There have been doubts hanging over the fate of the FB Corse project almost from the moment it was announced. There were question marks about the state of the engine, worries about team financing, and problems with testing. After a test at Valencia, an initial press release announcing they had been accepted into the MotoGP championship had to be withdrawn, after Franco Uncini stated that the team had made good progress, but not enough to qualify for the grid. A later test for the bike planned at Misano had to be called off, after Garry McCoy, who had been contracted to test and race the bike, pulled out with a flu.
The debut of the FB Corse bike at Valencia this week is perhaps best described as a moderate success. The three cylinder bike built by Oral Engineering demonstrated that it was reliable and had plenty of potential, though it was still at a very early stage of development. Garry McCoy lapped Valencia at around 1'40, well off the pace but not bad for a shakedown test run without any electronics. So far, the FB Corse has not been admitted to the MotoGP entry list, but a couple more tests should help get the bike ready to be examined again in time for the Jerez round of MotoGP at the beginning of May.
After the jubilant tone in yesterday's press release from FB Corse, today the team have been forced to issue a retraction. The team had run a timed test at Valencia in front of Franco Uncini as Dorna representative, to demonstrate that they deserved to be on the MotoGP grid and that the team was capable of being competitive if they were allowed to enter. As reported here and at GPOne.com, Uncini was impressed by the FB01 machine, but felt it was still some way from being ready to race. With some more testing, Uncini said, they could possibly join the grid when MotoGP returned to Europe.
News travels fast, and sometimes it arrives too quickly to make sense of. After reporting earlier that Dorna representative Franco Uncini said the FB Corse bike was "not yet ready to race," FB Corse have announced their intention to do just that. However, just as Uncini recommended, FB Corse have decided against joining the grid at Qatar, spending their money on developing the bike instead, to be ready for the first European round of MotoGP at Jerez on May 2nd.
As the established MotoGP field warm their engines for the final test of the season at Qatar starting on Thursday, back in Europe, another bike has been auditioning to join the show. At Valencia today, the FB Corse team ran a timed test in front of Franco Uncini, Dorna and IRTA's representative sent to evaluate the project, with the hope of impressing Uncini sufficiently that the team and their rider Garry McCoy would be admitted as the 18th official entry into the MotoGP class.
Their hopes have been dashed, however. Uncini's verdict, though full of praise for the team, is negative, and the FB Corse team will not be allowed to start the season at Qatar. Speaking to GPOne.com, Uncini described the project as "interesting," but said what the FB Corse really needed was more time and more miles on the bike to develop it further and refine it before it is ready to race.
The status of the FB Corse project has been shrouded in mystery ever since the Italian team announced they would be contesting the 2010 MotoGP season. Though the bike has been officially presented, and details about the three-cylinder MotoGP machine widely circulated, the bike has yet to turn a wheel in public, and no one knows whether the bike is even capable of achieving race speeds. This latter point has caused some concern inside IRTA, the organization representing the race teams and charged with ensuring the quality of the teams involved. IRTA boss Mike Trimby told MCN last week that FB Corse would not be allowed to take part in MotoGP until the bike had demonstrated its competitiveness, by lapping at a Grand Prix circuit within three seconds of race pace.
The FB Corse MotoGP bike took a step closer to finding its way onto the grid today. According to the Italian sports broadcaster Sport Mediaset, the team has been given a special dispensation by Dorna and the FIM to test the bike outside of the official MotoGP testing events, with a contracted rider rather than a test rider. As a consequence, Garry McCoy has until February 28th - this coming Sunday - to test the bike and demonstrate the machine is fast enough to make it a worthy entry to the MotoGP class.
After months of speculation and controversy, the FB Corse Team finally unveiled their MotoGP machine and team at the offices of a radio station in Milan today. At the official launch, which had been delayed from the end of January, the team presented their FB01 three cylinder 800cc MotoGP bike, designed and built by Oral Engineering, as part of a project originally started for BMW several years ago.
After the rumored link-up of Garry McCoy and the FB Corse MotoGP team was finalized over the weekend, the details of the deal left plenty of room for questions. We caught up with Garry McCoy at his home in Andorra to put some of those question to him. Here's what he has to say, about his expectations for the 2010 season, when he expects to be racing, and how his previous experience will work to his advantage.
MotoMatters: Are you pleased that you've finally got a deal in place?
Garry McCoy: Yeah, for sure. What can I say? The World Supersport ride [with Triumph] was looking good there for a while up until mid-January, and then I thought I had nothing there for a moment. Then the GP deal popped up with FB Corse.
MM: Did they contact you or were you phoning them?
GM: They were chasing me down. I hadn't contacted them at all.
MM: I understand you were getting getting ready to go back to Australia when the deal happened.
GM: Yeah, I was planning to go out at 9 o'clock in the morning and we were still doing the deal at about 3am.
MM: The deal is for two years, do you know how many races you'll be doing this year?
GM: Well supposedly it's the whole season as long as everything goes well.
MM: When will you get to test the bike for the first time?
GM: We're still not sure. Hopefully some time towards the end of February.
MM: And you're still not sure where you'll be testing the bike either?
GM: No, I mean the bike's still not completely ready. I'm not sure what stage it's at at the moment, but hopefully within the next week or two, we should have the bike ready to get out on track.