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After all, who wants to watch 10-12 or even 14 motorcycles vying on a long race track?
The FIM decided to allow Claiming Rule Teams (CRT) in order to boost privateer entries, with CRTs competing alongside factory teams that use prototype entries that currently comprise the full MotoGP grid. All teams are using 1,000-cc engines for the coming season, ridding the class of the much-unloved 800-cc motorcycles.
To give the CRT teams a fighting change in the new 1,000-cc era, CRTs are permitted 12 engines for the full season instead of the six allowed to factory teams; their fuel tanks are 24 liters, three more than factory squads.
With the claiming rules, rivals can buy another team's engines, should they wish to, in the hopes that no one CRT will use expensive or secret technologies--but the trick is the claiming won't be done by the teams but by the manufacturers! It all remains to be seen, how this plan works out.
MotoGP announced a total of 21 entries for the 2012 season's premier class with nine of those being CRT squads. Suzuki will be notable by their absence in the MotoGP arena after several years of subpar results.
The championship winning Honda team returns with reigning two-time champion Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, while Jorge Lorenzo and American Ben Spies are set for Yamaha Factory Racing. Ducati have Valentino Rossi and American Nicky Hayden together again for a second straight year.
The secondary Pramac Racing team's Ducati has a single motorcycle for Spaniard Hector Barbera and Czech Karel Abraham continues with Cardion AB Motoracing on a Ducati; Yamaha Tech 3 chose former factory Honda rider, Italian Andrea Dovizioso and Brit Cal Crutchlow. Among Honda's satellite teams, LCR Honda MotoGP have German Stefan Bradl, Honda Gresini chose Spaniard Alvaro Bautista; Italian Michele Pirro, the latter rides a Gresini CRT FTR motorcycle.
The balance of CRT teams are Forward Racing, using a Suter for American Colin Edwards, Ioda Racing Project with a self-branded motorcycle for Italian Danilo Petrucci, Australian Anthony West on an ART for Speed Master, Randy de Puniet of France on another ART for Aspar Team MotoGP, together with Spanard Aleix Espargaro.
The final ART motorcycle comes from Paul Bird Racing with James Ellison of the UK as rider, while Ivan Silva of Spain is riding a BQR-FTR for the BQR team with Colombian Yonny Hernandez as his teammate.
With the players now in place for the coming season, testing moves to the (hopefully) warm climes of Sepang at the end of the month, where the prototype MotoGP squads will have their first opportunity to mix it up with the new CRT teams. While the CRTs are intended to have some opportunities within this new structure - and quite a few have experienced riders to assist in an upward climb--most of the focus should remain with the factory Honda, Ducati and Yamaha teams that have dominated the sport over the past decade.