There have been breakthroughs that give the team hope. During the second preseason Sepang test, Edwards had no confidence with throttle response at all. He insisted if the team could fix it, he could find two seconds. On the third day when everyone was ready to give up, the team had found something, and Edwards went almost two seconds faster. It was a turning point for the project, one of many.
“Basically, let’s say once we got the engine rideable or acceptable and some confidence in the traction control, and this again happens only in the last day of the IRTA test, and then Colin started to balance out the bike,” Giussani said. “And, again, we just basically, after the IRTA test, decided that we wanted to put more weight on the rear of the bike and change a bit the weight bias. We went back home, modified them, went back to Qatar and (Edwards) was like, ‘OK, now it’s there, now it’s like I like it.’”
One of the biggest problems for the team is lack of resources. There is no testing and they have limited dyno time. They do as much as they can, which is little compared to what the factory teams throw at the prototypes and less, also, than what Aprilia spends on the ART machines that are being run by most of the other CRT squads. “Our main competitors, the Aprilia ART,” Giussani began, “was developed for years in World Superbike by the world’s third biggest motorcycle manufacturer.”
Utilizing a Suter Racing chassis...
Utilizing a Suter Racing chassis and a BMW-supplied, WSBK-spec engine, the NGM Forward Racing CRT machine is unique in the class, but being the pioneer has its definite disadvantages, as the team is quick to point out.
The Suter-BMW S 1000 RR engine, which is World Superbike spec, is “good enough. They are reliable, they are strong, they are nice,” Giussani said. “We got the engine, but the rest we have to do all ourselves. So we have to put them on the dyno, we have to map them, we have to find the way to handle them and manage whatever is the rest. We just take care of the transmission, so clutch and primary ratio, because the only tool we have to adjust the gearing and the final ratio, but the rest we have just enough to do with the rest to also take care of the engine itself.” Giussani said that they don’t need the mandated 12 engines. “We can do with less. That’s the current state. So from that point of view, absolutely, we’re more than happy.” Suter charges Forward Racing about €1.2 million (approximately $1.55 million) for chassis and engine support.
Much of the time at each race is spent on engine management, everything from “how to pick up the throttle, how to control the engine brake, anti-wheelie, etc.” At the end of the day, this “bike is a Moto2 bike with 100 horsepower more than on the Moto2,” Giussani said. “So whatever is easy on that bike, it’s not easy on this.” The power of the MotoGP machine is used to steer the bike, to make it handle, where on the Moto2 it’s simply used for propulsion.
“The Bosch guys don’t have a lot of experience in it and we’re willing to work,” Edwards said “We’re a couple of months away from showing up at a track, and saying, ‘OK, this is your baseline, this is your electronics, fine-tune it.’”
Still, being top CRT by 12.5 seconds over Power Electronics Aspar’s de Puniet at Qatar was a positive premiere for the team. Asked why the Suter-BMW worked so well under the desert lights, Edwards countered, “I didn’t really think it worked that well. It worked OK. And I think we got to Qatar and we kinda got lucky. The first day on Thursday was a disaster. We had chatter everywhere. We had no idea what to do. And then we shortened it up to get some weight off the front, we went out on Friday and the chatter was 90 percent gone, so we said, ‘OK, let’s just figure out how to ride the son of a bitch.’ I mean we got lucky that the Aprilia didn’t test there, nobody tested there. So we got more work done in a short amount of time than they did.” One of the keys was putting a really hard front fork spring in “to force the front tire onto the ground and it seemed to work there.”
The Edwards/Suter-BMW combination...
The Edwards/Suter-BMW combination was the top CRT team at the Qatar season opener, finishing 12th, some 12.5 second ahead of the nearest CRT competitor. Edwards downplayed that result, saying “I didn’t really think it worked that well…we got to Qatar and we kinda got lucky.”
Three weeks later there were struggles in the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez. The weather was atypical of southern Spain, cold and occasionally rainy. The dry time the team needed to get a baseline for the twisty Andalucian circuit was in short supply. With a lack of track time, the team opted for the shorter wheelbase, but “when you use the wheelbase of a scooter you can’t really use all the power,” Edwards said. “It’s like a teeter-totter. So at Jerez, we really struggled. We just couldn’t drive off the corners because it would wheelie. So all that power you’ve got is for nothing.
“We went to Portugal and said, ‘OK, let’s re-think.’ Trying to hold onto that bastard for friggin’ 28 laps while it’s trying to throw you off the back. The bike’s a lot happier when I’m not sitting on it, to be honest with you. When I’m sitting on it it’s pissed off at me about something. We went short and just…we screwed ourselves in Jerez. We need to figure out how to put the bike long so we can use the power and not have chatter. That’s one of the keys we need to figure out.” One of many and one that can only be figured out at the racetrack.
Having already been contesting...
Having already been contesting the Moto2 championship since 2009, Forward Racing wanted in on MotoGP. The CRT equation was the only financially feasible way to do it.
“To be honest,” he said, it would be around the time of the back-to-back Dutch TT and German GP at Sachsenring before the team was near a baseline. “If we can make some breakthrough, this makes some point and we can understand exactly what’s the bottleneck, it can be quicker. But we have to go through different conditions, we have to go through different racetracks and try to understand and figure out how to adapt, and then we can start to see where the ballpark is and from that point figure out that’s how the bike should be balanced, that’s how the engine should be managed, and from this point on, OK, make one step in that direction, one step in that direction — but minimum of two months.
“But that’s racing. We have to hurry up.” SR