MotoGP Manufacturers To Hold Crisis Meeting In Japan

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?

 

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Comments

A combined effort between Grand Prix and WSBK could result in a better SBK effort as well as a realistically affordable GP series. Their leverage with tracks, media distributors and other areas of costs could only improve.

Why would a merger be a good thing? The attraction of WSB is that it isn't Motogp and vice versa. The two series are vastly different, both in their atmosphere, type of racing and costs. Before rushing to make yet further rule changes, perhaps Dorna could look at why their race series has become so expensive.

Firstly the move to 990's (which though great for us, was hugely expensive) and then the move to 800's creates expensive change. Rule changes create immediate costs that only add to the burden.

There are two main but very seperate areas of cost in a Motogp team. The development of the bike and the running of the team are very different. Whilst running a team must be expensive, it would pale into insignificance compared to the actual development of the bikes. Having said that, the excesses in a Motogp paddock (and F1 and WSB) certainly don't help. No, the main problem is the bikes themselves. With such intense competition and such loose rules, the temptation to outspend and out innovate your competitors is immense. When even the slowest bike out there is still only a few percent slower (and then with riders who may themselves be slower), you simply have to spend up big, just to not be totally blown away.

WSB is cheaper because the costs are largely born by the teams. They develop their own bikes, using conventional tuning methods, within the confines of a very tight set of rules. Still, you need to spend money to do this, but the techniques are widely understood and it's only the genius of your tuning engineer that really makes the difference. The use of adaptive suspension (using GPS mapping) has no relevance in street bikes and either has been, or will be, banned this season. The same with adaptive fuel mapping. All these 'innovations' merely make racing more and more expensive.

Unfortunately, in Motogp this has already happened and it's difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. Those teams who've made good use of their electronics wizards will be unwilling to go backwards and give this advantage away. Especially as they are the winning teams and their sponsorship and success is reliant upon the advantages they've managed to carve out. The real challenge for the people in charge is how to develop a set of rules that will immediately cut costs and not incur additional expense. One bike per rider, a limit on electronic development would be helpful. Allowing unlimited fuel (thereby negating the need for complicated electronics) would be another step. Banning carbon frames would be another (I assume a carbon frame is more expensive). But what else can you do that will reduce costs immediately and not disadvantage anyone?

Because the costs become prohibitive????? And then no-one can afford to compete. And the promoter wants grids full of bikes and riders?