Yet more repercussions from Kawasaki's shock withdrawal from MotoGP. The Italian site GPOne.com is reporting that a meeting is being arranged for all of the manufacturers involved in MotoGP to discuss the crisis in the series. The meeting is due to be held early next week, with the date of January 7th being mentioned, and will include Ducati and Kawasaki, despite Kawasaki's intention to withdraw from the series.
The main business of the meeting will of course be cutting costs. GPOne says that a salary cap is one proposal which could be discussed, despite the measure having little or no success in other sports where it has been tried. The problem for 2009 is of course that budgets have already been committed and spending is already well underway: GPOne reports that despite their plans to pull out of MotoGP, Kawasaki have already spent some 6 million dollars on the 2009 season, money they will not see again.
Part of the problem is the fact that MotoGP is a prototype series, and there is no way to defray the costs. Though many have pointed to the World Superbike series as a much cheaper form of racing, they are conveniently neglecting the fact that the race teams pay only a fraction of the R&D costs which go into the bikes which race in the series. It is the buyers of the latest versions of liter sportsbikes who bear the brunt of the development costs, with race teams only left to shoulder the costs for tuning and developing the bikes within the narrow framework set out by the FIM rules.
FIM President Vito Ippolito has already suggested a way of addressing this problem. The Venezuelan FIM boss proposed a return to the policies of the 1970s and 80s, when factories produced "production prototypes", race bikes which they then sold to privateer teams, rather than the leasing arrangements which are the current vogue. The main obstacle to this proposal would be IMS, the body than runs World Superbikes. IMS, in the persons of the Flammini brothers, have a contract with the FIM for the sole rights to production motorcycle racing. Any blurring of the line between those two series would see a lot of expensive wrangling between IMS and Dorna about who is allowed to do what.
Whether the meeting of MotoGP manufacturers can come up with proposals to help solve the current financial crisis remains to be seen. The need for action to limit costs is clear. The question is, how do you do that without the measures you take either ruining racing, or even worse, backfiring and actually forcing up costs through something unforeseen?