The new MotoGP regulations for 2012 have the MSMA caught on the horns of a dilemma: In the long run, the 1000cc formula should be cheaper than the current crop of 800s. In the short run, the switch requires that the factories design a new engine based on the new limitations imposed by the rules. With the factories still reeling after the global economic crisis has left their finances in turmoil, a significant investment to develop a brand new engine is not an attractive prospect at all.
Consequently, at the meeting the MSMA held at Sepang three weeks ago, the factories agreed to allow the 800cc bikes to remain in the class as a separate category for the foreseeable future. The 800cc bikes were to be given a 3 kilogram weight advantage over the 1000s, but were to be subject to the same fuel, engine limits and 81mm maximum bore restriction to be imposed on the liter bikes. This would allow the factories to get more value out of the 800cc bikes they have already poured so much investment into, and prevent them from having to persuade their management boards from dipping heavily into the rapidly-dwindling coffers to develop a new bike.
After that was agreed, speculation immediately began as to which of the factories was behind the push to stick with the 800s. Paddock gossip fingered Suzuki as the most likely candidate, the Hamamatsu factory having the most restricted race budget of the teams. By allowing the 800s to remain, Suzuki could stay in MotoGP at a minimal level of investment.
That speculation appears to have been wrong, however. According to Matthew Birt of MCN, however, Yamaha have been the first to break cover. The company's MotoGP project director Masao Furusawa told MCN that Yamaha's intention was to continue to race the 800cc bike in 2012 and beyond, for as long as the bike could be competitive. Given that the M1 is dominating the opposition in the current MotoGP class, it seems a fair bet that the bike would do well even against bore-limited 1000cc bikes.
That decision is far from final, however. If any of the other factories turned up with 1000cc prototypes, and the liter prototypes were quicker than the 800s, Yamaha would be forced to respond, Furusawa told MCN. That could be sooner than Yamaha would like, as at Valencia, when asked about the prospect of running 800s versus 1000s, Ducati's MotoGP engineering guru Filippo Preziosi intimated that his initial response would be to investigate building a 1000cc prototype, rather than stick with the current 800cc bike.
Whatever Yamaha decides to do in 2012, the announcement has revealed at least one technical detail of the championship winning Yamaha YZR-M1: The bike's bore is less than 81mm. After all, if it was larger, then the bike would be illegal under the new MotoGP rules from 2012 onwards.