Opinion

Things MotoGP Can Learn From F1: Part 1 - The Business Symposium

Since the global financial crisis struck back in 2008, MotoGP's primary focus has been on cutting costs. These efforts have met with varying success - sometimes reducing costs over the long term, after a short term increase, sometimes having no discernible impact whatsoever - and as a result, the grids in all three classes are filling up again. Further changes are afoot - chiefly, the promise by Honda and Yamaha to supply cheaper machinery to private teams, either in the form of production racers, such as Honda's RC213V clone, or Yamaha's offer to lease engines to chassis builders - but there is a limit to how much can be achieved by cutting costs. What is really needed is for the series to raise its revenues, something which the series has signally failed to do.

In truth, the series has never really recovered from the loss of tobacco sponsorship, something for which it should have been prepared, given that it had had many years' warning of the ruling finally being applied. The underlying problem was that the raising of sponsorship had been outsourced and the marketing of the series had been outsourced to a large degree to the tobacco companies, and once they left - with the honorable, if confusing, exception of Philip Morris - those skills disappeared with them. There was nobody left to try to increase the amount of money coming into the sport.

To their credit, Dorna have tried to address this issue, even going so far as to organize a sponsorship symposium with the teams last year. Unfortunately, it was far from a success, with one attendee being particularly scathing about it when asked for his impressions. And because of the scarcity of sponsorship, Dorna has the regrettabe tendency to regard itself in competition with the teams trying to bring sponsors into the series, rather than working in concert with them to raise the total income and reduce the dependence of the teams on Dorna subsidy.

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Opinion: Honda's Specious Argument Over The Spec ECU

The battle which has been raging rather politely between Honda and Dorna over the introduction of spec electronics continues to simmer on. The issue was once again discussed at Motegi, with still no resolution in sight. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto reiterated Honda's opposition to the introduction of a spec ECU in an interview with the Japanese journalist Yoko Togashi, which was published on GPOne.com.

The reasons for introducing a spec ECU - or more accurately, a spec electronics package, including ECU, sensors, wiring harness and data logger - are twofold: the first issue is to cut the costs of electronics in the sport, an area where spending is rampant and where gains can always be found by throwing more money and more engineers at a problem. The second issue is to improve the spectacle; racing in the modern era has become dull, with the electronics and the Bridgestone tires contributing to produce races where it is unusual for there to be more than one pass for the win.

While Nakamoto did not comment on improving the show via electronics - it could be argued that radically changing the tires would have a greater impact on the spectacle than merely introducing a restricted spec electronics system - he did repeat the claim he has made in the past that merely adopting a spec ECU would not help to cut costs, claiming that if anything, it would actually increase costs.

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An Alternative To Spec Tires: Australian Superbikes Introduces Price Caps With Multiple Tire Manufacturers

The spec tire rule in MotoGP is one of its most hated elements. Introduced for the 2009 season after a mass defection from Michelin threatened to leave everyone except Bridgestone struggling to survive, the standard tire has had a massive impact on the series. The idea behind it was to reduce costs, and for the smaller privateer teams who could only buy their tires, it has helped to bring down expenses.

But the side effects have been fairly disastrous. Having a spec tire may have reduced the cost of tires, but it has raised the cost of development for the chassis, electronics and engines. Instead of building a bike and having a tire company iron out imperfections with different carcasses and compounds, the bikes have to be designed completely around the tires. The problems the engineers face have been especially obvious this year: the Ducati continues to struggle with a lack of front-end grip,  while the Honda suffers terribly from chatter. Both problems could be sorted out in a couple of weeks with specialized tires made for them.

That, of course, would raise costs again, for tire manufacturers, but especially for the private teams - those that could not get themselves sponsored by a tire company, that is, like Tech 3 back in 2007 and 2008. What's more, it would also open up the performance gap between the factories and the privateer teams once again, something which the spec tire was supposed to get rid of. When factory bikes get specially made tires and private teams get cast-offs from several generations previously, then the dominance of the factories becomes even greater.

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Notes From A Small Island: The 2012 Isle of Man TT

A crash at 142mph is fairly reasonable in anyone's book. At Mugello, Silverstone, Brno it would be noted and not given a second thought. A slide across the track, maybe, and into some welcoming gravel. On Mona's Isle, however, it is a different story.

Simon Andrews crashed at that speed on Saturday. He misjudged his velocity on the entry to Graham Memorial and ran out of two-lane blacktop. After hitting a bank and laying in the road for probably longer than was entirely necessary, he was taken to hospital with nothing more than a broken ankle, wrist, shoulder and blood in his eyes. He should be dead.

But this is the Isle of Man. A place where Giacomo Agostini raced Mike Hailwood raced Phil Read, once upon a time. It was a Grand Prix. Not so now as the dangers of the place proved too much and Barry Sheene, who did just one lap of the place on a 125, was instrumental in it being removed from the calendar.

Heroes are made here. But they are only heroes in certain places. John McGuinness has now won 19 TT races. Those who follow MotoGP in Spain will have no idea who the man is but McPint does six laps of the 37.73-mile circuit at average speed of 129mph. Read it again. Average speed. On normal roads. His lap record is 131.5mph and tomorrow it will fall, so long as the rain doesn't intervene.

The Isle of Man was ridden on Wednesday by Randy Mamola and Kevin Schwantz in a parade lap. They came back with eyes like saucers. And they weren't pushing. Josh Brookes, who should know better, chased three-time winner Michael Dunlop over the mountain and declared at the end he will race the TT, once he finds a team boss who will let him.

It is a legendary place, full of history, it makes you feel alive. If you haven't been, go. The TT stirs the soul. If a bike and rider coming past you three feet from your face at 180mph down a hill on a public road doesn't raise even a grin, you are already dead.

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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Valentino Rossi's Options for the Future

It is ironic that the high point of the relationship between Valentino Rossi and Ducati came as he rode the first few meters out of pit lane and on to the track at the Valencia MotoGP test in November 2010. All of the excitement that had been building since the first rumors emerged in early June that the nine time world champion would be leaving Yamaha to join the iconic Italian manufacturer culminated as Rossi emerged from a crowd of photographers and powered down pit lane, watched by a large group of fans who had come to the test to see this very moment.

From that point on, it was all downhill. Within a few laps, it was clear that Rossi would struggle with this bike, and though everyone was putting a brave face on his performance, he left the test in 15th place, one-and-three-quarters of a second behind his ex-teammate Jorge Lorenzo, and 1.7 seconds behind Casey Stoner, the man whose bike he was now riding and who had left Ducati to join Honda. The contrast between the two could not be greater: where Stoner was bullying the Honda around as if he had been born on the RC212V, Rossi - handicapped in part by his still-injured shoulder - looked like a frightened rookie, thoroughly intimidated by the bike.

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The Crystal Ball: A Few Predictions For The 2012 MotoGP Season

In a week's time, the first race of the 2012 MotoGP season will be wrapped up and finished, and with a full preseason of testing behind us, it's time to take a look at the upcoming year. A lot is expected of the new season, and there's a lot to talk about, with a return to 1000cc MotoGP bikes, a brand new Ducati GP12, the advent of the CRT bikes, and much, much more. Time to make some predictions for the 2012 season.

Predicted Final 2012 MotoGP Championship Standings:

  1. Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda
  2. Jorge Lorenzo, Factory Yamaha Racing
  3. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda

This can hardly come as a surprise. Buoyed by the #1 plate and a strong winter of testing behind him, Casey Stoner is the man to beat. The Australian is without question the fastest man in MotoGP at the moment, and on a well-sorted Honda, he will not be denied the title. Jorge Lorenzo won't give up without a fight, though, and this year he has the weapon to do it with. The gap between the Honda and the Yamaha has been closed - the Honda still has the edge on power, but the Yamaha is not far behind, and probably handles marginally better - and so Lorenzo will take the fight to Stoner all the way to the end. Stoner should have the edge to once again wrap up the title in front of his home crowd at the penultimate round. Pedrosa is and will remain the best of the rest, though Ben Spies and perhaps Andrea Dovizioso will push him hard.

Predicting Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa for the top three slots in MotoGP hardly counts as the most courageous call in the world, but when Stoner and Lorenzo are clearly the two best riders in the world, with Pedrosa a close third, then anything else would be folly.

Predictied Final 2012 Moto2 Championship Standings:

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Guest Column: The Business Of Racing, By Eric Trytko

With the news coming out today that Ant West will not be able to make the grid for the 2012 motor GP season, due to his inability to find funding for his ride, brings up an interesting take on where the sport of MotoGP, motorcycle racing, and motor sports in general fits in with life today in our current economic environment.

Young riders coming up today, and even current riders, need to understand that they are no longer being paid to race. This is a major change in mindset, what they are paid to do is work as a marketing tool for their sponsors and patrons. For most of the history of athletics and motorsports, one of two things had to happen for you to compete, you either were either wealthy, or, you had to have a wealthy patron. Patron, another term for sponsor, is something that disappeared, for the most part, post-World War II on a personal level. Post World War II sponsorship came from corporations rather than people though that really didn't become visible until the 1960s with the Lotus Formula One team.

In today's world, corporations aren't racing for anything more than exposure. And that exposure is not so much about what happens on the racetrack, it's what happens with that sponsorship at the track and off the track. In fact, most sponsors don't care a whole lot about what happens on the track as long as their brand is visible, it's about what you're doing with your visibility and your hospitality on a race weekend. Then, it's also about, promotion pre-race and post race. On top of that it's doing appearances for the corporation when and where they choose.

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Why Motorcycle Racing Fans Should Oppose The Stop Online Piracy Act

Go to Wikipedia today (Wednesday, January 18th) to search for information, and you will be met with a dark page bearing a stark warning: "Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge". The reason for Wikipedia's blackout is simple: they, along with other major internet companies such as Google, WordPress, Reddit, Tucows, Boing Boing and sites such Twitpic all oppose the legislation currently going through the US Congress to prevent so-called content piracy. Two bills are currently under consideration, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), both of which are aimed at preventing the illegal theft of content owned by the US film, music and software industry.

That is a noble aim: the people who work hard to create the movies, TV series, music and computer games that we all love deserve to be paid for their work. They invest large amounts of money to produce content, and they do not deserve to have their product stolen and redistributed by gangs of organized criminals who make money off of the games, movies and music made by the content owners, without contributing anything to those content owners. 

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Happy New Year To Our Readers!

MotoMatters.com wishes all of our readers a Happy New Year and all the best for a happy, healthy and successful 2012. We're grateful for all of the support our readers have given us throughout 2011, which has allowed us to continue to grow our audience and expand our coverage. We are especially grateful to the readers who have supported us financially, either by becoming subscribers or buying a calendar or t-shirt, and to the advertisers who have supported us throughout the year.

A special word of thanks also to our contributors: MotoMatters.com staff photographer Scott Jones, and contributing photographers Michel Hulshof, Jules Cisek and Ben Davies

With major changes coming in both MotoGP and World Superbikes, we believe 2012 will be one of the most interesting and exciting years in recent motorcycle racing history, and we will be making a few changes to the site and hopefully adding resources to cover the world of international motorcycle racing in even more depth than we did in 2011. Here's to the New Year!

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The Fog Of War: Just How Do Rossi's And Stoner's Jerez Test Times Compare?

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. 

The biggest source of controversy - probably because these are the most significant numbers for the 2012 season - have been the times from Honda's 1000cc test with Casey Stoner back in May of this year at Jerez, and Ducati's recent test of the brand new aluminium twin spar chassis which Valentino Rossi put through its paces at Jerez just over a week ago. Initial reports suggested that Rossi had been running 1'39s, closely matching Stoner's pace. But that assumes that Stoner was also running 1'39s at Jerez during the test, and paddock rumor has it that Stoner was running a good deal faster than that during his test earlier in May. Two seconds, was the figure most commonly quoted, and rumored to be accurate. 

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