James Ellison announced his return to the World Championship with Paul Bird Motorsport, in a move that came from left-field and took the paddock by surprise. The same James Ellison who last raced in MotoGP in 2006? The same James Ellison who rollerbladed every track on the calendar at a speed probably not too far off that of an almost unmodified Yamaha M1 with notoriously inadequate Dunlop tyres?
Well, yes - and there's more. The only rider ever to compete in 125cc, 250cc, 500cc, Moto2, MotoGP, World Supersport and World Superbikes is back for another shot at the big time. Free from the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter, Anthony West made his premier class comeback public with an exclamation mark-filled Facebook message. Australia will have another participant in the 1000cc category in 2012.
Remember Ivan Silva from his Pramac Ducati stand-in rides back in 2007? It's doubtful that you do, but he has been one of the first to test the Inmotec BMW and is likely to ride again for BQR for the next campaign.
These are three of the riders joining the established order in MotoGP next season: unlikely to challenge for wins, but with enough experience to help develop bikes new to all involved. It's hard to begrudge any of them another chance to shine, and they have certainly paid their dues since leaving through the back door. Ellison has moved to wherever there is an opportunity, including British Superbikes and World Supersport. I'm an unashamed fan of West, and even though he didn't make the grade in his first full season with Kawasaki he still has far more talent than his machinery over the past few years has allowed him to show. Silva has been in the right place at the right time in his relationship with Inmotec.
If these riders hadn't previously been in MotoGP, then maybe they would have been content with simply competing - whatever the series. It is only recently that 'stepping down' has proven anything other than a one-way street (and possibly one on which Toni Elias will be making a second U-turn before next season).
Now they find themselves as prime candidates for CRT CPR on their careers. The likes of Garry McCoy and Jeremy McWilliams were similar examples for the ill-fated Ilmor team in 2006/07 - experienced riders, keen to get back into the big time and available for a reasonable price. Dorna may have pledged to provide economic support to the CRT teams, but the newcomers will not have an abundance of funds at their disposal.
These riders are more or less better than anyone else who fits into the remit. The big CRT signing so far is undoubtedly Colin Edwards, who was out of contract with Tech 3, presented with limited offers from elsewhere and seems keen for a challenge. We were never going to see Dovizioso, Bautista or even Barbera take that kind of step into the unknown when a factory ride would be in their future plans.
Neither would you expect anyone to step up from the intermediate class for the first time on a CRT bike. Stefan Bradl tested a satellite Honda RC212V for LCR at Valencia, and has admitted that he does not possess the sponsorship backing for a full MotoGP ride. If Honda are keen on him though - and it appears that they are - then surely they will find him at least a second-string machine and not a bike as off the pace as the debutants at the post-race run-out.
The top active riders in the world are either already in MotoGP, tied to contracts in WSBK (Melandri, Biaggi, Laverty, Checa) or still in a position to be choosy about available options (Hopkins, Vermeulen, De Puniet). The AMA's well of talent isn't providing the next Hayden or Spies. Competitive WSBK seats are deemed preferable to non-factory premier class ones. Moto2 young guns are preferring to wait and see in 2012.
For the moment at least, CRT stands for Career Revival Time.
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