Vito Ippolito Reelected As FIM President - Key Figure In MotoGP's Future Stays In Place
Although at first glance, the most important motorcycle racing even taking place over the weekend was the Australian MotoGP round at Phillip Island, a far more significant race was taking place in Macau, China. There, 98 of the 101 federations that compose the FIM (Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme, motorcycling's governing body) met to elect a new president. The choice facing the assembled national federations was between the current president Vito Ippolito and French candidate Jean-Pierre Mougin. The final election saw Ippolito collect 55 votes to Mougin's 41, gaining reelection for another four-year term.
Ippolito's reelection plays a key part in the future of MotoGP. Ippolito has been one of the driving forces behind the move to allow production-based engines to be used in MotoGP, in the hope of drastically reducing costs and expanding the number of bikes and teams on the grid, as he explained in an interview with MotoMatters.com earlier this year. Ippolito was involved in Grand Prix racing himself back in the 1970s and '90s as part of the Venemoto team, which ran Yamaha TZ 250s and 350s. Those bikes were basically production racers, mass-produced bikes whose sole purpose was racing, and Ippolito has been instrumental in trying to find ways of resurrecting that idea within the MotoGP paddock. Ippolito has an ally in Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta in this aim: with MotoGP grids continuing to shrink as factories cut back their involvement, Dorna is looking for ways to bring the grid back up to full strength and drastically cut costs. IRTA, the teams' association, also backs the idea, as the teams should find themselves in a precarious financial state a good deal less often.
The idea of racing bikes based on production engines has met with bitter opposition from Infront Motor Sports, the organizers of the World Superbike series. Paolo and Maurizio Flammini - the driving force behind World Superbikes - have claimed that any such moves would violate the contract that they have with the FIM granting them a monopoly on racing production motorcycles. Ippolito has strongly refuted this claim, pointing out in the same interview with MotoMatters.com that what Infront has is a monopoly to race the bikes that the FIM homologates, not a monopoly on racing any form of production-based motorcycle. Having Ippolito on the side of production-based engines in MotoGP is vitally important if the FIM is to hold off any legal challenges from Infront.
Ippolito's term expires in 2014, after the third year of the rule changes in MotoGP. By then, the new formula should be so firmly embedded in MotoGP that change will be impossible, regardless of legal pressure from the World Superbike series, and regardless of who the next FIM president should turn out to be.