Colin Edwards: ‘Aprilia gives us hope’

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Colin Edwards says the performance of Aprilia’s new CRT MotoGP machine gives other new 1000cc projects hope for the future as he attempts to make the new Suter-BMW package more competitive in 2012.

Randy de Puniet has been comfortably the quickest CRT rider throughout winter testing on the new Aprilia ART machine and he was 13th quickest at last weekend’s final pre-season outing in Jerez.

That put the Frenchman over a second faster than the next best CRT machine – Aspar team-mate Aleix Espargaro – and he was only 0.6s off the top 10 in Spain and less than a 0.1s behind the prototype Ducati ridden by Karel Abraham.

Experienced Texan Edwards was 3.2s away from Casey Stoner’s best speed in Jerez and 1.4s behind de Puniet on the Forward Racing Suter-BMW.

Edwards has spent the majority of winter testing trying to improve the Bosch electronics on the new machine, while also concentrating on reducing chatter with the new soft construction Bridgestone tyres.

But he said de Puniet’s performances showed that once the new CRT projects were developed to the same level as the Aprilia, it was possible to run close to the factory prototypes.

Aprilia’s ART machine is heavily based on its factory RSV4 World Superbike machine and Edwards told MCN: “At the moment we are not on the same level as de Puniet. Aprilia have obviously got a lot of information and there might be a gap but that’s always something to strive for.

“Matching that bike right now is going to be difficult. Our bike is more of an animal than Randy’s. We have to play a lot with electronics and gearing which we learned in Jerez. We were way too short on the gearing last weekend but we need to play with the chassis and understand why we have chatter in places and why our bike feels so stiff.

“The Apriia looks like a friendly bike. Randy can get on the throttle so early and motor out of the corner and we are not quite there yet. Fair play to de Puniet because he was lapping at 41 consistently and with the way my bike was geared you could do it for one lap but not 20.

“You’d have to hold your breath and pull your brain out, so we need to get it a bit more chilled. But it is awesome to see him up there and close behind machines that have had millions and millions of budget spent on them.

“That’s the formula Carmelo (Ezpeleta – MotoGP boss) intended and his vision would be that we’d be on the fringes of the prototypes. We’ve got to get our bike working to that level as soon as we can.”

Aprilia’s ART project has been the subject on intense debate in the winter, with many believing it is should be classed as a full-blown prototype rather than a CRT.

CRT rules mean the Aprilia machine can use 12 engines and benefit from 24 litres of fuel, while the prototypes entered by Honda, Ducati and Yamaha are restricted to six engines and 21 litres.

Honda, Yamaha and Ducati have questioned whether the Aprilia is in the true spirit of CRT, but Edwards refused to be drawn into the discussion and he added: “Whatever the rules are or whatever Aprilia has done, they have done a fantastic job and I’m not going to take that away from them. I’m not stressed about that.”

See the April 4 issue of Motor Cycle News for a special 16-page preview on the 2012 MotoGP world championship, featuring exclusive interviews with Cal Crutchlow and reigning world champion Casey Stoner.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt