It took only a few hours after the announcement of the introduction of the Moto2 class for speculation to begin about the future of the 125s. With the demise of the 250s, the MotoGP paddock had at a stroke become an overwhelmingly four-stroke paddock, and it seemed only logical that the 125s would quickly follow. Whenever either Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta or FIM president Vito Ippolito was asked about this, however, they denied there were any plans to change. Their arguments were that the 125s were cheap to run, they had plenty of national series to support fresh young talent, and bikes and parts were in plentiful supply. There was no need to change, in their view.
And yet change is coming. According to MCN's Matthew Birt, the 125s are to be replaced by a new four stroke class beginning in 2012, at the same time as the new rules in MotoGP come into effect. The class will be composed of 250cc four-stroke single cylinder machines, MCN reports, replacing the 125cc two-strokes currently being used. The decision has been made in response to the thinning out of the 125cc grid this year, which has come about in part due to the arrival of the new Moto2 class, which has attracted large amounts of sponsorship, talent and public interest from the 125cc class.
Rumors of a switch had first emerged at Jerez, with one team telling MotoMatters.com that they had been informed by Ezpeleta himself that a new class would be replacing the 125s from 2012. All efforts at trying to corroborate this story failed, with members of several long-serving 125 teams denying they knew anything about it, saying that their plans revolved entirely around the continuation of the 125cc class in its current form. Various paddock insiders were sceptical about the story, believing that there would not be enough time to develop bikes and engines in time for the 2012 season. Despite having his doubts about the question, veteran journalist Dennis Noyes did point out that the last time that Carmelo Ezpeleta spoke on the issue, the Dorna CEO said the 125s were safe through 2011, a date seemingly chosen with great care.
The one difference between the Jerez rumor and MCN's report is the size of the engines, with rumors at Jerez speaking of 300cc four-stroke singles to be introduced, rather than a 250. The smaller capacity would make mroe sense, however, as there is already an abundance of 250cc four-stroke motocross bikes currently being raced, and already being tested in roadrace chassis, such as Moriwaki's MD250H. But the cost of uprating 250 MX bikes to ensuring they hold together under roadracing conditions is probably large. The Roadracingworld website ran an interesting story last year about one team manager's experience of running 450cc MX singles in roadracing and dirt track chassis, and that team had run into a lot of mechanical problems with the engines, the singles requiring more work than expected to keep them running.
The change is almost certainly triggered by the drastic thinning out of the 125cc field. Although the grid is still relatively well-stocked, the quality of the entries has dropped off significantly. Once past the top 5 or 6 riders, the gap back to the rest is worryingly large, 10th position often being over 2 seconds behind the polesitter during qualifying. When we spoke to Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal about the possible demise of the 125cc class, Poncharal was not surprised at all. "If you look at the top 15 in each class, by far the biggest gap is in the 125s," the Tech 3 boss pointed out.
Despite professing not to know about a change to the 125 class, Poncharal admitted that the temptation to add a Moto3 (as the class is probably going to be called) team to the Tech 3 family was very great. "My first reaction is I would be very interested, very excited, I would love it," the Frenchman confided. "But then five seconds later, when I think what I've been going through with the Moto2 team in the winter, I'm not so sure!"