As much as they will be missed, there was one very clear reason the 250s were replaced by the Moto2 class: Cost. The virtual monopoly that Aprilia had in the 250cc class meant that the Italian factory could ask whatever it liked for a competitive bike, and could pick and choose the riders to bless with competitive material. If you wanted to win races and have a shot at the title, you had little choice but to stump up the million plus euros that Aprilia was asking for a factory-spec RSA 250. It was possible to compete on the cheap - a privateer LE spec machine could be had for as little as 250,000 euros, though engine and chassis upgrades were still extremely expensive - but the only chance of success (and therefore publicity) would come in the rain, when the power advantage of the top bikes disappeared.
The idea behind Moto2 is incredibly simple: As the engine sucks up most of the cost of development in racing motorcycles, replace the engine with a cheaply available production-based unit, stick it in a prototype chassis and you have an affordable race bike. But just how "affordable" is a Moto2 machine? At the Valencia test, Spanish veteran journalist Mela Chercoles, writing for AS.com, asked Eskil Suter about the costs involved. Suter, whose bikes dominate the grid, if not the timesheets, came up with a figure of around 400,000 euros a season, per rider. Chercoles broke the costs down as follows:
- 17,250 euros registration deposit for each rider, with the money being returned at the end of the season;
- Around 100,000 euros per machine, though this is an average. The cheapest bike being the Suter (70,000 euros), the RSV - used by the Mapfre Aspar team - the most expensive, at 145,000 euros;
- Purchase and maintenance costs for a Moto2 bike for the full year come to a total of 400,000 euros, according to Suter;
- Engine lease and maintenance costs are around 90,000 euros a season;
- A 20,000 euro bond to be paid if the team believes the engine is not performing as expected, and wish to return the engine before the 1500km or 3 race period is up. If Geo Technology, who are performing the maintenance on the engine, test it and find it is within spec, then the team will forfeit that 20,000 euros;
- 12 Dunlop tires per race weekend will cost a grand total of 40,000 euros for a season. That gives each team 204 tires a season, at an average cost of just under 200 euros a tire.
- 3,500 euros for the 2D datalogger used on all of the bikes.
Of course, there's a lot that isn't included here. The most obvious omission would appear to be the salaries paid to the riders, but an educated guess suggests that at least half of the current grid will be riding for free, with the majority of those required to actually bring money to the team. Around 200,000 euros seemed to be the going rate for a competent rider to join a competent team, but at least one rider is believed to have contributed upwards of half a million euros to be racing in Moto2.
While the riders will race for free, either spending their parents' money or the money of sponsors they have brought to the team, the mechanics, team manager, hospitality staff, press officers and photographers need to be paid in cold, hard cash. Some of those jobs are farmed out to freelancers - photography is often farmed out to one of the army of freelancers or private agencies present at every race, but even that costs around 15,000 euros a year from some of the better agencies in the paddock. Hospitality staff are often hired locally, and so do not need accommodation and lodging for the weekend, but still need paying. The hospitality units themselves are specially designed units, as are the race trucks used to transport the bikes from circuit to circuit. And speaking of transport, everyone needs to be moved around Europe and the world, and given lodging and food for the duration of their stay.
Add these to the costs of the bikes, and you still have a hefty sum that needs to be laid out to go racing for a season. Though a team could probably recoup a big chunk of the investment in bikes by selling them on at the end of the year - something which was impossible with the 250s, which were only available under a lease arrangement - and the cost of a race truck and hospitality unit can be spread over multiple riders, classes and even seasons, there is still a big chunk of money that goes towards just turning up at each race. One prominent team manager estimated that running a two-rider team in Moto2 would cost in the region of 2.5 million euros, a figure another team manager laughed away, saying it could be done much cheaper. But the truth is, though the bikes may be cheap, the surrounding logistics mean you are unlikely to see much change from 1.5 million euros for a two-rider team. Even cheap racing isn't really cheap.