At Aragon I was knocked off, at Sepang I jumped the start, Australia we had the pit stops and Japan we had no practice. I arrived at Valencia and thought that we'd have a crack at it but it was the worst weekend on the ART. For whatever reason the bike didn't work and it was either chattering or wheel spinning and I was fighting it all weekend.
I struggled like hell all weekend and then got on the PBM bike on Monday and went a second quicker and consistently faster than I had been going all weekend. That was my only clear weekend and I really struggled to make the bike work better. I never really got a crack on it and when I was fast on the ART, like at Aragon on the first weekend with it, I had potential for points and the same in Sepang and Australia but bad luck and circumstances [worked against us].
One of the nicest things was rocking up to Valencia and having the upgrades for the PBM and actually seeing that the potential that I said we had at the start of the year was now apparent. The upgrades were electronic and the chassis was pretty much the same as what Damo [Cudlin] had on Sunday and it was way easier to stop and didn't wheelie as much and I could ride it so much more aggressively. I said from the word go that the bike didn't stop and that it made it difficult for but on the Monday I thought, 'Whoa, this is a different bike to ride,' and I had a good test on it.
I did similar laps on the last day as Espargaro's best Aprilia laps so could get the most out of it and it was working well. You could say then that if you gave me ten more horsepower that I would be going a second a lap faster and it would have put me in the back of the top ten territory. I was really happy with how it was going and that was the first time that I felt that I could ride it aggressively and rear wheel steer. It was working good for me and I was on a good rhythm on it.
It's frustrating as hell in one way thinking 'why couldn't we have this five months ago?' But in another it was good to see light at the end of the tunnel and that once we got those upgrades it was nice and gave us some fresh impetus that if we continue with the PBM bike for 2014 that we can turn it around and hopefully chase after the Ioda team and the Blusens team who will still be on CRT spec bikes, whereas those Production Honda and Production Yamaha bikes will be very strong.
The Production Yamaha that Espargaro and Edwards got for the test was basically Bradley Smith's semi-factory Yamaha will be difficult but the target is to take it to 1.5-2s off next year. This year I was 2.5-3s off no matter what we did so next year we want to take it to 1.5s and if we can do that we'll be in the race.
When I rode Espargaro's 2014 ART, I got 12 laps on the Wednesday, and I think that the speed trap speeds were only a couple of miles an hour slower than the Production Honda but with our engines from this year it was 6 or 7 mph. I think that if Aprilia give us the Spec 4 from the start of the year we won't be too far away but we're hoping for a Spec 5 and that may not arrive until June, we're not sure but it might be quite late, before we get the pneumatic valves and stuff.
So we'll still be at a horsepower deficit but if we can improve the chassis and electronics and hopefully Aprilia give us some more horsepower than I think that we could be quite good. At the moment it's still up in the air because we could still be riding ARTs and that decision is still to be made.
Is the full ART bike still an option on the table?
Definitely it's still an option. As of last week Aprilia asked us to put a proposal to them for what we would need to run it. Basically we came up with the numbers for what it would take for us to the run the PBM and it went back to Aprilia so the ball is in their course.
Personally I see it that Ioda will run the ARTs with Camier and Petrucci and we'll run the PBMs with Aprilia engines. I think that could have already happened but I could be wrong and Aprilia might turn around and say that they could do as we are asking. That would probably give us the 2013 chassis but I would maybe prefer it if was the PBM chassis.