The news that KTM was testing a KERS system for their 125cc race bikes was something of a eureka moment for those who follow any form of motorsport. If there is one place that a KERS system makes sense, it is on a small capacity motorcycle - the relatively small power gain available through KERS is of more use to a bike which starts off with relatively little power to begin with. It was obvious that KERS on a 125cc bike is an absolute no-brainer.
That very realization that KERS was a no-brainer has proven fateful for the system. In a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission held today, the body ruled that the KERS system as it was being used by KTM should be declared illegal under the current wording of the rules, which state that the bikes must be "propelled by an internal combustion engine."
This point could be argued either way. The KERS system obtains its energy from the speed lost during braking, speed gained as a result of the internal combustion engine. But it is unarguably a supplemental system, which of itself does not operate using the principle of internal combustion. Long and expensive lawsuits could have been fought over this, such is the vagueness of the rules.
In the end, though, it wasn't the fear of cheating which caused the GP Commission to ban KERS, but rather costs. Despite the system as it exists today being relatively cheap, the GP Commission feared that costs could spiral out of control if teams felt they needed to develop KERS to be able to compete. The cost-cutting mantra has become "the new patriotism" as one motorsports commentator has taken to calling it, by which she means that anything put forward in the name of cost-cutting is accepted without argument, just as in the post 9/11 period any argument on the balance between security and liberty could be overruled by making it an issue of patriotism.
But this won't necessarily mean that this is the end of KERS. KTM has been advised that a simple request to the MSMA for a wording change to the rules would be sufficient to make KERS legal again. It could be back sooner than we think.