Testing the 2012 MotoGP bikes, when the series ups its capacity limit to 1000cc once again, has raised more questions than it has answered for the media and fans trying to follow the series. The first public test at Brno saw some promising results, with the Hondas and Yamahas fairly evenly matched, and the 1000cc bikes between 0.5 to 1 second faster than the 800s. But Brno has been the only public test, the others all being held behind closed doors - though journalists were present at the Misano test, that one being declared a private test only at the last minute when Honda and Ducati pulled out, leaving the track to Yamaha.
The times from the private tests have been much harder to track down, and though rumors have emerged from all sorts of sources, both verification or official confirmation have been absent. Journalists have been left to cast out their nets among their sources and try to make sense of the numbers being returned. It basically boils down to sifting through the times, and hazarding a guess as to which might be reliable and which are completely off base.
Mike Edwards set up MIST Suzuki back in 2005, and has been involved in motorcycle racing at the British national level and at the world level in the FIM Superstock series for many years. Throughout his years running the MIST Suzuki team, Edwards has gained a lot of insight into the underlying costs of motorcycle racing, and where savings can be made. With MSVR - the company which runs British Superbikes - set to publish the rules for the 2012 BSB series, including a raft of measures aimed at cutting costs, Edwards recently published a series of articles on the MIST Suzuki website on the cost aspect of racing, and where he believes costs could be saved. The articles have been reproduced below, with Edwards' kind permission.
Racing Is Expensive
Racing is expensive. Get over it. Does it need to be as expensive as it is? Of course not, but it's a difficult balancing act.
For any SuperBike round you need rubber, lots of it. The regulations permit a total of eight front tyres and eleven rear tyres for each round. Some might be qualifying tyres, others wet or intermediates with the rest being whatever is required over the weekend. At £222 a pair it's not cheap, in fact it's very close to the cost to the trade price that any dealer can purchase them at, but they don't have to pay for a team of people support the racing and fit tyres to the never ending line of wheels over the race weekend.
MSVR, who run BSB events. have done well to reduce the fuel cost for 2011. The 2010 price was £3.79 per litre, or with the recent tax hike £3.87/L. Having said that why are racers still obliged to pay £3.59/L for the control race fuel? Sure, there is a cost associated with delivering it to the circuit and making it available in 25L drums but, after a back-to-back test at the end of the 2010 season, the 98 octane fuel from the local garage was found to offer a negligible power increase at just 40% of the cost. That's a significant amount.
With three practice sessions, qualifying, warm up and two races a SuperBike has a lot of track time. That's a full quota of tyres and around 125L of fuel. Add it up and it comes to £449 for fuel plus the £2154 spent on tyres.
When Dani Pedrosa finally returns to the MotoGP paddock, he is in for a very rough ride. Pedrosa's injury has been shrouded mystery - at least, it has been since he was photographed at a bowling alley in Barcelona, only to announce he would be missing his home race at Montmelo, just a few miles away, a couple of days later. Rumors that he had reinjured his collarbone in a training accident - possibly involving a supermoto bike - emerged on the Spanish website Motocuatro.com in the days between the Barcelona and Silverstone rounds of MotoGP, fueled further when it was announced that Pedrosa would have yet more surgery to fix a loose piece of bone in his collarbone after Silverstone.
I'm sure you're all familiar with the situation - after all, if you're reading a motorcycle racing website, the chances are good that you are no stranger to speed - you're out for a ride or a drive somewhere, and you get pulled over by the local constabulary. There are a number of responses to getting stopped by the long arm of the law: loudly protesting your innocence and shouting at the officer who stopped you; sullenly sitting on your bike and responding to all questions with little more than a Neanderthal grunt; or giving the good man or woman a welcoming smile, admitting your failings (whether you believe the charges to be just or not), claiming it to be totally out of character and promising never to let it happen again. And of the three possible responses, it is fairly obvious which one will receive the lightest sentence (and no, it's not the one where you tell the officer exactly what part of the male or female anatomy they most resemble).
Marco Simoncelli is probably the most exciting rider in MotoGP at the moment. Obviously, his physical presence - tall, lanky, with an enormous and tangled bush of hair atop his head - helps him stand out from the crowd, but it is his riding which has endeared him to the fans. The boy is fast, utterly fearless and willing to fight for every inch of the track. Simoncelli stands aside for no man, which means that at any time, at any track, he can pull the most astonishing moves to try and either defend his position or snatch a place from out of the blue. The fans love it.
The riders, not so much. That impetuousness, seizing the first hint of a gap as soon as it opens, and opening it by force if necessary, has not made him very popular with the remainder of the MotoGP field. Simoncelli, they say, is a wildcard, a rider who is so unpredictable that they don't feel comfortable racing in close proximity with him. The kind of fairing-bashing action that leaves tire marks all over leathers may make Simoncelli a favorite with the fans, but having to deal with it at 300 km/h while manhandling a MotoGP bike around is not an enjoyable experience.
At Sepang on Sunday, Jorge Lorenzo committed what a very large group of motorcycle racing fans consider the most heinous of crimes: Taking a MotoGP championship from Valentino Rossi. The fact that Lorenzo took that championship by dominating the series all season, finishing off the podium only twice all year and off the front row just once, despite starting the year with an injury, is irrelevant, it seems; by becoming champion, Lorenzo has upset The Natural Order.
Lorenzo's crime was compounded by his reported behavior a week earlier at Motegi. After a bitter and physical two-lap battle with Rossi, which provided some of the most exciting and intense action of the year but which Lorenzo should never have allowed himself to be drawn into, the Spaniard spoke to Yamaha management about the passes made by Rossi. Rossi, who reports would have us believe is Lorenzo's teammate at Fiat Yamaha, was then called in by Yamaha's bosses and asked not to jeopardize Yamaha's chances of lifting the individual, team and manufacturer's championships for 2010. Lorenzo's request and Yamaha's response saw both parties vilified across large parts of the internet, and lampooned in the Italian press.
After a three week hiatus, The World Superbike series returns to action at the Enzo e Dino Ferrari circuit at Imola, the third race of the year on Italian soil. The Ferrari circuit is a veritable roller coaster ride, with near-constant elevation changes and a plethora of challenging corners, both fast and slow. On the line this weekend is no less than the whole ball of wax; the championship itself. Imola has been the site of deciding battles for the title in World Superbikes before, the most notable being the epic two-race slugfest in 2002 between Colin Edwards and Troy Bayliss, but this year's race(s) will be a different kind of struggle.
Points leader Max Biaggi won't have the perverse luxury of being able to let it all hang out like Edwards and Bayliss and must keep an eye on the leaderboard and still ride hard enough to make a good showing on the day. In order to take the crown at Imola, Biaggi doesn't have to necessarily beat the only other rider with a shot at the title, Alstare Suzuki's Leon Haslam, but he does have to keep him from taking 8 points away from the Roman Emperor's 58 point cushion. Most importantly, Biaggi can't crash or finish very far down the order, thereby giving Haslam a shot at the final race of the year at Magny-Cours.
When the Grand Prix Commission met at Brno to officially confirm the replacement of the 125cc class - an 81mm 250cc four-stroke single, provisionally being named Moto3 - it was clear that keeping costs down was right at the top of their agenda. Instead of a spec engine as used in Moto2, the proposal included measures to prevent a horsepower war driving spending on the engines out of control, by requiring that any manufacturer wanting to produce engines for the class must sell the engines for a maximum of 10,000 euros and be prepared to supply at least 15 riders with bikes.
The good news in that announcement is that the Grand Prix Commission is thinking seriously about how to prevent the class once again being dominated by a single manufacturer charging monopoly prices to selected teams for the best bikes. That, at least, is progress, as so many of the recent rule changes have been so clearly open to manipulation, and a first step has been taken to prevent that. The bad news is that as they stand, the suggested solutions are so woefully inadequate for their intended aim that they more likely to encourage manipulation rather than reduce it.
The Ducati Desmosedici MotoGP bike has always been famous for its top speed, a characteristic which is generally put down to two things: the first is the 16-valve V4 desmodromic engine, the brainchild of Ducati Corse director Filippo Preziosi, which has long been the most powerful engine on the grid. The second factor is the Bologna company's focus on aerodynamics, an area that other factories have spent much less time and attention on. The extremely slippery nature of the Ducati Desmosedici is in large part due to Ducati Corse's use of former F1 engineer Alan Jenkins as an aerodynamics consultant.
Jenkins has worked ceaselessly with Ducati over the years to improve the aerodynamics of the Desmosedici, and the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring saw a new innovation appear on the fairing of the bike. The Ducati had sprouted a pair of "winglets" (shown below) - protruberances sticking both forward and out of the side of the fairing, at about the height of bottom of the fork outer. Naturally, these strange additions aroused the curisoity of the assembled media, who set about trying to fathom their purpose.
There are many who hope and believe that admitting production engines in prototype chassis into the MotoGP will be the saving of the series. Finally, there could be a way for privateer outfits to build and race machinery on a more or less equitable footing with the factory teams.
To ensure that a balance is kept between the manufacturers and the privateer teams, the inclusion of so-called Claiming Rule Teams has been announced from 2012. Under the new rules, engine capacity rises to 1000cc, but but bore size is limited to 81mm, and the number of cylinders restricted to a maximum of four for both factory and CRT teams.
The big difference, though, is in the amount of fuel and the number of engines the factory and CRT teams will be allowed. While factory teams will still be restricted to 21 liters of fuel for each race and six engines per season, as is the case with the current regulations, CRT teams will be allowed 24 liters of fuel per race, and twelve engines to last the season.
The thinking behind both of these rules is sensible, and aimed at keeping costs low. By allowing the CRT teams three extra liters of fuel, the teams will not have to spend so much time and money on eking out the maximum performance from the allotted gasoline. And by giving the CRT teams twice as many engines, the privateer efforts will neither need to spend huge amounts on R&D in order to get the mileage from the engines, nor feel required to throw a new engine at every race weekend, to maximize performance.