For a large part of last week's testing, the CRT bikes were just as fast as the factory machines would have been, in the exact same conditions. Alright, that position was stuck in a garage with the riders adjusting seat position, but let's not split hairs here...
Joking aside, we have seen at least some progress from the new machines over the past few tests. This progress is difficult to truly quantify, as rarely has one of the debuting teams run a test alongside the MotoGP regulars, although soon this curious breed of 1000cc bikes will stop being 'Can't Really Tell's and will instead become a perhaps problematic reality.
The positive of recent testing has come from the most expected source. A recent World Championship winning set-up, with a regular top-10 race finisher from recent MotoGP seasons onboard, backed by the biggest team in MotoGP: Randy De Puniet on the Aspar Aprilia ART.
De Puniet's fastest time at the private Jerez test was just 0.3 seconds off satellite Ducati rider Héctor Barberá's best, in the most encouraging showing for a CRT entrant to date. However, there were some caveats to the comparisons. There always are.
First of all, Barberá was undertaking limited laps on a test bike shared with Franco Battaini and, before he set the machine ablaze with a crash, Karel Abraham. He only rode on the last day of testing. Both he and RDP's times were over half a second off Dani Pedrosa's 2010 lap record, set on an 800cc.
Not as impressive as it first appears, then, but still a sight better than the timesheets from Sepang and the huge gap between the CRT and factory riders.
Aprilia are the manufacturer who have the budget to win and who couldn't resist lure of the premier class. Like a crazy ex-girlfriend who can afford to take the day off work to camp outside your house, it is hard to keep them away. Dorna's cylinder class changes inadvertently dispensed of Aprilia's presence in (and dominance of) the 125cc and 250cc classes. If anyone can make CRT work, then it is the Noale factory.
Of course - cough- the ART isn't really an Aprilia. Were that the case, it would be against the rules of the competition and they would have to declare their return as a factory team. It does look rather a lot like the 2010 World Superbike Championship-winning RSV-4, though.
Or at least it did. The resemblance is less blatant right now, as designers have got creative in their shaking off of the homologation restrictions of a mere Bridgestone-shod RSV-4. The Aspar Team didn't go to Sepang as they waited on a new chassis and based their operations within Spain, so the Jerez Official Test is going to be a first encounter between the new-look ART and a full MotoGP field.
De Puniet has everything to ride for and could become the frontrunner of CRT -in a similar fashion to Toni Elias' 2010 season in Moto2- by making the most of his circumstances. There is at least the potential of a proven MotoGP competitor within the ART ranks.
Or the recent test results could be a mere smokescreen - something that Aprilia know plenty about. They did, after all, create the RS3 Cube that caught fire at Sachsenring back in 2003...
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