Ambrogio Racing has become the first of what is likely to become a torrent of defections from Honda in the Moto3 class at the end of this year. The Italian team of Brad Binder and Luca Amato - Danny Webb was forced to leave the team over a lack of sponsorship - will be switching from the Suter Honda to a Mahindra from the next round of Moto3 at Misano.
The reasons for the switch are simple. The Honda NSF250R engine simply does not produce sufficient power to be able to rival the KTMs. At every circuit on the calendar so far, the KTMs have simply powered away from the the Hondas, with only some excellent riding by youngsters such as Jack Miller and Alexis Masbou keeping the KTMs in sight, using the stronger handling of the FTR chassis. Binder and Webb have also had good results with the Suter Honda, though again, they have been beaten on sheer horsepower by the KTMs.
The switch from the Suter Honda to the Mahindra is not as large as it seems. The Mahindra MGP30 is being built by Suter in a collaboration between the Swiss firm and the Indian engineering giant, with a large number of Indian engineers working on the engine and chassis at the Suter factory. The chassis is very similar to the Suter Honda chassis, and the engine bears some resemblance too, though the Mahindra power plant produces much more power than the NSF250R.
Current Honda teams are likely to abandon the Japanese engine in droves at the end of this season, switching instead to the KTM or Mahindra. Unless Honda decide to build a completely new engine, it will be even more difficult to compete with the KTM in 2014. Rumors persist in the paddock that Honda is considering building a new engine to take on the KTMs, but that idea has split HRC into two camps. One side believes that Honda should either follow in the spirit of the Moto3 rules or pull out, the other camp believes that Honda should build an engine capable of slaying the KTMs, and only then consider pulling out.
The dispute centers around the concept of Moto3. The series was meant as a cheaper form of racing, with engines to be sold at a maximum price of 12,000 euros each. Honda designed and built their bike around that idea, with chassis builders such as FTR, Suter and TSR leaping at the chance to put an affordable engine in one of their chassis. KTM, however, looked at the letter of the rules and found a way around it, selling the engines at 12,000 euros, but only making them available as part of a complete bike and engine package. That package is several hundred thousand euros, but as the spare engines are sold to KTM teams at the price stated in the FIM rules, they are entirely within their rights to do so.
HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto has publicly vented his displeasure at the situation many times in the past, the latest broadside coming in an interview with German language website Speedweek. Nakamoto accused KTM of 'wanting to destroy motor sports' by demanding prices which are way outside the spirit of the regulations. KTM and Mahindra have made Moto3 more expensive than Moto2, Nakamoto told Speedweek.
The problem is that the rules do not specify that engines must be made available separately to complete motorcycles. Subsection 188.8.131.52.21.c.ii of the FIM regulations specifies that engines may be supplied either separately, or as a complete bike. That is a loophole large enough to drive a very expensive coach and horses through, and that is exactly what KTM and Mahindra have done. MotoMatters.com understands that chassis suppliers have made requests to both KTM and Mahindra for engines at the 12,000 euro price, but have so far been turned down. Until this loophole is plugged, costs in Moto3 will continue to spiral out of control.
Below are the press releases from Ambrogio Racing and Mahindra:
AMBROGIO RACING TAKES TO MAHINDRA FROM MISANO
Silverstone, UK, September 01, 2013: After a highly successful debut in the ultra-competitive Moto3™ grand prix class, Mahindra Racing is pleased to confirm that it will now supply two 2013 Mahindra MGP3O racers to Ambrogio Racing, the team’s first Moto3 customer.
Ambrogio Racing will introduce their new Mahindra bikes to the grid at Misano in two weeks time for the Grand Prix di San Marino e la Riveria di Rimini. The team’s German rider, Luca Amato, and South African teammate Brad Binder will switch to the MGP3O for the remaining six Moto3 races of 2013.
The agreement with Ambrogio will mean that five Mahindra MGP3Os will be seen on the Misano grid. Mahindra Racing’s Italian Championship (CIV) Moto3 class-leader, Andrea Locatelli (16), will make a World Championship wildcard appearance alongside factory-regulars Miguel Oliveira and Efrén Vázquez.
Designed and built at Mahindra Racing’s state of the art factory in Switzerland, the MGP3O single-cylinder, 250cc racer has proved its worth from the first tests. Apart from being reliable, this four-stroke machine is also very competitive. In the first half of its debut season, the prototype has already claimed four front row starts, including one pole position, and has regularly fought in the leading group of the Moto3 class, narrowly missing the podium in a number of races.
Mahindra, the only Indian constructor in grand prix motorcycle racing, is continuing its development of the MGP3O during the remainder of the 2013 season.
Moto3 regulations dictate that manufacturers must be prepared to supply up to 15 riders in the class, and Mahindra Racing has geared up for further production in time for the 2014 season. “So far this season we have definitely proved the reliability and performance of the MGP3O,” said Mufaddal Choonia, CEO of Mahindra Racing. “We are confident of further improvements and there is a lot of development work still under way in Switzerland and India at the moment.
“There has been a great deal of interest from other teams, and we are very excited about seeing five Mahindra MGP3O machines on the grid at Misano. We are looking forward to a fruitful partnership with Ambrogio Racing. I can say that this is almost something historic for Indian automotive engineering.
“The Mahindra race bike is excellent value, as an overall package, and it is great to be breaking new ground as an Indian constructor.”
Team owner of Ambrogio Racing, Fiorenzo Caponera, said: “Improving the team’s performance is our constant target, as we want to give our riders the best possible chance of showing their talent. Mahindra is a recent name in the World Championship, but its commitment and excellent results so far this season make Mahindra the perfect choice for our programme.”
Ambrogio Racing and Mahindra together until the end of 2015
Luxemburg, August 28th, 2013
From the next Misano GP, Ambrogio Racing is going to race with Mahindra bikes. The partnership will last until the end of 2015.
Fiorenzo Caponera (Team Principal) “Improving the team's performance is our constant target, as we want to give our riders the best possible chance of showing their talent. Among several options we decided in favor of Mahindra because of their results in such a short time, but also in account of a strategy common to all the seasons spent by WWR in the World Championship: the team have preferred to invest in young and often rookies riders, to be part of innovative marketing strategies, new challenges, strong partnerships. Mahindra is a recent name among those involved in the World Championship, but its commitment and the excellent results got makes a perfect choice for our program”.