A cursory glance at sales of new motorcycles provides an interesting insight into exactly where the future of motorcycling lies. Though its traditional home is Europe, North America and Australia, those markets are rapidly becoming just a tiny part of total motorcycle sales, with Asia claiming a rapidly expanding share of the global market. The recent marketing tours by Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi around India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand underline exactly how important these markets are to Yamaha and the rest of the Japanese manufacturers.
One of the main ideas behind the brand new Moto2 class is to reduce the cost of racing. There are very few people indeed who can afford the million euros it reportedly cost for an Aprilia RSA250, and even fewer that Aprilia was willing to supply them to. But Moto2 changes all that; for a tenth of the cost of a competitive 250, you can race a machine just as competitive as the factory Aprilia 250 once was.
Such is the cost level of Moto2 that ownership is not limited to race teams. Private individuals with a healthy savings account can now get their hands on a pukka Moto2 racing machine for use as the ultimate track day machine. For British manufacturer FTR MOTO is making 10 limited edition Moto2 replicas available for purchase. The machines will be painted in the colors used by the legendary 'Rocket' Ron Haslam, and come with a World Supersport spec Honda CBR600RR engine, a set of Spidi leathers, an Arai helmet and three days of tuition from Haslam himself.
More details on the offer below, but MotoMatters.com visited FTR's facility just a week or so ago, and were given an insight into the process of designing and building a Moto2 bike. An article about this visit will be appearing in the runup to the 2010 inaugural Moto2 season. Stay tuned.
FTR TO PRODUCE LIMITED EDITION HASLAM ELF HONDA SPECIALS
MotoGP fans around the world will raise a cheer tonight, as their enjoyment of the 2010 MotoGP season has been assured. Toby Moody announced today on his Twitter account that the golden duo of MotoGP commentary - Moody and Julian Ryder - will be back at Eurosport for the coming season. Ryder and Moody are also to be joined once again by the man with an encyclopedic knowledge of MotoGP technology, writer and journalist Neil Spalding.
The trio will be providing live coverage of practice and qualifying for all classes for British Eurosport, live coverage of the 125 and Moto2 races, and delayed coverage of the MotoGP races, which are due to be broadcast live by the BBC. Though the British Eurosport coverage is due to be broadcast only in the UK, the trio have amassed a huge cult following around the globe, most of whom have found - usually illegal - ways of watching the races over the internet.
Valencia has not so far been a lucky venue for Tech 3's Moto2 team. The team was scheduled to test at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in December, and were confronted with snow, a rarity in this part of Spain. Returning to the track for this week's test alongside some of the World Superbike teams, they were spared snow, but instead had to deal with two days of rain and a cold and wet track. So when the sun came out on Thursday morning, the team breathed a collective sigh of relief. As Herve Poncharal put it: "We got here on Monday and since then we have only had 4 hours on track, but finally we got some work done."
Poncharal was delighted with the way the final day of testing went for Tech 3's own bike. "I am very, very happy, we made a big step forward," the Tech 3 team boss told MotoMatters.com. "We didn't find any chatter with the chassis, which was a problem we had at earlier tests." The chatter had been solved at a previous test with a revised chassis, but the conditions were such that the team hadn't been able to confirm the changes had fixed the problem entirely. In the better conditions - "Not good, only decent," Poncharal qualified - neither Yuki Takahashi nor Raffaele de Rosa encountered the chatter.
The miserable weather which prevented the World Superbike and Moto2 teams from getting much track time at Valencia yesterday continued on Wednesday. All of the teams spent most of the day in the garage, only venturing outside on occasion to test the conditions and conclude that they were still no good.
The weather has left a number of teams facing a dilemma. The weather forecast for tomorrow is sunny and dry, with temperatures warm enough to make testing valuable. But the Aprilia factory team for one has already packed up and is heading back to their base in Noale in Northern Italy, a fact that discombobulated the Italian veteran Max Biaggi. "This could be a problem because we didn't get the confirmation we were looking for," Biaggi said, according to the official World Superbike website. "In addition our rivals will also be testing tomorrow, when it's expected to be sunny."
Along with the release of the MotoGP entry lists, the FIM also announced the provisional entry lists for the Moto2 class. Unlike the MotoGP entry list, which is more or less set in stone given the size of the budgets and the importance of the class to Dorna, the Moto2 list is still incredibly fluid. It is unlikely that the starting grid at Qatar will contain all of the names appearing on the list here, as witnessed by the fact that the list also contains two reserves.
The list contains 39 entries plus 2 reserves, a number which even Dorna CEO believes is too many, as he told the official MotoGP.com website. The names on the list have been floating around for some time now, and there are few surprises. The two-rider lineup announced by Michael Bartholemy's Marc VDS racing team has been split into two, with Scott Redding having been accepted as an official entry, while former Superstock 600 Vincent Lonbois is still on the reserve list. Former factory Kawasaki MotoGP rider Ant West is also on the reserve list for the MZ Moto2 project, but the status of that team is currently on hold, as they continue search for funding, like so many other teams.
A small and select group of World Superbike riders have decamped from Portimao and headed across the Iberian peninsula to Valencia, for two more days of testing at the Ricardo Tormo circuit. They are joined there by a gaggle of Moto2 teams, including the Pons Kalex team, the Mapfre Aspar team and the Tech 3 team. But their journeys have been in vain, as the weather has not been in the least conducive to riding racing motorcycles. High winds, a damp track and temperatures not that far above freezing left most of the riders stuck in their garages, sipping espressos and hoping the weather would clear.
Over the past year, the Balatonring project has been dogged by bad luck and economic hardship. The project was born under the unluckiest of stars, planned in Hungary and to be built by a Spanish-based construction firm shortly before the economic crisis began. Just months later, the Spanish real estate market collapsed, causing huge problems for the Spanish construction industry. At the same time, the value of the Hungarian Forint plummeted, plunging the country into further economic difficulties as so much of the business of the country was being done in Euros.
Fortunately, those troubles seem to be at an end. The holes created in the project's budget by the financial crisis have been filled by Magyar Fejlesztési Bank, the Hungarian Development Bank, according to BikeRacing.it. The Bank, whose mission is to provide funding for infrastructure and economic development projects such as the Balatonring circuit, has stepped in with a loan to allow the circuit to be completed in time for the September 19th Hungarian round of MotoGP. As a consequence, the Hungarian Grand Prix, which was cancelled last year after work on the Balatonring circuit ceased, is almost certain to take place as scheduled. Sources close to the management of the Balatonring track are extremely confident that the race will go ahead as planned.
With the announcement that Toni Elias and Vladimir Ivanov have signed for the Gresini Moriwaki Moto2 team, as well as updates on the Campetella and CIP Technomag team, we are edging closer to what passes for a definitive Moto2 entry list. The biggest surprise is the size of the list: After the initial announcement at Valencia that only 37 entries would be accepted for the 2010 Moto2 class, the total already stands at 40. No doubt the process of raising the necessary funds to actually go racing will whittle that list back to a more manageable size. As one paddock insider put it to us, "when Moto2 was first announced, everybody jumped in. Now they need to actually raise the money, they're starting to pull back..."
Provisional Moto2 list as of January 18th, 2010
It's taken a while, but Toni Elias finally has a ride. The Gresini team made the long-awaited announcement today of their rider line-up for 2010, which features the long-anticipated signing of Toni Elias, alongside the little-known Russian rider Vladimir Ivanov. The two men are to campaign Moriwaki's MD600 Moto2 bikes in the inaugural Moto2 championship in 2010.
Elias' journey to a contract with Gresini has been a long one. It was clear early on in 2009 that the chances of Elias staying with Gresini in MotoGP were fairly slim after Fausto Gresini signed Marco Simoncelli for 2010, then announced that he needed two Italian riders to satisfy his sponsor, Italian snack manufacturer San Carlo. After various rumors and machinations to try and stay in MotoGP, the Spaniard finally conceded that he would have to spend 2010 racing in Moto2, with a return to Gresini looking increasingly inevitable as time passed.
The signing of Elias did not come as much of a surprise. The Spaniard has already tested the Gresini Moriwaki a couple of times, setting the fastest time at the Valencia tests after the final MotoGP round of the year. However, given the disparity in engine configurations being used in the tests - everything from full-fat World Supersport-spec lumps to HRC Superstock kitted CBR engines - it is hard to assess just how much weight to put on the reported times. Elias was certainly quick, though, and looked extremely comfortable. The only complaint he had of the Moriwaki was that it was far too slow, the one factor that none of the teams will be able to influence.
Over the past few weeks, news of the Moto2 class has flooded the media. Such has been the volume of news, announcements and rank speculation that it has been hard to keep up. Fortunately for us, our friends over at the highly respected Italian website GPOne.com have set their minds to this tricky task, and have produced a list of the current state of entries in the Moto2 class.
The list is still very much provisional, and many of the teams are still in doubt. Despite the fact that the Moto2 class is meant to reduce the costs of competing in the support class, the amount of money required to take part in the world championship remains high. Estimates and budgets have varied, with teams spending between 1.5 and 3 million euros to field a two-rider team for a year, and in these straitened economic times that kind of cash is proving more difficult to raise than expected.
The fact that teams such as Campetella Racing have not yet announced riders make them a doubtful prospect to make the first ever Moto2 race at Qatar. But even established teams are not safe. Rumors persist that the Gresini team will not make it onto the grid, as the team is short of funds for its MotoGP effort, and cannot afford the extra to run a Moto2 team alongside its premier class team. The team was due to announce Toni Elias as one of their riders on Thursday, but that announcement has been pushed further and further back, with the Spanish press now reporting that a decision will be made on Monday about the future of the team.
Since Aprilia made its rather precipitate and baffling decision to withdraw from the Moto2 championship, despite having a bike nearly ready to race, there has been much speculation about what the Aspar team would do. The Aspar team, named after its team manager, Jorge 'Aspar' Martinez, have been the leading team in MotoGP's support classes for many years now, and had very strong bonds with Aprilia, for whom they had won large stack of world championships.
At the Valencia Moto2 tests, Aspar's potential Moto2 riders, Mike di Meglio and reigning 125cc World Champion Julian Simon, had tested a range of other Moto2 bikes, but up until the final days of 2009, Martinez had been hoping to strike some kind of deal with Aprilia to continue development of the existing bikes under the banner of the Aspar team. Once Piaggio CEO Roberto Colaninno vetoed that plan, Aspar had no choice but to try to make a choice from the other possible candidates.
That process now appears to be approaching a conclusion. According to the Spanish sports daily AS.com, the Aspar team is close to announcing that they will be using the Italian-built RSV DR 600 to contest the inaugural Moto2 world championship in 2010. After evaluating the BQR Blusens, FTR, Suter, Kalex and RSV bikes, the team had narrowed down the choice between the Kalex and the RSV. "Of all the bikes we tested," Jorge Martinez told AS.com, "the Kalex and the RSV were the bikes we liked most."
We continue today with the second half of our interview with Peter Clifford, the manager of the former WCM team, who we asked to get his take on the new rules for MotoGP, which are scheduled to come into force in 2012. In yesterday's episode, Clifford expressed his opinion that privateer teams running production-based engines would find it impossible to be competitive without spending equivalent amounts to the factories. Today, Clifford talks about the problems presented by ever-shifting rule changes, the political risks of the new rules in MotoGP and Moto2, and how long Moto2 is going to remain an affordable class.
PC: The other thing is, we were talking about the Flammini reaction, and it is interesting that he's not saying "I'm going to take everybody to court," and all this sort of stuff. Of course, we still don't know what his contract with the FIM says, that's still secret. He may just feel that what he was relying on in the old days was the way the contract was read, not the words in it. And he had his people at the FIM who read the contract the "right" way, and went in to bat for him and took us off the grid and carried on like that. What he may be waiting for, of course, is another election at the FIM, make sure that he gets the right people in, and they will read the contract in the way that he would like it to be read and this idea would be kicked out, and maybe even the Moto2 rules as well.
MM: Right, and of course that's a huge risk, because if we get a new FIM president who interprets the contracts a different way to Vito Ippolito, because Ippolito has a Grand Prix background, and whenever I've spoken to him, he's said again and again, "what we need are the TZs, the production racers."
PC: Well, that's how Venemoto [the team founded by Ippolito's father, brief history here] won Grand Prix and world championships, with TZs.
From Valencia, a number of the Moto2 teams made their way further south, for another couple of days testing at Almeria in Spain's far southeast corner. Pons, Viessmann Kiefer, Promoracing (now the Antonio Banderas Racing Team), and Cardion AB all made the trip south to take advantage of the climate in Europe's driest corner.
Times are once again very difficult to interpret, even when available, but for what it's worth, the fastest man at the track was Karel Abraham on the FTR Moto2 bike, some seven tenths quicker than Sergio Gadea on the Pons Racing team's Kalex machine. But here, too, the Moto2 bikes were put into the shade by World Supersport equipment: the Motocard Glaner Kawasaki team was also present at the test, with 2009 surprise package Joan Lascorz setting an extremely respectable lap of 1'37.45 lap, over a second and a half faster than Abraham aboard the FTR bike.
Of the six (or seven, depending on how you count them) MotoGP riders to lose their places in the premier class after the 2009 season, Alex de Angelis and Toni Elias surely deserved it the least. Both men had a difficult early part of the season, left waiting for their Gresini Honda team to find the funds for the upgraded chassis for the team's Honda RC212Vs. Once they received the new parts both Elias and De Angelis made a big leap forward in performance, turning into regular front runners. By then, though it was too late, and the available seats in MotoGP had already filled up.
For a while, it looked like Alex de Angelis would stay in MotoGP, but the negotiations between the Scot Honda team and the government of the Republic of San Marino, the tiny city state foundered on the rock of money, the San Marino tourist board simply unable to stump up the necessary cash to run a full season of MotoGP.
That did not mean that the deal was over, however. Today, the Scot Racing team announced that De Angelis will be racing with the team in Moto2 next season. The tourist board of San Marino will finance the team, stepping into the role of title sponsor, a much more affordable prospect in Moto2 than in MotoGP.