And Then There Were 16 - Suzuki Likely To Run A Single MotoGP Bike In 2011

The sight of just 16 bikes taking to the MotoGP grid has been all too common this year, with 6 of the 14 rounds of MotoGP so far starting with at least one of the permanent riders missing and no replacement. But 16 bikes is looking increasingly likely to be a full grid next season, as British motorcycle weekly Motorcycle News is reporting that Suzuki is likely to field just a single machine in 2011. According to MCN, several members of the Suzuki team were told on Thursday night they are free to seek offers elsewhere, including veteran engineer Stuart Shenton, currently crew chief to Loris Capirossi.

Rumors have been floating around the MotoGP paddock for many months that Suzuki was considering pulling out, and an announcement on the team's future was expected at Motegi, after a meeting between top management of the Suzuki factory and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. That meeting was pushed back until after the weekend of the Japanese Grand Prix, and it now appears that Ezpeleta has been unable to persuade them to change their minds. According to MCN, the factory will field just a single bike for 2011, with a promise of increasing their involvement again when the formula changes back to 1000cc in 2012.

Despite the rumors, the news comes as a surprise, as Dorna believed it had the situation in hand after Kawasaki's dramatic withdrawal at the end of 2008. Early in 2009, Ezpeleta went on a tour of the Japanese factories to clarify the contract Dorna has with the members of the MSMA (the manufacturers' assocation) covering their participation in the series. The terms of the contract boil down to the factories guaranteeing to provide enough bikes to fill the MotoGP grid in exchange for the right to draw up the technical regulations. Any withdrawals before the contract expires at the end of the 2011 season would face heavy financial punishment, though Dorna's position was undermined by the relatively light punishment administered to Kawasaki, who were forced to run a single bike team (the surprisingly successful Hayate team) for a year after their official pull-out. According to MCN's Matt Birt, Suzuki have cut a similar deal to Kawasaki, running a single rider for 2011 in exchange for putting more bikes on the grid in 2012.

The factories have been the victims of their own rules: The capacity reduction to 800cc and the simultaneous cutting of fuel to 21 liters created machines that rely to a very great extent on electronics to make them rideable. The addition of a single tire - while cutting costs for all involved - has removed another wildcard from the competition, encouraging Bridgestone to be very conservative about the tires it makes, and putting even more focus on electronics and chassis setup as the only areas where an advantage can be found. This has had the double effect of both driving up costs and making the racing almost unwatchable, only relieved by the occasional battle and the beautifully filmed super slow motion "Riding Style Comparison" shots captured by Dorna's TV crew.

With the MSMA having ruined the racing with their technical regulations, Dorna is looking to the CRT teams for salvation from 2012. If enough CRT teams can be persuaded to enter MotoGP from 2012, then MotoGP's reliance on the factories can reduced. CRT teams, after all, will be run by people whose business is racing, rather than the factories, whose business is selling motorcycles, and who are using racing as an R&D lab and marketing vehicle. When the contract between the MSMA and Dorna comes up for renewal at the end of 2011, expect Dorna to play hardball.

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Sad, sad, sad state of affairs in MotoGP. Suzuki fielding only one bike in 2011(that they can't seem to make competitive to run at the front) and, previously, Kawasaki bailed out because they couldn't stand the heat. At least we have Ducati, Yamaha and Honda to field competitive machines.

As I've stated before, we have great racing in Moto2 and, at this point, the 125's to hold us over until 'real' racing will hopefully resume in 2012 at the premier-class level.

In the interim, let's all support the factories that have the cojones to step up and field racing at the highest level!

Total votes: 82

With the switch to 800cc in 2007 and two really good riders, John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki put up a really good season. Both riders were on the podium multiple times, Hopkins having his best season in MotoGP and Vermeulen with a win. I thought Suzuki was on the right path... However they let Hopkins get away (I heard it was over money demands) and eventually both were out of GP.

I don't know what happened, did Suzuki just have pure luck in 2007? Also on a side note, I think that along with the Marlboro Ducati and Repsol Honda factory teams the Rizla Suzuki is another iconic livery that I want to see stay in MotoGP (although the color tweak this season is a little "off").

Total votes: 86

If you remember, at the end of 2007, the sport was in chaos b/c of the tire situation. The GPC called many emergency meetings to discuss the performance of the tires and the costs associated for the teams. The meetings were even more feverish than the meetings at the end of last year to change the formula.

In 2008 everyone showed up to race, and not a single change was made to the rulebook. It's not even slightly realistic to think that they resolved to do nothing at the end of 2007, and if you recall Casey's tire rage at the beginning of the 2008 season, I think it's quite plain that Michelin and Bridgestone change the tire rules. History points to a spec profile (and other stuff) b/c that's what they proposed in WSBK. Specifying profile and other carcass properties is also how Bridgestone and Michelin ran the tire war in F1.

Since 2007, Suzuki's problem has mainly been the chassis, and if they changed the Bridgestones between 2007 and 2008, it would explain why Suzuki were suddenly bad. Suzuki have been improving very slowly, and Bautista has shown that the company is capable of being relatively competitive when the build a chassis that uses the rear tire properly.

At the beginning of 2008, Kawasaki were suddenly awful as well. Imo, Kawasaki were caught off guard by the tire changes just like Suzuki, and as a result Kawi wasted millions on development and rider contracts. Imo, Kawasaki were enraged with Dorna and the tire manufacturers so they blew them off for WSBK.

Total votes: 75

Suzuki in real terms are broke....The Hammatsu factory can't (and won't) support the WSBK team hence Leon Haslam leaving for BMW; and Paul Denning has been plugging the holes in the sinking MotoGP ship all season.

Vermuelen and Hopkins were both "let go" to reduce costs and the rumour was that 2011 would be the last season with Tony Elias coming back from Moto2 on a one year dea,l and Bautista seeing out the last year of his contract, also to the end of next season.

This latest statement is actually a slight improvement. OK no Elias it seems but at least there is some sort of commitment for 2012

Total votes: 78

Suzuki is on to something. As dismal as their prospects have been, perhaps using the money that would have gone into the second team, will better prepare them for the new rules in 2012. One would hope that Kawasaki is working on a re-entry once the motors go back to liter in '12. So many competitive riders out there, it would be nice to see something reasonable for them all to ride.

Total votes: 84

Is there any actual commitment that goes along with the promise of "showing back up to play in '12"?

Total votes: 84

Hahahaha..what about the multiple angle start replays two thirds of the way through the race? and all the last lap follow the leader, interspersed with excited pit crews shots, as we miss great battles lower down the field?..These guys are not listening and have dug their own graves..
Ezpeleta says it's not his fault, the manufacturers are to blame for rules that have emasculated the sport..but who took the soft option allowing them a veto without having to think, in exchange for guaranteed grid sizes? Who, passively and without direction or a big stick, stands by as the MSMA stamp their collective feet threatening to leave..in the realisation if they do and without a contingency plan, he's fcuked?
He wants teams to commit to 2012 and beyond but ties them into lengthy contracts with heavy get out penalties, while rules change during the racing season and there is still no clarification on overcomplicated CRT! What happened to the "technical advisor" Carmelo was looking for to help him in his limp wristed stand against the factories? many fans on this board suggested Roberts snr. for the role..but it seems to have been quietly removed from the agenda, like a lot of other stuff.
Suzuki, who are 20% owned by VW now, see their future in providing small economical cars for emerging markets in Asia..Old man Suzuki is on his last legs and despite being a "biker" at heart, like old man Honda was, can't stop the direction envisaged by younger board memebers for his company going forward.
They will run Bautista in 2011 and pull the plug in 2012, letting the lawyers argue the toss about promises to run a second bike and put Carmelos contract to the test. By the time it's all sorted, hopefully the FIM will have will have pulled official sanctioning of GP from Dornas lilly livered series and given the rights to Infront and a rule making body who don't have a vested interest.

Total votes: 75

Serious business. Ok what's the chance that Dorna are now looking very seriously indeed at Moto1 ?? On the plus side it would at least be a pure riders championship - 1000cc with rev limits and you could even have multi engine manufacturers. Would love to see some analysis of this David!

Total votes: 68

Not.

With these results, i.e. more often than not finishing behind non-factory riders, if you were Suzuki wouldn't you be tempted to get out? While they have their moments, it seems that, given the quality and headstart of the opposition, it would take a big effort -- money, engineering -- to become consistently competitive. And there is no guarantee of that.

...with a promise of increasing their involvement again when the formula changes back to 1000cc in 2012.

I don't get this logic, assuming they have, or could secure, sponsorship. Because they've already done the 800cc development work. Is Rizla committed?

Total votes: 83

I don't know what to say to Suzuki. Part of me feels sorry b/c the mega corps like Honda and Yamaha have written a rulebook that is completely absurd. There is no reason to spend money on this version of GP b/c the fans only care about the riders. Most of us loathe the bikes. Fans like to jump all over Suzuki for refusing to pay big bucks, but it's pretty obvious that they don't have $50m to spend on a MotoGP program.

Furthermore, this is really making Dorna's CRT plan look quite stupid. It was an interesting way to pressure the manufacturers into loosening the terrible fuel rules, but if the manufacturers withdraw, it's going to completely backfire. The marketing value of production-based is not nearly as high as prototype. I still can't for the life of me understand why they can't go to a private engineering firm like Ilmor and order up a 1000cc engine with spring valves--the only major difference between 1000cc production based engines and 1000cc prototype engines.

I can't believe MotoGP is on the brink of World Super Superbike when a half dozen manufacturers have built fully functional prototype racebikes. The people who already have functional bikes should be the first people IRTA turn to. I don't approve of this production-based handout to the established IRTA club. The sport is inbred enough. MotoGP needs to encourage new blood and it needs to stay true to the prototype concept.

If Ezy will order up a batch of 1000cc engines from Mario Illien, MotoGP's problems will be solved. All bikes will still be full prototypes, and IRTA teams have the option to break ties with the MSMA. It's like Cosworth in F1. It didn't take Max or Bernie 5 years to figure out that they need a customer engine if FOTA bail.

Total votes: 76

The other aspect to Suzuki's woes is....

When did they last produce a 'winning machine' anyway ? The only Suzuki that was really successful in the Premier class was the RG 500; and it's derivitives, and the bottom line is, they stole the design of that engine.

from....

....Barton Engineering of Liverpool. The stepped cylinder square four 500 two stroke motor was originally designed and built by Barry Hart and used in it's early forms in the Sparton race bikes and also appeared in the infamous "Silver Dream Racer" film. The Sparton engine was actually most successful in sidecar racing.

I have got one of the original 'works" rolling chassis, which had a single shock an the right side Yamaha TZ forks, 'Dymag' magnesium wheels and AP Lockeed brake systems back and front. Unfortunately no engine and its not for sale. (no I mean it.)

That design was "stolen" and Suzuki eventually settled out of court, after dragging out the proceedings for many years. When the case was finally settled Barton Engineering was broken up and sold off with all the new engines and designs sold to Eric Buell in the States. (Yes that Eric Buell)....and Armstrongs in Bolton England bought the rest of the race shop.

Suzuki may build great road bikes, and have had success in WSBK; but there appear to be fundemental flaws in their collective abilities, in the Hammamatsu race department, to produce a race/championship winning MotoGP bike.

Honda used to have the same problem. Designers designed "a winning bike", engineers built "winning bikes" and then the riders were expected to win on them. Only for the riders to say, "this don't work". It took many years before Honda learned that bikes have to be built for the riders and that they had to be part of the design process.

Perhaps there will be a change of fortune with the new 1000cc regs' for 2012.

I certainly hope so.

Youth is wasted on the under fifties

Total votes: 86

I hear how 2012 will bring big changes. I don't really see why.

Motogp is an expensive sport. Whilst the engine is a massive cost, team personnel would have to form a large portion of the cost. Unless you totally rewrite the rules and become a spec series, then why does anyone believe that the costs will suddenly plummet? 1l engines that are highly modified will not be cheap. They will easily make 220hp+ (if that's what the current WSBK bikes make) and all that power needs controlling. Hence electronics will come to the fore once again. And electronics is an expensive game requiring highly skilled engineers to make sense of all the information coming from the bike. If you add to that a custom chassis (or even an off the shelf unit), very expensive suspension, tyres, brakes, the obligatory hospitality units and large semi trailers towing it all around Europe, the only saving I see is the ability to get the base power plant for a few thousand euro's from a supplier. Good riders will still demand a salary, the best team members still need playing and the other Motogp entry costs are identical.

I am sure that it will all work out, after all, a few years ago WSBK was in dire shape and some careful rule changes made it an easier sport to go racing in, but even that has a declining entry list. I'd be interested to see the estimated costs for the 2012 Motogp rules and current WSBK costs. I'd guess they would be fairly close.

All I want is to have the two series survive, a production based class I can relate to and a pure prototype class that is all unobtanium, where the best riders compete against their peers.

Total votes: 94