Randy Mamola truly is a MotoGP legend. The American may never have won a championship, but the perennial runner up was always a huge favorite with both the fans and the media. To this day, Mamola is still a regular face in the paddock, the American riding the Ducati X2 two-seater for VIPs and guests, although budget cuts and the loss of the live broadcast rights meant that he is no longer the pit lane reporter for British Eurosport.
Mamola holds strong opinions about the sport of MotoGP, which regular expounds both in his column for US magazine Road Racer X and on the Alpinestars website. MotoMatters.com's Scott Jones caught up with Mamola at Laguna Seca, to get his take on the Moto2 class.
MotoMatters: Randy, now that we're half way through the 2010 season, what are your thoughts on Moto 2 and what might be done to improve it next year?
Randy Mamola: I can hit this one from all angles; there are super pros and super cons. I think that in the economic world we're living in right now, there were a lot of things done to protect the class. Obviously we're coming from 250s. We know that a factory 250 was 1.2 million euros. And when you say that to an American, or anybody, you're going, What? But this is the cost of racing.
Dakota [Randy's son, currently in the 125GP class of BSB and the CEV] is racing in the Spanish Championship and the bikes are more than 100,000 euros. How is that possible when his bike is 15,000? It's material, and that's what material costs when you're dealing with cutting edge concepts.
So obviously we lowered the bar in one area by bringing in a single engine, which is an easier step to try to do something like that. But in fact I think there are a lot of people who say there should be a Yamaha, there should be Honda, there should be a Suzuki and so on. All have 600s somewhere in their line, and I'd love to see an Aprilia 600, a Ducati 600, and so on. And not a 750 twin racing against a 600, I'm talking 600 in-line fours, but they're all in-line fours.
Now I'm not an engineer, and I don't know the bore and stroke on a Suzuki , or a Honda, or a Yamaha or a Kawi. But they all have 600s and they all race against each other. But once you do a single tire, you've got to do a rev limit. Once you do a single suspension… You understand what I'm getting at?
Right now Moto2 bikes are all running 16,000 rpm. But if you let a Yamaha 600 in, but it revs at 17,000 because the bore and the stroke are a little bit different. What needs to happen, to me, is that this needs to become a spec engine. Again, I wouldn't try to set the specifics, bore and stroke and so on, but once you set a guideline, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and everybody can make that. And then you take the ECU box off, because they'll all be a similar character.
You might think, that's boring, that's no good. But why does Formula 1 all of the sudden increase in teams? Because it's all single engine. Cosworth can come right back in, and they got a fifth or sixth place a few races ago. Cosworth has been out for years, but they can compete because of the concept.
And does it matter that they're all V-8s? In our world we keep saying, "That's not what we sell!" When we were racing 500s, were we selling friggin' 500s? No! Superbike was selling 500s, and Supersport. So we either have to swallow World Superbike, because the class already exists with four-stroke street engines, beefed up to whatever, called "Superbike."
But our sport's in turmoil when I think about this. There are no street bikes over there. There's a few, but they're all private teams. And why does the privateer have to run a Pirelli if he can't have the same bike Biaggi's got? Once you start limiting specs, you've got to give the other options [to everyone].
So a lot of people will say, "It's got to be about technology." And I agree, it does. Formula 1 is about technology. F1's about making an engine last. Their races are two hours, and they do four one-hour sessions? They have eight engines for twenty races? Tell me what they're working on, because they're screaming at 18,000 rpm.
So we have to find a happy medium. I think that Superbike is trying to come our way too much, because the people who are running it are allowing those rules to be flexed a bit. I don't think you and I can go buy an Aprilia RSV4 or a Ducati that can run close to those two factory bikes. And neither can we do that in MotoGP, because where the racing and the doors are open, those doors need to be shut, stop the technology and let it be built, and then that technology HAS to go down to garage number ten as well [as the factory garage].
MM: What do you think of the size of the Moto2 grid with forty bikes racing into the first corner?
RM: Too many. How many people recognize twenty of the sponsors without looking in a magazine? Nobody. We don't even know half of the [riders'] names. Why? Because we've let all these people come in. And I understand the other side [of the issue], and I understand that there are a lot of Spanish riders; in order to survive right now, Spain is the country that has a good group of teams that can put the budgets together. And you have to live with that.
It's sort of like NASCAR; the home of NASCAR is down there in the south, and they have more races in that region because they go where NASCAR is loved. We have four Grands Prix in Spain right now.
So what I'd like to see, I don't know the exact number [of the grid], but I think it needs to be teams of two. Two bikes with the same colors so it's easy to commentate on. Besides Tony Elias winning these races or being on the podium, who are those other guys? You never see them [on TV]. Sometimes you see a name pop up and then it disappears, and it's only because Dennis Noyes is here that we know who Kenny Noyes is. What's really important for television is if you have two red bikes, two orange bikes, two blue bikes, it's Team This, and now you start remembering the name. It's This Sponsor, and you can remember the name.
So is twenty-four enough? Is twenty-six enough? I'd also like to see a wildcard team. I don't care what chassis they get, but you go to Australia, you take a local 600 guy--look at what we just did with [Roger Lee] Hayden. We stuck him in the deep end, on a bike that's really difficult to understand, and I mean REALLY difficult. The concept of it is a puzzle. But I think he's done a great job. Moto2 should be more simple because everyone's on a similar engine, same RPMs and all that, and now you've got a local boy racing against the regulars and I think there's a good shot of the local boy [doing well].
Forty-one guys? The problem is I'm really afraid for the guys when we watch the races. They're folding like a house of cards, and that's really scary to watch. Racing is dangerous, but if you're in a ten horsepower go kart, you're all going to get to the first turn at the same time, and we're putting them in that situation.
And that's the problem with them all having the same low horsepower. 10 horsepower go kart? Things need to really be dialed in. 200 horsepower go kart? You can dial it in yourself. And I don't understand why we have all these [limits] in place yet we don't weigh the bike and rider together. Again, driving a go kart with ten horsepower? Weight is everything. Driving a go kart with two hundred horsepower? Weight doesn't have the same effect, which is why MotoGP could never go that way.
MM: So you don't think they should weigh Pedrosa on his Honda against the larger riders on their bikes?
RM: No. Say Dani's 15 kilos lighter than the other riders - you strap on forty pounds to his bike? How could he ride the thing? Does Rossi have an advantage sliding back in the seat to keep the back end down? Dani can't slide back there. Fifteen kilos over the rear wheel going into a corner helps Rossi brake. Dani can't do that. This is another story entirely.
MM: Back to Moto2 for one more question, please. What do you think about the competition between chassis designs given the standard engine?
RM: I think its a huge step forward, because MotoGP needs that. MotoGP needs Honda to design an engine that's the same when they pass it down to the other Honda teams. Who's developing Simoncelli's bike? Simoncelli or Dani? What size is Dani, what size is Dovizioso, what size is Simoncelli? You need to be able to build [a chassis] around you. I think the teams need to have that possibility.
In the 500 days, on Team Roberts, when chassis didn't work for Wayne, they built chassis. All that stuff was simple. The concept of that stuff was simple. Now we have manufacturers building those Moto2 bikes, but De Puniet gets upgrades whenever it works up front for the upgrade to trickle down to him. What happens if [LCR] already has the concept and they can build something themselves? To me that means Honda or the other factories should release that to their second teams. If we go onto the grid in the first race and things aren't working for the factory team, how's it ever going to work for the satellite teams?
And individuality is also about the chassis, not only about the engine. That why in Formula 1, you do a contract with Mercedes, you get the same engine as Schumacher. There's no such thing as B Level, they're all homologated. They have to pass through [FIA scrutiny]. They have eight engines, and when Hamilton or Michael haven't used all eight engines, there are small things they can develop, but those engines are 95% all the same, whether it's a Ferrari or a Mercedes or whatever.
Two years ago, when Alonso was at Renault, they were forty horsepower down. Everyone else was locked down and Renault was allowed to develop for two months. Renault brought their engine up forty horsepower with the development they needed. Imagine telling Honda, Yamaha and Ducati "You have to stop and let Suzuki develop for the next two years while you guys hang tight." And maybe racing will catch up, and maybe we wont see these parade laps we see in some of these races.
During the interview Randy also said he'd heard about the possibility of bringing Moto 2 to Laguna Seca next year, but that this was still being discussed and not yet a final decision had been agreed upon by the parties involved.
Our sincere thanks to Randy for taking the time to speak with us, and for sharing his views on the future of Grand Prix racing.