SEPANG, MALAYSIA – NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards showed up at the first MotoGP test of 2013 with a new chassis, new engine, new electronics and…whiplash. The whiplash is the result of a crash at the Sachsenring nearly four years ago that occasionally flares up at the most inopportune times. This time it was when he was riding extensively at the Texas Tornado Boot Camp to get ready for the season. Edwards felt a tweak in his neck and knew what that meant. Sitting in his office in the back of the garage at the Sepang Circuit, Edwards moved deliberately, turning his whole body rather than moving his neck.
The whiplash was just one of his problems. Three of the 2013 MotoGP CRT teams came to Sepang two days early to test the control Magneti-Marelli AGO 340 and control software. Having come from Bosch electronics, which the team never was comfortable with, Edwards was encouraged, though he said there was a long way to go. He spent the first two days getting very little track time before starting to learn the FTR-Kawasaki on his third day.
“Up to now, we’re just trying to get a bike that runs,” Edwards said after filling his gums with snuff, “and I think pretty much kind of in a very similar boat (to last year at this point). We got here and we didn’t know; we had to start the bike. So we got the bike started and then it was a matter of making it run and burning fuel and then it was a matter of let’s go out and get on the track and make sure it works.”
The team had arrived the day before the 2013 Sepang MotoGP test started “and pretty much built it. It’s taken to today to actually kinda get some laps in.” As to why it had taken so long, Edwards said, “Just wasn’t time enough, just wasn’t time enough. Everybody says, ‘Well shit, you got all winter.’ They’re working all winter, but it still comes down to crunch time to get it together. I mean, there’s still little things that we need to play with, some pieces and parts to make it right.”
That said, “Compared to what I was on it feels great. It feels like a proper motorcycle. It fits, I can get under the bubble. Everything feels good. Initial impression is good. We have a ton of chatter right now and we’re just going to have to play with the geometry and figure out how to get that out and I think all the guys on FTR Kawis got chatter. So we got to figure that out. As a kind of a rule, if you could actually make your bike in Malaysia and not have chatter, you won’t have chatter for just about anywhere.”
Edwards became increasingly critical of the Suter-BMW as last season wore on. At the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca he famously said it was ‘junk’, though in more colorful terms. The difference between that bike and this one is night and day.
“You’re not seeing it right now in lap times, but as far as the comfort level and sphincter level it’s way more calm than what it was,” he said of the FTR Kawasaki that the NGM Mobile Forward team will be using in the 2013 MotoGP season. “Engine-wise, it’s just more electric. It might not have the outright, let’s say, top horsepower number compared to last year’s bike, but it’s so easy to ride.”
The electronics will take some time to sort out, Edwards admitted.
“I’ve been riding most of today and yesterday with no traction control, which it’s been probably nine years or something that I rode a bike with no traction control,” he said. “The way that I ride a motorcycle is with traction control. I mean, I know when to pivot and traction control’s going to come in. So to ride it more like an old 250 or 600 supersport I had to change my style a little bit. So finally the last couple runs I went out today we played with some traction control. And it did something very strange. On the last run I came in and they figured out that one of the things that they had was in backwards, some table or some number. So I’m just a Magneti-Marelli test rider right now. It was cutting, it felt good and then I picked it up and it just snapped sideways. And I thought, hmm, that’s kind of odd. It shouldn’t do that.” Despite that setback, he said, “What we started with, the couple steps we did it’s pretty easy to understand we’ll get there pretty quick.”
Though by the end of the three-day test he said he’d need “another three days. I mean, maybe another ten days. No, we’re not going to have anything stellar at the end of these three days. We don’t have the time and we don’t have the pieces that we need to have, let’s say. And we don’t have the Marelli stuff where we need it, so we need more time to play with that. As far as chassis and all that stuff, yeah we’ll play around and make some steps. We’ve just got to get rid of chatter. If we can rid of that across the board, with all the FTRs, we should be good.”