Flammini On 1000cc MotoGP Bikes: "We Are Ready To Defend Our Contract"

Ever since the news started filtering out of the Grand Prix Commission that the MSMA was prepared to accept the use of production engines in prototype MotoGP bikes, all eyes have been on Infront Motor Sports, where the Flammini brothers run the production-based World Superbike series, awaiting their response. The last time a bike using an engine based (to a very basic extent) on a production engine - the WCM machine, which you can find out about in our interview series with Peter Clifford, the man behind that project - the FIM put a stop to that project, claiming it violated the rules requiring that all bikes be prototypes. Though the Flammini brothers have always denied it and no evidence has ever been produced to support the accusation, suspicion still lingers in the MotoGP paddock that the former FIM president Francesco Zerbi came to the ruling after pressure from FGSport, the company that held the rights for the World Superbike series before the Flamminis sold a majority holding to the Infront group.

Since then, a number of things have changed. Firstly, the Grand Prix Commission is discussing a change to the rules which would explicitly allow the use of production-based engines, and making them legal for use. Secondly, the current FIM President, Vito Ippolito, is regarded as being considerably more independent than his Italian predecessor, and has a history as a team owner in the Grand Prix series. A charge of breaching the rules - which is how WCM was disqualified - would no longer stand, nor would it find political support from FIM headquarters in Switzerland.

But the Flamminis are still determined to halt any attempts by the Dorna-run MotoGP series onto what they perceive as their own territory. Paolo Flammini reiterated this standpoint again today, in an interview with the Italian website GPOne.com, telling the veteran journalist Claudio Porrozzi that they are prepared to defend their rights. "I repeat what I said earlier," Flammini told GPOne.com, "We have had assurances from the President of the FIM, Vito Ippolito, that these new rules would not be approved. So far, he has been true to his word, and I hope that this will continue in the future." The consequences of Ippolito not holding up what Infront Motor Sports regards as his end of the bargain would be dire, Flammini warned. "We are ready to take whatever action is necessary to defend the contract we have with the FIM, which, let us not forget, also covers the 600cc class based on production bikes."

The threat of action which Paolo Flammini is alluding to is centered around the contracts which FGSport - and now its legal successor, Infront Motor Sport - holds with the FIM. The Flamminis have long claimed their contract with the FIM grants them the exclusive right to organize races for production-based motorcycles. This contract extends, they argue, to any use of production equipment in a racing series.

So far, the FIM and Dorna have been wary of challenging those claims, but with Vito Ippolito at the helm of the FIM and the motorcycle industry in crisis, that reluctance may well disappear. At Valencia, Ippolito told veteran American journalist Dennis Noyes that he did not believe that the World Superbikes contract would prevent the use of heavily modified engines in MotoGP. According to Ippolito, the contract with IMS covers racing production motorcycles, not all forms of racing using production-based parts.

The truth in this matter is hard to determine. The contracts between Infront Motor Sports and the FIM are confidential, as you would expect in a commercially sensitive deal. The only people who know the actual terms of the contracts are the parties to the contract, IMS and the FIM, which would include the FIM's president Vito Ippolito.

The proof of the pudding, of course, will be in the eating. The Flammini brothers made similar noises when the Moto2 class was announced at the end of last year, but until now, they have been completely silent on the matter. The veiled threat issued by Paolo Flammini in the interview with GPOne.com ("[our contract] also covers the 600cc class based on production bikes") could be a sign that Infront is preparing an attack on two fronts. If the Grand Prix Commission, with representatives from the manufacturers, teams, Dorna and the FIM, persist with their plan to allow production-based engines, Infront could sue for breach of contract on both the Moto2 class and the proposed changes to MotoGP, is the implication to be taken from Flammini's pronouncements.

But Flammini made the same threats after the Moto2 class was announced, and so far, the lawyers have been sitting idly by. If Infront Motor Sports - part of one of the richest sports marketing groups in the world - really has a legal leg to stand on, those lawyers would be springing into action.

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Comments

Dave Emmett is correct if they(Flamminni) could have stopped the use of production engines they would have already. Waiting to bring up such an issue after the fact would weaken thier case.... 1000cc prototype and production engine Motogp bikes would make for a very strong show . After all when you get down to brass tax this is still entertainment . Something this series needs in the worst way. Right now the series is running on its history and grandure . As loyal as a following as we are, a new generation of followers is needed in Motogp instead of WSB.

I think InFront actually have the legal power to sue the FIM and win (based upon the contract rumors), but I think they lack the political power to pull it off. The MSMA are not going to look fondly on InFront's attempts to govern GP from the outside. Furthermore, InFront must know they will face backlash from the fans if they impede a return to a 1000cc GP formula. InFront probably have the support of Aprilia, BMW, and Triumph while Ducati and Kawasaki probably have mixed allegiance. I suspect Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki are probably firmly aligned with GP ambitions.

Who knows? Maybe Dorna are behind this disturbance. Ezy wants to get the privateers off of the Dorna dole while allowing them the opportunity to run at the front. Dorna would probably still prefer an engine leasing arrangement which means they might not care if InFront block the production engine provision.

What makes you think Infront would win? What is absolutely certain is that IMS have the exclusive right to race production motorcycles, but nobody knows what the wording of the actual contract is. FIM president Ippolito is one of the few people who has seen the contracts, other than the Flammini brothers, and as the Flamminis have a stake in the matter, you would have to say that Ippolito is the more credible of the two parties.

Neither Dorna nor IRTA want the engine leasing proposal, the only party that wanted that was the MSMA, but the factories wanted way too much money for the engines, about 80% of a complete bike. IRTA want to go racing at an affordable price, Dorna just want the series to make a profit for them, which means growing the market and maximizing income. That, in turn, means sizable grids and exciting racing.

I am very interested to hear why you think Infront would win. I'm hoping you know something I don't.

The rumor suggests that IMS have an exclusive contract with the FIM to race production motorcycles. We don't know the exact verbage, but we have 6 years of precedent to have a guess at how the contract works.

Apparently a "production motorcycle" is a prototype motorcycle that has some list of stock parts (frame, engine case, crank) that must remain intact. The brakes must be steel on a production race bike. Prototypes must consist of parts (frame and engine mainly) that are not produced for the production market.

Everything appears to revolve around the chassis and the engine. I remember when Carmelo had to address the FIM and explain how Moto2 bikes were prototypes. Ezpeleta said that the bikes would feature prototype frame and swingarm. The FIM challenged his claims about Moto2 prototype-worthiness and Ezpeleta went on a bit of an angry tirade. During his rant he revealed that the subcontractors are causing the blurring of the lines. All of the subcontracted parts they buy in WSBK and GP are built by the same people to roughly the same specs out of the same material. According to Carmelo, Moto2 was going to have the same brakes, chain, clutch, and suspension even if Moto2 was full prototype, and there was nothing he could do about it b/c he doesn't control the subcontractors.

When it leaked, the MSMA fired back by claiming Ezpeleta was nuts. They were basically trying to preserve the "prototype" luster around GP and I'm sure they were also genuinely angry that the commercial rights company jeopardized it during an angry tirade.

Look how Moto2 started off, and look at how it ended up. IMS obviously had a lot of influence over how the final rules were drafted for Moto2. I also think that Moto2 came to light not b/c it was contractually legal, but b/c there were negotiations behind the scenes that would allow everyone to avoid litigation. The only way to bottle up the definition of "production bike" would be to return WSBK to a superstock rule set or to change the displacement, imo. I'm sure the FIM and MSMA will threaten these types of changes if IMS doesn't play ball, but based upon the changes to Moto2, I believe IMS may have the high ground.

It's just an inference I'm drawing, I have no inside knowledge.

You make good and valid points, but I think there is one fatal flaw in your reasoning: You are taking Carmelo Ezpeleta's public pronouncements at his word. Ezpeleta is a consummate political player, and most of what he says in public is meant for a private audience, who hold the cryptographic key to unscrambling his true meaning.

The tire rules and the 1000cc production engines were a typical example of this. Ezpeleta threatened a single tire rule in the hope of avoiding it, by putting pressure on Bridgestone and Michelin to sort themselves out. Of course in that case, Michelin could not pick up its game and Ezpeleta was forced to go through with his threats - another characteristic of Ezpeleta, that he is always prepared to do what he says he will, even if he doesn't really want to.

The 1000cc engines are another case in point. Ezpeleta threatened the MSMA with switching the formula entirely to production-based engines - something he could do with the support of the FIM and IRTA, despite opposition from the MSMA. The aim was to get the factories to reduce the price that the factories charged for their bikes. The MSMA came back with an engine leasing proposal which was still ridiculously expensive, so they settled in the middle, with prototypes and production engines alongside each other.

In both these cases, Ezpeleta has been making public statements to exert private pressure. In effect he's been saying "don't make me come over there ..." and in general, it has worked.

Your point about the chassis and engine is interesting. My guess is that a production motorcycle will be defined as a bike using a standard frame and a largely standard engine - which is where Superbike rules are now. In addition, the push inside the Superbike commission is for more Superstock-like rules in an effort to reduce costs (remember, only 17 bikes are entered in WSBK at this moment). Ironically, the difficulty is that they are being overtaken by reality, as street bikes are starting to feature electronic controls that are currently illegal in Superbike, and that the Superbike Commission is trying to keep out of the series.

The "Moto1" bikes, prototype chassis with production engines, will not bear much resemblance to the bikes they are based on. The WCM, for example, only used the external cases, every other internal part was modified or custom-made, they even ditched the 5-valve head being used at the time for a 4-valve head. The bike was a prototype in every respect except the bolt positioning, but political maneuvering on the part of FGSport and the FIM ensured it was banned. The political balance between (now) IMS and the FIM has shifted, against the IMS.

One more thing to consider: the WCM was banned finally by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, because it was a dispute about the interpretation of sports regulations. The contracts between IMS and the FIM are civil legal agreement, and will be fought out in the civil courts, in front of judges used to ruling on commercial rights issues. It will center solely on the definition of a production motorcycle, not - as in WCM's case - on the definition of a prototype. That's a different argument, in a different context, and my suspicion is that it is one that IMS will lose.

Thanks for the info. I still have trouble believing that Moto2 is a prototype if the WCM is not a prototype; though it has been 7 years since the WCM case. I'm of the opinion that Dorna/FIM/IMS are engaged in horsetrading behind the scenes to negotiate an arrangement they can all agree to without involving the courts. For a contract to be legally binding, both parties must receive consideration. Dorna has gotten the go ahead for Moto2, but we don't know what IMS might have received in trade. Furthermore, if Dorna are allowed to race bikes that are not prototype (according to the WCM case), IMS must have negotiated to race bikes that are not production. I can't be certain, but I think that Moto2 and IMS' new spec series might be related; especially if the new spec class isn't currently a production model (i.e. a new Aprilia 250 or similar 2 stroke). IMS may also have negotiated to maintain the state of tune in WSBK as part of the Moto2 agreement.

I agree 100% about the cryptograms Dorna disseminates through the public media. I sometimes wonder if Ezpeleta is intentionally trying to draw fire from IMS so Dorna can pressure the MSMA into an engine leasing arrangement. If they use 1000cc engines that are stroke-limited and 4 cylinders, the manufacturers will have to design an all new engine rather than returning to the old 990 engines. The costs would be enormous and the development of the new engine would be completely unnecessary. I think both Dorna and IMS may be grandstanding in order to engage in negotiations.

Put very briefly, the WCM was not a prototype because the rules at the time said it wasn't a prototype, whereas Moto2 is a prototype because the rules say that it is. This, of course, has no bearing on the reality of the situation, but rather about the state of the rulebook. The rules will be changed to make the use of production engines legal in MotoGP under the FIM technical regulations. However, IMS may feel that under Swiss Civil Law (presumably, the jurisdiction under which the contracts have been signed) both Moto2 and the new rules violate the commercial contract they have with the FIM.

As for expense, you're right, it will be more expensive. But you have to understand that the MSMA have agreed to this proposal, and know that they will need to redesign their engines. They will be hoping to save money by not supporting satellite teams instead.

Could Infront be waiting for the start of racing next year before they attack Dorna with the help of the FIM . like the WCM saga and bike, let all the 600 moto2 bikes practice and then have them disqualified as they have production engines? and thats why they have not said a word yet.

Phonix I dont see w how you came to the conclusion that the MotoGP fan would have an ..uproar.. about bringing back the 1000cc machines . The fans LOVEd the 990 machines !! they are memorialized in minature modles , painting of Rossi are still of him with the V-5 Honda ? . The 800cc Gp bike from day one has been thought of as the EPA friendly, watered down sissyfied version of the asphalt tearing 990cc manly bike . The riders want it, the fans want it . The manufactures want it ( cheaper and more fan exposure) s far as the production based machines . The fan that owns a liter sportbike will be dying to see what his bike will do against a factory machine if its worked .

Digging furiously through FIM regulations, it appears that the definition of prototype is really anything that meets all other technical and safety regulations - essentially, there is no definition. However, I found that because I was trying to find the definition of Production bike as it seems logical that defining a prototype is most easily accomplished by defining production and calling prototype everything else. Which appears to be what they have done.

So, the real question is: how does the FIM define production? My assumption is that this is held in the homologation rules.

Since I cannot find the actual homologation rules, I am relying on press releases.

Every mention in the homologation rules states that the bike must be produced in quantity for everyday use. Every reference made is to the complete motorcycle except one from the 2008 regs: "If the motorcycle is presented with an engine from a motorcycle manufacturer different from the manufacturer requesting the homologation, a permission or commercial agreement must be presented at the time of the homologation request."

This section does not seem to appear in the 2010 rules but I cannot confirm that it is no longer in place.

A potentially interesting point is that once homologated, no changes can be made to the following parts without re-homologation (essentially stating over with a new bike):

Crankcase
Cylinder
Cylinder head
Crankshaft, connecting rods
Camshafts, valves
Carburation instruments
Frame: main dimensions [in relation to wheelbase, caster, steering head
angle, relative location of the swing-arm, relative location of rear shock
absorber(s) and linkages]
New range of engine prefix numbers
New range of frame prefix numbers

So, from this limited amount of information, I have to conclude that Ippolito is correct and IMS has the rights to production motorcycles not production parts.

Unless of course, this secret contract has language that is a complete break from all existing rules.

The homologation rules are at the very end of the technical regulations for WSBK. You can find the complete rulebook here http://www.fim-live.com/fileadmin/alfresco/Codes_et_reglements/SBK_SS_SS... The homologated machines must exceed 3,000 units and they must be street legal in one 1968 Vienna Convention countries.

I don't think the homologation rules determine the definition of a production bike, though. I agree that prototype is probably defined as "not production". If that is indeed the case then there are two options: 1. A production bike with 1 prototype part is classified "not-production" 2. A prototype motorcycle with 1 production part is classified as "production".

WSBK features hundreds of non-homologated race parts, and many of them are not available on the open market (the electronics most of all) so #1 seems impossible UNLESS the FIM is letting WSBK run prototype parts b/c Dorna doesn't have an exclusivity contract for prototype machines. We know that the WCM was declared to be a production bike b/c "not prototype" would not have excluded it from MotoGP competition under the exclusivity contract. #2 appears to be the only answer.

If we are indeed correct that prototype is defined as "not production", and "not production" means that the machine may not contain a single production part, then Moto2 is certainly the result of behind-the-scenes bartering between the FIM, IMS, and Dorna. I think everything hinges on the new WSBK spec class. If the class is a non-production bike or a 2 stroke, I think our assumptions about the contract are close to the mark.

What else could the new spec class be? It is supposedly an undercard to WSS and the only manufacturers who would likely support the class are Kawasaki, BMW, or Aprilia. Both Aprilia and Kawasaki have extra race personnel sitting around, but only Aprilia have a product to push (2 stroke sportsbikes). Time will tell.

First, the spec class isn't really new, it is just a single-bike class as we have seen before with the GSX-R cup.

Next, you are assuming a definition of production that I do not believe exists. The closest definition we have is what is allowed under the homologation rules.

That said, a definition isn't entirely required. If the rules are written in order to meet the word of the contract, clearly WSBK is a production bike class and not a production part class. Unlike DMG, WSBK doesn't seem to have a list of homologated parts. It is either a whole bike or nothing. The terms production and prototype are not used to define WSBK.

And as far as some sort of back room deal between Dorna, IMS and FIM, I can say a couple of things. First, IMS has never said they weren't going to sue over Moto2. They are still waiting to decide. However, there isn't a need for any back room dealing. Who would they be hiding such a deal from and why? Coming to an agreement of any sort would be regarded as great news by all parties and you can be assured that Dorna and IMS would want to get credit for such a deal as it would encourage sponsors to believe that their investments are safe.

Even though the Swiss are crazy neutralists, they still use common German civil code so there is no such thing as judicial precedent. If that is the case, the legislative directives within the sport do theoretically supercede any findings by the court. The list of parts in the FIM rulebook may in fact constitute a production machine.

However, if the listed parts cannot be included on a prototype machine, Moto2 still doesn't qualify as a proper prototype and neither would the preliminary proposals for production-based engines, imo.

I guess the real question is what happens if they build the exact same part out of a completely different material or what happens if they modify a production part such that it would no longer qualify as legally homologated production equipment. If they are planning on making a production block using a completely different grade of aluminum (or some other material), maybe they can get away with it. Maybe it would be permissible if they modify the stock part such that it would no longer be eligible to race in WSBK.

Hard to say, but I still think that Dorna and the FIM would prefer to avoid costly litigation. The Flamminis have said publicly that they accept Moto2 b/c it features one spec engine produced by just one brand of manufacturer. If Switzerland were a common law country, Dorna would probably be allowed to proceed with Moto2 b/c the Flammini's remarks give Dorna promissory estoppel rights. I don't even know if promissory estoppel exists in civil systems.

I don't really care what the Motogp bikes do, I just dont't want Dorna to ruin WSBK. I love all bike racing, the more the better and I am certainly no purist, but I just don't want their grab for World domination to damage my sport. There is finite reserves of cash to finance these very expensive sports and the ever increasing demands from Motogp to fund those motorhomes, teams of data logging staff and the associated other support staff has the potential to do just that.

Dorna and the MSMA are the architects of their current situation and they must take the blame (if there is blame to be apportioned) for their current situation.

WSBK seems a much more down to earth sport, with less delusions of granduer than Motogp. Attend both events at the same track and observe the different fans who are there.