort, the Spanish team will use Aprilia-powered bikes (De Puniet tested one of these bikes at Jerez last week). While a chassis manufacturer has not been announced, paddock gossip has been suggesting that Aprilia could be supplying a custom chassis for the racing effort. If you’ve been following MotoGP and the CRT movement closely, your eyebrows should be raised right now.

“We are really happy because we find ourselves with a brand new challenge ahead of us and we have full faith that CRT is the future of MotoGP, which is why we are amongst the first to join this initiative,” said Team Owner Jorge Martínez. “As a team we continue to grow and after having a single rider for our first two seasons in MotoGP we will now have two in Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaró. I am pleased to welcome Randy back to the team; he was already with us back in 2005 and we have good memories.”

“Aleix was also with us in 2009 although it was only for two races. We are sure that this will be a successful project with the riders we have but also with the engine supplier, which will be Aprilia. We always wanted to stick with them for this project because of the fabulous relationship we have with them and their pedigree in the smaller classes. Our objective this season is to be the best CRT team and to prepare for another step forward in 2013”.

“I am very happy to return to the Aspar Team, having already raced with them in 2005 during my 250cc career,” explained Randy de Puniet. “I have very fond memories of that time and now we are taking on a new challenge together in the shape of CRT. I know that this is a very competitive team and they will be fighting to have the best material available. We have already tested and gathered a lot of good feedback. CRT is the future of MotoGP and even though we have a lot of work ahead of us it will be enjoyable.”

“The objective for next season will be to adapt as soon as possible to this new prototype and gradually close the gap to the factory bikes,” the Frenchman continued. “Testing at Jerez was very productive, we had good weather and managed to gather a lot of good data. The lap times were interesting even though we are obviously a long way off the motorcycle we will start the season with so I am very pleased with how everything is coming together.”

“First of all I am very excited to join the Aspar Team and especially to be returning to MotoGP, which is a huge source of motivation for me,” exclaimed Aleix Espargaró. “In 2010 I had a pretty positive season and I would have liked to continue for another year. I think that with my height and weight I should be more suited to the category and I am sure we’ll have a good year and get some great results for the Aspar Team.”

“CRT is a totally new concept and we will have a lot of work to do at the start but I have joined the Aspar Team because they comes with certain guarantees and I know they won’t take this challenge lightly,” continued the Spaniard. “They are very professional and I am sure they will develop a great motorcycle. I am delighted to be involved with this new project.”

Source: Team Aspar; Photo: MotoGP

  • SBPilot

    The frame maker is pretty much believed to be Aprilia…and it closely resembles the RSV4 frame which definitely raises eyebrows. The rear tail section that would attach to the subframe is identical to the RSV4 WSBK bike. The frame is heavily based off the WSBK frame.

    We don’t know much modifications does a production frame need to have to be considered a prototype, probably not much. Also the fact that in WSBK their frames/swingarms are modified anyway!

    Sounds more like an Aprilia factory team run by Maprfre Aspar guys. Much like Kawasaki was run by PBM or now Provec. This new CRT stuff and Aprilia pulling this act is going to surely blur the line between WSBK and MotoGP.

    WSBK needs to drastically make their rules more like BSB to further differentiate themselves from MotoGP and solidify themselves as the much cheaper, more exciting/closer racing, premier production racing series. Spec ECU is a must, especially since MotoGP is going that route for 2013, and I think stock swing arms, and no carbon fibre bodywork must be in the cards soon.

  • Macguytpa

    @SBPilot – I agree that WSBK rules have gotten out of hand, the bikes are so modified now they are only hairs breadth away from being prototype bikes. I am not completely familiar with the tech regs of BSB and we do not get any coverage here in the states, but the current AMA rules have produced close racing and at least appears to have reduced some costs for the teams. I would like to see WSBK machinery a little more advanced than national series bikes since it is suppose to be the world premier class for production machines but not so modified that they are prototypes.

  • Ed Gray

    I don’t have problem with the “factories” supplying any part of a CRT machine. The control factor is the claiming price. There should be a claiming price on the frame as well.

    I prefer the world and national superbike rules to be identical, for the purpose of comparison, wild card teams, and I hate to say it cost control.

    My opinion on chassis regulations for superbike is that no modification allowed to the structural parts that attach to the engine and suspension parts. The suspension parts should be free of regulation.

  • chris

    any 1000cc motorcycle that can qualify within 110% of pole should be able to race, and wild card entries should be able to use whatever brand tire they choose. boom shakalacka boom.

  • Ricardo

    Allow teams to claim the whole bike and see how the factories will not even think of using the back door.

  • Performance Bike magazine reported that Bridgepoint Capital, owners of Dorna, have purchased WSB. Hopefully, this will lead to clear distinctions between prototype racing and production racing, not a blurring of the lines.

    That said, I like the idea about CRT because it is driving chassis innovation; but hopefully this will not lead to production engines across the board like Moto2.

  • SBPilot

    @Macguytpa BSB for 2012 has taken massive steps. Apart from reducing from two bikes to one bikes, the new rules have a Spec ECU and absolutely no electronics! No traction control, no wheelie control, no launch control etc. I think it’s going to be quite the show. I think WSBK needs to take this direction very soon.