How hard is it to build a MotoGP bike and run a competitive team from scratch? Unbelievably hard. Just ask Mario Ilien. The British-based Ilmor has just announced that they are withdrawing from MotoGP with immediate effect. The wording they use is "postpone", stating their intention to return once they find the necessary funding. But given the incomprehensible state of MotoGP sponsorship currently, that may not be any time soon. Ilmor could be the first case given to the sports marketing and sponsorship company Wasserman Media Group, which Dorna has just hired to search for an injection of funds for MotoGP.
Ilmor had done a remarkable job building their 800 cc bike from absolutely nothing, but their origin in Formula 1 was clear in the engine characteristics. Where other teams had focussed on mid-range and rideability, the Ilmor seemed still to have too much of a sharp power band, making it hard to get on the gas early enough out of corners without being painfully ejected by the bike, as Jeremy McWilliams discovered so painfully at Jerez late last year. The comparison with Honda and Yamaha is remarkable, where the bikes have been built almost entirely around maximizing corner speed, and drive out of corners, to the cost of top end, which cost them dearly compared to the Ducati.
The full text of the press release is below:
Ilmor GP postpone race programme
Brixworth, Northampton 15.03.07: Ilmor GP Team Principal Mario Illien today announced that the team will not be attending the second round of the MotoGP World Championship next week in Jerez. The teams' race attendance has been suspended for the immediate future however engine development will continue and Illien expects for the team to return to the MotoGP racing scene as soon as key financial partners have been secured.
At this early stage in the project, racing and developing the engine and chassis has proved extremely costly for Ilmor's owners. Since the team launched last year in Estoril at the penultimate round of the MotoGP Championship good progress has been made but further development is needed to become fully competitive on track.
Commenting on the announcement Ilmor GP Team Principal and Part Owner of Ilmor Engineering Mario Illien said: "We discussed the situation in great detail internally and obviously it was an extremely difficult decision for us to make. However once we went through all the options, we decided that the best course of action for the sake of the project as a whole would be to put the racing side of things on hold and continue developing.
"I would like to thank Dorna, IRTA, FIM and our technical partners and suppliers for their on-going support and patience during this time. My heart is still very much in the team - we have had fantastic support from the public and the media with some great coverage worldwide. I would also like to say how enormously proud I am of what we managed to achieve in a short space of time - we have a good group of people who have worked incredibly hard over the past few months. Both riders, Jeremy McWilliams and Andrew Pitt have given their best during a difficult development time - I couldn't have asked for more than that.
"We have important meetings and discussions over the next few weeks which will help us to establish the future of the project and team - I am determined to explore all opportunities available to us and I'm hopeful that there will be a positive outcome."