A lack of oversight has been blamed by many for the outbreak of the financial crisis, and in response, there has been a deafening clamor for a vast tightening of the rules. As a major victim of the credit crunch, MotoGP has joined in, with an almost unceasing stream of proposals for new rules all aimed at cutting costs and saving the sport.
Along with the more straightforward cost-cutting measures reported yesterday, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has also put forward a series of proposals aimed at assisting the satellite teams to attract both sponsors and talent. According to GPOne.com, he presented these proposals to the managers of the satellite teams (all except for the Nieto brothers, who run Sete Gibernau's team) in Bologna on Tuesday.
The most significant change proposed is the institution of a separate championship for the satellite teams. The championship would have an official status, with its own podium ceremony at every race and a separate team championship as well. The winner of the title would be able to call himself World Champion. The aim is to give the satellite teams more exposure, as under the current rules, their chances at a podium - let alone a championship - are very slim indeed. By setting up a separate championship and a separate podium ceremony, Ezpeleta hopes to make satellite teams more attractive for potential sponsors.
Though in itself more exposure for satellite teams would be very welcome, merely adding a separate championship won't change the TV coverage of the sport. TV directors will continue to concentrate on the most important battle, the battle at the front for the title of MotoGP World Champion. And though a separate podium ceremony would mean extra TV time for the satellite teams, this ceremony will be the first to be cut by most broadcasters, many of whom don't even show the normal podium ceremony as it overruns the slot provided for MotoGP.
Another suggestion under discussion would be to force rookies entering the class to join satellite teams rather than going straight onto the factory bikes. Under this proposal, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa would not have been allowed to go straight to the Fiat Yamaha and Repsol Honda team, but would first have had to spend a year with the Tech 3 Yamaha team or the Gresini Honda team. To keep this affordable, a salary cap would probably have to be placed on rookies joining satellite teams, as even the increased sponsorship potential offered by a big name rider may not outweigh the added burden of their salary.
Along the same lines, Ezpeleta urged the satellite teams to get involved in the new Moto2 class, destined to replace the 250s in 2011. The benefits would be manifold: the satellite teams could use the new class as a feeder class, and a place to ready young prodigies for the step up into MotoGP. This could help younger riders resist the lure of the factory teams, and give them a natural career path offering a progression up through the ranks.
Of course, as Alberto Cani of GPOne.com points out, this would also serve Dorna's purposes all too elegantly: Carmelo Ezpeleta wants 26 bikes on the grid of the new Moto2 class, and if all six satellite teams were to set up two-rider Moto2 teams - either of their own free will or under duress from Dorna - that would put 12 bikes on the grid already.
It's clear from the proposals that Dorna recognizes the problems which face satellite teams in MotoGP, and that they are desperate to do something about it. The tragedy is that they don't seem willing to do the one thing that might actually make racing cheaper again: drastically lower the cost of producing horsepower.