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?
With the top Moto2 bikes dangerously close to the lap times of the slower MotoGP CRT machines at Phillip Island, Pol Espargaro managed to do the unthinkable and best Ivan Silva with his Kalex-chassised Moto2 race bike, with a bevy of other riders within MotoGP’s 107% qualifying cut-off.
In fact, if you let the Moto2 riders on the MotoGP grid, you would have an even 40 bikes for Sunday’s race, while Australia’s Kris McLaren would be forced to watch the race from pit lane, as his Avinta Blusens BQR-FTR wasn’t able to make the cut this afternoon.
While many CRT machines have failed to live up to their potential, the Aspar Aprilia ART does show some signs of hope in the class — though there seems to be a three-fold separation in the series now, with CRT teams being behind on machinery, rider talent, and team budgets/preparedness.
For instance, the NGM Forward team has been languishing pretty much all season with its BMW/Suter race bike, but no one would attribute those results to Colin Edwards’ riding ability and the amount of testing that has gone into the project.
Similar thoughts can be said about the other two teams running the Aprilia ART, as both Speed Master and Paul Bird Motorsports have struggled to get out from the back of the pack, despite being on the preferred CRT package.
With PBM said to have basically done no testing this season, and forced to develop the bike on race weekends, the results are not that surprising. It should not be surprising either that the machines in the Aspar garage are a bit different than the ones found at Speedmaster and PBM, a function perhaps of Team Aspar’s funding situation compared to the other smaller outfits.
With only 12 prototypes on the grid next season, and the CRT grid said to expand, it remains to be seen whether the CRTs can make the gap to true MotoGP performance, though things like a spec-ECU might make the difference, as it will allow the less-funded teams to get a boost in their electronics, while simultaneously hindered the factory prototypes.
All of this just fuels the WSBK vs. MotoGP debate, and what differentiates the two series — especially when back in February, Carlos Checa qualified quicker on his Ducati Superbike 1098R than Rossi did on his Ducati Desmosedici GP12.
Qualifying Results from the Australian GP at Phillip Island, Australia:
|1||Casey STONER||AUS||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||335.6||1’29.623||–|
|2||Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||330.6||1’30.140||0.517|
|3||Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||335.7||1’30.575||0.952|
|4||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||332.7||1’30.763||1.140|
|5||Stefan BRADL||GER||LCR Honda MotoGP||Honda||337.1||1’30.798||1.175|
|6||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||334.7||1’31.200||1.577|
|7||Alvaro BAUTISTA||SPA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||Honda||334.9||1’31.490||1.867|
|8||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||337.4||1’31.661||2.038|
|9||Randy DE PUNIET||FRA||Power Electronics Aspar||ART||323.6||1’31.667||2.044|
|10||Nicky HAYDEN||USA||Ducati Team||Ducati||334.4||1’31.681||2.058|
|11||Karel ABRAHAM||CZE||Cardion AB Motoracing||Ducati||339.6||1’31.910||2.287|
|12||Aleix ESPARGARO||SPA||Power Electronics Aspar||ART||319.8||1’31.990||2.367|
|13||Hector BARBERA||SPA||Pramac Racing Team||Ducati||334.1||1’32.231||2.608|
|14||Michele PIRRO||ITA||San Carlo Honda Gresini||FTR||316.8||1’33.050||3.427|
|15||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||Came IodaRacing Project||Ioda-Suter||315.4||1’33.069||3.446|
|16||Colin EDWARDS||USA||NGM Mobile Forward Racing||Suter||321.7||1’33.450||3.827|
|17||James ELLISON||GBR||Paul Bird Motorsport||ART||317.4||1’33.489||3.866|
|18||Roberto ROLFO||ITA||Speed Master||ART||314.0||1’33.577||3.954|
|19||Pol ESPARGARO||SPA||Tuenti Movil HP 40||Kalex||281.3||1’33.705||4.082|
|20||Ivan SILVA||SPA||Avintia Blusens||BQR||313.5||1’34.156||4.533|
|21||Scott REDDING||GBR||Marc VDS Racing Team||Kalex||282.5||1’34.264||4.641|
|22||Marc MARQUEZ||SPA||Team Catalunya Caixa Repsol||Suter||280.8||1’34.408||4.785|
|24||Takaaki NAKAGAMI||JPN||Italtrans Racing Team||Kalex||277.3||1’34.541||4.918|
|25||Randy KRUMMENACHER||SWI||GP Team Switzerland||Kalex||290.7||1’34.596||4.973|
|26||Johann ZARCO||FRA||JIR Moto2||Motobi||285.1||1’34.696||5.073|
|27||Andrea IANNONE||ITA||Speed Master||Speed Up||281.5||1’34.714||5.091|
|28||Anthony WEST||AUS||QMMF Racing Team||Speed Up||278.6||1’34.765||5.142|
|29||Esteve RABAT||SPA||Tuenti Movil HP 40||Kalex||283.1||1’34.900||5.277|
|30||Simone CORSI||ITA||Came IodaRacing Project||FTR||277.6||1’34.973||5.35|
|32||Axel PONS||SPA||Tuenti Movil HP 40||Kalex||281.7||1’35.052||5.429|
|33||Mika KALLIO||FIN||Marc VDS Racing Team||Kalex||291.3||1’35.071||5.448|
|34||Bradley SMITH||GBR||Tech 3 Racing||Tech 3||274.1||1’35.169||5.546|
|35||Xavier SIMEON||BEL||Tech 3 Racing||Tech 3||276.2||1’35.310||5.687|
|36||Julian SIMON||SPA||Blusens Avintia||Suter||280.4||1’35.466||5.843|
|37||Toni ELIAS||SPA||Italtrans Racing Team||Kalex||283.3||1’35.546||5.923|
|38||Mike DI MEGLIO||FRA||Kiefer Racing||Kalex||281.2||1’35.589||5.966|
|39||Jordi TORRES||SPA||Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2||Suter||275.9||1’35.609||5.986|
|40||Ricard CARDUS||SPA||Arguiñano Racing Team||AJR||272.0||1’35.864||6.241|
|DNQ||Kris McLAREN||AUS||Avintia Blusens||BQR||311.6||1’36.324||6.701|
Source: MotoGP; Photo: © 2012 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved