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GP Week : Issue 194
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Next weekend’s closing round of 2013 in Valencia will mark the end of an era – if a period of only two years and with such an underwhelming presence can be dignified with such a word. It’s goodbye to the CRT bikes: the production-powered privateer MotoGP bikes introduced last year to bump up grid numbers. That’s what they were for, and that is what they did. And it’s hello to ‘Open’ MotoGP bikes, whose own era begins the day after the race, when Valencia tests officially start the 2014 season, with all its new rules. Many of the bikes will be the same: so far there are just six customers for the real Open generation – factory supplied production racers. These are cloned and downgraded factory bikes, running Dorna-supplied control electronics, with access to four more litres of fuel (24) and 12 rather than five engines. Honda have a version of their dominant RC213V in the showrooms now: the RCV1000R has steel rather than pneumatic valve springs, and costs a bit more than 1-million Euros. Honda have sold four – one to the Gresini team for Scott Redding, one to Karel Abraham for himself, and two to the Aspar team, for Nicky Hayden and A.N .Other. Looks pretty handy, on first reports, but the Dorna-pleasing price means each one sells at a big loss to Honda. Just as well they’ve only sold four ... or is that not how it works? Yamaha only offered engines first-up, and have sold/leased two, to the NGM Forward team for Colin Edwards and Aleix Espargaro. At first only engines, apparently very similar to the factory unit, were available, but after some sob-stories from the only customer they agreed to provide a short chassis as well, though only as a stop-gap. The rest of the 2014 grid will clearly be made up of the same old back-marker CRT bikes, renamed as Open Class. There are signs of some development: the Avintia Blusens team have just one pneumatic-spring head in operation and are planning a destroked crankshaft to further increase their Kawasaki engine’s rev ceiling. Promises of a heavily upgraded ART with magnesium engine cases, pneumatic valve springs and a seamless-shirt gearbox however have faded, with a new factory racing policy and the departure of chief engineer Dall’Igna to Ducati. In spite of the new name, these CRT bikes will soldier on much as they do now, providing background music to the real script. To be fair, Aprilia’s ART has, if very well ridden, been able to pester the Ducatis at tighter tracks. The rest don’t have a prayer of anything better than a private battle for a small handful of bottom-end points. In fact, there was always another agenda to Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta’s invention of this unloved category. They were introduced after obdurate refusal by the factories to cut costs of their lease machine, to prove that his threat of banning the factories altogether was not entirely idle. In that purpose, the bikes have succeeded, at least for the moment. If in 2015 there is a greater take-up of the production racers we also have some much closer racing in prospect, for those challenging the factories. Although how long Honda and Yamaha will be prepared to sell production racers at a loss remains to be seen. THE MORE THINGS CHANGE ... OPINION OPINION MIChaeL SCOtt MotoGP Editor