Carmelo Ezpeleta's Grand Plan, Or The Long History Behind Tech3's Switch To KTM

Sometimes decisions are a long time in the making. Tech3's decision to leave Yamaha and sign with KTM may have been made in the space of a few months, but the genesis of that choice, the process that made it all possible is ten years in the making. If MotoGP hadn't switched from 990cc to 800cc at the start of the 2007 season, if the ban on tobacco sponsorship in sports hadn't been enforced from 2005, if the financial system hadn't collapsed under the weight of tranches of "ninja" loans, Tech3 would be a Yamaha satellite team for the foreseeable future. Whether they wanted to be or not.

How did MotoGP get to a place where Tech3 could switch to KTM? To make complete sense of the story, we have to go back to the end of the last century. Through the last 1990s, the popularity of Grand Prix racing was waning, while the World Superbike series went from strength to strength. The manufacturers were losing interest in the 500cc class, as two strokes were gradually disappearing from the road.

Big bore four strokes were the flavor of the month among motorcycle buyers, and the factories were investing less and less in their two stroke racers. The manufacturers expressed an interest in racing four strokes in the premier class, and Dorna sketched out a contract with the MSMA, the organization representing the manufacturers, and MotoGP was born.

From 2002, 990cc four-stroke machines would enter the class, and go up against the 500cc two strokes. (The 990cc capacity was chosen to avoid any perceived encroachment onto the territory claimed by World Superbikes, then owned by rival promoters the Flammini brothers, which had bikes with a maximum capacity of 1000cc at the time). From 2003, MotoGP would be completely four stroke, the two strokes banished forever. The agreement was made for five years, Dorna promising stability in the technical rules to allow the factories to get a return on their investment.

The four-stroke lion roars

In 2002, the first four-stroke Grand Prix bikes took to the track. Within half a season, they were dominating the old two-strokes – hardly surprising given that they had nearly twice the capacity. The new class led to a flourish of interest from new manufacturers, with Kawasaki, Aprilia, and Ducati joining the fray. The series was flush with money, motorsports benefiting from the bullying tactics of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone who had carved out an exception to the ban on tobacco sponsorship. With nowhere else to go, the tobacco firms poured their money into racing, and into MotoGP.

The increased capacity and revitalized technology war led to a massive jump in speeds. In 2002, the first iteration of the four-stroke bikes were hitting around 320km/h down the front straight at Mugello. Two years later, they were 20km/h faster, Loris Capirossi's Ducati hitting 341km/h during the race. Alarmed at the rate at which top speeds were progressing, and at which the bikes were outgrowing the runoff areas at tracks, the Grand Prix Commission (series organizers Dorna, the teams organization IRTA, the manufacturers representative body MSMA, and the international sanctioning FIM) searched for ways to reduce bike speeds.

They settled on reducing capacity from 990cc to 800cc, and reducing fuel limits at the same time. At the start of the new five-year contract period in 2007, the new 800cc bikes took to the track, and top speeds temporarily dropped. Lap times didn't, however: the 800cc bikes needed to be ridden differently, carrying more corner speed and keeping the wheels in line. The reduction in fuel to 21 liters meant factories focused more closely on electronics and fuel management, further hobbling the previously unfettered horsepower. Racing became a war of precision, rather than a battle of bravado.

The noose tightens

The focus on electronics and the extreme revs reached by the 800cc engines drove costs up exponentially. At the same time, teams and factories were struggling to replace the money lost after Ecclestone's exemption from the tobacco sponsorship ban had run out in the middle of 2005. Audiences started to fall as the racing became processional, manufacturers started to creak under the strain of competition, teams ran out of money.

21 bikes lined up on the grid at the first 800cc race in Qatar. Ilmor, a new entry for 2007, dropped out after the first race when they realized the scale of the financial investment required. There were 19 bikes left on the grid at the end of the 2007 season. Another bike went missing before the start of the 2008 season, so there were just 18 bikes on the grid at Qatar that year.

Teams were already struggling financially throughout 2008, teams threatening to withdraw unless they got more financial help from Dorna. Dorna was coming under pressure from the FIM as grids were dwindling. The FIM, after all, had handed Dorna a multi-decade contract to organize MotoGP, and the series was starting to look rather sickly, despite the indisputable quality of riders involved.

House of cards

Then, on 15th September 2008, Lehman Brothers, a major Wall Street investment bank, went bust. The Ponzi scheme of sliced, diced, and repackaged mortgages, of CDOs and CDSs came tumbling down, bringing the global economy down with it. Business panicked, and put any projects not generating an immediate financial return on investment on hold. Companies went bust, the construction sector being particularly hard hit. Especially in Spain, which had been a prime source of funding for many teams in the sport.

Money dried up. Kawasaki announced they would withdraw from MotoGP for the 2009 season. It took serious negotiation and some legal bullying to get the Japanese factory to go some way towards honoring the commitments it had made when it signed the contract for the five-year period from 2007-2011. Even Honda came perilously close to withdrawing from MotoGP, only high-level meetings and their historical and existential commitment to racing keeping them in the sport.

Grids fell once again. Suzuki went from two bikes to just one. At Qatar in 2010, just 17 bikes lined up for the first race of the season. The sport was clearly no longer sustainable in its current form.

The Empire fights back

Dorna had a plan. Inside Dorna and IRTA, key personnel put their heads together to try to fix the problem. Racing had to be made cheaper, and it had to be made more competitive. Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta, with input from a number of people inside IRTA including then Technical Director (and now Race Director) Mike Webb pushed for spec electronics and a rev limit.

Those two things, Dorna believed, would be enough to slow the bikes so they didn't go too fast for the circuits, reduce costs by diminishing the advantage in electronics which factory teams had over private teams, and reduce costs by stressing the engine less with fewer revs.

The problem was that the MSMA had a veto right over the technical regulations, and were dead set against both those measures. If any changes were to be made, the factories' veto would have to be curtailed in the negotiations for the next round of contracts for 2012-2017. Even if they allowed their negotiating power to be curtailed, the factories still held another form of veto. Push through spec electronics, factory bosses warned, and we will walk away from the sport.

They made those threats in public, too. "I don't think Suzuki would see the point in racing in MotoGP if they couldn't develop their electronics," former Suzuki team boss Paul Denning told me in 2010. "Honda would have no interest in MotoGP without electronics development," then HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto told me the same year. The point of MotoGP, the manufacturers insisted, was to develop technology to be passed down to street bikes. Proprietary electronics and tight fuel limits had provided valuable engineering data for Honda's road bikes, Nakamoto said, especially in metering fuel and providing good throttle response at part throttle openings. Which is where road bikes and scooters spend 90% of their time.

Hard ball

Behind the scenes, negotiations became extremely tough. There are no official records or reports of the negotiations, but rumors seeped out from time to time. HRC boss Nakamoto threatened to walk away if Dorna were to impose a spec ECU. A source with knowledge of those discussions told me that Ezpeleta had called his bluff. Knowing how much Nakamoto loved racing, the Dorna boss allegedly said to him, "Fine, go home. And next year, when we go to Mugello, I will be at the track in the middle of the races, while you sit at home and watch them on TV."

Ezpeleta drew some concessions, offering something in return. From 2012, MotoGP would return to 1000cc – closer to the road bikes the factories were developing, and therefore more marketable – but the engines would be limited to four cylinders, and a maximum bore limit set at 81mm. That was supposed to provide a de facto rev limit, which, for a time, it succeeded at.

But Ezpeleta still needed the costs of racing to come down so he could fill out the grid. The Dorna brains trust hit on the idea of what would become the Claiming Rules Teams: in effect, tuned production engines in prototype chassis, with teams allowed to claim engines from each other for a fixed price to prevent them from gaining a huge advantage. Sure, they were no match for the full factory bikes, but they made the cost of entry into MotoGP a great deal cheaper.

Ezpeleta's ploy worked. At Qatar in 2011, the last year of the 800cc bikes, there were 17 bikes on the grid for the first race. A year later, with MotoGP at 1000cc again, and CRT teams helping to pad out the field, there were 21 bikes again.

The CRT bikes were overweight, underpowered, and private chassis designers proved to be no match for the mountains of data and experience the manufacturers had amassed over the previous 20-odd years. The CRT machines were consistently two seconds or more slower than the front runners. It was clear that they would never compete.

The CRT gambit

They didn't have to, though. The purpose of the CRT bikes was not to take on the might of HRC and beat them at their own game, it was to demonstrate to the bigwigs at Honda, Yamaha, even Ducati that if they left, MotoGP would continue to exist. Sure, it wouldn't be the same, but fans tuned in to watch the best riders in the world do battle, and most of them were less worried about the details of the machines than about the heroes riding them.

Calling the factories' bluff proved to be stunningly effective. The factories promised to make cheap bikes available to the teams at a fixed price. €1 million was the price Carmelo Ezpeleta demanded, and what the factories gave him was not that far off the mark.

The factories demanded a few concessions in return, however. The Claiming Rule was killed off, and in its place came the Open Class teams. In 2014, the factories accepted spec ECU hardware (but not software), but in return, they demanded a cut in fuel allowance and a reduction in the number of engines allowed per season to give themselves an engineering challenge. The Open Class bikes would use spec ECU hardware and software, but have more fuel and more engines to compensate.

That made a big difference. The Open bikes were more competitive than the old CRT machines had ever been, though the gap to the fast guys at the front was still significant. The bigger battle had been won, however: the manufacturers were being forced to concede bit by bit that MotoGP was primarily a marketing exercise, rather than an R&D exercise, as they had previously claimed. The popularity of the sport was growing again, and new TV money was helping to keep the sport financially healthy.

Conceding defeat

In 2015, the factories finally capitulated. From the 2016 season, all MotoGP bikes would use Dorna's specially commissioned Unified Software on the spec ECU. Spec electronics had come to MotoGP.

With spec electronics had come new factories too. Suzuki had returned to the series in 2015, lured by the new regulations. Aprilia had gone from just supplying a souped-up version of their RSV4 WorldSBK machine to working with Gresini to run a full factory effort. The spec electronics was a factor for Suzuki, team boss Davide Brivio admitted, saying it reduced costs, but most of all, it created a much more level playing field. There was one less area which needed a truckload of money thrown at it to succeed.

At the same time, KTM started their project to return to MotoGP, building on the success of their Moto3 program and throwing all their weight into making a competitive machine. The RC16 made its first appearance at Valencia in 2016, before entering the series as a two-rider factory team the following year.

Money talks

The technical regulations were only half the story, however. The second prong of Carmelo Ezpeleta's long-term plan was to put the private teams on a firmer financial footing. As part of the new contracts with the teams and with the factories, there was a radical reshuffling of the finances. Dorna's contribution to the teams went up drastically, from €800,000 per rider to €2,800,000 per rider, once all factors were taken into account.

The subsidy to the factories was cut, but Dorna was still paying them around €1 million per bike on the grid. Factories agreed to supply bikes to the teams for a maximum price €2.1 million per rider. More importantly, they committed to supplying any satellite team who were willing to pay them that maximum price per rider.

All of a sudden, the teams had money, and the teams had a choice. The introduction of spec electronics, together with engine development freezes for successful factories and development and testing concessions for manufacturers who have yet to score a podium closed the gap between the various factories. The switch from Bridgestone to Michelin helped shake up the racing, the French tire manufacturer bringing a wider range of tires all of which could be used in the race. Ducati used their experience with the Open bikes to get up to speed more quickly with the Unified Software.

The rider matters

As the gap between the factories got smaller, two factors began to have an ever greater influence. First, the rider is able to make more of a difference again, tire management becoming a crucial skill once again. Secondly, the amount of data collected became more important: having two strong riders on the same bike was no longer enough. In the search for improvement, the only place to find it was in the detail, and the more data there was, the more details to sift through.

All of these factors taken together have had a profound effect on not just the racing, but the way that racing is organized, and the balance of power inside the paddock. I spoke to one senior paddock figure who asked to remain anonymous, and put it to them that the balance of power had shifted in favor of the teams. My source was a little more cautious: "It's not so much that the teams have the power now, but we do have a much more level playing field, and that's great for the sport," they said.

The satellite teams were once just a source of income for the factories. Tech3 were in effect sponsoring the factory Yamaha team, my source explained, and with Tech3 gone, Yamaha faced a budget shortfall of between €5 and €6 million. For the past decade or so, Tech3 had little choice: without either a Yamaha or a Honda, they would not be competitive, but they were also dependent on Yamaha for the performance of the bike.

That tension had rarely surfaced, but there had been signs of it for the last couple of years. Tech3 team boss Hervé Poncharal was unfailingly polite about Yamaha, always expressed his gratitude to them for their support, but he sometimes let his frustration with the situation show through. He pointed to the increased support offered by Honda to LCR and Ducati to Pramac as an example of how to improve the package overall. But with no real alternative to Yamaha, Poncharal knew he was stuck.

A changing climate

Fortunately for Tech3, Carmelo Ezpeleta's plan has started to bear fruit. There are four competitive factories in MotoGP right now – Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, and by the look of things, Suzuki – and so private teams have more of a choice. Factories want more data from their satellite teams, which comes at the price of supplying competitive equipment: Honda have Cal Crutchlow on a third factory bike at LCR, Ducati have Danilo Petrucci at Pramac, Ducati engineers work closely with the other Ducati satellite teams on the grid.

The new factories understand that they need the extra data too. Suzuki have arrived at the point where they understand they have more to gain from running a satellite team with fairly equal equipment than they have to lose. KTM have followed in the footsteps of Ducati, and signed Tech3 up to be the factory junior team, an extension of the factory team with full factory support and the same bike as the factory team. The KTM RC16 may not be a podium bike at this point of the season, but with KTM and Red Bull putting €250 million over five years, they have the resources to push forward development.

And so, the tables have turned on the factories over the past decade. No longer do they dictate terms and dispense bikes like a Medieval King would dispense privilege to favored subjects. "Yamaha are suffering the consequences of their arrogance," was how one paddock figure put it, requesting anonymity to speak freely. There is now much more of a partnership between the manufacturers and the teams. The factories need the private teams as much as the private teams need them. The factories are still in charge, but they have to work a lot harder to keep their satellite teams happy.

Silly season spreads its wings

The success of Dorna's long game is playing out in other teams as well. It is almost certain that Marc VDS will no longer be racing Hondas in 2019. Instead, the team is talking to both Yamaha and Suzuki about a future partnership, and weighing up the pros and cons of each factory. The Angel Nieto (formerly Aspar) Team have meetings lined up for Qatar, both with Ducati but also with Yamaha, about taking the bikes vacated by Tech3. They will also have discussions with Suzuki, though they are behind Marc VDS in the pecking order because the Belgian team moved much faster than they could. Avintia, too, have expressed an interest in the Yamahas, and are hoping to have talks about this at Qatar. There are talks that Aprilia, too, are interested in supplying satellite bikes if the right deal can be struck.

Silly Season is not just for the riders any more. Teams can choose factories, and factories can choose teams, making for much more flexibility and more options for chasing success. The satellite teams enter discussions not as supplicants any longer, but as negotiating partners.

This is having a knock-on effect in the rider market as well. At the start of the year, it looked like most riders would stay more or less where they are for 2019. But with teams swapping bikes, a rich vein of young talent waiting in the wings of Moto2, and more factories with competitive equipment, there could be massive changes coming. That is a subject which will need a separate article, so more about that tomorrow.

Reversion to the mean

Lest anyone believes we have arrived in MotoGP Utopia thanks to Carmelo Ezpeleta, and that nothing more needs to be done, this is also a dangerous moment for racing. It is a particularly luxurious danger to have to face, however: the biggest threat now is one of complacency. If MotoGP rests on its laurels, then the series can easily start to slide back into its old ways.

There are downsides to having so many manufacturers being competitive: factory team bosses have to show their boards results, but the wins are spread exceeding thin when all factories are equal. Only one rider can win the championship, and only one manufacturer can win the manufacturer's crown. Small failings and minor mistakes can quickly mount up and render a factory uncompetitive: look how Yamaha has gone from world champion in 2015, to struggling throughout testing in 2018. If KTM doesn't deliver before 2022, then they too will have to reconsider their project. If Aprilia keeps coming up short, how much longer will Piaggio be willing to support them?

Right now, MotoGP is at its zenith, largely as a result of the plan set out by Carmelo Ezpeleta in the wake of the financial crisis. But the trouble with being at the peak of your success is that the only way left to go is down. How Ezpeleta and Dorna handle that will be even more important than how they got here.

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Brilliant write up as ever David. I really stated following in 2006 so it was a great reminder of how we got to where we are. I never really thought about the old CRT bikes in that light before... can't say I miss em though!

Nicely written and it reads so easily as always. This is why I come to this site, excellent article!

I disagree with quite a few things stated though. I've followed MotoGP since the late 90s and for me it's always been rather excellent. I think you and other people underestimate how enormous the financial crash of 2008 was and how much impact it had. The recovery didn't really begin until 2015 at best.

Spec electronics or ECU or not, we've had boring races and we've had exciting races. I think in a large part the amount of talented riders in the sport has increased by a lot over the years with Marquez as the best example taking over from Stoner. Something to be considered for sure...

I agree it had an enormous impact, and I didn't want to play down its importance. But I wanted to focus more on the changes in recent years, so perhaps I glossed over it a little. 

Coverage has been good.

Unfortunately we look to be set for another large correction. The 2008 lessons have not been learned. Just Deutsche Bank alone is a harbinger. USA is dergulating now and starting an isolationist trade war. So forth. May fall in line with Rossi retirement and disrupt SKY46 plans?

Interesting reading. Coming from a completely uninformed position, I always assumed there was only one reason for Tech3 to move on from Yamaha - to make way for a VR46 team when Rossi retires.

dman, I think the "Rossi is going to get whatever he wants from Yamaha" factor played heavily into Herve's/Tech 3's decision to split from Yamaha. But I also had sensed "Herve's frustration", that David noted, in Yamaha's lack of support for Tech 3.

Where Honda has given near factory bikes and support to 1) (previously) Simoncelli and the San Carlos team and 2) (currently) Crutchlow and LCR... and Ducati doing the same for Petrucci (current factory level bike) and Pramac... AND excellent support of previous year bikes to the "lesser" satellite teams/riders...

It was just a feeling that I've had and that I had discussed with my "race buddies"... but it seemed to me that Yamaha "tolerated" Tech 3 and basically shoved, for lack of better term.. the one year old bikes and spares out the back door of the race shop and told Herve to come and get them... and this to a guy that has probably fielded one of, if not the top satellite teams, for years... and has been extremely loyal to Yamaha, succesful and influential to MotoGP... 

I'm a big fan of Herve and the Tech 3 team... and I hope this move to KTM works out well for him/them...

I have tried to express how I felt about Yamaha versus Tech 3. You have it in one quote; "Yamaha are suffering the consequences of their arrogance,"

Carmelo is lucky & the rest of us are very lucky things worked out.

I find some hypocracy in the way WCM was treated in 2003-4 as a production based bike, then Aprilia was allowed to run a souped-up superbike? go figure?

Thanks for the history lesson.

David, holy shite! Best brief historical overview out there. No one behind you so enjoy a nice wheelie. Lots of us hanging off climbed fences here on this one. Alien journo! Prosecco!

Painful revisiting the 800cc time with you. Firefly I hear you that GP has always been good. NO way can we over represent the 2008-2012 economy, and over the years David hasn't in my reading. I am w David that the "polite era" parade laps on the race line were really bad. I think he nails it here. Ouch!

We also get to appreciate some things - how many of us stop to ponder or smile that we have an Aprilia project via the CRT production bike that surprised (it was better than it had a right to be!). I tried to think of ANY factor left out of this concise piece and came up with just climate/weather bringing so many more mixed conditions. And pondering Gigi overhauling Ducati as a blueprint for Yamaha. Extraneous.

I love the earnest confidential anecdotes. Great job honoring their trust here. I can tell that someone is likely to be from Tech3 but their mask is firm. Over the years it hasn't been Herve that revealed issues with Yamaha but riders. How perfect that Cal has a full factory satellite now eh? He was the loudest most brash voice. Look at how that is working out.

The silly season race for satellite teams is on. NO WAY should Suzuki and Yamaha be on equal footing for MarcVDS and Aspar. Arrogance from Yamaha, and negligence. Neglect. Lack of attention and insight. Don't forget that in 2003 Vale came to them with a revolutionary boon they met with shock and disbelief. Passive Yamaha. The circus has moved from the dynamic of the previous era. Can Yamaha? Yes. Will they?

Front row seats for all of us to the grand affair. MarcVDS is the dream Jr Team. Aspar is good. Avintia is pay to play backmarker. Suzuki and Yamaha desperately need them. Suzuki has so little, not just money. Decent production bikes without electronics. Some money thrown at a couple of national series. Contingency money sufficient to get some bikes out there. Yamaha is the gifted manufacturer underachieving structurally. Fantastic engineering. Beautiful DNA and design strategy. But negligent and arrogant indeed.

Great reminder on the money/finances specifically within the series. Per rider almost tripling from DORNA. I hadn't thought about that so clearly for a while how that shifted a balance towards garages from manus. Have we ever looked at the garages further down the paddock as performers in a silly season like this?

Aprilia merges with Gresini. A win-win. Honda continues with LCR and cultivates MarcVDS as a customer for bikes but shares some costs re riders like Jack. Ducati embraces Pramac with Jr Team status and a factory bike/rider contract option. Everyone buys their old bikes for cheap. Pramac? Look at their program offerings relative to others. Tech3 has more going on. Aspar has more in lower classes. MarcVDS? There is your superstar, just a mere customer too.

Can anyone see a MarcVDS and Suzuki marraige now? I can't. Unless the SKY46 factor is big, AND Suzuki has a surprise in store. And Yamaha continues to crap itself.

Aspar could go Aprilia. Avintia grid spots could get bought by SKY46 after 2 transition yrs and we have another Yamaha shuffle, that coinciding with when Suzuki finally gets their organizational structure up to provide two more bikes and staffing.

KTM did well to get Herve's outfit. And Herve, KTM. They don't just have a lot of money, they have a very strong racing structure of excellence. Contrast with Suzuki.

MarcVDS holds a lot of cards. Yamaha hasn't looked at some of theirs. Suzuki should play their best ones now before SKY46 starts pulling from the deck. LCR and their Japanese rider should have a sit down with Honda to plan their arsenal, HRC is about to have some staff looking for new assignments. One more 2018 machine please?

MotoGP is still ascending! DORNA needs to remain perky of course, but the zenith of this era is yet to come. Motomatters too - this is just a preseason history lesson eh? Alien Journo, friends.

"...and existential commitment to racing keeping them in the sport."  Love it, great article, David! The only thing that remains constant is change?

But about that unloved POS that Honda offered their loyal second tier race teams. In the grand scheme of things and timelines, perhaps it could be construed as a sneaky slap in the face to DORNA?

Wow, this is the best article I have read on the recent evolution of MotoGP. Also I learned a lot even though I have followed the sport closely for 20 years. I seemed to forget the CRT phase and the dwindling of the grid to just 17 bikes. I have never really been that interested in the technology aspects of the sport except for how technical advances helped or hurt my favorite riders. Or how these advances changed the pecking order of the riders on the grid. Probably the reason this article touched a nerve for me today is more about what choices are before Johann Zarco with Tech 3 moving to KTM. He is clearly a star but he isn't 20 years old so if his primary goal is to become world champion in MotoGP (which I believe he could achieve); can KTM give him a decent shot at it before he retires?

Another point this article raised is why Dorna restricts the grid size. I didn't know Dorna paid the factory teams anything at all, and while I knew they paid the private teams to compete, I didn't know there was such a big increase in the size of the financial support. It explains why every new bike on the grid is a significant additional expense without an offsetting increase in revenue. Apparently they think that the present grid size is about right to keep the sport competitive and entertaining. Anyway, thanks for the article!

light on its’ feet and easy to read-and that isn’t easy as a writer! It’s also why I come to this site; and support it financially. 

It also gave an excellent canned history that is churlish to criticise its balance or content; working in the bike trade I could go into minute detail of the effect it’s had on machine sales and the aftermarket: it’s not the point.

Th CRT stand off was devaluing MotoGP but there was a reason for that that’s paid off now, I’ve been travelling to GPs since ‘85 and whilst the names of old’s reputations increase in scale and mythology as time passes, there really isn’t a better rime than right here right now. Attractive enough to bring Red Bull, sorry, KTM back! I remember Shakey Byrne parking the smoking bike next to our stand in practice at Jerez 2005-the Rossi/Gibernau spat- and the end process to that was Stefan Pierer basically saying it’s swallowing tons more money than we thought and our investors want to crack sales in the US- getting a sub-50,000 manufacturer back with their intent and budget clearly shows the jobs right at present.

When are Kawasaki going to get bored and have a go again though...?




Thanks David, your insights and writing are so interesting I just subscribed again. I may disagree with you on a few things but as I’m not inside the paddock I value every word you write! Unfortunately I fear Motoshrink may be correct and the USA will send us backwards so far a Peewee 50 or my BMW F800 will be competitive before many years have passed..:

Alien Journo - as Motoshrink said. Maybe the racing aliens are fading, but the journalists aliens are shining brighter than ever!

I don't believe the road will go down yet. And I will justify it with the new MotoE series. Folk have dividing opinion on it (as the comments in your article about it clearly shows), but what i think Ezpeleta is trying to do is what he does best: bring more money in. The tobacco left years ago, energy drinks are on the verge to being prohibited (marketing speaking) so there is a need for something else. E-stuff (e-bikes, e-cars, e-bicycles,...) will be the new marketing hits for the next decade and there's also a bonus in bringing yougsters with them too.

One way or the other, let's just hope the future is bright for MotoGP. Or I'll be preety grumpy every second Sunday  ;)

A big part of MotoGPs growth has been consolidation of fans and viewers.

Over the timeframe above we saw multiple national series (some that use to be very strong) nearly all but disappear.  Some had non existent TV packages for several seasons and less races per year than some of the stronger club racing groups.

Dorna’s big success was being able to turn motorcycle racing into a digital product.

Their focus on brining the product to the viewers across multiple platforms and keeling up with the times made it easier to follow a series around the world than those in your backyard. 

The capstone was the purchase of WSBK allowing Dorna to continue the gradual transition of MotoGP in that direction.  

Economic downturns often result in consolidation of competitors and streamlining the product line. The result is the company making the acquisitions grows more than it otherwise could have in good times and does so even without any significant growth in their sector.

That in general we focus to much on the results, having the best bike of the grid. I think herve's choice is not about the bike, either Yamaha or KTM. It is about the perspective of profiting form the exposure of the red bull brand.... meaning a lot of public attenttion and full sponsor events at the paddock. That's why they are there, obviously they the sattelite teams are not there for winning. They are companies

Excellent David- EXCELLENT!

Thanks for the brief but thorough summary of modern MotoGP.

Your site is the written version of the next best thing to being there.

Thank you.

A nice recap for folks who have followed the sport during this transformation, and pretty much a 100 level college course for someone looking to get into the sport now.

The point about it being a dangerous time in the sport is key as well. Lin Jarvis and Co. cannot be too happy right now.

Everybody thinks that Valentino Rossi and his VR46 squad will field a MotoGP team with Yamaha when he retires. Why would a current independent team want to be a Yamaha satelite team now if it looks like that would only last for a couple of years?

A little late to this party David, but thanks for an excellent recap of how we got where we are!  Fascinating as always.