Why do manufacturers go racing? That is a question which has intrigued me for years, and to which I have spent many years trying to get a straight answer. All of my attempts to get factory bosses to quantify exactly what the returns are, and in what areas, have fallen on barren ground.
The simple answer, of course, is that there are three reasons why manufacturers go racing. In no particular order, they are: as a platform for engineering research and development; as a platform for marketing and brand positioning; and as a training ground for engineers. The relative value for each of these remains a mystery, which the factories are either unwilling, or unable to specify.
At the launch of Ducati's Desmosedici Stradale V4 engine, presented to the media at the Misano round of MotoGP, I got a chance to ask Gigi Dall'Igna, the boss of Ducati Corse about the value of MotoGP in developing engines for the street. Much was made by Ducati of the Stradale's heritage, as a direct descendant of the Desmosedici GP15 bike. The engine shares a layout with the GP15, as well as the same bore. (The stroke is longer, to give the engine more torque at lower revs, and make it more ridable.)
Dall'Igna was frank about the transfer of engineering knowledge from the MotoGP bike to the road bike. Yes, there were definitely lessons which had been learned, and could be applied to production engines, but the constraints of production engineering did severely limit what would find its way into road bikes.
One of the biggest constraints on MotoGP in recent years has been the introduction of engine limits, restricting the number of engines a rider can use in a season. Where once, a MotoGP engine would be stripped and rebuilt every 500km (or in the most extreme cases, such as Honda's 2007 RC212V, 300km), now engines have to last around 1800km. Had the lessons learned making MotoGP engines more durable been used to improve reliability for Ducati's Stradale V4 engine?
This is part of a semi-regular series of insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series includes background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion pieces. Though the majority of content on MotoMatters.com remains free to read, a select amount of the more interesting content will be made available solely to those who have supported the website financially by taking out a subscription.
The aim is to provide additional value for our growing band of site supporters, providing extra original and exclusive content. If you would like to read more of our exclusive content and help MotoMatters.com to grow and improve, you can join the growing band of site supporters, by taking out a subscription here.