Despite the bumper crop of entries in the Moto2 class, money is tight, and problems abound. Six races into the season, those problems are starting to come to the boil, as budgets and arguments start to wear thin.
The first victim of the situation is JiR Moto2's Mattia Pasini. The popular Italian has split with the team, run by Luca Montiron, reportedly over "sponsorship problems". According to statements by Montiron over on the official MotoGP.com website, Pasini had failed to meet his commitments to the team's sponsors. Montiron also denied that the Pasini split had anything to do with the Italian's poor result, though the trenchant and vociferous criticism Pasini has aimed at the bike - running under the name Motobi, but basically using a chassis supplied by the Japanese firm TSR - did not endear him to the team. Nor did the contrast with his teammate Simone Corsi, who has had a series of strong rides on the Motobi, have anything to do with Pasini's departure, according to Montiron.
But JiR is not the only team with problems. According to the website of the German magazine Motorrad, a split has also appeared in the MZ team, fielding Australian favorite Ant West. The team was being run jointly by the two German ex-250 stars Martin Wimmer and Ralf Waldmann, but Waldmann has stepped out of the team. The former 250 Grand Prix winner left the team over frustrations over a lack of funds, according to Motorrad. "I was tired of not having any mechanics and having to do everything at the racetrack myself," Waldmann told Motorrad. "There's parts missing front and back."
The perilous state of the MZ team is surely the cause of the problems for the struggling West. The Australian started the season with high hopes - especially given the outstanding results West had scored in World Supersport in previous years - but is currently at the very bottom of the Moto2 World Championship standings with just a solitary point.
The MZ team is not the only team in trouble, with continual rumors in the paddock that a number of teams are unlikely to last the season. Even the high-profile RSM Team Scot, fielding former MotoGP riders Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa, have run into problems, the owner of the title sponsor being forced to bail out the team out of his own pocket. And Team Scot is not the only team in the danger zone, with more expected to fail before the season ends.
The problems are unsurprising, given the huge size of the Moto2 field. The reasons for the packed grid are twofold: part planning for the future, and part fear the new class would fail. The fear of failure explains the number of former 125cc teams stepping up to the Moto2 class, and finding themselves out of their depths. Dorna and IRTA expect a number of teams to drop back to the 125cc class next season, filling out a 125 field with a noticeable lack of talent behind the front 5 or 7.
But there are a number of teams currently in Moto2 who have been parked there with an eye for the future. Once the new rules come in in 2012, three or four teams are expected to step up into MotoGP, to run 1000cc engines in prototype chassis as Claiming Rule Teams. With two years of experience running production-based engines in a prototype chassis, those teams should be ready to help pack out the grid in the woefully thin MotoGP class. After all, the rider shakeup of next year will only deflect attention from the state of MotoGP for a season, before everyone starts noticing there are still only 17 bikes on the grid.