Going Forward?

Ten years from now someone will analyze this era’s MotoGP developments and might sum up the CRT/Open initiative as simply a bold chess move in the contest between Dorna and the factories. A ploy masked as a cure.

In theory, and perhaps promise, CRT and the child it begat–Open–were going to populate the MotoGP grid with new teams, new bikes and non-factory controlled equipment, which in some cases it did. Moreover, CRT/Open were also going to spur the factories into selling MotoGP-level technology to independent teams, which in some cases it did.

Honda Motor made the biggest investment in the bold, new CRT/Open initiative. Honda built and sold a special MotoGP machine for privateer teams. Yamaha never suggested that they would build a production MotoGP bike that would be sold. They supplied the Forward team with engines and other equipment, and also supplied them with a chassis which they presumably would use to jig up and mimic to create their own chassis. While Yamaha did not take the financial leap of faith that Honda did in designing and building a limited number of RCV1000R machines, Yamaha took a hit when they supplied Forward with bikes, parts and technical assistance, all for–knowledgable sources suggest–the low, low price of not much if anything. Contrast this with the assuredly large check that Tech 3 writes Yamaha each year for their satellite machines.

Even as the sub-class struggled for legitimacy, critics suggested that CRT and Open were just a way for Dorna to ultimately force the factories into signing on to the future of MotoGP that Dorna foresaw: with control ECUs and control software.

While he was still racing MotoGP as a going concern, Colin Edwards II tested and raced a series of Forward-built chassis. Moreover, when he stopped racing after Indy 2014 he said that he saw his main role as helping to develop the Forward chassis project for the future of the team and MotoGP racing. Meanwhile, Aleix Espargaro, using a Yamaha chassis and engine, was a near season-long challenger to the factory bikes. Forward raced under the “Open” rules classification.

(The Forward chassis project was in some ways the last bastion of the hope that a home brew MotoGP bike could compete with a satellite or factory MotoGP machine in the post-Team Roberts era. While the prevailing opinion in this millennium is that with advanced CAD/CAM, 3D printers and a welder in every garage that anything can be duplicated, clearly the Forward/Yamaha chassis project does not support that assumption. The aluminum extrusions, cast pieces, plates and welds that make up an M1 chassis seem to be in some ways more alchemy than engineering.)

However, Forward Yamaha recently confirmed that they were ceasing development of their own Yamaha-inspired chassis.

Forward race boss Giovanni Cuzari recently said that it makes little sense—since all teams will use the same electronics in 2016—for a team to build their own chassis for a factory-supplied engine. He said he sees his team’s future as one where he is supplied complete ex-factory bikes instead of a factory supplied engine that is installed in a custom-built Forward chassis.

Checkmate, Dorna.

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