Talks are continuing at Jerez over the future of MotoGP, with the focus on how to reduce costs for a sustainable championship. After the proposals that Dorna presented to the factories at Sepang, with measures including a rev limit and a standard ECU, it was the turn of the factories to come with their counterproposals to make the championship affordable.
In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta set out the proposals discussed. The measures under consideration included the introduction of a single-bike rule, just as there is in the Moto2 and Moto3 championships, as well as in World Superbikes and World Supersport, where each rider would be allowed to have just one bike scrutineered and approved for riding at a time. In addition, a limit on the number of mechanics each team would be allowed to have present could also be introduced, in an effort to cut wage, travel and accommodation costs for the teams. A proposal was also put forward to limit each factory participating to just two factory riders and two satellite riders, meaning that the situation as it is at the moment, with four Hondas, four Yamahas and four Ducatis could continue into the future.
But perhaps the most significant proposal was to implement a price cap on the cost of satellite machinery. The price cap is one measure that Ezpeleta has been keen on since last year, and has been pushing the manufacturers hard on. With satellite bikes costing between 2 and 4 million euros to lease from the manufacturers, the cost of fielding a satellite team has been rising exponentially. The price of a satellite Ducati had pushed the Aspar squad to drop their plans to continue with Ducati and instead choose to become a CRT team - a canny decision, as Randy de Puniet has posted some outstanding times on the Aprilia ART bike at Jerez so far, and is ahead of the satellite bikes of Hector Barbera and Karel Abraham.
Ezpeleta's ideal is the million euro motorcycle: the cost of either leasing a satellite bike or buying a CRT machine should not exceed a million euros for a whole season. As Dorna provides a large subsidy to all of the satellite teams competing in the championship, Ezpeleta feels that the exorbitant lease prices mean that he is subsidizing the factories' racing programs. The Dorna CEO pointed out that talks were still ongoing with the MSMA over exactly what would be included in that one million euro sum. Yamaha at least appear willing to embrace that sum, as Lin Jarvis told MCN last week.
The idea of a single bike per rider is aimed at keeping costs down for the poorer teams. It has done little to reduce costs for the big teams in all of the championships it has been introduced in, but it has made a difference to the poorer end of the paddock. In Moto2, for example, Marc Marquez is reported to have had two complete spare rolling chassis for his Suter Moto2 bike in the Monlau Competicion truck last year, which meant that in the case of a trashed bike, Marquez' team had only to remove the standard engine from the bike Marquez had crashed, fit it in one of the spare chassis, and then take it along to technical inspection to have it scrutineered ready for racing. Something similar is true in World Superbikes: the big teams have spare bikes ready to go in the trucks, should anything untoward happen during practice, requiring only the approval of tech inspection to take to the track.
For the poorer teams, however, the number of parts they need to hold has been drastically reduced - not by 50%, but by a significant enough margin to allow them to compete. The downside is that if they do wreck a bike during warmup, then there is no chance of getting ready in time for the race. The question here is whether it is better to have more weak teams in the series, even if it penalizes the rich teams. Both Infront and Dorna are very happy with the results achieved so far in their respective series, but there is no denying there are real downsides to the rule.
The real problem with all of the cost-cutting measures is that it does not address the underlying problem of the series. Speaking to MotoMatters.com, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis phrased it thus: "The biggest problem this sport has today is money." What was needed, Jarvis said, was to find different revenue streams, different media and different geographical locations to bring a new impulse to the series. Jarvis emphasized that he would like to see MotoGP go to countries such as India, Brazil and Indonesia, as these were key markets for the company. If the series was capable of bringing more money in, then these cost-cutting measures would simply not be necessary.
Carmelo Ezpeleta also emphasized the need to make the sport an attractive prospect. The talks with the manufacturers, which had taken place in a positive atmosphere, had been about the philosophy of the series, about making it more attractive as a spectable and more sustainable as an enterprise. But there is clearly much more work to be done.