Ezpeleta: "The Bike Makes A Prototype, Not The Engine"
If anyone had any doubts about the importance of the meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Geneva on December 11th, Carmelo Ezpeleta's charm offensive in the media should remove them completely. Ezpeleta spoke to Motoworld.es on Friday about the new regulations due to come into force in 2012, and today, the Dorna CEO gave an extended interview to the Spanish sports daily AS.com, in which he expanded on the changes.
Ezpeleta's main purpose with the interview was to make clear that the switch back to 1000cc will not in any way impinge on the World Superbikes series' territory. The bikes, Ezpeleta emphasized are prototypes, and will have nothing to do with production bikes. "There will not be a word in these regulations about production engines," Ezpeleta told AS.com. The bikes are prototypes, and which engine was used was entirely up to the builder of the bike, not something set out in regulations.
When pressed by AS.com's Mela Chercoles on the question of exactly what a prototype is, the Dorna boss was completely clear. "We have always raced prototypes," Ezpeleta said, "but that's because it is the bike which is a prototype, not the engine." Ezpeleta dismissed the discussion about using production engines as irrelevant. The Flamminis objections that the rules should state that no part of a production bike may be used in MotoGP held no water, according to the Dorna boss. "Taking that argument to the absurd, you could say that we cannot use a chain drive, as the chains we use are production parts," Ezpeleta argued.
The argument came down to one simple point, according to Ezpeleta: "Was the bike built for racing, or is it a bike you can buy for the street, then adapted for racing?" The bike is the deciding factor, not the brakes or the engines or any constituent part.
Ezpeleta then went on to discuss the reasoning behind the switch. It was all about costs, he explained, and making racing affordable again. "Now, [the 800cc bikes], at the price they are, cannot be sustained and the satellite teams cannot afford to race." Deciding to move to 1000cc would be significantly cheaper, Ezpeleta said, it would be cheaper for factories to build new bikes or for teams to build a new bike around any existing engine they liked.
This latter point is key, for as Ezpelete explained, currently, satellite teams can only race by the grace of the factories. Their only option under the current system is to request to lease a bike from the factories. Allowing 1000cc engine menas that either building a bike around an existing engine or building an engine itself will be considerably cheaper.
The problem that many people have raised is that although horsepower may be cheaper to produce from a 1000cc engine than from an 800, there is nothing to stop costs from spiralling out of control if the factories are building 1000cc prototypes. According to Ezpeleta, the Grand Prix Commission have come up with a solution. He would not be drawn on the precise nature of that solution, but said it was simple and effective. "There is one parameter which I cannot talk about before Friday, but it's the key to everything" he told AS.com. "It looks like being a silver bullet solution, and with this, everything else changes. It is a single parameter and it changes everything. It's a technical area, very simple."
Ezpeleta's reference is intriguing. Previously, it seemed as if restriction the bore and stroke ratio would be the way to limit piston speed, and therefore costs. The risk is that extremely expensive lightweight materials could be used to try and get round these limits, as the problem of piston speed is one of momentum, and reducing piston mass would allow increases in piston speed. If limiting piston speed is the aim, then perhaps the "silver bullet" put forward by Ezpeleta is a straightforward rev limit. It had previously seemed impossible that the factories would agree to such a step, but the financial crisis has seen the factories stances radically revised.
That is just speculation, however. The details will, hopefully, be revealed on Friday. It looks like being a momentous day for the future of MotoGP.