Much has been said on the subject of the need for more machines on the MotoGP grid, but despite all the plans and hopes of the FIM and Dorna, the entry remains stubbornly close to the 18 bikes believed to be the minimum number guaranteed by Dorna as part of the deal with the FIM to organize the championship. Dorna has consistently pressured all of the manufacturers to provide more bikes, pressure which the manufacturers stubbornly continue to resist.
Recently, more hopeful noises had been emerging from the MotoGP paddock, with hints that Yamaha might be persuaded to up its involvement in MotoGP and put more bikes on the grid. The rumors gained some crediblity from the public pronouncements of Jorge Martinez of the Aspar team, who claimed that he would definitely be in MotoGP in 2010. Aspar has long been linked with the Yamaha team, an association that Martinez has hinted at previously.
Today, however, all such hopes were dashed. Fiat Yamaha Managing Director Lin Jarvis told the British weekly Motorcycle News that Yamaha would only be providing 4 bikes in MotoGP for the foreseeable future. Jarvis admitted that discussions had taken place with Aspar about a 5th bike, and also that Dorna had put pressure on them to provide more machines, but Yamaha declined the opportunity.
The reasons are simple: The current economic climate does not allow Yamaha to field more than 4 bikes, Jarvis told MCN. A number, he added, that Yamaha had always felt was the "optimum number" in guaranteeing the quality of the bikes. And there is no mystery as to where those bikes are going. The factory Fiat Yamaha team will retain 2 bikes, for MotoGP's two hottest properties Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and the Tech 3 team will be given the other 2 bikes, as part of the contract Herve Poncharal has with Yamaha.
Jarvis' statements seem to also rule out any increase, even if the proposal to scrap the spare bike each rider has is adopted. Such a proposal would mean each rider would have only a single bike - as is currently the case in the Scot Honda garage, now that Gabor Talmacsi has joined Yuki Takahashi - potentially freeing up extra capacity to put more bikes on the grid.
But several factors make it unlikely that the proposal will be adopted. Firstly, a single bike for each rider would introduce a number of complications, not least in flag-to-flag races and in qualifying, both of which would be much more difficult with only a single bike. More importantly, however, in the current economic climate the factories would prefer to use any savings generated by having fewer machines on the grid to shore up the flagging financial positions, rather than spend it on more bikes. And having more bikes on the grid - even if there were fewer bikes in total in the paddock - would increase personnel costs, with the factories generally requiring at least one factory representative in each team to liaise between the team and the factory.