With all of the media interest that Valentino Rossi's switch to Ducati has generated, the biggest change to the MotoGP series since the introduction of the four-strokes in 2002 is going largely unnoticed. The switch back to 1000cc machines is proceeding quietly apace, however, with the factories working towards rolling out their 2012 MotoGP bikes over the next few weeks - Ducati is due to test their 2012 bike at Jerez some time this week - prior to the first official outing for the machines at Mugello on July 4th, the day after the Italian Grand Prix.
But factories building new versions of their MotoGP bikes hardly counts as revolutionary. The real revolution comes with the introduction of the Claiming Rule Teams, who will be allowed extra fuel, extra engines and be allowed to base those engines around motors taken from production machinery. (For more details on both the rules and the politics, see the first two parts of our ongoing series on the 2012 rules here: part 1, the rules, and part 2, WSBK vs MotoGP).
That project is picking up pace, as today, the FIM announced they will start accepting entries for the 2012 MotoGP season starting today. Application for the series is a three-stage process, starting with a statement of interest, which needs to be submitted to IRTA by Friday, April 29th, the first day of the Estoril Grand Prix. Those teams will then receive a prospectus containing detailed information on competing in the MotoGP class. Teams will then be required to submit a formal entry by Friday, May 13th, the first day of the Le Mans Grand Prix. Applications will be reviewed by the FIM, IRTA and Dorna, and the teams whose entries have been accepted will be informed and have to lodge a security deposit by Friday, June 3rd, after which an official entry list will be published.
If the process sounds vaguely familiar, that is because it is. This is almost identical to the procedure used for entry to the Moto2 class for the first time at the end of 2009. That process was stunningly successful: the initial list of Moto2 applications contained 47 teams and 91 riders, and the Moto2 class has had around 40 entries at every race in both 2010 and 2011.
Given the much higher costs involved in MotoGP participation (though still much lower than running as a satellite team), the chances of their being 40+ teams making an application is as good as zero, but there is every reason to believe that the class will be fairly well-populated. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has consistently spoken of a target of 24 bikes on the MotoGP grid, and given the level of interest, that seems a feasible target. Norton is known to be interested in participating in MotoGP, and BMW have also made no secret of their interest in the class, though their participation will be limited at first to that of an engine supplier, Suter using the S1000RR powerplant as the basis for their MotoGP bike. Other chassis manufacturers remain cagey on participation, but it is widely believed that both FTR and Kalex will be building chassis for CRT bikes, and Moriwaki are likely not to be far behind.
The most interesting part of the entire press release, however, are the parties involved. The statement says that the FIM (sanctioning body), IRTA (teams' association) and Dorna (commercial rights holder) have agreed the process, and all entries will be accepted through IRTA. The MSMA - the manufacturers' association - has been completely sidelined in this process, and the factories will play no part in either the selection or organization of the class. After having been in the driving seat for so long, the balance of power in MotoGP appears to be shifting away from the factories. 2012 could be a very interesting year in MotoGP indeed.
Here is the official press release from the FIM:
MotoGP Class Applications for 2012 season
Following changes to the regulations for the MotoGP class there has been considerable interest expressed by teams wishing to participate in 2012 and beyond.
FIM, Dorna and IRTA have agreed the following timetable for selection of teams for 2012.
By Friday 29 April 2011 (the first day of the Estoril round, Portugal) teams must register their interest in order to receive further information. Teams considered to be eligible for the class will then be sent a prospectus providing the further information and the conditions of participation.
By Friday, 13 May 2011 (the first day of the Le Mans round, France) teams who still wish to participate must submit a formal application which needs to be supported by detailed information requested in the prospectus.
Applications will be reviewed at Le Mans and teams will be notified of an acceptance, a rejection or pending status. A provisional list of teams will then be published.
By Friday, 3 June 2011 (the first day of the Catalunya round, Spain) accepted teams will be required to lodge a security deposit with IRTA. A final list of accepted teams will then be published.
Teams interested in applying for a MotoGP entry must contact IRTA: