The era of Honda's monopoly in Moto2 could be drawing to an end. Today, the FIM announced that they were putting the engine supply for Moto2 out to tender, and asking for proposals from potential engine suppliers. The Moto2 class is to remain a single make engine class, with engines managed and supplied by the series organizer.
The announcement comes as a result of Honda's CBR600 powerplant, which has powered the Moto2 bikes since the inception of the class, reaches the end of its service life. The engines are virtually unchanged since their introduction in 2010, and Honda cannot guarantee the supply of spares for the engines beyond the current contract, which ends after the 2018 season. A replacement will be needed, whether it comes from Honda or from another manufacturer.
The first stage of the new process will be to consult with manufacturers on the basics of the class, while retaining the cornerstones of the Moto2 class: affordability, reliability, and a level playing field. Unfortunately, that is likely to rule out small, specialist engine builders, as Dorna and IRTA (who represent the Moto2 teams) will want to ensure the long-term (6+ years) supply of engines. Switching engine suppliers once, at the end of 2018, will be traumatic, as it will mean having to throw away all of their old chassis, and start to build up experience with the new bikes almost from scratch. What they will not want to do is to have to switch again after two or three years, as that would then send costs through the roof. Once the consultation process is complete, then the contract will be formally put out to tender, and open to bids from interested manufacturers.
So who might those manufacturers be? Certainly, the major Japanese manufacturers engaged in MotoGP would be interested. Both Honda and Yamaha submitted bids for the initial contract, for the start of the 2010 season, with Honda eventually getting the contract. But Suzuki and even Kawasaki could equally be interested, given that they have 600cc sports bikes which could supply suitable engines. KTM has previously expressed an interest, especially in build 500cc twins using the same 81mm bore as a Moto3 and MotoGP bike. That engine would basically be twice a Moto3 bike and half a MotoGP engine. However, the Austrian engine maker has always said they are only interested if there was engine competition, and that will not happen.
Losing Honda will upset the teams. The Moto2 class has proven to be extremely popular with the teams, as it is an extremely affordable class. A team can obtain a chassis, engine, and brake and suspension supply for a full season for well under €200,000. A bike in Moto3 costs between €300,000 and €500,000 per season, depending on the manufacturer (and despite the cost cap in place). The teams all have a vast amount of data and experience with the chassis, and all this will be lost when Honda goes.
Below is the press release from the FIM announcing the move.
FIM opens consultation with potential Moto2 engine suppliers
Following the announcement that Honda Racing Corporation would continue to be the official engine supplier for the FIM Moto2 World Championship for three more years (2016 to the end of 2018), the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and Dorna Sports will now start talks with other potential candidates for the exclusive engine supplier for the class from 2019 onwards.
The goal of this first stage of consultation will be to take in feedback from manufacturers to further foster the key values of the Moto2 class: keep it accessible and affordable, and offer a level playing field to teams and riders by providing reliable and consistently performing engine units.
The FIM and Dorna will be listening to and engaging in discussions with interested manufacturers until the end of the season, ahead of the actual tender process that will be launched by the end of the year, in order to elect the official engine supplier from 2019 onwards.