The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's ruling body, met at Brno today, and as expected, they finalized the demise of the two-stroke engine from Grand Prix racing. As of 2012, the 125cc class is to be replaced by Moto3, a 250cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine, with a maximum bore of 81mm.
The rule changes that have been adopted in the MotoGP series since the class went four-stroke in 2002 have generally been met with increasing disappointment by the fans. The 990cc format is generally viewed as the high point of motorcycle racing for many years, even after the fuel allowance was cut from 24 to 22 liters.
But since capacity was cut from 990cc to 800cc, and the fuel allowance cut from 22 to 21 liters, MotoGP's rulemaking body, the Grand Prix Commission, has been buried under a deluge of criticism - not least from ourselves here at MotoMatters.com. Since then, things have gone from bad to worse, with the introduction of the tire restrictions, then the single tire rule, and finally the limits on engines, with criticism growing more vehement at every rule change, nearly all of it aimed at Dorna, the company which runs MotoGP, and its CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.
Ever since its return to America, MotoGP in the USA has been something of an anomaly. When the series first headed back across the Atlantic in 2005, it was only the MotoGP class that made the trip to Laguna Seca, with cost and limited paddock space cited as reasons for leaving the (then) 250 and 125 classes back in Europe. When the Red Bull US GP in Laguna was joined by the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway facility in 2008, the two support classes joined the MotoGP riders in the US, but only at Indy. Furthermore, the two US rounds have also always been separated by at least one European race, forcing the teams to fly their bikes and equipment out to the US twice.
There are many who hope and believe that admitting production engines in prototype chassis into the MotoGP will be the saving of the series. Finally, there could be a way for privateer outfits to build and race machinery on a more or less equitable footing with the factory teams.
To ensure that a balance is kept between the manufacturers and the privateer teams, the inclusion of so-called Claiming Rule Teams has been announced from 2012. Under the new rules, engine capacity rises to 1000cc, but but bore size is limited to 81mm, and the number of cylinders restricted to a maximum of four for both factory and CRT teams.
The big difference, though, is in the amount of fuel and the number of engines the factory and CRT teams will be allowed. While factory teams will still be restricted to 21 liters of fuel for each race and six engines per season, as is the case with the current regulations, CRT teams will be allowed 24 liters of fuel per race, and twelve engines to last the season.
The thinking behind both of these rules is sensible, and aimed at keeping costs low. By allowing the CRT teams three extra liters of fuel, the teams will not have to spend so much time and money on eking out the maximum performance from the allotted gasoline. And by giving the CRT teams twice as many engines, the privateer efforts will neither need to spend huge amounts on R&D in order to get the mileage from the engines, nor feel required to throw a new engine at every race weekend, to maximize performance.
With the success of the switch from the 250cc class to the four-stroke Moto2 formula - in terms of cost, and certainly in terms of grid size - the many fans of the two-stroke engine have been fearing the worst: the disappearance of the last two-stroke formula from the MotoGP paddock. At Assen, news is unofficially emerging that their fears have been confirmed. For the members of the Grand Prix commission are close to an agreement on replacing the 125cc class, and the bad news for two-stroke enthusiasts is that the smallest of the Grand Prix classes is about to turn four stroke.
From 2012 - or possibly 2013, according to some rumors - the 125s will be replaced with a 250cc four-stroke single. Contrary to earlier reports, though, the bikes will not be based on the existing four-stroke engines being used in motocross bikes such as Yamaha's YZ250F or Honda's CRF250R. The engines will have a maximum bore of 81 millimeters, making for much higher-revving short-stroke motors.
On the Saturday of the Jerez MotoGP weekend, the Grand Prix Commission met to further hammer out the regulations which will govern the MotoGP class from the 2012 season. It was feared that the meeting would fail to come up with a clear definition of the bikes to be run by the Claiming Rule Teams, the privateer teams expected to enter MotoGP with production-based engines in prototype chassis. So it came as no surprise that the minutes of the press release of the Grand Prix Commission merely modified the penalty for using an extra engine in the 2010 season, dropping it from 20 seconds to 10.
MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission met today, and as expected, did nothing to clarify the 2012 MotoGP rules, and especially to provide a definition of exactly what constitutes a Claiming Rule Team. Instead, what they came up with was a relaxation of the penalty for infringing the engine allocation rules: Instead of starting from the pit lane 20 seconds after the red lights go out for the start, any rider using a 7th (or 8th, or 9th) engine during the 2010 season will have to start just 10 seconds later.
The official MotoGP.com website is both a goldmine of information and the bane of many MotoGP fans' lives. The video section features literally thousands of fascinating video interviews, clips and of course, the live video feed of each race. True, the content is only available to paying subscribers, but the value offered for the €99.95 (or €79.95 for standard quality) is actually rather good.
The one gripe that everyone had about the site and video subscription was that if you missed the live race - not uncommon for US or Australian subscribers, for example - and went to website to watch the recorded race, it was impossible to do so without running across spoilers, telling you the outcome of the race before you had a chance to view it. MotoGP.com received a barrage of complaints about this problem, and have finally come up with a solution: A no-spoilers page.
Much has been made of the quality of broadcast by MotoGP's organizers, Dorna. The camerawork and onboard footage is very highly rated by the fans, and has received plaudits from the international media around the world. The only complaint that fans have had - apart from a lack of access in some countries - has been the fact that the broadcasts have not yet been available in High Definition.
Fortunately for the fans, this is about to change: This season, a number of broadcasters around the world are to show the races in HD quality. Viewers in the US, Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Scandinavia, Portugal, Hungary, Brazil, Singapore, the Middle East and in Africa will get to see the races in HD from Qatar, with other countries expected to start showing HD as the season progresses.
On the face of it, the announcement today that the Spanish TV rights to broadcast MotoGP have been awarded to the commercial channel Telecinco is good news. The channel is one of the very largest in Spain, is well funded and features some Spain's most popular TV shows, such as Gran Hermano, the local version of moribund Big Brother reality TV format.