Future Of MotoGP To Be Decided On Saturday - Or Not …

Saturday is going to be a big day for MotoGP. Obviously, there will be the thrill of two Spaniards fighting over pole in front of tens of thousands of crazed local fans, but in an office inside the paddock, a meeting will be held which is set to decide the future of MotoGP. For on Saturday, the Grand Prix Commission is due to meet to - ostensibly at least - finalize the regulations which will control the sport from 2012 onwards.

The outlines are clear: MotoGP will consist of three different types of motorcycle: 

  1. Prototype 1000cc bikes, limited to 81mm bore, 21 liters of fuel and 153kg minimum weight
  2. Prototype 800cc bikes, limited to 81mm bore, 21 liters of fuel and 150kg minimum weight
  3. Bikes run by "Claiming Rule Teams" - basically, 1000cc bikes based around production engines in prototype chassis - limited to 81mm bore, 24 liters of fuel, 153kg minimum weight. The teams will also be allowed to use 12 engines during season, as opposed to just 6 for the prototype teams.

The devil, of course, is in the detail, especially of exactly what constitutes a "Claiming Rule Team". Both Aprilia and BMW are being named as possible engine suppliers for Claiming Rule teams, with engines based on the RSV4 and S1000RR powerplants. And here is where the trouble starts. The MSMA - the body representing the motorcycle manufacturers - are terrified that new manufacturers will test the waters in MotoGP by supplying privateer teams with specially prepared engines and chassis. BMW has already been linked with Suter - though BMW has strenuously denied any involvement - and this is exactly what the factories are afraid of: Factories using the privateers as a development front for their efforts.

The problems with the new rules are self-evident: Apart from the difficulty of explaining to casual fans why there are three different types of bikes on the grid, and exactly what those differences are, there is also the question of defining just what a Claiming Rule team will be. The idea is not new - after a race, one team will be able to purchase the engine of another for a fixed price, yet to be decided but likely to be in the tens rather than hundreds of thousands of euros - but actually making such a system work fairly is deeply problematic. The possibilities for cheating are endless, and the value of an engine is questionable. After all, without the chassis - not available for claiming, as the concept currently stands - the engine is of little use. Teams will not just be able to slot an engine they purchase into their own chassis, as even if the chassis is using an engine based on the same production unit, it is likely to be modified to such an extent that stiffness, mounting points and any number of factors simply won't be the same.

Such is the complexity of the problems facing the Grand Prix Commission that it actually seems unlikely that a complete set of rules will be agreed on Saturday. The rules had been due to be finalized in December last year, but the MSMA - charged with drawing up MotoGP's technical regulations - came no further than announcing that the bikes would have a maximum of 1000cc, 81mm bore and 4 cylinders. 

The decision was postponed to another meeting, this time of the MSMA on its own. That meeting also failed to draw up a complete set of regulations, merely agreeing to the rough outlines of the three-tier structure described above. The following meeting of the Grand Prix Commission was scheduled for Motegi, but had to be moved when the race in Japan was called off due to the Eyjafjallajokull eruption, making flying to Japan nigh on impossible. Instead, the Grand Prix Commission will meet here in Jerez, on Saturday.

Yet the chances of the MSMA putting forward a complete set of regulations to the Grand Prix Commission seem fairly slim. As veteran American journalist Dennis Noyes pointed out in an excellent and in-depth article over on Speed TV recently, the MSMA seems to have lost its way. At the time of the switch from 500cc two-strokes to 990cc four-strokes, the manufacturers had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve in MotoGP, but the switch to 800cc - imposed hastily in reaction to the death of Dajiro Katoh at Suzuka - has been little short of disastrous. Grids have emptied, costs have skyrocketed and all but four of the manufacturers have pulled out. 

All of Dorna's pleas to provide more bikes for the premier class have fallen on deaf ears, the expense of running bikes that depend so heavily on electronics for both their speed and their management of the 21 liters of fuel they have at their disposal precluding any expansion. The factories are keen on the electronics, because it provides them with a huge amount of R&D data which is directly applicable to their road bikes, something confirmed to MotoMatters.com by HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto.

Noyes speculates - with good reason - that if the MSMA don't come up with a solution, then Dorna might decide to follow in the footsteps of FGSport (now Infront Motor Sports, the organization that runs World Superbikes), and simply take over making the technical rules themselves, which they are entitled to do as the current agreement expires at the end of 2011. However, Dorna finds itself in a far more difficult situation than FGSport did at the time they changed the rules for World Superbikes: production motorcycles could be homologated by the FIM independently, without reference to the manufacturers. And so teams could run the bikes themselves, without requiring support from the factories. More importantly, perhaps, Ducati stayed in the series, providing both factory backing and the bulk of the privateer machines at the time. There were still plenty of bikes out racing, despite the absence of the Japanese manufacturers.

If the Japanese factories did pull out of MotoGP - or at least, Honda and Yamaha, who are most committed to the 800cc formula and who supply the bulk of the bikes on the grid - there are no quick replacements to fill the grid. As 2012, the deadline for the introduction of new rules, draws near, the time that any privateer effort wishing to run a modified production engine has to get the bike up to speed grows ever shorter, and with it any hope of being competitive. Dorna, the FIM and IRTA - the teams association - are caught between a rock and a hard place. They cannot keep leaving the technical rules to an MSMA which is bereft of ideas for making the series affordable, but they also cannot afford to take that authority from the MSMA, at risk of the series collapsing due to empty grids.

There is, of course, a chance that the MSMA have finally found a sense of direction again, and will put forward a set of plans on Saturday which are simple, coherent and allow them and the teams to put the 20 to 22 bikes on the grid that Dorna and the FIM are so very keen to see. But judging by the omens we have had so far, that is not looking very likely. This could drag on a while yet. 

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Comments

I've only been following MotoGP since 2008 and have been playing catch up with it's (and World Superbikes) history for the past year when I really started getting serious into the sport.

With that in mind, I had no idea of all the pieces of this puzzle and how far reaching it's implications were. Right from the get go, having three different type of machines sounds like a mess regardless of those devils in the details... I'll be staying tuned for a further education on the subject.

-jester

twitter @deftjester

Perhaps the problem is not so much that the MSMA 'is bereft of ideas for making the series affordable' but rather that they are bereft of ideas that would make the series affordable while maintaining their hegemony. While there are few examples of a non-factory effort being truly competitive in the premier class, it isn't impossible - just ridiculously difficult as the degree of technical superiority required rises to the level where vast R&D efforts are necessary.

A competitive lower-cost alternative provides a greater possibility of a non-mainstream builder being successful in the class and thus deflecting the intangible value of 'exposure' at the top level away from a mainstream manufacturer that is less successful. Would, say, Suzuki wish to continue participating in a class where it was being shown up by, let us imagine, FB Corse?

Developing a formula that would allow some equivalence between a mixed bag of technical solutions is not likely to be as hard as appeasing the realpolitics of the MSMA..

I'm confused, and if it gets bad enough, MotoGP will lose me as a fan. If this is an attempt to straighten out all things wrong with MotoGP, then heaven help MotoGP.

The moto 2 formula is only one race in and seems a success. Why not do it with the other classes?

The 3 classes should be 4 strokes : 250cc for youngsters only, 600cc and 1000cc.

Apart from control tyre, control engine, weight limit and fuel limit, everything else should be left to teams.

This way the bikes will be faster than street bikes but still be relatively cheap. Each two years there would be many tyre and engine suppliers lining up to supply each class.

They shouldn't control other aspects such as ECU because then the street bikes will be faster. You need the prestige of being "the fastest bikes". I would also allow other innovations such traction control and abs. We don't want NASCAR on two wheels.

In addition we need certainty. I'm sure there are many teams that don't join Motogp due to the constant politics and rule changes. We need a formula that is stuck to for the next 10 years.

BTW: I think the WSBK championship will have a problem in the future because for bikes to win the road bike version must be a rocket (see BMW and Aprilia). This can't continue because governments will ban them.

Just my 2 cents.

I think moto2 only does so well because it's a side dish to the real deal. An opening act. A curiosity at this point. Let's see the interest at the end of the year. You could put 40 scooters on the grid and it would be as interesting as moto2, imo.

MotoGP is about much more then racing. It's about glorious prototypes that spark imagination. It's about the future now. A spec engine would drive a nail right through the heart of it.

Personally, and maybe I'm delusional in the face of reality, I'd like to see a great reduction in the rules. Give them 20 litres of gas and two wheels. Let them decide the rest with brave and innovative engineering. This whole trend of 'cost saving' is mostly ineffective as manufacturers will spend X dollars regardless.

Rossi makes 20 million or so a year? How much do they save by not rebuilding an engine each race. It would be interesting to see a hard number on that. Seems a joke really.

Fuel limited will only create Group C prototype racing all over again. The bikes will become even more complicated and top speeds will increase exponentially. High speed aerodynamics and wind tunnel testing will be the key to success. Costs will spiral out of control.

Fuel flow limiting would be better way to go if you want unlimited engine dimension regs. The sport would still require strict aerodynamic rules (i.e an F1 box), but it would control power output and top speeds.

I wish they would just leave the rules alone. stick with the 800cc formula for ten years and the advances in technology will slow down, thus allowing the satelite teams to catch up and prices to decrease. By changing it again you are seeming desperate when the solution surely lies in reducing costs effectively. There should also be efforts made by dorna to get teams like fb corse and inmotec into the championship even if it costs them a bit of money. I would also like to see aspar get another bike in 2011 and maybe another satelite honda. 4 more bikes is all that is needed and is it really that hard? this is all just wishfull thinking though...........

The trouble with all these potential developments in the name of cost cutting in order to fill the grid is that whilst they may well do just that, they will be eroding the value of MotoGP as a World Championship, and reduce it to a Moto Racing Cup.

High costs and small grids are the consequences of other decisions made in an effort to cure a cold by cutting off the nose.

Troubling times indeed.

I'm tired of the "cost cutting" trend. MotoGP has traditionally been about creating and developing the fastest bikes possible for one reason, racing. WSBK does very well with what it's built around.

I wouldn't mind seeing a year of 800cc and 1000cc bikes side by side like when the 500's were on their way out but 3 bike configurations is one too many. Seems like the Grand Prix commission is taking tips from the Daytona Motorsports Group.

I sincerely hope that sanity will prevail and they keep the 800 rules as they are.
The class and capacity are unique in terms of GP vs Superbike.Hybrid,quasi GP/Road/SBK bikes don't belong on a GP prototype grid.The 800 capacity and popularity of 1000cc road bikes also ensures that the manufacturers will in no short space of time start building 800cc road superbikes.No market.WSBK is very healthy and 800GP is looking healthier each season.Don't change the rules and the numbers will grow.

The MSMA makes the technical rules.

The MSMA provides the bulk of the bikes on the grid but refuse to provide more bikes.

To have interesting racing, spectators and the sanctioning body would like to have 20-22 bikes, requiring private constructors to enter the series.

The MSMA writes rules that prevent these private constructors from having any chance of winning so the private constructors never enter.

In what other series does a decent percentage (but not all) of the participants (the manufacturers) write the rules while the rest of the participants (privateers) are officially locked out? Isn't the whole point of prototype racing that you don't need a billion dollar production facility to participate?

How ironic is it that WSB, which is production racing, has locked the production mfgrs out of rule making (to it's undeniable success) while GP racing, which is prototype racing, is letting these same production manufacturers run away with the rulebook?

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

I couldn't agree more with Les.
Limit the fuel and and let the teams and engineers develop the fastest most capable (but also frugal) machines possible. If they get too quick, take fuel off of them. Wouldn't it be great to see teams experimenting with cc, cylinders etc, rather than just electronics and weight distribution.

It would be expensive but isn't true prototype (not moto2) racing expensive by nature?

It's insane, but the net result of all of these rules is positive. If this is a prototype series, the factories should be allowed to do whatever they want. Just keep it to two wheels. The idea of limiting the bore to some arbitrary figure makes no sense. Claiming rule engines make no sense. What's up with the phrase: "the factories are afraid....of the factories" What...Honda is afraid of BMW..or Aprilia? That's what racing is all about. Honda and Ducati should be up-set about the bore restrictions and the limit on cylinders...Honda should at least have the option of resurrecting its V5, and Ducati should be able to dust off its short stroke V4.

Fewer rules are the best, but in the alternative just make as many rules as are necessary to let the factories, or interested third parties build a wide variety of bikes..

The MSMA are stalling. All they need to do is drag this argument out for another couple of months until time constraints make it impossible to change the engine formula. They will get Dorna to sign off on another 5 years of miserable 21L 800cc competition b/c the manufacturers will continue to cut costs and lower lease prices to make Dorna happy.

The MSMA are buying time b/c they are gambling that the global economy will improve. If the economy improves, sponsorship should theoretically return, and people won't whine about the 800cc price tag or the cost of running an 800cc factory team.

There is no possible way the current formula will go through, imo. Beside the threat posed by the CRT teams, an 81mm 1000cc engine will destroy an 800cc engine on the straights under the current engine life regulations. The 1000s will have 260hp at 16,000rpm. An 800cc would need to make 20,000rpm to make that kind of power. Once in front, the 1000s would use the extra torque to block and disrupt the optimum line and they'd always have the extra horsepower in the bank when they needed it.

MotoGP: 1000cc rev-limited to 15,000rpm ~240hp. 24L. No cylinder count rules, no bore rules. Moto1: 750cc rev-limited to 15,000rpm. 24L No cylinder count rules, no bore rules. Moto2: 600cc rev-limited to 15,000rpm. 24L. No cylinder count rules, no bore rules. Moto3 is developed to be a cheap product to be run by the national series (I say use direct injection 2-strokes).

No children allowed. Stay at home and ride Moto3 until you are capable of riding a 130hp bike. If you're good enough Dorna will scoop you up, otherwise you're headed down the national SBK or international WSBK path.

So simple. The 990s are legal again if they need to be used in GP. Every 5 years IRTA vote to adjust rpm in small increments or to maintain current revs. You don't need MSMA technical regs if you use rev limiting. Even after InFront dismissed the MSMA, the MSMA still dump millions into WSBK. Get rid of the MSMA already!!

Unfortunately there is rarely a simple answer to very complex situations. The real issues (problems) are that the major stakeholders have different priorities.

The manufacturers need to be sure they don't get embarrassed by the satellite teams so their sponsors stay happy enough to offset their racing/development costs. The TV and track owners need close exciting racing so the fans will buy tickets and increase TV market share ratings. The sponsors want to see their logos at the front on the track, and in the winner’s circle so their profits go up. The fans want their riders on equally competitive machinery so the best man (and not the best electronics engineer) wins the race.

It's quite a juggling act, but as I've said before, eliminating ALL rules (except for minimum weight), removing all onboard sensors, and going back to carburetors (with cables attached) will go a long way to greatly reducing costs and ensuring that the man with the most skill and bravery will win. Street bikes don't need any more development. They are already too fast for 99.99 percent of us mortals anyway.

The real racers will stay in the sport - the rest can take up golfing.

More new rules equals more cost and more innovative ways of getting around the rules. I thought "prototype" meant the factory is thinking of developing engines or components with new features. And maybe those new features will come to us mere morals.
The factories aren't building small 800 cc engines anymore. Let them race any size they want, and any size gas tank. Let the laws of physics find the optimum size.
It must have two wheels. I do wonder about all the electronics on board. With a good GPS the electronics could just about control the throttle all the way around the track. Electronics to prevent high sides is enough.

Will someone please explain the bizarre fixation on the 21 liter fuel limit? Apart from forcing the ECU to take throttle control away from the rider, WTF does it accomplish? Anyone?

As much as I would like to see a wide open MotoGP, I realize there is next to no chance of that happening.

That said, I actually think that the 1,000cc, 81mm bore and 4-cylinders max for the new rules is a good backbone to work off of. Set the minimum weight (whether 150kg or 153kg), allow all bikes 24L (or even 23L) of fuel, and allow all teams 9 engines for the season (a nice compromise between the 6 for factories and 12 for privateers idea)...and there you have it. Fill in the details here and there, and no need for claiming rules teams.

As for the current 800cc machines, if you have to...give them a 1 year period to remain, with the 2012 season being their last before being phased out for good in 2013.

Dorna, the IRTA and the FIM would be wise to seriously consider removing the MSMA from the rules making process. If you don't agree, just ask WSBK and the Flammini brothers. The MSMA's current 3-tier idea is, among other things, an embarrassment to the MotoGP series.

I think the problem is the clear conflict of interest there is in having manufacturers run teams.

Once upon a time motorcycle racing was something people did by buying motorbikes, souping them up a bit (which was cheap with 2 strokes) and going racing. If certain manufacturers had better bikes, people would buy those. It was in the interest of manufacturers to sell to anyone, cause they weren't too directly involved (e.g. they were in Japan) in specific teams. So it didn't matter /who/ won on their machinery.

I don't know when this started to change in the FIM world championship series. However, you could still find the old way of racing in lots of other high-flight series up until at least the 80s. E.g. Isle of Man TT. Superbike series have also managed to produce competitive privateer teams, despite heavy factory involvement in works teams, due to semi-production rules that at at least allow non-works teams to buy the /basis/ of a machine.

So the answer to me is, to try get rid of "works" teams. Ok, that's not feasible - but the aim clearly has to be to level the playing field a bit, somehow. To me, the history of racing suggests that this can only happen if manufacturers are either required to sell competitive machinery to nearly everyone or else have little vested interest in withholding parts (e.g. cause they're not involved in any teams). Worse, the manufacturers have an ability to write off far, far higher costs against "marketing" budgets than private teams - this completely distorts the economics of the sport.

Now, I gather from reporting here and elsewhere that Dorna has effectively been doing this already, on a smaller scale, in getting manufacturers to agree to supply X machines to private teams (which are then Dorna funded to some degree?). However, it's clearly not been enough.

Ideally, the manufacturers should stick to what they do best: engineer bikes, and then sell it to whoever wants to buy at that price. Let racers buy what they want and run their own teams.

Maybe that's just a backward-looking fauxtopia, but it does seem like we both had and have a lot more teams on the grid when there's much less direct manufacturer-team involvement. (i.e. the old days and Moto2). We could at least try force manufacturers to have to sell machinery to *all* teams, and maybe force them to sell the *complete* works bikes to other teams at the end of the season. No team would ever be more than 1 season of development behind then.

BTW, manufacturers may have left WSB for a while, but they eventually went back. And in the meantime WSB still had good privateer teams.