The decision of the Grand Prix Commission to kill off the 250cc class and replace it with a four-stroke formula was met with a great deal of scepticism by both fans and followers of motorcycle racing. Apart from the sadness at the loss of the two strokes, there was some doubt whether the bikes could be built as cheaply as the Grand Prix Commission hoped, negating the aims of making cheaper racing.
However, there is no doubt that there is real interest in the four-stroke 600cc series. Moriwaki have already exhibited a prototype at a couple of motor shows, and Ronald Ten Kate expressed an interest in the series in an interview with MotoGPMatters.com at Portimao last year.
Today, Ilmor said that they, too, are interested in the new class. Speaking to MotoGPMatters.com, Steve Miller, managing director of the British-based company said that they are watching developments closely. "We are very interested in the class," Miller said. "We would definitely like to be involved, if the series is run seriously and the organization behind it is good."
The framework of the new series - a 600 cc four-stroke engine with steel spring valves and a rev limit, fitted into a prototype chassis - would seem to suit Ilmor right down to the ground. The Northamptonshire-based engineering firm, founded around the engineering genius of Mario Illien, has built a reputation for building and developing racing engines over the years. Their last venture into MotoGP - the remarkable Ilmor X3 800cc bike - foundered on a lack of sponsorship. But the firm's prowess as an engine builder is beyond question, and there is no doubt they could design an engine to fit the new regulations.
And cost need not be an issue: "We think we can build a coil spring engine for that money," Miller replied, when asked whether Ilmor could build an engine within the 20,000 euro claiming rule budget, "But whether that would include a gearbox or not is debatable. Obviously, it would depend on what the competition were doing, and we'd have to see where they are first." Miller was not against a claiming rule, though he saw there could be problems. "We'll see whether it's effective. If they make it too cheap, then people will claim engines all the time, but if it's too expensive, then no one will ever use it, and there would be no point having the claiming rule."
Despite Ilmor's optimism about the class, Miller was not convinced that the new class would go ahead as planned. "We're not at every race any more, so we're out of the loop a little," Miller told MotoGPMatters.com, "But we're not even sure the series will go ahead. The latest we've heard is that the economic crisis has made everyone think again."