Tech 3 Team Could Swap MotoGP For Moto2

The Moto2 category, brought in to replace the 250 class, is proving to be a big hit with the people it was aimed at: The teams. The series organizer is already predicting that the 34 available places will be over-subscribed, meaning that the grid could feature no 250s at all in 2010.

Interest is not just coming from the current crop of 250 teams though. The Tech 3 team, currently active in MotoGP with Colin Edwards and James Toseland, has already expressed an interest, and in an interview with the French motorcycle magazine MotoRevue, the team manager Herve Poncharal explains just why.

"<Satellite> MotoGP teams like us have little more to do at a weekend than just adjust the bike and fiddle with the settings. We have nothing more to do, it's stipulated in our contracts that we are not allowed to make any modifications to the machines which have been placed at our disposal. If you have a highly-skilled team, it's hard to hang on to them if you don't have enough of a challenge for your boys for the entire year." Poncharal's problems are caused by the contracts by which the satellite teams are supplied bikes. The bikes are only leased to the team, and as a consequence, there's only a very limited number of options the teams have for setting the bikes up.

Poncharal sees Moto2 as a chance to hang on to the young engineers he is bringing into motorcycle racing, as well as a chance for fellow team founder Guy Coulon to get back to designing and building chassis, a skill he is currently unable to practice. "Moto2 will allow us to get back to what we used to do during the winter and the Grand Prix. We have young engineers who do fewer races than their counterparts in Supersport. If we can give them more work to do, they are more likely to want to stay with us."

The new category will also make it easier to find sponsorship. "Right now, a satellite squad can't sell their sponsors the possibility of a world title," Poncharal said. But Moto2 offered an opportunity for breeding talent. "We can take young riders from 125 or national championships, train them in Moto2 and then get them ready for MotoGP. I know that the people in charge at Monster are very interested in doing this."

The Moto2 class has so many advantages for Tech 3 that it could lead them to focus there efforts in the new class, and move away from MotoGP. "We are all being forced to reconsider our activities," Poncharal told MotoRevue.

Poncharal and Coulon's enthusiasm for the new class underlines a fundamental weakness with MotoGP. For the past 10 years or so, the factories have been tightening their grip on the machines they lease to private teams, allowing the teams to do less and less to the bikes. This discourages the teams in two different ways. Firstly, as Poncharal points out, it takes a lot of the fun out of being involved in MotoGP for the mechanics and engineers, as their creativity and problem-solving skills are limited more and more. The series is a lot less attractive to bright young engineers when the only challenge they face is working their way around the limitations imposed by the factory.

Secondly, of course, the restrictions prevent the teams from being competitive. While the factory continues to develop the factory bikes, improving them throughout the season, the satellite teams are left to wait for upgrades from the factory, and left without a means of taking their fate into their own hands, and testing their own modifications. If there is one thing the manufacturers fear more than being beaten by other factories, it's being beaten by their satellite teams. Restricting the flow of parts to the satellite teams and the amount of development they can do is one way of ensuring the factory teams don't get shown up.

If Tech 3 do pull out of MotoGP, there are plenty of people waiting to take their place. Not least the Aspar team, who have been engaged in discussions for over a year now about entering into the premier class. Aspar boss Jorge Martinez has hinted that Yamaha will be providing him with bikes in MotoGP next year, and while the current assumption has been that Martinez would be getting two extra machines to be provided by Yamaha - probably as a result of the one-bike-per-rider rule currently being suggested - it is entirely conceivable that instead, Aspar could find himself taking Tech 3's bikes. This would allow Aspar to bring Alvaro Bautista to MotoGP, something that Jorge Martinez has been working towards for some considerable time.

So far, though, Tech 3 are still in MotoGP. But with the Moto2 class such an attractive prospect, and so much more affordable than MotoGP, the new class could end up being as much of a threat to the premier class as World Superbikes.

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That is yet another significant problem with the MotoGP class...the whole restrictions placed on the satellite teams by the factory thing. Despite the reasons the factories may do this to their satellite teams, I don't understand how this benefits the sport in any way. Besides, if I were a manufacturer...I'd much rather see a bike crossing the finish line first with my company's brand name on it, rather than my competitor's brand name. Even if it is a satellite bike beating my factory effort. But that's just me. Reminds me of when Alex Barros (on a Pramac Ducati) passed Casey Stoner at a race in 2007 I believe, to take 3rd. Afterwards, the Ducati factory got all pissed at Barros. What a joke...Stoner was going backwards and Barros did what any racer should have done. That's racing.

As for Moto2 by Honda, no matter how successful it ends up being, the class will always be a shadow of what it could have been.

So, how do we take the momentum that Moto2 is building and transfer it into MotoGP? Clearly a spec engine isn't the answer. As Dr. Gellar points out, Moto2 could have been much more than it will be as a result of that spec engine. That said, the spec engine does solve a major problem for many teams while at the same time removing a potential advantage for some smaller teams. Clearly, there are teams out there who can build a frame and would probably be able to do so in MotoGP if they had a source of competitive motors. The lease bike situation is clearly untenable. So, how do we get the motors in the hands of people who can use them? One possible solution is the create incentives for independent engine builders or factories for producing engines that are [u]sold[/u] to the teams. Perhaps an “Engine-Builder” championship?

The one thing we should see coming out of Moto2 is riders who can succeed on a wider variety of equipment. So, a rider who is clearly talented but isn’t an “Aprilia rider” (like Eugene Laverty) can actually have a chance. This will create a chasm or at least a significant amount of confusion around who can ride in MotoGP as the two classes will reward disparate styles.

If MotoGP isn’t changed to be able to capitalize on the outcomes of Moto2, WSBK will be the clear beneficiary.

Moto2 is an attempt by Dorna and the MSMA to create a cost-suppressed Grand Prix series that increases viewership by creating close racing. DORNA sold the MotoGP licensing rights in 2006 when MotoGP was at a viewership peak. The current investors have certainly taken some losses since the introduction of the 800s. The MSMA have given Moto2 to Dorna in exchange for a laissez-faire premier class.

Many of the recent rules written in MotoGP have come at the behest of the satellite teams who have restricted budgets (the rookie-rule most of all). When the head of the IRTA says he's planning on transitioning resources to the Moto2 program, you know Moto2 is designed to be something big.

The MSMA have flatly rejected attempts by DORNA to police MotoGP based upon viewership, but due to the emergence of control ECU's, Moto2 appears to be run directly by Dorna and not the manufacturers. Obviously, the spec-Honda engine is NOT designed to be a long term arrangement because it drastically reduces funds/equipment made available from major manufacturers. The spec-engine is also a far cry from the original rules package envisioned by DORNA. It seems that DORNA lost their appeal to use production engines, and they were forced to pursue the spec-engine as a temporary fix.

More manufacturers will probably begin constructing new 600cc engines and transmissions to compete in the Moto2 class, I'm assuming that all new engines will be designed around some type of controlled performance specifications. Controlled engine spec will keep costs down and make it easier for DORNA to police the spec-ECUs.

I think tires will be the most interesting thing to watch. Rumors suggest that Moto2 will showcase prototype rubber. MotoGP-spec rubber on a 135kg bike? I think not. Dorna just enforced a control tire on 148kg bikes b/c costs/performance were getting out of hand. How dumb does DORNA think we are? [assuming the series' tire is indeed labeled "prototype"]