Spanish CEV Moto3 Championship Upgraded To "Junior World Championship" Status

The status of the Spanish championship has received yet another boost. After the Moto3 championship was run under the auspices of the FIM in 2014, from 2015, the category is to be renamed the "FIM CEV Repsol Moto3 Junior World Championship." The CEV Moto3 championship will be runover eight rounds, six of which will take place in Spain, with the championship kicking off in Portugal at Portimao, and the CEV Moto3 class appearing as a support class at the French MotoGP round at Le Mans.

The two classes comprising the Spanish championship, Superbike and Moto2, will also get a status upgrade. For 2015, the CEV Superbike and CEV Moto2 championships will also be part of the European Championship. Superbike and Moto2 will have only seven events, however, the two classes not travelling to France to join the CEV Moto3 class.

The stated intention of the changed status is to help prepare young riders of all nationalities to make their mark and enter Grand Prix racing. That has increasingly been the role of the CEV Moto3 championship, with the champions in the Spanish series moving up into the Moto3 World Championship paddock. The CEV has also become less of a Spanish series over the years, with top young riders from all over the world competing in Moto3. Of the top 10 finishers in Moto3 last year, only half were Spanish, the other five hailing from France, Japan, Italy and Australia. Indeed, of the champions in all three Spanish CEV championships, none were Spanish: Fabio Quartararo (Moto3) is French, Jesko Raffin (Moto2) is Swiss, and Superbike champ Kenny Noyes - son of legendary journalist Dennis - is American, though he has spent a large part of his life in Spain.

The intention is to create a training ground for young talent to move up to the World Championship level, and given the strength and international breadth of competition, that seems like a viable objective. However, doing so creates problems for the series as well. For a start, it leaves Spain without a purely national championship, though given the large number of very strong regional championships, that may not be as much of an issue as it seems. More significantly, it devalues other national championships: the Italian CIV championship has lost some status, with several leading Italian riders and teams switching to the CEV as a place to develop talent.

The CEV is also largely a place for Moto3 talent to develop. The Superbike championship does not have the depth of talent which appears in CEV Moto3, and the average of the CEV Superbike class is much older. The best path into World Superbikes appears to be BSB, which is currently the strongest national Superbike championship by far. However, nobody has been foolish enough to suggest the idea of rebranding the BSB championship as the "Junior World Superbike Championship".

Last but not least, the championship is a little too regionally isolated to be regarded as a "Junior World Championship", the series being confined to the Iberian peninsula, and a single excursion to France. Racing at a wider range of circuits in more countries would make the series' new title less inflated, though it would also raise costs well beyond the current level of the series. Whether it is possible to expand to other countries remains to be seen, it is unknown just how much fan support there would be at rounds outside of Spain.

The elevation of the CEV series to FIM status is in part down to the decline of the European Championships. Some twenty years ago, there was a highly active and competitive European championship for both the 125cc and 250cc  classes, which helped to produce riders like Valentino Rossi, Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso. The killing off of the two-stroke classes, and the ensuing cost explosion caused by trying to race four strokes, put an end to the European championships. Perhaps, once sufficient Moto3 and Moto2 bikes have trickled down from the Grand Prix paddock down to national level, the European Championship will see a revival. Or perhaps by then the CEV Junior World Championship will have expanded to take the place of the former European Championship.

The press release from the FIM and the 2015 CEV schedule appears below:


FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship
2015 Calendar & New Classes, 2 December

The three classes of the current FIM CEV Repsol International Championship will have new titles starting next season, taking the Championship another step forward in its international progression.

The FIM, during its General Assembly held on 22 November, decided that as from 2015 the Moto3™ category would become the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship. Also, by agreement with FIM Europe, the Moto2™ and Superbike categories will be part of the European Championship from the same date.

With this new arrangement, the FIM CEV Repsol will help to break down national barriers even further and constitute a quantum leap in the search for young riders of any nationality who are ready to make their mark in road racing at international level.

Date Venue Country
26 April Autódromo Internacional do Algarve - Portimão Portugal
17 May Le Mans (Moto3™ only) France
21 June Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya Spain
5 July MotorLand Aragón Spain
6 September Circuito de Albacete Spain
4 October Circuito de Navarra Spain
1 November Circuito de Jerez Spain
15 November Comunitat Valenciana - Ricardo Tormo Spain

 

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Comments

Thanks for mentioning the real problem regional racing has on its hands: cost explosion due to the demise of 2-stroke racing.

Twenty years ago, the Honda RS125 and RS250 spec racers could get you into the world championship. Their total amortized running costs throughout a season at race pace were also less than a modern 600cc sportbike (and vastly less than a $30,000 Honda NSF250R).

What really blows my mind is that KTM makes the 50sx, 65sx, 85sx, 125sx, 150sx and 250sx two stroke motocross bikes, yet does not produce a single two stroke road racer!

These motocross bikes are offroad only, and thus cannot be classified as anything more than recreation and competition vehicles. The same could be said of a corresponding set of 65cc, 125cc and 250cc road racers. Surely there would be a market for a spec class of these bikes at regional road racing tracks worldwide? The engine technology is not that far removed, and KTM clearly has the expertise. They could be run as as a set of junior championships worldwide: 65 on kart tracks, 125 and 250 on full tracks. Spec and sealed engines as usual.

So the question remains: why are we being denied the most reliable, cost effective and high performance racing platform in favor of expensive, heavy and slow bikes such as the RC390? The usual argument of "factories want to sell what they race" doesn't apply here, because these are junior classes that won't exactly get international TV coverage. There will be an international final, but it won't be televised (YouTube only - for free!). It's all about getting people into racing, and getting young talent involved from across the world. Furthermore, I doubt the Rotax MAX karts sell too well for daily usage on Monday either, but they seem to pull off an international junior championship just fine.

Sometimes I really think I'm the crazy one...

I appreciate your perspective. Just to Devil's advocate I will hop in and say that I prefer 4 strokes in almost every way. With you though on the low dollar entry level, and that the bike didn't have a single thing on it that wasn't about racing.

They weren't as cheap and plentiful as, say, the Ninja 300/250 that swarms club paddocks these days. I would add too that when racing my Supersport SV650 was almost zero maintenance or upgrade necessities, and my 2 stroke buddies were ALWAYS fiddling with theirs. Nearly all of my support came from a local motorcycle dealership, there was national contingency money that was significant from Suzuki...the small GP bikes got none of that. And that I LOVE torque btw! My 600rr felt wonderful on the track, would just prefer it be a smidge lighter.

Perhaps another way of looking at it is that we lament the change from race bikes to production bikes?

The reason that nobody (including KTM) make two-stroke racing bikes for the road is because there are fewer and fewer classes where two-stroke engines are still allowed. Even minibikes are moving to four-stroke engines. 

It's a shame, as the maintenance costs of a four-stroke engine are insane, and repairs can't be performed quickly. The two strokes needed a lot of rebuilding, but that could be done quickly and cheaply. That is much more labor-intensive on a four stroke engine, and they need more parts too.

I think that was the original question: why were they ruled out? Wasn't it ultimately because some controlling interest (the FIM? Manufacturers?) wanted Grand Prix to go four-stroke, but they knew teams would keep racing two-strokes as long as they could get them, thus delaying for centuries any positive advances to four-stroke technology?

It's kind of interesting. Two-strokes were being legislated out of existence by governments around the world, not by specifying how an engine could operate, but by the emissions it could produce. They focused on the results.

Racers, being the gearheads that we are, approached it from the other side, focusing on how those results were obtained. Thus we regulated how the engine operates.

Now that four-stroke technology has found its legs--and is accepted by the racing community--maybe it's time to rejigger the rulebook and make it outcome-based. If an engine can meet X emissions standard, it's legal. Probably needs to be a bit more technical than that, but you get the idea.

Exactly...the engine rules should have never specified 2 or 4 stroke. It should have been emissions based just like the EPA and Euro rules, which do not specify engine technology.

This would have pushed 2-stroke vehicle manufacturers to develop direct injection, just like the Evinrude E-tec [1], which won the EPA's cleanest engine award in 2004 for lowest total emissions of any outboard motor (including 4-strokes!). Clean 2-stroke technology exists today, we just need the incentives in the motorcycle industry to push manufacturers to produce them. They'll still be cheaper, more powerful and lighter than 4-strokes, as the Rotax E-TEC engines have demonstrated.

1. http://www.epa.gov/air/cleanairawards/winners-2004.html

There is a possibility of having clean two stroke machines which use direct injection of fuel technology, fresh air induction into the exhaust and more efficient catalytic converters. Orbital Tech (Sarich and Sarich) from Australia were pioneering this at one time, but I really do not know what happened to the company. The point however it seems (I say seems because I am only going by hearsay) is that clean two stroke technology loses its inherent strength of a simple engine which is light and easy to maintain. I was told that the new two stroke technology somehow makes the engines and consequently the motorcycles heavier, difficult to rebuild and a lot more expensive because the catalytic converter needs frequent replacement. Like I said this is what was told to me by someone who works for a motorcycle maker in India and if it is apocryphal my apologies in advance.

The rules stating the nature of technology to be used is however totally unacceptable. When stricter emission norms were introduced in India, the government outlawed two stroke engines, while it should only have laid down how much an engine of a certain cubic capacity could pollute. I have been told that Honda (very, very big in India) was behind lobbying for four stroke technology centred pollution control norms. Honda seems to be to motorcycling what Google is to web technologies. Both companies talk of exalted values but are quite happy to make bend governments to bend over to get their requirements converted into rules.

Unfortunately, when it comes to DI 2-stroke reliability and maintenance, I've heard the same rumors. The truth, however, is far different:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAI9SvEz1hs

Production DI 2-strokes are lighter, cheaper, higher performance and more reliable than 4-strokes. The rumors you've heard come from KTM, who don't have a single DI 2-stroke engine in production. KTM's opinions may differ from Rotax, who specialize in DI 2-stroke technology and have leading products in numerous applications (aviation, outboard, snowmobiles, etc.)

Honda is indeed guilty of using its powers to kill the 2-stroke, but from a business stand point, I understand their decision. Frankly, they didn't have the depth of expertise with 2-strokes compared to 4-strokes, and they reluctantly started developing them for the 500cc GP after the NS500 project failed. They never wanted anything to do with 2-strokes, and when emissions regulations started creeping up, they saw a golden opportunity. They could have left the engine rules open, but that would have put them at risk if a competitor developed a superior DI 2-stroke. As such, they pushed for 4-stroke displacement advantages and convinced the FIM to accept it.

That being said, Honda still acted for the greater good overall. Their 4-strokes have literally saved millions of lives [1]. The carbureted 2-stroke road bikes in the developing world have caused massive amounts of toxic pollution in large cities, and this is a problem to this day. Furthermore, nobody had a readily available road certified DI 2-stroke motorcycle when the regulations came, so a case could not be made to the FIM that the 2-stroke ban was too draconian. If any of the other factories had an interest in DI 2-strokes, they should have produced a prototype. The FIM would have caved, because banning 2-strokes whose emissions equaled 4-strokes would've been illogical and thus would've been too openly partisan a decision to go without criticism.

For local racing however, the 2-stroke ban was a tragedy, because the new 4-strokes drove costs up astronomically and prevented a whole generation from experiencing the sport. I believe that the junior classes should have never migrated to the 4-strokes, simply due to cost. As for MotoGP, the argument could be made that it is mostly a marketing platform, and if most road bikes were to be 4-strokes, this class would've had to follow suit.

But us regional racers are the victims of this extreme, all or nothing 4-stroke approach. A hybrid would have suited everyone best, much like how karting is primarily 2-strokes, but Formula 3 onwards are 4-strokes.

I still have hope for a resurgence in 2-stroke regional racing, and if someone steps up with a proper DI solution, road bikes as well. We still have some time to kill until the electrics are up to speed.

1. http://www.unep.org/transport/pcfv/PDF/KGR_CleanerMotorcycles_new.pdf

The world is a bigger place than Europe, and to call it a World Championship is just a nonsense. I'll be in Europe from May next year. Based on FIM logic I'll be able to tell people I have traveled 'the world'.

The IOM government has funded a commission to look into a TT World Championship. Although I am not certain what an outside organization can tell them that there own expertise could not. It seems likely any such championship would be held mostly in the UK and Ireland at least initially due to the massively increased costs of moving further afield.

There was an opportunity here to have a European feeder championship alongside the European Superstock 600/1000 races at WSB race weekends. Especially when Dorna controls that series. I'd quite like to see a Moto3 championship at Euro WSB rounds. It might make a better next step for people like Jordan Weaving.