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GP Week : Issue 145
a conventional twin-spar aluminium unit, the team left the first tests much encouraged. Rossi placed fifth, and more importantly hailed the fact that he could now ride the bike as he liked. The prospect of getting it all dialled in right faded fast at the second round of tests: Valentino and team-mate Nicky Hayden slumped to the back of the factory bikes, and will have to wait until after the start of the season for new parts. If Rossi does regain rostrum form this year, it will be too late to make any difference to the championship. Honda numbers are down to four: Alvaro Bautista (ex-Suzuki) joins the Gresini team to take Marco Simoncelli’s old ride; Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl moves up to join the LCR team. Ducati entries are also down to four, with Karel Abraham in his independent team and ex-Aspar rider Hector Barbera joining Pramac, down to one rider. That makes 12 factory bikes, but the CRT option has served its initial purpose of boosting grid numbers – there are nine of them lining up, and covering a wide range of potential. Top in tests are the factory-made Aprilia ART bikes, very closely based on their successful World Superbike. Sold or even leased as a package, they fly in the face of the spirit of privateer-friendly CRT concept – and if they prove too fast, there is a serious danger not only that the factory teams will repeatedly claim engines (20,000 Euros, though only once a season for each team), or that they will be compulsorily promoted to “factory” status. If that happens, engine allocation will be cut from the CRTs’ 12 to factory- teams’ six; and fuel from 24 litres to 21. The danger is real enough, after Randy de Puniet (riding for the high-level Aspar team) set test times within sight of factory 800s, at his first attempt. Other hot tickets on five Aprilias are his team- mate Aleix Espargaro, and San Marino smaller-class charger Mattia Pasini. There is one Honda-powered entry, Gresini’s FTR-framed bike for Michele Pirro; and one Suter-BMW, for Colin Edwards, the most senior CRT rider; plus two Kawasaki-FTR bikes. The last-named proved worryingly slow at Sepang tests; even Edwards remained more than three seconds off the pace – no Aprilias were present. It should be an interesting year. MOTOGP >>> FEATURE 31 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: