Question marks remain about exactly how competitive the new Open class MotoGP machines will be, but Colin Edwards is certain of one thing - his new FTR-Yamaha has got to better than the CRT motorcycles of the past two seasons.
Edwards, 40 in February, was the most high profile rider to join the new privateer Claiming Rule Team class in 2012 - having claimed twelve MotoGP podiums for Honda and Yamaha, not to mention two WSBK titles.
The Texan initially hoped for an R1-powered bike - all CRT engines were modified Superbike units - but began his new adventure on a Suter-BMW. That relationship turned sour due to a lack of progress and the Forward Racing team switched to an FTR-Kawasaki last season.
Edwards finished second in the CRT category last year, with a best race finish of ninth, but only class champion and new 2014 team-mate Aleix Espargaro was able to provide a regular challenge to the slower manufacturer bikes.
CRT is being replaced by more relaxed 'Open class' rules this year, clearing the way for prototype MotoGP engines which (in theory) could have been 'claimed' under the old rules. Forward Racing will lease full YZR-M1 engines for 2014, plus frame and swing-arm assistance from Yamaha, with FTR supplying the remaining components.
What the new rules don't allow is Factory ECU software. To compensate Open machines can use more race fuel, engine changes, a softer rear tyre and are immune from the in-season engine development freeze.
“We're on Yamahas so it's got to be better,” said Edwards, looking ahead to the 2014 season during a media event at the Circuit of the Americas. “Obviously we have a good package this year.
“I've tested a couple times. I'm headed on a plane here in about a week to go to Malaysia to do our first  test and I'm looking forward to it. We've got a couple things in the works, chassis-wise, and we're building and it should be better absolutely.”
Outside of grand prix racing, Edwards also runs the highly popular Texas Tornado Boot Camp at his home near Houston.
“We built a hotel, covered a football field more or less. We've got three or four tracks on the property,” said Edwards. “Once you arrive nobody ever leaves. We ride motorcycles all throughout the day, shoot guns after lunch, and when the motorcycling stops, we have a few beers around the fire and tell horror stories.
“People seem to enjoy that a lot.”
Edwards will race in front of his home fans when COTA hosts round two of the 2014 MotoGP season from April 11-13.