Colin Edwards ended his debut test on the Forward Racing Suter/BMW in Jerez yesterday admitting the new 1000cc project needs major improvements ahead of the 2012 world championship campaign.
The Texan said he was pleasantly surprised with the early potential of the new bike, which will race in MotoGP next season as part of new CRT rules that allow highly-tuned production engines housed in prototype chassis to compete against factory prototypes in the premier class.
But the lap times didn’t disguise the fact that the Suter/BMW, which has already been on track for more than a year, needs significant improvements to be more competitive.
Edwards ended the two-day test with a best time of 1.42.6, as he completed 70 exploratory laps on the new bike.
That best lap was some way off the 1.39.895 he set during Spanish Grand Prix qualifying that put him eighth on the grid when riding a prototype Yamaha YZR-M1 800cc machine for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad.
And he was only 0.3s faster than Scott Redding's quickest pace on a Moto2 machine at the Jerez track.
Speaking to MCN, the double World Superbike champion said: “We got some things accomplished but we are certainly leaving here with a pretty big to do list. We’ve got a lot of work to do but I knew that coming into this. We have got a list and we’ve got to tick them off priority first.
"The bike is better than I thought it was going to be and it definitely has a lot more potential than what we are showing right now. I’ve jumped on a lot of bikes in my career and made a lot of them work and this bike has the ability to work but I just need to spend some time with it.
"I’ve started off worse than this but the main thing is time to work. It is ok to go out and test all the time but you have got to come up with solutions and that’s what we’ll try for the next test in Sepang.”
The biggest focus for development between now and the Sepang test that starts on January 31 is to improve the electronics, according to Edwards.
Edwards rode a bike that featured Bosch electronics and he said the biggest weakness of the CRT concept will be to compete with the financial and human resources the factories have to develop sophisticated electronic systems like anti-wheelie and traction control.
The 37-year-old added: “Electronics are the biggest area we need to work on. Right now I’m just not able to ride with any confidence. This is an area where the factories have got a huge advantage and I know coming recently off the Yamaha how long it took them to reach the stage where they are now.
"And that was with guys like me, Valentino (Rossi), Jorge (Lorenzo) and Ben (Spies) giving them lots of information. So effectively we are years behind. Looking at the times right now it looks like it will be two championships. We hope we can close that gap for sure.
"When I started on the Aprilia in 2003 it wasn’t the greatest bike in the world and we made a lot of progress with that in a short amount of time. That’s what we’ve got to repeat with this bike.”
Edwards though said it was vital he rode in Jerez to get an early indication of what improvements need to be made to the bike.
He was back in action just over four weeks since he was involved in the accident that claimed the life of rising Italian star Marco Simoncelli in Sepang.
Edwards suffered left shoulder and arm injuries in the crash and he said: “Basically I decided just to ride each day until my shoulder got tired. But it was good to get a feel for the bike and to understand the size of the mountain we are facing. That’s why I wanted to get the surgery done before Valencia so I could get better and at least be fit to do this test.
"The shoulder is not perfect at all but at least by riding here we’ve got a couple of months to sit and think about it rather than finding all this out in early February.”
For more exclusive thoughts from Edwards and a round-up from the Jerez test, see the November 30 issue of MCN.