Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday morning crew chief -- The rap(p) on CRTs, etc.

Attack got some good PR in the weeks leading up to their first-of-two wild card/CRT entries. But it ended in disappointment as Rapp missed the 107% cutoff (of pole time) and failed to qualify for the race.

Rapp would'a needed to find another half-second or so to make the grid. Failing to qualify, under the circumstances, shouldn't have surprised anyone. Attack didn't have their bike together nearly soon enough. Remember the first few winter tests of the full-time CRT machines, in Spain? They sucked. That's the development stage that Attack's at right now. To put it in perspective, Martin Cardenas on his 600 was as close to Steve Rapp as Steve Rapp was to the slowest rider who made the MotoGP grid.

I want to believe that the Attack bike is capable of running with, if not the big dogs of MotoGP, at least the lap(ped) dogs. But getting the bike up to speed doesn't just take track time. To really evaluate your bike and improve it, you need to be on the track with other bikes and riders as fast as you are.

There's an official AMA Superbike test day the week before the Indy MotoGP event. I don't have a MotoGP rule book, so I'm not sure what the MotoGP rules have to say about wild card riders practicing on the circuit in the weeks leading up to the race. If Attack's allowed to practice on the circuit along with the AMA Superbikes, it would be nice if the AMA invited them to the test.

It was interesting to see just where the CRT bikes are vis-a-vis the American-rules Superbikes. When the current U.S. rules package was defined, there was a lot of complaining that the bikes were 'dumbed down'. And yet, the fastest three Superbike qualifiers were in the 1:24s, as were the slowest three MotoGP qualifiers. Hayes' Superbike race-winning average speed (151 kph) was about the same as the slowest CRT finisher's.

I realize it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. The fastest U.S. riders all have a lot more seat time at Laguna Seca than those CRT riders (who, for all I know were seeing it for the first time.) It's not a particularly easy track to learn. It's slow and technical; on a faster track like Philip Island, I imagine the CRT bikes would have stretched their legs a bit more. And of course they're on different tires.

But still. It's clear that in qualifying trim, the CRT bikes are not much faster than AMA Pro Racing's Superbikes. They're not any faster than World Superbike machines, even though CRT rules are quite a bit more flexible than SBK rules, and a lot more flexible than U.S. rules.

The lesson in this is not that CRT bikes are crap (no matter what Colin Edwards says.) The lesson is that production (and production-based) bikes are so good that performance is barely rules-limited.

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