The radical drop in the size of the MotoGP grid has everyone inside MotoGP worried. First Kawasaki officially withdrew, leaving only Marco Melandri on the Hayate in the class, then Grupo Francisco Hernando pulled out of sponsoring Sete Gibernau's GFH team, dropping the number of entries from 18 to 17. Add to that the shenanigans surrounding Yuki Takahashi's replacement by Gabor Talmacsi, after Talmacsi was able to bring funds to the cash-strapped team, and the picture of a series in crisis is complete.
Clearly something has to be done, to reduce costs and to expand the number of bikes on the grid. Last week at the Sachsenring, the Grand Prix Commission met to discuss the situation, and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta launched the idea of a two-tier system, allowing bikes with prototype chassis with engines based on production bikes to race against the current generation of fully factory supported prototype 800s. The story was unearthed by Paolo Scalera of the Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport, and senior MotoGP journalist Michael Scott in last week's issue of GPWeek opined that the move was probably a bullying tactic by Ezpeleta, aimed at forcing the factories into coming up with a counterproposal.
It seems the thought of racing against production-based engines has done exactly that. At Donington, Tech 3 boss and head of IRTA Herve Poncharal spoke extensively to MotoGPMatters.com, covering a wide range of subjects. One of the subjects he discussed at length was the cost-cutting proposals put forward by the MSMA to counter the exodus of teams from the premier class. He revealed that as Mike Scott had predicted, the MSMA had offered to lease engines only to MotoGP teams at a much more affordable price, allowing them to build their own prototype chassis around the engine.
Poncharal confirmed that Ezpeleta had launched the idea of using production engines at the Grand Prix Commission in Germany, saying, "Carmelo proposed [the idea]. Because of the Moto2 class, because it was a big success, then we were thinking 'what can we do to make it cheaper in the MotoGP class' and we thought 'OK, why can't we do Moto1 like the first Moto2 project?' Start from a production 1000cc engine, and have everything else full prototype, like in Moto2."
"So this idea we threw on the table, asking the MSMA 'What do you think?'. They came back with a proposal that they might be in the position from 2011 to supply engines only, 800cc prototype engines, at a really affordable cost."
When asked whether the Team KR bike was an example of this, Poncharal replied, "Exactly! But they are now thinking to do it, all of them, maybe not Suzuki, but all of the ones who are supplying the independent teams Ducati Honda and Yamaha, at an affordable cost. This is an idea, but they have been asking us to wait until Indianapolis to come with a real strong proposal."
The Grand Prix Commission is expected to meet here on Saturday, to discuss issues surrounding the number of sealed engines, but the big news, the news about the future of the MotoGP class, will have to wait until the end of August and the Indianapolis Grand Prix.