2012 MotoGP Silly Season: Are We Facing Another Tiny Grid?

The two-year contracts that all four of the MotoGP Aliens signed during 2010 have made for a very quiet silly season, with speculation on who will be riding where next season taking a very long time to get started. There are a number of reasons for this - talks about contracts have been lost in the general commotion surrounding the two big topics of 2011: Rossi's struggle with the Ducati Desmosedici and the controversy over whether to race at Motegi or not, and the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami has badly hit motorcycle racing budgets as well - but as we approach the final few races of the 2011 MotoGP season, some movement is starting to be visible on the riders market. So let's take a stroll through what we know for certain, have a look what we think is likely and glance into the crystal ball of MotoGP's future, which comes in the shape of the Claiming Rule Teams.

What We Know

There are a few things we know for certain in 2012: the three major factory squads will remain unchanged for next season, as all six riders are in the second year of a two-year contract. Karel Abraham has a Ducati for 2012, the Tech 3 line-up has been finalized, and Simoncelli is back with Gresini with HRC support again for another year. Colin Edwards has taken the plunge as the first official rider for a CRT entry, but beyond that, it is mostly speculation. Here's what we know for sure:

Marlboro Ducati With both men signed to a two-year contract, the focus of the factory Ducati is simple: get as much data from the GP11.1 to use on the GP12. The Ducati has gone backwards this year, and with a nine-time World Champion on the books, they simply cannot afford to continue in the same vein. There's a mountain of work to do for Ducati, and they have already moved mountains of work just to get where they are.
Valentino Rossi 2012 Despite the wildly inaccurate and wildy entertaining rumors, Valentino Rossi is staying at Ducati for next season, and will not be racing on a personal factory-backed Honda for 2012. There are clear signs of progress on the Ducati, but there is still a long way to go. What happens in 2013 is another matter, but if progress continues at the current rate, he may decide to add another year to his contract at the end of next season.
Nicky Hayden 2012 Nicky Hayden is the perfect teammate: he works hard, he never complains - though this season has been the first time he has verged on making public criticism of Ducati, the frustration clearly visible on his face - and he never gives up. Hayden is also very good for Ducati's sales in North America, and so is high up on the list to be retained beyond 2012. That, though, may depend on what Marco Simoncelli decides to do, as the Bologna factory is known to be very keen on signing the Italian once his contract with HRC expires.
Repsol Honda The earthquake and tsunami hit Honda hard. Not so much in terms of damage to the company itself - though there was some - but in terms of its supply chain: a lack of parts has seen Honda forced to cut back production by 30%, and this has had a huge impact on its MotoGP budget. Despite a lot of hard bargaining, there will probably be just four or five Hondas on the grid in 2012, with HRC supporting three full-factory machines themselves, for Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Marco Simoncelli.  This means that the three-rider team is history, unsurprisingly, given that the situation only came about because of some canny bargaining and strong results by Andrea Dovizioso in 2010. While Stoner and Pedrosa stay on, Dovizioso is moving elsewhere for next season.
Casey Stoner 2012 Casey Stoner has continually spoken of his admiration for Mick Doohan, and his desire to emulate the Aussie 5-time World Champion. Stoner is well-ensconced in Honda, with a lot of backing inside the company, his only blemish the doubts he had expressed concerning Motegi. A world championship on an 800cc MotoGP bike - the capacity that Honda forced through after Dajiro Katoh's death - would make Honda look very kindly indeed on Stoner, though.
Dani Pedrosa 2012 Dani Pedrosa's position at Honda has weakened since the arrival of Casey Stoner. While Pedrosa's manager Alberto Puig retains strong links with Spanish petroleum giant and title sponsor Repsol, his handling of the fallout from the Simoncelli affair has not been well-received. But Pedrosa is clearly still fast, as he proved by winning at the Sachsenring, his second race back from injury. Much will depend on how Pedrosa adapts to the 1000s, though his form on a 990 Honda left little to be desired. Pedrosa's biggest threat is Marc Marquez, Repsol's other golden boy, who is ripping up the Moto2 class. Marquez is looking increasingly to move to MotoGP in 2012, and if he moves to MotoGP, the Rookie Rule (preventing rookies from going straight to a factory team in MotoGP) will see him housed in a satellite team, though with factory support. Pedrosa's position is safe for the moment, but even once his contract expires, the Spaniard has a strong claim to a seat in the Honda garage. What he really needs, though, is a season free of injury.
Factory Yamaha Yamaha was less badly affected by the earthquake in Japan than Honda was, but the Japanese manufacturer is still suffering. And as a smaller factory than Honda, Yamaha has also suffered more from the economic slowdown, with sales falling heavily. The shift in Europe from sports bikes to naked and adventure bikes has even led Yamaha Motor Europe to withdraw from the World Superbike series, as it failed to achieve the marketing goals set by the factory. So budgets are tight, and without a title sponsor to help bear the load, things are hard at Yamaha too. No sponsor has lined up to fill the space vacated by Fiat at the end of 2010 just yet, but talks with a few parties are still ongoing.
As far as riders are concerned, Yamaha has no reason to look beyond its current line up for the moment. Both Spies and Lorenzo are contracted through 2012, but Yamaha could have options after that. Lorenzo looks closely tied in to Yamaha, but Spies needs to back up his win at Assen with a couple more victories and more regular podiums to secure his seat for the future.
Jorge Lorenzo 2012 Jorge Lorenzo has had a tough year defending his title. Where everything went almost perfectly in 2010, things have been much tougher in 2011. Jorge Lorenzo was off the podium twice last year, this year he's missed out on the podium 5 times in 12 races. Yet Lorenzo is still fully committed to Yamaha, and the Spaniard was visibly buoyed by the strong performance of the 2012 Yamaha 1000c bike at Brno in August. If the bike is already competitive with the Honda (Lorenzo was just 0.085 seconds slower than Stoner on the Honda 1000 at the Brno test), then Lorenzo is in with a chance next year.
Ben Spies 2012 Ben Spies' move to the factory Yamaha team has been very similar to last year's switch from MotoGP from WSBK. While early results were promising, the weight of expectation has been perhaps a little too high for the Texan. Yet Spies has had a win, two more podiums, and has only finished outside the top 6 when he has not finished. If Spies can learn to start a little faster - still his Achilles heel - his future at Yamaha would look brighter.
Cardion AB The Cardion AB team of Karel Abraham will continue in MotoGP, and they will continue with Ducati. The contract extension was confirmed at Assen, with Karel Abraham Sr, the team owner, owner of the Brno circuit and the medical equipment manufacturer which sponsors the team, keen to continue in MotoGP for the foreseeable future.
Karel Abraham 2012 Karel Abraham received a lot of criticism when he moved into the MotoGP class: the young Czech rider had won just a single race in the lower classes - the final race at Valencia in 2010 - and many both inside and outside the paddock were saying he only had his seat because his rich father was paying for it. Whoever is footing the bills, they've had their money's worth. It's been a tough learning year for Abraham, despite that - and a few rookie mistakes, including crumbling under pressure at his home GP at Brno - the young Czech has surprised a lot of people. Abraham is 4th of the Ducati riders in the championship, ahead of the proven veterans Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi. The theory that Abraham is fast on the Ducati because he doesn't know what a proper MotoGP bike is supposed to feel like may or may not hold water, but Abraham has certainly proved he deserves to be in the premier class.
Tech 3 Yamaha The second seat at Tech 3 was one of the most desirable and hotly contested in the paddock. The first seat was already occupied, with Cal Crutchlow in his first year of a two-year contract, and though the ardor between team boss Herve Poncharal and Crutchlow has cooled, the pair are stuck with each other for 2012. In the end, it was Andrea Dovizioso who bagged the second seat at Tech 3, the Italian the first to sign the contract on offer from Poncharal, after Alvaro Bautista turned the ride down. Though Eugene Laverty was in the running early on for the position, Poncharal favored experience over unknown potential. After all, he already has one former WSS and WSBK rider in the team, and he is losing a MotoGP veteran in the shape of Colin Edwards.
Cal Crutchlow 2012 After an impressive start to the season, Crutchlow has been through something of a dip recently. His tendency to crash has not endeared him to his team boss Herve Poncharal, though nobody can fault the Englishman for trying. His biggest problem has been mysterious headshake in the front wheel that his team have never been able to track down and fix. This has rather sapped his confidence in the front end, though his results have improved of late.
Despite rumors that he could return to World Superbikes - rumors strenuously and colorfully denied by the Englishman - Crutchlow will have another shot at earning an extension during 2012. The 1000cc bikes and the softer Bridgestone tires should help, and the new Yamaha machine should also be a benefit.
Andrea Dovizioso 2012 Andrea Dovizioso has been a loyal Honda man since the day he arrived in Grand Prix racing aboard a 125, and has been with Big Red through 125s, 250s and MotoGP. His problems with Honda started when Casey Stoner signed with HRC and moved into the Repsol Honda team. Dovizioso was asked politely to move to a satellite team but refused, as the terms of his contract allowed him to. When contract negotiations started for 2012, he had a mark against his name, and with Marco Simoncelli's star still rising - though only just - and Marc Marquez waiting in the wings, Dovizioso saw that his opportunities at Honda were slim, and getting slimmer. So for 2012, Dovizioso has jumped ship to ride with Tech 3, in the knowledge that all of the factory riders are out of contract at the end of next season. What Dovi needs is a strong season aboard the satellite Yamaha to demonstrate his potential to the factories. Though the odds of Dovizioso displacing either Spies or Lorenzo at the factory Yamaha team are slight, they are at least above zero.
Gresini Honda Gresini had a pretty cheap year in MotoGP in 2011. Marco Simoncelli was housed in the Italian team on a factory contract and with factory support, at a cost to the team of very close to zero. Hiroshi Aoyama was also housed with Gresini at Honda's expense, though very much on a satellite basis. And in 2012, Gresini would like a repeat of that situation.
Part of their wishes have already been granted, with HRC once again extending both the contract and the factory support for Simoncelli in 2012, but a question mark remains over Gresini's second seat. Simoncelli's signing is excellent for Gresini's sponsor, Italian snack manufacturer San Carlo, and the potato chip money will continue to flow into the team for the next year. But team boss Fausto Gresini protests that he does not have enough funding to afford Honda's exorbitant (said to be in the region of 4.5 million euros) lease price for a satellite RC213V, and has been exploring CRT options for next season. The Gresini squad could line up with just Simoncelli for next year, or they could have another rider on either a satellite Honda or possibly a CBR1000-based CRT machine. It could be some time before this is clear.
Marco Simoncelli 2012 Marco Simoncelli has been sensational in 2011, though often for all the wrong reasons. He has 2 poles this year, as well as a podium finish. But he also crashed out of 4 races, crashed and remounted in another, and slammed into Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans, causing the Spaniard to fall and break his collarbone, and throwing away a certain podium after being given a ride-through penalty. When he has ridden carefully and thoughtfully, he has finished 6th; when he has given full rein to his undoubted speed, he has crashed, often in embarrassing ways. He crashed out at Jerez while holding a comfortable lead, he didn't make it through the first lap at Estoril, and he crashed taking out Jorge Lorenzo in the first left hander at Assen. On a single lap, as his qualifying shows, he is capable of extraordinary speed. Holding it together throughout a race is a different matter altogether, though his massive fanbase hopes he will learn to temper his enthusiasm.
Still, his performance has been good enough to secure a factory contract and a factory bike from Honda for 2012, and another chance to prove himself. This is probably his final chance, though: with Marc Marquez on his way up from Moto2 and almost certain to land at Honda, the line up at HRC is already looking pretty crowded. Simoncelli has his work cut out in 2012, but the interest from Ducati could provide a back up plan for 2013.
NGM Forward Racing Forward was the first of the Claiming Rule Teams to enter the arena and announce their intentions, formally presenting the team at Misano. The presentation was made with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta present, and the series boss was there not just to support the team, but also to demonstrate his belief that the Claiming Rule Teams are the future of the sport. No doubt that Dorna will be supporting the team, and may also have played a role in securing the services of Colin Edwards for the team, to add some prestige to the project.
The problem is that they don't have a bike yet. Initially, the team had been linked with the Suter/BMW project, but a poor showing during the test at Mugello gave Forward's bosses cold feet. Long discussions with Yamaha USA, who have offered the support to Edwards and the project, mean that the team is likely to field a Yamaha R1 engine in a prototype chassis.  Edwards' claims that Tech 3's Guy Coulon would build the chassis were vociferously denied by Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal, the team already having more than enough on its plate. The question is, can Coulon resist the challenge of building a competitive CRT bike?
Colin Edwards 2012 Rumors of Colin Edwards' retirement surface every year, and every year, the Texan finds the motivation to stay on for just one more year. This year, it is to ride a CRT machine, the first MotoGP veteran to take the plunge. Edwards' reasoning is fairly straightforward. He knows where he is on a satellite bike - always at least one step behind the factories, his performance restricted de facto by the electronics engineer that all factories supply with the bike to satellite teams - and a CRT machine offers a way to escape those restrictions. Edwards does not expect to be winning races on a CRT machine, indeed, at the presentation of the team, he acknowledged there would be some tracks, such as Mugello, where they would be left for dead. At others, though, tracks like the Sachsenring and Laguna Seca, Edwards believed that with the three liters of extra fuel that the CRT bikes are allowed to carry, he could well give at least the satellite bikes a run for their money. That challenge, and the challenge of actually developing a bike again, was reason enough to tempt Edwards into taking a risk. The help and encouragement from Dorna helped push Edwards over the edge.
BQR (FTR/Kawasaki) The BQR team - which runs the Blusens 125cc team with Maverick Vinales and the Blusens-STX team with Tito Rabat in Moto2 - is the only Claiming Rule Team to actually have a bike ready to race. The organization has close links with Kawasaki Spain, and so it was logical that they would be fielding a machine with a ZX-10R engine. They are also using the FTR chassis in Moto2, and so enlisting FTR to build the CRT chassis for them was a similarly obvious step. FTR are very positive about the 1000cc Kawasaki lump: it is only a few kilos heavier than the CBR600RR engine being used in Moto2, and not physically much bigger. Given that it produces plenty of power in stock form, making it competitive - at least at the slower tracks that MotoGP visits - should not be too difficult.
Unknown   The rider is as yet unknown. Tito Rabat will be moving up to MotoGP at some point, but given that 2011 was his first year in Moto2, 2012 is probably too early. Instead, his teammate Yonny Hernandez could get the call, in part to help develop the bike. The FTR/Kawasaki is due to be completed at some point in October, and should take part in the test at Valencia along with the factory MotoGP bikes. They should provide a yardstick for the BQR machine to measure itself against.


What We Don't Know

There are a lot of things we don't know about 2012, but we can still take an educated guess at them. LCR Honda will be back on the grid, as will Aspar, though whether Aspar has a Ducati or not remains to be confirmed. Gresini could be cut to a single bike, or they could run a second bike as a CRT entry. Pramac, like Gresini, looks to be reduced to just one bike, while Suzuki's future in MotoGP is up in the air entirely. One of the biggest question is whether Marc Marquez will stay in Moto2 for another year or move up to MotoGP. And then there's the rest of the CRT entries. A lot of questions remain to be answered.

LCR Honda LCR Honda is keen to forget the nightmare of 2011 as quickly as possible. Taking on Toni Elias - to no small extent, at the behest of Dorna, Elias being the first ever Moto2 champion - turned out to be a much bigger gamble than they had anticipated, Elias failing miserably to get to grips with the Bridgestone tires. Riders are in two minds about the team: Elias raised doubts about the way the crew handled his feedback, but they will have at least one RC213V bike at their disposal, with rumors earlier in the season of a second bike also being available. Given the exorbitant lease prices Honda is charging (nearly twice last year's lease price), the chances of a second bike appearing in the LCR garage disappeared when Andrea Dovizioso, Lucio Cecchinello's first choice, decided to abandon Honda for Yamaha.
Alvaro Bautista / Randy de Puniet / John Hopkins tbc With Dovizioso out of the picture, top of Cecchinello's wishlist at the moment is Alvaro Bautista. The Spaniard is awaiting Suzuki's decision on their MotoGP project, but some HRC personnel look very kindly on Bautista, and believe he would go well on a Honda. The LCR bike is probably Bautista's best option if Suzuki do pull out.
If Bautista decides to stay with Suzuki, for whatever reason, then LCR could do a lot worse than turn to Randy de Puniet, the man they parted ways with at the end of 2010. Though that parting was not entirely amicable, both parties have seen that they could do a lot worse than get back together again. If De Puniet declines, LCR could also turn to former MotoGP rider John Hopkins, but his long association with Suzuki and his close relationship with Crescent Suzuki (the people behind the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team, and the Samsung Crescent BSB team that Hopkins rode for in 2011) makes it unlikely. Hopkins is looking more and more likely to end up in World Superbikes with a Crescent Suzuki team.
Rizla Suzuki The big question for Suzuki is not so much who will be riding for them in 2012 as whether they will be on the MotoGP grid at all. Suzuki's upper management has shown a distinct lack of enthusiasm for MotoGP, and in fact all forms of motorcycle racing, starting with a conspicuous absence in World Supersport, adding ever more feeble support for the Alstare Suzuki World Superbike squad, and ending in MotoGP, where their participation was halved to just a single rider in 2011. Though there are reports of a 1000cc MotoGP bike having circulated in Japan, it is still unclear what Suzuki's involvement will be. Meetings between Rizla Suzuki boss Paul Denning and Suzuki top brass were characterized as "positive" but Denning failed to get a commitment from them. The current GSV-R 800 is a fallback option, especially as it has grown increasingly competitive over the past few months, but it is far from ideal. As a factory entry, the 800cc Suzuki would still be limited to 21 liters of fuel, though they would be allowed to be 3kg lighter than the 1000s. The 800 would be rather too much like the ProtonKR triple which raced against the V4 500cc two-strokes, agile and capable of carrying much more corner speed, but finding itself outclassed out of the corners and down the straights.
Alvaro Bautista / John Hopkins tba Bautista has performed well this season, once he recovered from the awful broken femur that he suffered during practice for the Qatar season opener. He has grown in his role as Suzuki's sole rider and lead developer, and started to catch the factory Hondas and Yamahas. He remains Suzuki's first option should they stay, though they also have the option of going with John Hopkins, whose long experience in the class would be welcomed, despite a three-year hiatus. It is not entirely unthinkable that Suzuki could return to a two-man line-up (much to the joy of the other manufacturers), with both Bautista and Hopkins on the grid. The odds are very, very long indeed on that, though.
Aspar  The Aspar team is one of the best-funded in the entire Grand Prix paddock, fielding competitive teams in all three classes. Jorge Martinez has an uncanny knack of getting money out of his extensive network of business contacts in the Valencia region, which has allowed him to both spread his net wide and be extremely competitive at almost every level that they compete at. Aspar's MotoGP project started well, and Hector Barbera has adapted well to the truculent Ducati Desmosedici, finishing ahead of one or more factory riders both in practice and the race on an alarmingly regular basis. But money is tight, even in MotoGP-mad Spain, and it remains to be seen at what level Aspar can maintain his MotoGP commitment.
For the moment, it looks like Aspar will be back with a single satellite Ducati for 2012, as the team's original plans to field a second satellite Ducati have faded. But Aspar could be one of the first of the current MotoGP teams to convert to a CRT entry. Aspar already has a very strong relationship with Suter (though not quite as strong as Marquez' team, but more of him later) and switching to a BMW-powered Suter would be a logical step, especially if they are the only team using the Suter chassis, as this would ensure that Aspar obtained the preferential treatment that he desires and can influence development of the bike. With the bikes significantly cheaper than a leased Ducati Desmosedici, Aspar could field two bikes for the cost of a single satellite machine. The only question remains just how competitive a CRT machine would be, and whether Aspar's sponsors would be willing to take the risk, with the possibility that their brands are on bikes circulating at the rear of the pack.
Hector Barbera / Alvaro Bautista    Whoever rides for Aspar, you can be sure of one thing: they will definitely be Spanish. You can safely put money on them coming from the Valencia region as well, which puts Hector Barbera very much in the position of favorite to retain the ride. And quite frankly, he deserves to, for the reasons outlined above, having shown a remarkable ability to ride the Ducati Desmosedici in the way it should be. Should Barbera be passed over for whatever reason - or should Aspar expand to a two-rider team, as they had originally planned - then Alvaro Bautista has a good chance of returning to the team that he rode for in the 250 class.
Gresini With the lease price of Honda satellite machinery gone through the roof, Gresini's only realistic hope of running a second bike in MotoGP is as a CRT entry. The squad was working on a deal to field an Aprilia-engined CRT bike, but long-time partner Honda put the kibosh on that project, not least as Honda and the rest of the MSMA fear CRT could be a back door route for Aprilia to return to MotoGP under more favorable conditions. With the Aprilia powerplant vetoed, Gresini's only chance is a CBR1000RR-powered bike, but Honda's Superbike has a number of strikes against it, including a relatively narrow 76mm bore, 5mm below the 81mm maximum, limiting the bike's ability to make power by aiming for more revs. What's more, none of the current chassis builders looking at CRT have been working on a frame to house the CBR1000RR engine, putting the project at even more of a disadvantage, despite its similarities to the CBR600 that powers the Moto2 machines.
Hiroshi Aoyama?   The most likely destination for the last ever 250cc World Champion is with Ten Kate Honda in World Superbikes. The Japanese rider has been unlucky with injury in his two years in MotoGP, suffering with cracked vertebrae. But he has also shown potential, and given a chance to learn at his own, admittedly rather slower pace, could be an ideal candidate to develop a CRT entry.
Pramac The Pramac team has suffered the same malaise that all of the Ducati teams have this season, a lack of front-end feel and a lot of crashes. The season has taken its toll on Pramac's riders, with both Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi suffering crashes and injury, Capirossi even deciding to call it a day and retire at the end of this season, though given the Italian's 22-year career in Grand Prix racing, it was getting towards that time anyway.
The difficulties have been such that Pramac looks like being reduced to a single bike next year, and even then, it is hard to find riders to put on the bike. Though the team is not exactly poor, it is mostly the plaything of Paolo Campinoti, CEO of the Pramac energy firm, and there may come a point where he feels the investment in the team is not worth it. For now, Pramac's participation remains ensured.
Unknown   The Pramac Ducati ride looks like being MotoGP's short straw. It will most likely be filled by whoever is left standing without a ride once the remaining and more desirable seats have been filled. That leaves Randy de Puniet the most obvious candidate for the ride, though it would be the last resort for the Frenchman. If De Puniet goes elsewhere, Pramac may be forced to look further abroad, but the pickings are slim at the moment, with the top riders in WSBK and Moto2 all tied up for next year.
Catalunya Caixa / Repsol Will he or won't he? That's the big question. Though they will not confirm it officially, HRC is said to have a factory-spec RC213V waiting in the wings for Marc Marquez, ready to be rolled out once Marquez and his mentor Emilio Alzamora have made a decision on their future. The Catalunya Caixa Moto2 squad - though nominally backed by the Catalan bank, the team is largely run and funded by Repsol, the Spanish petroleum giant which has backed Marquez for a while now. Though the lease price of the Honda is high, the Catalunya Caixa operation is the only team not currently in MotoGP which could afford the bike without too much pain. Should they make the switch, Marquez' team would be akin to Valentino Rossi's Nastro Azzurro team when the Italian first moved to the 500cc class: factory-backed, factory-funded but nominally a satellite squad.
Marc Marquez tbc Marc Marquez is the future. The future of Repsol, the future of Honda, and the future of Spanish MotoGP. After winning the 125cc title last year - done so with remarkable coolness for a 17-year-old - he is the hot favorite to take the 2011 Moto2 title at his first attempt. It took him a couple of races to stop crashing, but since he got to grips with the class, he has been virtually unstoppable, finishing either 1st or 2nd in 10 of the last 11 races. His move to MotoGP looks equally inevitable: even if he doesn't win the title this season, he has more to lose from another year in Moto2 than he has to gain. He will be expected to win, and anything short of that will be classed as a failure. What's more 2012 offers the ideal opportunity for Marquez to make the switch: everyone will be new to the 1000s, even the riders with previous experience of the 990s, which were very different beasts. The Spaniard would have a year to learn in the class, and with all of the factory riders out of contract at the end of next season, there will be plenty of opportunities for Marquez to take a factory seat for 2013. The path of least resistance leads Marc Marquez to MotoGP.
Whatever Marquez and Alzamora decide, the youngster will be testing the Honda at Valencia, at the traditional post-race tests. That would be the ideal opportunity and the ideal venue for an announcement of Marquez' future.


A Tiny Grid, Unless The CRT Teams Turn Up

If you thought a 17-bike grid was bad, 2012 could be even worse. The worst-case scenario - a scenario that is both troublingly realistic and likely - is that Suzuki pulls out, Honda supplies just 4 bikes and Ducati cuts its participation to 5 bikes. That would mean a grand total of just 15 MotoGP entries, including the BQR machine, which has no rider, and Colin Edwards on the NGM Forward bike, a machine that does not even have someone to build the chassis yet. Even the most optimistic scenarios which still have some semblance of plausibility would see just 19 or 20 machines on the grid, and that would include a Suzuki, Marc Marquez, a second Pramac Ducati, a Gresini CRT machine and a second Aspar bike.

The reason is simple: the lease price of a Honda satellite machine is in the region of 4.5 million euros, a Yamaha M1 (even if you could get one) is about two-thirds of that amount, and a Ducati is in the same ballpark as the Yamaha. Add in a competent rider, two or three mechanics, a team manager, a press officer and one or two more support staff and the price rises by another half a million or so. Then there's a hospitality unit - the thick end of a million euros - and men and women to staff it at the European rounds. And all that is without flights, accommodation, car hire to move staff to and from the track, food and drink, and transport. We are talking about serious sums of money here.

MotoGP's only hope of survival - barring a massive increase in sponsorship, for example if a couple of Silicon Valley giants could be persuaded to pour money into the sport - is to at least cut the cost of participation. An Aprilia-powered FTR CRT machine would cost in the region of half a million euros a season, which would include three 230-horsepower RSV4 engines, the minimum required to keep the bikes running under the engine allocation rules. That is massively less than the amount demanded by Honda, but even that amount has potential CRT entries baulking at the asking price. But sponsors are hard to find, even for the more modest budgets required for a CRT entry, as they are wary of ending up on a bike that is circulating at the back. The great fear is that the CRT bikes will be more than three seconds off the pace, as the Suter CRT machine was at Mugello and Brno. Granted, the Suter machine made a massive step forward between Mugello and Brno, from over 6 seconds behind an 800 to under 4 seconds behind a 1000, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Ironically, the tight and twisty Valencia track could help persuade potential teams to take the plunge: Valencia is exactly the kind of track where a CRT machine might be able to keep up with the factory bikes, at least in their satellite guise.

It is still possible that the grid will be bigger than it looks now. Of the entries originally announced back in mid-June, some could still move to MotoGP. Though Marc VDS has cooled on the Suter CRT project - there is much resentment in the team at the support which Marquez is receiving, support the team feels they should have received - it has not yet been completely scrapped. Daniel Epp of the Paddock GP team, currently fielding Tom Luthi in Moto2, is known to be very keen on entering MotoGP, but Luthi's lack of results have not helped persuade sponsors to take the gamble. Kiefer has backed out, deciding instead  to stay in Moto2 with Stefan Bradl and take another shot at winning the Moto2 title, while Andrea Iannone and the Speed Master team look set to follow suit and remain in Moto2. Talk by Paul Bird, whose contract to run the Kawasaki World Superbike team runs out at the end of this year,  that he could enter as a CRT team is yet to bear any fruit, though his anger at the treatment he received in WSBK could be sufficient to push him over the edge. The two grid slots currently held by Norton look extremely unlikely to be filled, financial problems continuing to dog the British factory's attempts to get into MotoGP, though work on the project continues.

The only realistic chance of the grid being filled is if Dorna steps in and fills the gap left by sponsors. If Dorna were to cover the costs of CRT machinery for a couple of teams, that might persuade them to at least give the class a go, and allow some development to take place on the bikes. As Dorna believes that the Claiming Rule Teams are the long-term future of the MotoGP series, there is a good chance that they might just do that. Carmelo Ezpeleta is not known for wasting his money, but an investment in the future could be warranted, and now is the time to do it.

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I have to say I agree with most of what you have posted here as far as the likely turnouts and so on. I work in Silicon Valley and I often wonder why these companies aren't putting more advertising $ into a sport like MotoGP. I see a few have put money into F1 in recent years (a lot more money btw), but not so much on the bikes. They would rather get their name put on some arena somewhere for a terrible underachieving basketball team for years than do something positive for a sport that needs it (yes, Oracle, I am talking about you).

If GP continues to spread out around the world rather than condensing in Europe like it has in recent years, that may be enough to prompt new sponsors to join.

Looking at the list of the top 20 most profitable companies in the world, I scratch my head to see why not one of these companies is a major sponsor in GP. I realize that Berkshire Hathaway doesn't stand to benefit at all from such sponsorship but what about WalMart, Coca-Cola, Apple, Chevron, ExxonMobil, GE, HP, Intel, ConocoPhillips, IBM, or Microsoft? All with between 8 and 30 BILLION $ in profits last year. Bring them in as a technical partner if necessary and then grease them up for sponsorship later but please do something to get at those earnings.

Energy drink money isn't going to last forever!

The only comment I saw in your article that I felt was not spot on was this:

"The theory that Abraham is fast on the Ducati because he doesn't know what a proper MotoGP bike is supposed to feel like may or may not hold water, but Abraham has certainly proved he deserves to be in the premier class."

I would say he has proven he can compete in the premier class but deserves to be in the class is a bit strong. The only riders I would say have proven they deserve to be in the premier class are the aliens, Nicky, Ben, Marco, Andrea and to a lesser extent Loris, Colin, and Randy.

Don't get me wrong, I think he should be in the class but if Cardion decided to drop down a class or leave entirely, I wouldn't feel as those Karel was cheated if he couldn't land another ride in MotoGP. Hope that makes sense.

Anyway, great work on this article. Maybe this weekend will help clear up some of the silly season.

Seriously, I cannot believe Bautista turned down the Tech 3 Yamaha. I have to presume he knows something that we do not know.

Maybe he does know something we don't, but I'm pretty sure he didn't actually turn them down at any point. He simply waited too long for an answer from Suzuki and Dovi was high on Poncharal's list anyway. First-come, first-served...

Quite unbelievable really if that's the number of bikes that will be on the grid next year come Qatar. After all of the hype surrounding the new 1000cc bikes and the Claiming Rule Teams, the grid actually shrinks. And if the CRT bikes aren't within three seconds of the factory bikes then I'm sure poor old Carmelo will be tearing out what little hair he has off of his head.

Signs really aren't looking too good, so far at least.

Interesting, very interesting indeed. Very worrying as well.
Looking at these difficult economical times, and if thinking in the future of this sport, the following example (quoting David's article) gives anyone a lot to think about:

>>"The lease price of a Honda satellite machine is in the region of 4.5 million euros, a Yamaha M1 (even if you could get one) is about two-thirds of that amount, and a Ducati is in the same ballpark as the Yamaha.(...)
An Aprilia-powered FTR CRT machine would cost in the region of half a million euros a season, which would include three 230-horsepower RSV4 engines"<<

So -at least theoretically- if using one given "alien" rider for the lap time comparison, such a CRT machine could be between one to two seconds slower per lap (?) if compared to the full factory proto machines, yet it could cost as far as nine times less (!?!).

...heck, it starts to look as a solution for this tough climate to me!

Sponsorship to cover the needed huge sums of money is getting more and more difficult each coming year.
Kawasaki is gone since '08. Suzuki on the verge of not being there at all. Yamaha with no big sponsors at the moment (look at the fairings). The number of factory bikes per manufacturer are less every new season (satellite or not). ...etc etc...
...I wonder if the upcoming 1000cc engine capacity, for 2012, is actually going to work, mid term, as a "crossfading era" between the current ultra-expensive factory racing machines and a possible predominance of CRT type machinery?
Because, honestly, something like that formula is what starts to make most sense.

What I know is that, expecting a grid of ~15 racebikes is a reflection of how difficult and poor the state of this class is getting to (used to be +24, plus frequent wildcard racebikes).
CRT or not, some compromise definitely needs to be found.

I was quite looking forward to Fausto Gresini running one leased prototype alongside a CRT bike and the fact that Honda (can't see Dorna being complicit in this) put the skids on that idea. The fundamental problem are the factories dictating what teams run and in many cases, who will ride what they run.

Despite the grid screaming for more entries, the factories still hold all the cards and it is them, not Dorna, or the teams that have the final say on the size of the grid as DE has pointed out.

The likes of LCR have their hand out, praying that the likes of Honda will place a rider of their choice in their garage (Marquez could end up at LCR on a factory supported bike) just so they can secure the backing to last one more season. These situations can't be good for the long term success of the series.

Costs need to be dramatically reduced and this will only happen if more CRT entries eventuate; thus diluting the factories influence on the grid.. Will we ever get a situation where teams are happier running (further) towards the back of the grid, but at bikes that are a quarter of the cost?

It took a revolutionary approach to help bust Aprilia's lucrative monopoly in the smoker classes, yet there doesn't seem to be the will or the cajones to do the same to the Japanese in the big boy's sandpit at this point.

And I don't buy this, if the OEM's walk MotoGP will die... it will die in any case if we don't do something quick.

When Honda develops a gearbox that has a unit cost more than an entire CRT bike for the season, you know that things are still a long way from moving in the right direction.

There is an alternative narrative on Aprilia. Alledgedly, they offered to supply RSA250's as a control engine to the entire grid, but they were turned down. In any case, what they were doing is not so different to what Honda are trying to do, and will do if Yamaha give up the struggle (Ducati already back to looking worse than Honda was in 250).

In this version of the story, they were penalised for quitting MotoGP and transfering resources to WSBK...

A multi national with big exposure in the hot markets of the sub continent and south east Asia through small motorcycles and cars. Developing and impressionable markets which lap up MotoGP via satellite television.

If Suzuki don't have the corporate balls to promote their product via this flagship medium (let alone WSBK and WSS) then I really hope Yamaha and Honda stomp all over them at a retail level. Suzuki turn their backs on these markets of hundreds of millions increasingly wealthy consumers at their peril.

What's Honda playing at increasing lease fees by 100% when we're teetering on the edge of potentially the biggest depression abyss the planet's ever known?

Do any of the MSMA actually care about the sport?

As much as I love racing, road racing participation (or success) has not proven to increase sales for any manufacturer but Ducati. Triumph is now ahead of Suzuki in uk sales, and their race presence is virtually 0.

Honda's absolute dominance, coupled with the spec racing on weak Honda 600's in moto2, has certainly put a cramp in the desires of many teams. When a sponsor has zero chance of a podium unless they are supplied a special non-crippled factory bike, it makes very little economic sense to spend 15-20 million for a season of racing which results in making them look foolish or incompetent.

As far as the grid getting tiny, yes. It's getting tiny in more ways than one. With Spanish racing schools searching for the smallest kids they can find, and the top two Honda riders being the smallest guys on the grid, small is the key to winning. If pedrosa can pass sic on the end of a straight, then block him out in the corner, then weight is the key factor.

Just this weekend I ran into american racer Jason Disalvo. He's been dominant here in whatever the AMA calls the series. He also is no taller than the shoulder of my 5'3" wife. He had to be helped on the vintage Ducati race bike as he was too short to hold it up. I'd hate to see racing turn into basketball.

You have to admit, 4.5 million Euro is an obscene amount of money for a motorcycle.

Yes, Formula 1 is more expensive, but maybe that is the problem: a sort of cost-envy on the part of the motorcycle community to have the same standard of expensive trivia as F1... hence the lavish hospitality suites and so on. I wonder what the % yield is on a 1 million € hospitality suite, how much sponsorship does it bring in? Moreover, isn't it a form of corruption? If a corporate sponsor is willing to put money into a sport, it should be because of a sound business plan, not because a cute girl serves free drinks to the MD in front of a big-screen TV. It's shareholder money, remember.

It's not so long ago that even top-line teams were working out of tents. I doubt the racing suffered so much as a result. Do riders really need the fancy rally car seats in the pits? Or the fancy shelters on pit-lane with their tv monitors... another bit of F1-wannabe-ism, since the bikes aren't relaying data and they certainly aren't planning pit-stop strategy.

I'm all for fancy materials and technology, but there seems little point in restricting the Young's modulus of brake-caliper materials (80GPa, just a little higher than you can do cheaply with 7075 btw) when the lease costs are that high... presumably reflecting the amount of engineer-years spent running CFD programs to optimise engine designs. I guess in fact it's a consequence of increased knowledge: when talking about porting Moto3 engines, someone mentioned that there are smart people outside the factories. The problem is that the computing technology is now such that competent (and expensive) will beat brilliant and inspired: if enough engineers run enough CFD simulations of combustion chamber designs and port shapes, they will eventually do better than the most brilliant intuition. Maybe in a few years there will be an open source version of eg the Lotus software, and building a competitive engine will become more democratic again... just as CNC machining centres are now within the reach of companies like FTR and Suter.

Is there a solution? As long as the big factories are playing, they will want to take the chance out as far as possible. So they will write the rules so that engineering clout (€€€€) has the biggest role possible. Currently that means fuel limits and no money limits. I think Moto1, with similar rules to Moto3 scaled up, has to be the way forward...

You cannot blame technology or the money invested in it. There is intuition in porting of cylinder heads.. but then with a 2.5 million node model, you can perform a very powerful CFD code just to understand and validate the intuition. the obtained knowledge is generally published, but cannot be copied..

Moto1 might be the way, but majority of the upgrades and developments come from the factories, which can invest more time and money since they reap the benefits in the form of implementing it in their production models.. ( rossi + yamaha gave a boost to the cross plane crankshaft on the R1).. but small racing teams will not be able to develop as much... am not questioning the abilities and no offence to matchless and Dick Mann... the entire concept will look more like club racing... you will have companies trying small developments.. but nothing like cross plane crankshaft, or seamless gear box... i am not sure if i want to see a bunch of production spec bikes arnd a circuit like SBK. The reason why it evolved so much in a short time is the freedom it was given in the form of prototype racing.. and if you remove that it becomes close to SBK. or thats wat i think...

The big test will be Moto3. In a way the solution is obvious: you put a cost limit on the engines... although the detail of enforcing that is complicated. Moto3 and Moto2 are two opposite approaches: production-based control engine vs cost-capped only.

I'm really looking forward to see how it works out :)

looking at all the cost cutting and leveling field measures, i am amazed at how Dick Mann was able to blow the field with a non-factory bike... did we have stupid computers and intelligent humans back then? and now we have stupid humans and smart computers.. :-/

what i am really interested is how well Marc Marques will fair in MotoGP. Toni Elias was pretty good when he left MotoGP in 2009. The single tyre rule was in place and bridgestone was the supplier. The one year he spent in Moto2 "might" have changed his style and understanding completely.. I am little eager to see how the Repsol kid does in the liter class..

I'm afraid Dick Mann isn't so famous outside the US... I had to look him up. Which factory bikes did he put to shame? Harley and Triumph?

Also, since the majority of his racing was done in the '60's, I think it's pretty safe to say that the computers back then were pretty dumb, yes.

Actually, computers have always been pretty dumb.

Futhermore, as from the outset, they continue to do exactly what they are given instructions to do, no more, no less.

It's just that today, they do it (correctly and/or incorrectly) at a much faster speed, and in a much smaller package.

Dick Mann - now this was a man among men. No sissies were allowed in his day. Unlike so many of today's smug cyber jockies.

he won the 1963 grand national championship by one point inspite of being banned from several races... he rode a private matchless against the likes of BSA, Harley and Triumph, who managed to ban him from several races due to his competitiveness .. he was pretty much the only non-factory rider to win that... he also won the 1971 Daytona 200 against mike hailwood, gary nixon...

Seems a pretty gloomy outlook for next year, with a size-able reduction of prototypes on the grid. With the present rules i am not surprised teams are not falling over themselves trying to enter a CRT bike in the class. On the majority of circuits in the dry i think a CRT bike will be doing well to finish within one minute of the winner at the end of the race, hardly as rosy prospect for a team or sponsor.
Although it`s easy to come up with ideas with hindsight, maybe they should of had 6/700cc prototypes against 1000cc CRT bikes, at least that way they might be more reasonably matched. There again i guess the MSMA have too much say in the rule making.

>>On the majority of circuits in the dry i think a CRT bike will be doing well to finish within one minute of the winner at the end of the race, hardly as rosy prospect for a team or sponsor.

This year that would be 10-12th place, still ahead of several satellite teams and at a savings of over 2 million euros versus a satellite spec bike. Seems like a deal to me.

The big issue is that there are no bikes (well, only one and it is privately owned) for the various CRTs to evaluate. If Dorna had given a couple of the top Moto2 chassis makers a stack of cash to make a couple of evaluation machines that Dorna then owns I think a lot more teams would be going that route which would put pressure on the mfgrs to reduce satellite bike lease prices. That would give two benefits, reduced operating costs for satellite teams and accurate bike evaluation for CRTs.


Nothing to add really. The one thing for sure is that MGP looking forward to 2012 is in a mess. On the negative side of the situation,15 rider grids may be the order of the day. On the competitive side of the fence,3 top flight prototype teams with at best 7 names to pick between for podiums.
On the positive side for the GPC at least, I look forward to 2012 and beyond.
To be honest the frontline battles for titles has not changed at all since GP's inception. Huge grid,small grid,the focus remains on the cream of the crop come race day. A 9 rider starting grid on factory kit will still keep me glued to my seat on any given Sunday. The GPC should have just left the rules alone as 800 (almost) was. They stuffed up GP by changing from 990 to 800. They are in the transition period of stuffing up 800 for God knows what. How many years will it take for them to learn the Golden Rule....'If its working,don't fix it'. 990 took a couple of years before the cliffhanger season of 2006 materialised. Right now we finally get to the same level in an 800 season and they see a need for change. Nuts !!! I suggest that Suzuki would be game on for factory entries 2012,were it not for the rule changes.Some fools in authority must have plenty money to burn.
We all knew that anyway. Dorna to dig in and finance CRT ? Not a chance.

cliffhanger: a situation or contest of which the outcome is suspensefully uncertain up to the very last moment.

"While Pedrosa's manager Alberto Puig retains strong links with Spanish petroleum giant and title sponsor Repsol, his handling of the fallout from the Simoncelli affair has not been well-received."

The only reception that matters is among the Japanese at Honda, and Nakano himself took Simoncelli to the woodshed at Le Mans. Is there a a scintilla of evidence HRC is unhappy with Puig?

To answer your question, yes there is. Simoncelli's reprimand was to a large extent because this was not the first mistake that Simoncelli had made, as witnessed by the number of crashes he has had this year, either on his own or involving other riders. 

With all respect David, I think the question was specific to Puig and not Simoncelli. I do beleive you, but what exactly is the evidence?

The love/hate triangle between Honda/Pedrosa/Puig has been an ongoing and tumultuous story for years now. I understand Puig has a cosy relationship with Repsol but I would love to read an in depth article explaining how Puig has been able to manipulate the super corp Honda seemingly at will and how Dani appears to let Puig do what he likes without any repurcussion even if it's to Pedrosa's own detriment.

Not much to the point of the article but it somehow seemed pertinent to say it

From the viewpoint of a sponsor I can't see why anyone would pour money into Moto GP. Even Yamaha with it's defending champion couldn't get a sponsor this year. Marlborogh can't paint their name on the bikes any more so I have no clue why they keep throwing money at Ducati. Unless you are Repsol, your bike is circulating mid pack or in the back.

The venues keep jacking the prices up and every year Dorna raises the motogp.com subscription price. I can't see Moto GP being around in 5-10 years, it seems like an unsustainable model. The CRT model just seems like WSBK in a GP venue.

Speaking of Norton, LOL I hope there is not a single human surprised that Norton is having "financial difficulties" and "probably" won't be in Moto GP in 2012. I said the exact same thing about 6 months ago when all the full blown hype about Norton and Moto GP was all over the Internet and the American Motorcycle press. Just another rich baby boomer trying to build nostalgia for other rich baby boomers.....

Looks like Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki are willing to price MotoGP out of business. Make racing so expensive that most cannot play and eventually the series has to fold. I think the Japanese do not wish to race at all any longer. But they do not want anyone else to race either. Kawasaki's departure was the beginning of the end. At least give them credit for being up front about it. I do not think Ducati got the memo as they are still spending like crazy, which probably has the Japanese laughing all the while.

Not only have the fuel regulations and displacement restrictions pushed the sport towards diminishing marginal returns, they have also made the sport utterly pointless.

I get your point about constantly changing the rules but I can't agree that you think the 800cc era is working. What has been good about it?

The races these days are as dull as dish water after the first 2 laps. What I hate the most is that a satellite team has not won a single race during the 5 years of the 800cc era. Nada.

If my memory serves (since I can't be bothered to look it up) during the last 5 years we've only had 8 different race winners and 4 of those have only won once!

Personally I can't wait to see the end of the dreadful 800cc era.

Acording to Wikipedia 13:

Kenny Roberts, Jr

So maybe now we can all agree the 800cc era was the least exiting of the last 20 or 30 year

Well there you go, more than I thought. 2001 - 05 has 9 by my count.

In fact it gets worse if you exclude the one-time winners: in 95-99 7 riders had at least 2 wins in a given season; same in 2001 - 5. In 2007 - 11, only the 4 aliens.

And I take your '95-'99 and raise it with a 2001-2005. The same names over and over again. Only 2006 was an exception after all those years.

I'll say it again that once CRT bikes are sorted they will surprise a lot of people. No one thought that the 800's would be as fast as the 990's, but surprise, surprise.

I myself believe that once you give a superbike engine builder a blank sheet to be able to tune they're engines, they'll be able to get more than 230-240hp out of certain engines. The RSV4 is a prime candidate. If you know engine design, you'll realize that Aprilla's V4 is a special lump. Though I can't recall the gentleman's name, it was designed by the same person who designed all of Ferrari's V8 road car engines. A fun fact is that Biaggi's bike uses the same stock cylinder head as the road bikes, no special preparation necessary. The bikes make 220hp in WSBK trim, what's makes one think they won't make 20hp+ more with less restrictive rules towards tuning?!?

The rest is just as it is in a full factory prototype. Given the same type of electronics (and the personnel to extract its full potential) and similar chassis construction and suspension, what's not to say they won't be competitive? All of this and they can use more fuel and more engines. Though most people think it's too big of a gap, 4 seconds to Casey Stoner on a new 1000 in just the first couple of shakedown runs is quite an achievement. Put a year's worth of competitive refinement and a top-tier rider and watch that gap come down exponentially. Sure, the factories aren't gonna stand still either, but these bikes are just in their infancy.

Like I said, I think people are gonna be really surprised when these bikes line up and the flag finally drops...

Can't wait till' Valencia at the end of the year!

Although I wish this was the case, This simply does not reside in the house of reality. Did you miss the part of the article how Honda blocked the Gresini/Aprilia adventure? CRT can only work if factories are completely out of the racing and only sell the motors. Even then, price would still be a major issue. Leasing does not work as it still gives the factories room to coerce the teams as they see fit. Why would a factory supply motors and tech to CRTs that would compete directly against their own factory teams? This makes no sense. Also, why would the factories allow a satellite team with more than one of their bikes split their garage allowing a competitors machinery to compete directly? This is why CRT is an absolute joke. Either all CRT or all factory. They cannot coincide. By the way, where do you think the best electronics engineers come from? You got it, the factories. These points have all been made previously in other articles here and elsewhere but I think it deserves a reposting. At this time the only way a CRT could make an impact is if the motors/team/sponsor all came from outside sources not involved in MotoGP at the moment. Unfortunately given the cost and risk this is an almost impossible scenario. So we are left with what we have, factory oligarchy, and a governing body that can do next to nothing about it.

Maybe at first what you say is true but I believe that eventually a CRT team with the likes of a Melandri or a few other excellent riders in WSBK or even from a national series will do very well.

Especially if Dorna can pull off what they are trying to do now by minimizing the factories domination. Certainly the factories have the best of everything, but with a decent electronics package a super rider on a fire breathing CRT machine will be competitive.

At least I hope so.

"Honda and the rest of the MSMA fear CRT could be a back door route for Aprilia to return to MotoGP under more favorable conditions"

Run away. Run for the hills.*

* bring it on.

What makes you think factories are going to block anyone from using any motor they want?!? Gresini is a special case as they are getting factory support from Honda for Super Sic. Of course they wouldn't let Gresini field a second CRT Aprilla-powered bike, they represent Honda. I find Fausto Gresini quite delusional for thinking it was even possible. But any other Moto2 team, or any other team not held back by close relations with a factory can field whatever 1000cc motor they want...

No one is buying motors direct from the factories. They are all purchased privately, and tuned, and built themselves.

That's what CRT is in a nutshell.

"Of course they wouldn't let Gresini field a second CRT Aprilla-powered bike, they represent Honda."

Gresini represents the sponsor San Marco, not Honda. Honda has leverage over Gresini ("do what we tell you or Simoncelli goes slower"), so they can force Gresini to accept, but poor economic conditions may make Honda's strong-arm tactics backfire in the long run.

You need to reread my post. The established factories will block deals with teams in which they are already involved. There are only 4 teams who run a single bike if memory serves. Tell me, if the option to go CRT was so alluring, why have those 4 teams not jumped at the opportunity to get away from the factories? Because CRT is not a viable option at the moment. It is too expensive and too risky. The involved factories are already a proven commodity with R&D well established. We are talking about millions of dollars at risk if a team/sponsor were to go true CRT (Aprilia, BMW, Norton, etc.) The most obvious candidate would be the Aspar Ducati given that factory Ducati has has such a miserable season so far. Even in Aspar's case, it looks as is they are willing to stick it out with help from Ducati than go out alone running a CRT. CE/Forward can even get off the ground and that is practically an all Yamaha venture with a different paint job. Please don't lie to yourself, it is disheartening. We all want to see a full field and competitive racing but CRT by it's nature is only destined to fail. That said I hope that I am wrong.

I guess they decided handing over a lot of money to a failing project was worse than gambling on a CRT bike. Only good for the long-term health of the series, I think.

David, why isn't leasing an 800 a sensible option if some teams can't afford a 1000cc lease. With current evidence it would seem leasing the 800s is a more competitive solution than a CRT bike and GPone reported that leasing a Honda 800 is only abt 1.5 million euros which would be the same price range as a CRT bike.

The question is whether the factories are prepared to lease the 800s. The 800s still cost the factories a lot of money, they have to provide the support and manufacture spares. They may not be willing to put that kind of money into something they regard as dead.

looking at the rate of development, the only CRT on the grid now is Sutur BMW. apart from that NGM forward has an entry.. but Valencia is a month away. From the news obtained seems like Guy colon is NOT building a chassis for NGM. I wonder if there will be any CRT teams in Valencia test.. or will they all take part in the winter tests? i am not sure..

Ofcourse high costs influence the grid, but there is more to it. The sportsbike market is just getting smaller and smaller. People don't buy them anymore, and not just because of a bad economy. IF they buy a motorcycle, as stated, people tend to buy adventure and naked bikes. On top of this they are getting older, the average motorcycle rider in Western Europe now being over 45. As a result, in European markets Yamaha for instance more and more positions itself as a scooter manufacturer, with small as well as maxiscooters gaining popularity by the minute.
The old 'race on Sunday, sell on Monday' adagium might still work, but it only works for a handful of middle aged performance bike fans. The average scooter rider has no interest in motorcycle racing.

I think that idea of scooter riders not interested in racing can be reversed in the favor of racing and ridership in general. In the US, the market is very different. But scooters have been like a gateway drug. It's an initiation into two wheels. And if racing wants to increase it's followers, it could take try to make a connection with that growing audience, worldwide.

The CRT outfits are another story. How long before they make chassis for street bikes touting their MotoGP prowess? And when their economies of scale grow to where it's not insanely expensive to buy one (ex. 2 times the cost of a replacement chassis from OEMs).

Honda would never allow someone using their equipment to also represent another manufacture. San Carlo is just the team's main sponsor. That's what I'm saying. To think it's San Carlo that calls the shots in this team is naive. The manufactures have everyone by the balls by controlling the influx of equipment to any given team.... "you don't like, you don't buy"

Currently all satelite teams are at the mercy of the factories. These teams know that the pecking order calls for them to recieve inferior equipment. I'm sure a lot of people are looking at CRT and saying " hey if we could build a bike that is competitive with the factory satelites then we could stop getting stuck always being a few upgrades behind the official teams..."

The only way to ensure that everyone gets a fair chance is to ban factory teams. That's just not going to happen...

The manufactures are more worried about the CRT's than most people think.

OK, so am I correct in that Motogp and WSBK are under the same ownership now, or will be soon? (I forget who bought what, but some big company owns both). So there are rumours that WSBK is planning on going with a much more stringent set of rules in the near future........Motogp have introduced CRT to offer a much more financially viable option for teams........people are screaming to kill TC (I know, it's mostly forum people doing the screaming)......could there be a bigger plan to slowly phase out the full prototype Motogp while dumbing down WSBK so they aren't too much alike? When you compare the price tags it makes a lot of sense to me. Plus there's no way the fans or the factories would go for an overnight switch like that.

Just my conspiracy theory though......

David, one comment caught my eye in the piece on Colin Edwards, where you say "He knows where he is on a satellite bike - always at least one step behind the factories, his performance restricted de facto by the electronics engineer that all factories supply with the bike to satellite teams - and a CRT machine offers a way to escape those restrictions."

Have I been completely naive all these years? Surely they don't hamstring the satellite bikes electronically on purpose? Say it aint so, Joe .....

I'm certainly no expert, but it's been my belief satellite teams have been crippled for ages. I'm also of the opinion that the factories arent above say leaning out a rider's mix when his team mate is in line for a championship. It's a cutthroat world.

Funny, the more DORNA tries to keep the price of racing down, the higher it gets. Just like when governments try to make things "affordable" the opposite happens.

Why doesn't DORNA just let the factories and racers and tire manufacturers decide what the market will bear and let the racers race.

And while I am here, why the hell does ORNA care how much fuel a bike should hold. When did this become a race series about fuel management?

You're confusing the MSMA with Dorna. The MSMA is behind things like reducing fuel, limited engines/practice and other dubious measures. Dorna is behind Moto2 and the control tire, two very successful cost-control measures.

A free market would be a Honda Cup, after they outspent everyone else on the grid. I know some people out there refuse to believe in things like monopolies, but facts are stubborn things.

The MSMA presented the idea for a spec Moto2 engine, not Dorna:


The spec tire situation was forced onto Dorna by Michelin's withdrawal after losing their last factory team:


Through the years of the 800s (changed at the request of the all powerful Honda) Honda was doing a great job spending their way to the top of the championship. How many 800 titles did they win during the tire war with few spending regulations? Zero? Even now, 1 out of 5 titles while having the biggest race development department, most bikes on the grid, and highest budget does not lend validity to your idea of outspending everyone else on the grid being the key to success.


I stand corrected, Moto2 was presented by the MSMA, but Ezpeleta became a big proponent.

Control tire came from Dorna, it wasn't "forced": http://moto-racing.speedtv.com/article/motogp_el_jefe_plays_hardball_in_...

Honda's 800 was surprisingly unready, and it took a lot to get it where it is. In the meantime, other factories had to spend more to optimize their own 21L 800s, but Honda finally seem to have the championship in hand while at the same time satellite teams are being put into financial difficulties because of the costs (Gresini). It's possible that 2012 will be the beginning of a new shake-up, or could be a furthering of the trend of Honda resurgence coupled with higher costs. If the CRT scheme wasn't in place, things would be looking bleak.

And we know Honda does not like the CRT idea.

Racing and market-based business models are not compatible b/c racing is a mercantile contest. Wins are finite. Championships are finite. The more wins and championships a manufacturer hoards, the less meaningful those victories become to the factory and to the public.

Wins and championships are the only things that matter b/c the manufacturers and the governing bodies are obsessed with controlling every aspect of the formula. The specifications tighten until innovation is eliminated. People get bored. Production-relevant development ceases, and winning is the only thing left. Winning becomes mainly a branding exercise more than an achievement.

The John Galt's of the world wouldn't complain about regulations b/c racing is a private institution and mercantilism destroys wealth and leads to a war-like economic environment.

To answer the debate about different winners. Since 2007, Lorenzo, Stoner, Rossi and Pedros have on EVERY dry weather race except Asses, which Spies won this year. Vermulen and Melandri each won one wet race in that time period.

So from 2007 until 25 June of 2011, every single dry race was won by 1 of the 4 riders. Talk about boring.......

If you look at the era of Doohan's domination there were something like 13 different winners.

Well at 4.5 million Euros for a Honda lease, 16 bikes on the grid, Kawasaki gone, and Suizuki on the way out it looks like dorna/msma/fim/pick an acrynom are doing a bang up job.

I think it was Casey who said recently that what we really need is a tyre war again.
CRT bikes and free tyre choice - that would control equipment costs to a large extent, as tyres aren't nearly as expensive as motorbikes to build and develop, are they?
MSMA could sell their engines at a reasonable price to the teams, likely dumbed down a bit in the electronics area (maybe Dorna would limit the use of TC and the like, maybe with a 'supplied standard' black box). Chassis manufacturers could develop from Moto 3/2 to GP and provide to anyone who could pay the nut.
There's an end to the current ridiculous unsustainable road, and it's not a pretty one.
The cream of the riders will rise to the top the same way they always have, and reliance on technology will be reduced to realistic levels.
never happen, but..................

The MSMA constantly reminds us all that this sport is for development, R&D, what have you, for their road bike going counterparts.

So can someone out there tell me where I can buy a pneumatic powered V4 800cc or 1000cc sportbike? Or how about one with carbon discs?

King Kenny always said if you let the Japanese dictate the rules they'll price THEMSELVES out of the sport. Kawi, maybe Suzuki next.

How much $$ would they save if intrusive electronics were removed and a control ECU implemented? As the series stands it's really about who'll spend the most on their bike.

Bricktop, you have good points on the pneumatic valves and carbon brakes then completely lost it on the ECU. Yes, banning carbon crakes and pneumatic valves would not hurt production technology development and definitely reduce equipment costs. The GP bikes would then likely run the same lap times as superbikes, but that is another story.

However, electronics are the one area where mfgrs are absolutely using what they learn in MotoGP to use in production models. For the past couple of years every liter class bike has adjustable mapping and traction control from the factory. It came from GP development. It didn't improve racing but every magazine review you read gushes about how rideable the new ECU systems make the bikes. Lean burn running conditions learned about in GP make it easier to meet tight emissions requirements, using less fuel and polluting less. That is definitely a good development goal. Ducati has explicitly said that tech transfer for fuel efficiency is a main benefit of GP race development. I'm sure all the other mfgrs do the same.

As far as who spends the most, I'd say it is Honda, Yamaha, Ducati in that order. Yamaha seem to get a lot for their spending and Ducati's 2007 title was likely the best bang for the buck ever in a GP season. Honda, for all they spend behind the scenes, would be the perennial bridesmaid if it weren't for Stoner this year. HRC get the prize for least championship points per million dollars spent.

The issue is as you point out that the MSMA uses GP for development but Dorna uses it for entertainment. Any manufacturer would love to develop a technology that had their bikes a lap ahead of others. That is good technology development. However, the resulting races would not please the entertainment-seeking masses who would seek to 'level the paying field' as if there is such a thing.


I agree that electronic engine management for the street is a good development and that GP is where much of the R&D for that happens, but one area of traction control that will never have a future on the street is location-specific/GPS engine management, and a control ECU could be developed such that the I/O allows most traction control functions except location/GPS.

There are no GPS systems attached to the ECU this year. The reason a spec ECU is not wanted by the mfgrs is that they want to be allowed to develop new functionality and that is against what a standard ECU represents.


"No GPS or similar system may be connected (wired or wireless) to
any part of the machine, other than as directed by the Organiser.
Specifically it is prohibited to control any aspect of engine or
motorcycle performance using the GPS signal."


A large part of the problem with Suzuki is not only has it been a difficult few years in the industry generally, but they have lost a fair bit of market share - reports have it that in the UK they are down 40% in sales, while Honda and Yamaha are up single digit figures, Ducati is up over 20% and Triumph up similar numbers.

Suzuki's lineup is stagnant, notoriously slow to see new models, which are often parts bin specials made largely from existing models ie SV650/Gladius/VStrom. The DRZ has been out for a dozen or more years, as has the Hyabusa, and the bulk of the lineup is evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Have you walked into a Suzuki dealership lately? Save for a few models, close your eyes, pick a decade and then open them up again. Bam, you're in 1986!

The bike market is changing rapidly - sport bikes are seeing much lower numbers, and attention turning to adventure sports, standards, scooters and what would formerly be called niche models. European manufacturers are making inroads, and the surest way to dodo bird-dom is doing nothing about it, ie Suzuki or Kawasaki.

Suzuki is racing to market bikes to riders who aren't interested in what they have to offer, therefore the numbers don't work.
I would hate to see them leave MotoGp, but until they change their corporate direction, how can they stay in racing?