It's been hard being Carmelo Ezpeleta these past few years. Ever since the capacity reduction to 800cc, MotoGP fans all around the world have been baying for the Dorna CEO's blood. The fans blamed Ezpeleta personally for killing off the spectacular 990s and allowing the 800s to degenerate into the rather sterile racing that it has become.
Yet Ezpeleta had little say in the capacity change: under the terms of the contract between the MSMA (the manufacturers' association) and Dorna, the MSMA would get to draw up the technical regulations, and the other parties in the Grand Prix Commission (MotoGP's rulemaking body) would accept what the MSMA put forward. The MSMA, it was felt, knew what they wanted from the series, and as they were providing the bikes, they should get to make the rules.
What the 800cc era has made clear, however, is that what the factories want and what the fans want are two different things entirely. While the factories requested and got fuel limits and a capacity reduction, and learning extremely valuable lessons about electronically managing motorcycle engines to provide smooth throttle response and better fuel efficiency, the riders have been forced to hone error-free, smooth riding styles carrying as much corner speed as possible, robbing the fans of the spectacle they had become accustomed to with the 990s. Any objections Dorna presented to proposed rule changes were waved away by the MSMA; the manufacturers, after all, were the subject experts and the only people to fully understand how rules might affect the practice of building racing prototypes.
Dorna's problem was that they did not have the expertise to present counter-arguments. Dorna - and IRTA, the teams' association - knew all about running race teams and racing series, but not about the economics and technical aspects of producing racing machines. Though Dorna is stuffed to the gills with technical experts, none of them have the practical experience in manufacturing needed to face down the MSMA.
Dorna have now remedied that situation. Today, Dorna announced that they have appointed Corrado Cecchinelli as MotoGP Director of Technology. In that role, Cecchinelli will act as an intermediary between the manufacturers and the other members of the Grand Prix Commission, translating the requirements of the manufacturers for Dorna, IRTA and the FIM, and ensuring that the manufacturers understand their objections to the MSMA's proposals. MotoMatters.com reported on Dorna's search for somebody to fill this role back in August of last year, but Dorna were being very careful about finding the right person for the job. Dennis Noyes reported in the Spanish magazine Motociclismo in November that Cecchinelli had been contracted for the position, but Dorna have taken until now to announce the appointment
Cecchinelli's position is key in the political reshaping of MotoGP that is currently taking place. Changes have already been made in the contracts between the manufacturers and Dorna - each manufacturer signing a separate contract, rather than Dorna signing a collective agreement with all of the members of the MSMA - and the role of Director of Technology is aimed at placing a check on the technical ambitions of the MSMA. With 2012 fast approaching, and interest from teams entering under the new Claiming Rule Team regulations - which allows teams to enter non-factory bikes under slightly looser regulations (for a full explanation, see our background story here) - Dorna, the FIM and IRTA have to ensure that the MSMA does not price the cost of potential CRT entries out of reach of the teams through regulation. Cecchinelli seems ideally placed to prevent that from happening.
Below is the press release announcing Cecchinelli's appointment:
Corrado Cecchinelli appointed MotoGP Director of Technology
Corrado Cecchinelli has been appointed as the Director of Technology for the FIM MotoGP World Championship. The experienced Italian will oversee and be responsible for all technical developments relating to the three World Championship categories; 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP.
One of the main functions of Cecchinelli's role will include the development of new regulations regarding the implementation of the Moto3 category and the new 1000cc engine capacity in MotoGP, both of which come into effect in 2012. He will also play a key role in providing a technical link between manufacturers and suppliers and the organisations involved in the governing of the World Championship, which include the FIM, the MSMA, IRTA and Dorna.
Cecchinelli has an extensive amount of experience and knowledge in motorcycling, and after obtaining a degree in Mechanical Engineering – in which he specialised in automobile mechanics – he worked for Piaggio for two years. A five-year period working on Ducati's superbike project then followed between 1997 and 2002, and from 2003 to 2005 Cecchinelli was Technical Director for the Borgo Panigale factory's MotoGP team. In 2006 Cecchinelli took up the post of Vice Director General at Ducati Corse, a position he held until the end of 2010 prior to his appointment as MotoGP Director of Technology.