Talks are continuing at Jerez over the future of MotoGP, with the focus on how to reduce costs for a sustainable championship. After the proposals that Dorna presented to the factories at Sepang, with measures including a rev limit and a standard ECU, it was the turn of the factories to come with their counterproposals to make the championship affordable.
The weight increase in the MotoGP class introduced for 2012 - from 153kg, as originally agreed when the 2012 regulations were drawn up back in August 2010, to 157kg - has had many repercussions. The addition of 4kg to the 1000cc MotoGP machines has been blamed for causing the chatter that Honda's RC213V suffers from, and for complicating the pursuit of the ideal weight distribution for both Honda and Yamaha, which the two Japanese factories had spent most of 2011 perfecting ahead of the 2012 MotoGP season.
The decision was taken in a Grand Prix Commission meeting held on December 14th of 2011 in Madrid, and though it drew little comment at the time, once the MotoGP paddock reassembled at Sepang for the first test of the year, some intriguing details started to appear. Crash.net's Peter McLaren has an excellent reconstruction of the decision process, from which it is clear that the path to adoption the proposal faced was far more complex than usual. It also reveals some of the underlying tensions in both the Grand Prix Commission and the MSMA which will go on to play a major role in the rule-making process for 2013 and beyond.
With the excitement of MotoGP bikes being back on track subsiding to more manageable levels, the riders and teams were back hard at work again on Wednesday. The track had improved sufficiently to see times start to drop to where they might reasonably be expected to be. At Mugello in July of last year, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi had told the press that the simulations Ducati had run comparing their 1000cc bike - now radically changed since then - to the 800 showed that the 1000s should be about half a second faster round Mugello than the 800s, and that prediction proved to be just about spot on at Sepang.
The name of the rider at the top of the timesheet should surprise no one, Casey Stoner returning from a back problem - though still clearly stiff and not back to full strength - to post a scorching lap time, clear of the two Yamahas of Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner did only a relatively few laps on the RC213V, concentrating on getting the parts tested he had on his work list, rather than working on a setup for the 2012 season. He compared the two chassis he had been given - and asked for the best parts of both chassis again, unsurprisingly - and concentrated on the big stuff.
Although the Wrooom event at the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio is formally meant as the launch for Ducati's MotoGP and Ferrari's Formula One season, many other big names from the world of racing are also in attendance. One such person was Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and given the major changes coming to MotoGP for 2012 - and even bigger changes from 2013 onwards - Ezpeleta had arranged to give a short press conference to talk to journalists about some of his plans for next season and beyond. But he barely made it into the press conference: on his way in, he was doorstepped by a group of journalists who started grilling Ezpeleta about the future of MotoGP, leaving the Spaniard with little left to say in the press conference. His answers did provide a compelling look at the future of MotoGP as Dorna sees it.
The introduction of the Claiming Rule Teams has caused a massive wave of confusion among MotoGP fans, and left then with a host of questions. Below, we attempt to answer most of the questions that race fans have about this new category of bikes, as well as addressing how it came to be created in the first place.
What on earth is a CRT?
CRT stands for Claiming Rule Team, and is a new category of entry in the MotoGP class. They will run alongside the normal factory and satellite MotoGP bikes (now officially classified as "factory prototypes" regardless of whether they are being run in a factory team or a satellite team), and be subject to slightly different rules.
What are the rule differences between the CRTs and the factory prototypes?
The CRT entries will be allowed more fuel and more engines: while factory prototypes will have 21 liters of fuel and be allowed to use 6 engines in 2012 (just as in 2011), the CRT entries will be given 24 liters of fuel to last a race, and have 12 engines for the 2012 season. Because of these advantages, existing manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha or Ducati) will be allowed to claim engines from CRT entries.
What does "claiming an engine" mean and how does it work?
In part 1 of this series, we discussed the new 1000cc rules for 2012, especially those for the so-called Claiming Rule Teams, the privateer teams which will be allowed to use engines from production bikes if they so wish. In part 2, we discussed Infront Motor Sports' objections to those new rules as organizers of the World Superbike series, and why their objections are likely to fail. In part 3, we turn our attention to the reasoning behind these new rules, the politics which surround them, and the circumstances which have served to put the changes into high gear.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna, is one of the most vilified men among many fans of MotoGP. He is blamed for the many changes that have altered the face of MotoGP, not least for killing off the 990s and bringing in the 800s, which have robbed the sport of so much of its spectacle. Ezpeleta gets the blame for each new rule change, charged with fiddling while Rome burns.
But those accusations have absolutely no basis in fact. Ezpeleta is innocent of almost all of the crimes that he is charged with over the rule changes, as almost every one of those changes were at the direct request of the manufacturers, while Dorna and IRTA, the organization that represents the teams, have done their best to mitigate the damage done by the factory-imposed rules.
Testing for the MotoGP class is set to undergo a radical shake up for 2012, with the current restrictions on testing to be abolished. According to both Italian magazine website MotoSprint and the Italian sports daily Corriere dello Sport, the Grand Prix Commission will approve a plan to scrap the testing limits imposed after the global financial crisis in 2008, and allow MotoGP riders to test the bikes as often as they like, within a few set limits.
Behind the world of motorcycle racing lies a hidden world of high finance, and moves there have a potentially huge effect on the racing itself. A report in the Financial Times from earlier this week - spotted and reported by Bikesportnews - carries news of a financial transaction that could, potentially, have major implications for the two major two-wheeled racing series, MotoGP and World Superbikes.
The outlines of the future MotoGP calendar are becoming clear, as deals are being signed throughout the year. One key question left open was the future of the French MotoGP round, with the contract between Dorna and the event organizers coming to an end after this year's MotoGP round. There was never any question that France would be left without a Grand Prix, the only question was whether the race would continue to be held at Le Mans.
And after a press release issued by Dorna, that question is still uncertain. For Dorna has renewed their deal with Claude Michy and his organization, PHA, to organize the French MotoGP round for the next 5 years, through 2016. However, as the deal is with the promoter, where the French GP is to be held is not specified.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the new MotoGP rules due to take effect from 2012 are just the start of more major changes coming further in the future. The hiring of Corrado Cecchinelli - formerly of Ducati Corse - as Director of Technology was one part of this puzzle, and today another piece fell into place, with the signing of the former Director of Bridgestone Motorsports, Hiroshi Yasukawa, as an advisor to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.
Yasukawa's exact role is unclear; the press release merely says that the former Bridgestone executive will be "providing his insight on the further development of the sport." Given Yasukawa's previous job, it seems likely that his input will focus mainly on the role that tires play in the series, and ways of affecting the series through the use of a spec supplier.