The saga of the CRT teams continues to drag on. The full list of accepted entries was due to be published at last weekend's Barcelona MotoGP round, but last-minute haggling over rule changes has held back the announcement. More meetings were held over the Silverstone weekend, with the factories (assembled in the MSMA) meeting with Dorna on Thursday, and Dorna and IRTA meeting on Friday to discuss the outcome, leading to publication of the entry list being held back until coming Wednesday, June 15th.
The long-awaited list of entries for the MotoGP class in 2012 has been delayed. The list of new entries to the class was expected to be released at the Catalunya MotoGP round, but the list has been delayed while the MSMA, Dorna and IRTA are discussing a clarification to the claiming rule.
The problem was raised by a number of the teams who have submitted an entry. Speaking to MotoMatters.com, IRTA General Secretary Mike Trimby explained that the problems revolve around the price and the status of the engines used by the claiming rule teams. The factories are allowed to claim engines used by the Claiming Rule Teams for a price of 20,000 euros, but the new teams applying for CRT status have raised two objections to this issue.
If the changes to the 2012 MotoGP regulations were aimed at filling out the grid, then they appear to have succeeded. Today, the FIM released the numbers of teams who had put in for a provisional entry for the 2012 season. The numbers were very promising: 16 teams entered, of which 14 were accepted, representing a total of 21 riders.
As in the Moto2 class, the number of entries actually accepted will be much smaller. The ideal grid size, as both Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and IRTA staff have confirmed, is around 24 bikes. But with the total commitment of the current factories likely to remain somewhere between 14 and 16 bikes (6 Hondas, 4 Yamahas and probably 5 Ducatis), getting an additional 8 to 10 bikes on the grid from the current entry list should be perfectly feasible.
With all of the media interest that Valentino Rossi's switch to Ducati has generated, the biggest change to the MotoGP series since the introduction of the four-strokes in 2002 is going largely unnoticed. The switch back to 1000cc machines is proceeding quietly apace, however, with the factories working towards rolling out their 2012 MotoGP bikes over the next few weeks - Ducati is due to test their 2012 bike at Jerez some time this week - prior to the first official outing for the machines at Mugello on July 4th, the day after the Italian Grand Prix.
The 2011 MotoGP season has many things to be excited about - Valentino Rossi on a Ducati, Casey Stoner on a Honda, Ben Spies on a factory Yamaha, and so much more. But the 2012 season is probably just as eagerly anticipated, even though it is still over a year away. For 2012 sees the return of the 1000cc machines, and hopes are high that having the larger capacity back will see closer, more exciting racing.
For the third year running, MotoGP is down to just 17 bikes on the grid. And for the second time in three years, a manufacturer is showing an alarming lack of commitment to the series, Suzuki fielding just one rider for the 2011 season. Sponsors are pulling out and teams are constantly complaining about a lack of money. Something has to be done.
Throughout 2009, MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission, debated ways of changing the class to make the series cheaper, thereby increasing the number of bikes on the grid. The solution, announced in December 2009, was the return to 1000cc machines under specific restrictions aimed at capping costs: a maximum of four cylinders, and an 81mm maximum bore.
But that in itself was not enough. Throughout the entire process, it was also broadly hinted that the requirement that engines must be prototypes would be dropped for privateer teams, with these so-called Claiming Rule Teams being allowed to run heavily modified production engines in a prototype chassis. To ensure the teams would not be forced to spend on electronics what they saved on engines, the CRT machines would also be allowed an extra 3 liters of fuel above the allowance for the factory machines (for our detailed explanation of exactly what the CRT rules entail, see The 2012 MotoGP Revolution Part 1.)
The Grand Prix Commission - MotoGP's rulemaking body - appear to have too little to do. A meeting last week announced yet another shakeup of the weekend schedule for each MotoGP event, which will see three sessions of free practice, of 45 minutes each, and an hour of qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
The announcement is the latest in a series of changes to the organization of practice, coming just over a month after the previous change. In the meeting of December 9th, 2010, the GP commission announced a return to the four-practice schedule, then agreeing that the MotoGP class would have four sessions of an hour, two sessions on Friday and two on Saturday, including qualifying in the afternoon. That has now been amended to three free practice sessions of 45 minutes (two on Friday and one on Saturday morning), with an hour of qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
There's good news and bad news for the opponents of electronics in motorcycle racing from today's meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, held in Madrid in Spain. MotoGP's rule-making body met to discuss changes to the regulations for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, and electronics was one of the subjects under discussion.
But the first order of business was to rearrange practice. The changes made in the cost-cutting frenzy between the 2008 and 2009 seasons have finally been scrapped once again, and the four-practice schedule used by MotoGP for so many years before makes a welcome return. The schedule had been partially reinstated at the end of the 2010 season, with four sessions of 45 minutes replacing the three one-hour sessions which had been used for the past two seasons. Though the reception was overwhelmingly positive, the one complaint that riders had being that the 45 minute sessions left little time to make changes during the session.
2012 is the year that everything will change. A bafflingly large number of people think this is because of the approach of Planet X, bringing destruction upon the world as foretold by the end of the Mayan calendar (which rather inconveniently now appears to end in 2220), but for motorcycle racing fans, something even more momentous than the end of civilization is on the cards. For 2012 is the year that sees the return of 1000cc motorcycles to MotoGP.
Those who were hoping to see the return of the glorious RC211V and its soul-churning V5 bellow will be sorely disappointed, however. MotoGP may be allowing the return of the liter bikes, but a couple of significant rule changes mean that the face of the grid will be altered irrevocably. There'll be no more barking V5 Hondas, nor howling Aprilia RS3 Cubes, nor will the overly optimistic and sadly failed WCM Blata V6 project be revived. The rules have been written such that the bikes will have four cylinders, use a four-stroke combustion cycle, and are likely to come in well under 1000cc capacity.
The long-awaited rules for the replacement of the 125cc class were announced at Valencia on Saturday, with the details finalized for the 250cc four-stroke formula. The rules contain few surprises from the information that has leaked out over the past few months, with the thought process behind it very clear: a lot of technical regulations have been imposed to avoid the costs from spiraling out of control.