Ilmor

Review: MotoGP Technology, By Neil Spalding

There are a few books which every MotoGP fan should have on their bookshelves. As many editions of Motocourse as you can afford, of course, for a review of each year, as it was seen at the time. Michael Scott's MotoGP, The Illustrated History, for a grand overview of the history of Grand Prix racing. Mat Oxley's Age of Superheroes, for a closer look at the previous golden age of GPs, if you can get your hands on a copy. And Rick Broadbent's Ring of Fire, a look at the heady days at the end of the 990cc era in MotoGP.

Neil Spalding's MotoGP Technology belongs in that list. Part history and part technical reference work, MotoGP Technology takes a detailed and in depth look, not just at the current batch of MotoGP bikes and how they work, but also why they work. It is, if you like, a work on the engineering theory behind the design of a racing motorcycle, but also a guide to how the manufacturers racing in MotoGP have put that theory into practice.

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Suter MotoGP Project To Use No Part Of Ilmor X3

The news that Eskil Suter and Gil Motor Sport are to enter MotoGP in 2010 was met with enthusiasm, but also some puzzlement. Initial reports had suggested that the GMS project would be based on the former Ilmor X3 bikes, but when MotoGPMatters.com asked Ilmor if they knew anything about this, they confirmed that they had not been approached by Eskil Suter about using the Ilmor X3.

The reason for this, it appears, is that the bike the team is hoping to field will be brand new, according to the French website Moto Caradisiac. Both engine and chassis are brand new, and designed and built by Eskil Suter's Suter Racing Technology company at their facility in Switzerland. The new engine bears no relation to the engine designed by Ilmor, with Suter claiming the engine will produce around 240 bhp - 25 bhp more than the Ilmor power plant - although it, too, will be a V4 configuration.

The chassis is also said to be brand new, though photos shown on the Moto Caradisiac website show the family resemblance that all of Suter's bikes bear, with angular forms and a prominent, stubby nose. The project is due to be finalized on September 30th of this year, when an announcement will be made in full.

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Suter / Gil Motor Sport To Run 2 Rider MotoGP Team In 2010?

The grids for MotoGP have been falling steadily since the start of the four-stroke era, but that process has accelerated since the introduction of the 800cc bikes. Every year, the grids have become thinner, any upward trend proving tragically all too temporary, as we saw with the withdrawal of Kawasaki at the start of the season, and later Sete Gibernau's Grupo Francisco Hernando team pulling out.

The reasons for this are simple and well-known: MotoGP has simply become too expensive. The cost of running a satellite team with a pair of bikes is around the 7-8 million euro mark, and even then, you first have to persuade a manufacturer to supply the bikes, something the manufacturers have not proven to be keen to do. A range of plans have been drawn up to counter the problems, and proposals are on the table to drastically cut costs, including a proposal from the manufacturers to lease just engines at a much more affordable price than the 1.7 million euros that a pair of bikes currently costs.

But the MotoGP grid could be set to expand in 2010, even without additional help from the manufacturers. The French website Moto Caradisiac is reporting that the former World Supersport team Gil Motor Sport will be fielding two riders in MotoGP next year, together with technical support from Eskil Suter's Suter Racing Technology company. The two rider team, to be run by Gil Motor Sport's boss and French eccentric Jean Christophe Ponsson, will be using bikes produced by Suter and based on Ilmor's jewel-like X3 power plant.

The news is confirmed by a statement on the Gil Motor Sport website, which reads:

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Kawasaki: Why Flog A Dead Horse, When You Could Revive A Live One?

The latest news/rumor on the Kawasaki front - or perhaps that should be the final nail in Kawasaki's coffin - is that Dorna is attempting to acquire the Kawasaki bikes so that Marco Melandri can race in MotoGP in the 2009 season, as reported by various press sources. Carmelo Ezpeleta is said to be willing to pay for the bikes to run out of his - or rather Dorna's - own pocket, in order to pad out the grid and give it some semblance of credibility.

If this is true - and that's a big if, as one of the sources is Alberto Vergani, Marco Melandri's manager, and Italian riders' managers are about as reliable as Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, though they tend to err slightly more often on the side of optimism - then it is both completely puzzling and remarkably short-sighted. If the Kawasaki - or "Dornasaki" as some wags are labeling it - does turn up on the grid, it will be a bike that is likely to start at the back and travel rapidly backwards. As the year progresses, the competition will receive a steady stream of upgrades, improving at each race. And each of these upgrades will leave the Comatose Kawasaki yet another step behind, heaping calumny upon humiliation over the head of the poor rider foolish enough to volunteer to ride the ailing beast.

Any attempt to resurrect Kawasaki will be doomed to failure, with no money for development. The attempt offers nothing to either the team or the rider(s) involved, and is more likely to damage Dorna than anything else, despite allowing the Spanish company to save face. This is surely a rescue better left untried.

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Aspar Confirm They Won't Run Private Kawasaki Team

Since the official announcement that Kawasaki has decided to pull out of MotoGP, a number of people - most notably, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta - have been working furiously on finding a way of keeping the bikes on the grid. The phone lines between Kawasaki's Akashi base, Dorna's Barcelona headquarters, the Kawasaki MotoGP team's base in Heerlen in the Netherlands, and Jorge Martinez in Spain have been positively humming.

For a long time, Jorge Martinez and the Aspar team looked like the most promising prospect for a continuation of Kawasaki's MotoGP efforts, but as negotiations dragged on, and disagreements started to emerge over the conditions under which Aspar would acquire the bikes, hopes began to fade. On Wednesday, Motorcycle News reported that Ezpeleta believed that Aspar would not take on the project, and today, confirmation comes from Jorge Martinez, boss of the Aspar team, himself.

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Ilmor "Interested In Moto2"

The decision of the Grand Prix Commission to kill off the 250cc class and replace it with a four-stroke formula was met with a great deal of scepticism by both fans and followers of motorcycle racing. Apart from the sadness at the loss of the two strokes, there was some doubt whether the bikes could be built as cheaply as the Grand Prix Commission hoped, negating the aims of making cheaper racing.

However, there is no doubt that there is real interest in the four-stroke 600cc series. Moriwaki have already exhibited a prototype at a couple of motor shows, and Ronald Ten Kate expressed an interest in the series in an interview with MotoGPMatters.com at Portimao last year.

Today, Ilmor said that they, too, are interested in the new class. Speaking to MotoGPMatters.com, Steve Miller, managing director of the British-based company said that they are watching developments closely. "We are very interested in the class," Miller said. "We would definitely like to be involved, if the series is run seriously and the organization behind it is good."

The framework of the new series - a 600 cc four-stroke engine with steel spring valves and a rev limit, fitted into a prototype chassis - would seem to suit Ilmor right down to the ground. The Northamptonshire-based engineering firm, founded around the engineering genius of Mario Illien, has built a reputation for building and developing racing engines over the years. Their last venture into MotoGP - the remarkable Ilmor X3 800cc bike - foundered on a lack of sponsorship. But the firm's prowess as an engine builder is beyond question, and there is no doubt they could design an engine to fit the new regulations.

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Out Of The Closet At Last: The Ilmor X3 Officially Unveiled

Over the past few months, the items I have posted here about the Ilmor / Suter bike have pulled a large number of visitors to my blog, as witnessed by the hundreds of hits from Google with the words "Ilmor" and "Suter" in the search query. Today, the long wait for those news hungry fans has finally come to an end, as the new Ilmor Suter X3 was unveiled at Estoril. The bike, a very sharp, pointed, almost KTM-like design, was presented to huge media interest at a news conference this afternoon, where the team commented on the future of the project, and attempted (somewhat unsuccessfully) to dampen expectations for this weekend.

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Ilmor Confirmed As Wildcard In Portugal

MotoGP.com is reporting that Ilmor have confirmed their entry as a wildcard at Estoril in Portugal. They will be debuting their 800cc 70° V4 bike, dubbed "X3", at the Portuguese Grand Prix on October 15th, with Garry McCoy riding, using Michelin tires. McCoy has been testing the Ilmor at a number of tracks over the last couple of months, including Albacete and Jerez.

The importance of this appearance is that it will be the first time that the new generation of 800cc bikes will hit the track in a public, timed event, and set the mark against which the current manufacturers' bikes will be measured against. The Ilmor has already made an impression, regularly running faster than the Ducati 800 at one test session in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago.

You can listen to an interview with Mario Illien in the latest MotoGP podcast.

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