The rule changes coming for the 2012 MotoGP season are generating a lot of interest from new manufacturers interested in entering the series. Current Moto2 chassis builders FTR, Kalex and Suter are all believed to be working on chassis for use in the so-called CRT bikes, machines based around production engines, while BMW and Aprilia are also rumored to be looking at entering the class once the capacity returns to 1000cc.
Shortly after the Brno round of MotoGP, news emerged that Stuart Garner, the man behind the resurrected Norton brand, had obtained two grid slots for the 2012 MotoGP championship. The company's plans, it was believed, revolved around taking the 1000cc four-cylinder engine which will form the basis of a high-performance sports bike to be introduced in either 2011 or 2012, and race it as part of a plan to promote Norton as a performance brand. The engines were to be built by Menard Competition Technologies, but rumors emanating from the UK's F1 corridor - an area of the central UK stretching from Aylesbury in the southwest to Leicester in the Midlands - suggest that Norton was having doubts about the rate at which engines could be produced at, and that Norton was exploring other options.
Those options, it appears, have led to the Spanish engineering firm Inmotec, the company behind the Inmotec MotoGP project. Inmotec has been building a V4 MotoGP bike for the past three years, but the project has been plagued by a chronic lack of funds. Norton, on the other hand, has sufficient funds to invest in a project, but lacks the engineering expertise required to build a high-performance 1000cc four-cylinder engine. A link-up between the two would provide Inmotec with the funds it requires to keep functioning, and Norton with the expertise to produce engines in the numbers required.
MotoMatters.com's attempts to elicit a response from Stuart Garner at Norton have so far not met with any success, but through our contacts with the Spanish magazine Motociclismo, we did manage to reach Inmotec. Inmotec Managing Director Oscar Gorria confirmed to our contacts at Motociclismo that Norton is in talks to buy the company. No further details were released, but this option could provide the engineering capacity Norton seeks.
It is unknown whether Norton's MotoGP effort will be based around Inmotec's current V4 engine. The Inmotec machine has had several planned public tests postponed, with appearances at both Barcelona and Valencia canceled. Reports from testing suggest that the engine has a chronic lack of reliability, with engines blowing up after just a few laps in private tests at the brand new Navarra motorsports facility. Those reliability problems are precisely the sort of problem that Inmotec will be hoping that Norton's funds could help to fix.