The one complaint that has dogged the MotoGP series all this year is the number of bikes on the grid. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta had to use all of his powers of persuasion - including some of the darker arts at his disposal - to keep at least one Kawasaki on the grid and keep the numbers up to 18. All of his hard work went to waste by mid-season, when the fickle construction mogul Francisco Hernando pulled the plug on his eponymous team, leaving Sete Gibernau stranded and the grid down to 17.
Since then, the Grand Prix Commission has been hard at work looking for ways to increase the grid again. Using production engines in prototype chassis was one idea that was mooted, a move the MSMA countered with a proposal to lease engines without chassis at a much more affordable cost. That the MSMA has a different definition of "affordable" became apparent at Indianapolis, where the price for a single engine being bandied about was in the region of 700,000 euros, or about 65% of an entire bike.
Things may not be as bad as they seem, though. For a new team could enter the 2010 MotoGP championship, in the shape of former World Superbike team FB Corse. Today, the team announced that they were aiming to enter the series next season, with a bike built and designed by the Italian team themselves. The bike is an in-line three-cylinder four stroke, designed by Mauro Forghieri of the Oral Engineering Group, an engineer with a history in Ferrari's Formula One program, as well as having designed engines for Bugatti and Lamborghini. According to the published specifications, the engine will produce over 150 kW, or between 200 and 210 horsepower, a number which seems to be around 10% below what the current crop of bikes on the grid are producing. According to GPOne.com, this was the three-cylinder engine that BMW was building its MotoGP project around, before the German company switched tacks and aimed at racing in World Superbikes instead.
The bike has a couple of interesting innovations, one of which has actually caused the team a serious problem. The bike uses a hydraulically-actived semi-automatic six speed gearbox, but hydraulically controlled clutches were banned at a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission ealier this year. As a consequence, a shakedown test planned for the Valencia Grand Prix has had to be postponed while a solution is being sought. Dorna CEO is very keen to see more bikes on the grid, so no doubt negotiations are underway to make sure the bike could be made legal somehow.
No riders have yet been named by the team, but as the bike is an all-Italian project - the FB Corse team ran in the Italian Superbike championship with Giovanni Bussei (probably the coolest motorcycle racer on the planet) and Mauro Sanchini, and were involved in the DFX Corse World Superbike effort this year - it is very likely that the team will want an Italian rider. This would put Alex de Angelis in the hot seat for the ride, if the Italian is left without a bike with one of the existing teams in 2010. However, Roger Burnett, James Toseland's manager, told the BBC that he was also looking at a "new MotoGP project" without mentioning any names, and this could potentially be the project he was referring to.
There are photos of the project over on both GPOne.com and on Motoblog.it, and there are apparently more details on the FB Corse website. However, given that the FB Corse website is an unusable Flash monstrosity (though very pretty to look at), those details and photos were hard to find.
Specifications, as so far revealed:
- 3 cylinder in-line four stroke
- Capacity: 797.99 cc
- Bore x Stroke: 90 x 41.8 mm
- Compression ratio: 13.9:1
- Power: Over 150 kW @ 18,000 rpm
- Pneumatic valves
- Electro-mechanically operated variable length intake trumpets
- Ride by wire mechanically operated throttle actuation
- 6-speed semi-automatic gearbox
- Magnetti Marelli ECU
- Aluminum box section frame
- Wet weight: 143 kg
- Carbon fiber bodywork
- Cx 0.22 in a wind tunnel without a rider, 0.27 with a rider