While the new category of privateer 'Claiming Rule Teams' has arrived just in time to fill the 2012 grid, discussions are underway to point MotoGP in a clearer direction for 2013 and beyond.

Following Suzuki's departure and a reduction in satellite entries, full prototypes have been reduced from 17 to 12 for this season - each of the remaining manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha and Ducati) supplying two factory and two satellite bikes.

But the grid will still rise to 21 courtesy of the nine new CRT entries, running Superbike-based engines in a prototype chassis.

Extra fuel and engine concessions will be available to help the CRTs compete and the controversial Aprilia project has set lap times that suggest its top riders will be in touch with slowest satellite machines.

However other CRTs have far less resources and the difference in technology between the front and back of the 2012 grid could be greater than at any point in premier-class history. As a result, track performance is likely to be just as varied.

"The concept of CRT we agree with... but the lap time difference is too big at this moment," said HRC executive vice president Shuhei Nakamoto, who has previously stated that Honda test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi was only one second slower on a Superbike than on an 800cc RC212V at Suzuka.

But none of the three factories are against the CRT concept. After all, where would the 2012 MotoGP World Championship be without it? Nevertheless, this season is very much transitional, with May targeted as the deadline for agreeing the full set of proposals for 2013 and beyond.

The challenge facing MotoGP can be broadly split between deciding on new rules for the manufacturers and those for privateer customer teams:

The manufacturers need a revised set of technical and sporting rules that substantially reduce the costs of entering a full prototype, whilst retaining enough technical freedom for meaningful R&D and, where possible, helping 'the show' (click here for more).

Meanwhile Dorna, wary of its previous total dependence on the factories, wants to strengthen the CRT concept by ensuring there is always an affordable and competitive supply of grid-filling machines for customer teams. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has listed a target price of around 1 million euros per year for these bikes, whether CRT or satellite.

"The first step was to have enough bikes on the grid. We have that. Now the second thing is to have them competitive," explained Ezpeleta.

And therein lies what looks like an impossible balance: Allow factories to continue developing go-faster technology for their cutting-edge prototypes, without letting the CRTs - built for a fraction of the cost and presently powered by road-based engines- get left behind.

Some form of equalisation rules are the only way to bridge the manufacturer-CRT gap, and for 2012 these will be in the rather blunt form of three litres more fuel (per race) and six extra engine changes (per season).

Such positive discrimination is the simplest way to raise CRTs to MotoGP pace, but is something of a double-edged sword. The manufacturers will surely petition for a change if some CRTs become too competitive and the racing could be seen as artificial by the fans.

But what are the alternatives?

One way to naturally reduce the gap would be for manufacturers to assist the CRTs through the supply of MotoGP engines, for example, which could reduce the need for the fuel and engine-change concessions.

"This is one of the solutions," said Masahiko Nakajima, general manager of Yamaha's Motorsport Development Division. "But if Yamaha supplies a MotoGP engine to a team, the team will also need an engineer from Yamaha. So human resource is quite difficult."

In the past such engine-only proposals have proven almost as expensive as a full satellite bike and no manufacturer will be prepared to have its latest MotoGP engine technology possibly 'claimed' by a rival, as the CRT rules dictate.

Following Aprilia's lead and building a complete CRT machine, based on less-secretive Superbike technology, got an even less enthusiastic reception from Nakajima: "Production based racing is in World Superbike."

The message seems to be that the manufacturers, whilst accepting the need for CRT, do not want to get directly involved and would like it to remain a distinctly separate category.

This backs up previous comments by Livio Suppo, communication and marketing Director for HRC: "You can try to close the gap between a CRT and a full prototype. Or you can have a clearly different machine in the same race, as happens in the Le Mans 24 Hours for example. I think this is an easier way."

There also seems little chance that a cheap supply of front-running satellite bikes will suddenly materialise for the customers - Ducati Corse general manager Filippo Preziosi pointing out that factory-spec bikes will always have factory costs.

"Our idea is to keep our product at a certain level, so we are open to leasing the bikes - not selling," said Preziosi. Selling, rather than leasing, being an unwritten part of meeting the CRT criteria.

"And it is important to understand what the satellite teams are asking us for. If they are asking for the factory spec, there are factory costs. If they are happy about a different spec - maybe the bike from the previous year or something - the cost would be different.

"But if you want factory spec at CRT cost, that is difficult to manage!"

According to LCR Honda boss Lucio Cecchinello, the present satellite MotoGP lease fee is around 3 million euros, so a massive 66% reduction would be needed to meet Ezpeleta's target.

But if CRT and satellite involvement by the MSMA members is unlikely to radically change, how do the manufacturers plan to ensure there are enough competitive bikes on the future MotoGP grid?

The answer, it seems, is that the factories want more factories...

"If other manufacturers, for example Suzuki, Kawasaki, BMW and Aprilia, can join MotoGP [this] is the best solution," said Nakajima. "So we have to reduce the development cost, race management logistics - all the MotoGP costs need to be reduced.

"Technical and sporting rules will have to change to do this, but allowing development is one of the essential matters for manufacturers. Getting the balance right is difficult."

Some might say Aprilia has already returned to MotoGP, through the creation of its new 'ART' CRT bike, to be used by the Aspar, Speed Master and PBM teams.

Aprilia's plans to sell a full CRT machine based upon its world championship winning RSV4 Superbike became apparent last November.

Ducati general manager Claudio Domenicali subsequently stated it was "not in the spirit of CRT", an opinion backed by Honda's Nakamoto. "We agree... if it is a factory machine it is not a CRT," he said.

Despite such objections, the MSMA must have previously voted in favour of granting the Aprilia teams CRT status, since: "Approval of CRT status is subject to unanimity among all the members of the Grand Prix Commission."

Yamaha's Nakajima was more diplomatic, saying that he hopes Aprilia will use its 2012 CRT experience as the basis for a full MotoGP return.

"[If] in the future Aprilia joins MotoGP with a pure factory machine, that is very welcome," he said. "If Aprilia can learn a lot of things this year then come back to MotoGP I'm very happy.

"We have to look at performance in the CRT teams with the Aprilia. Some people say this is not CRT..."

The main concern among the manufacturers is that the Aprilia 'ART' is benefitting from concessions aimed at aiding 'small assemblers'.

"More fuel and more engines was something that we accepted because the idea was that this kind of bike is 'home made' and not by factories," said Preziosi of the CRT rules

"A factory has a different level of knowledge, a different level of resources, so they have to compete under the same rules. But because others, a small assembler, have a different level of knowledge and resources, it is fair to do that."

CRT status must be renewed each year but "can be withdrawn at any time by a majority decision of the GPC members".

Such a mid-season change would be difficult for the MSMA to achieve since fellow Grand Prix Commission members IRTA (teams) and Dorna have been keen to support the new category and Aprilia's presence has given CRT a massive boost. The FIM is the other member of the GPC.

However it is not hard to imagine that the MSMA will look more critically when it comes to giving its agreement for the 2013 CRT applications.

The five other 2012 CRT bikes are being built by Suter (one), FTR (three) and Ioda (one). In addition to the RSV4 powerplant, Honda, BMW and Kawasaki Superbike engines will be present - although there is nothing to prevent a CRT running a prototype engine.

The full 2012 MotoGP grid will be on track together for the first time during the final pre-season test, at Jerez from March 23-25.


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