The upcoming changes to MotoGP in 2012 have the chance to revolutionize the class. The switch to 1000cc, along with the introduction of the Claiming Rule Teams, who will be allowed extra fuel and engines and to use production-based engines in prototype chassis, should shake up the grid considerably.
Today at Misano, Eskil Suter introduced the bike he intends to supply after the 2012 MotoGP regulations come into effect. The machine is based loosely on Suter's MMX Moto2 machine, the chassis able to use roughly the same dimensions as the BMW S1000RR engine is very close to the same size as the Honda CBR600 mill being used in the Moto2 bikes. In its current state (basically Superstock trim), the engine already pumps out 210 horsepower, but Suter believes there is plenty more to come. The BMW engine was selected precisely because it was both extremely compact (almost the same physical size as the CBR600) and because the company believes the S1000RR motor has the most unrealized potential of the current crop of liter bike engines. In its current state, the bike displayed at Misano weighs just 145kg, some 8kg under the required minimum weight, giving a lot of options for altering the weight distribution of the bike.
The model presented at Misano forms the basis of Suter's development program. The Swiss firm and its eponymous director have partnered with the organization behind the Marc VDS Racing team currently fielding Scott Redding on a Suter MMX machine in Moto2, and have engaged Spanish CEV racer Carmelo Morales to help develop the bike. The cooperation is aimed at putting a Suter MotoGP bike on the grid in 2012, and if fruitful, could see the Marc VDS team race the bike while working with Suter to develop the machine. Whether this will be admitted as a CRT entry is yet to be seen; if not, the team will be entered as a factory prototype, giving up the three extra liters of fuel and 3 extra engines.
Suter estimated that the price for a MotoGP chassis would be between 350,000 and 600,000 euros. That includes the chassis, the aerodynamics package and running gear (wheels, suspension, etc), as well as sufficient spares to get through the season, the higher price quoted being to cover prolific crashers. The price includes enough equipment to field a single rider with two MotoGP bikes, as is currently common practice.
What the price does not include is an engine and, more importantly, all the electronics to control the engine. Engine costs are likely to be at least 100,000 euros, and probably double or even triple that if the motor is to be competitive. Electronics will add another sizable chunk, likely to be upwards of 200,000 euros, despite Suter's claims that the 1000cc bikes will have more torque and therefore require fewer electronic aids.
And so a full CRT MotoGP bike will cost at least 600,000, and more likely, well over a million euros a year, with no guarantees of being competitive. For between 20 and 50% more, teams could try to persuade a manufacturer to supply a satellite bike, which would at least give the team a fair shot at the top 5, under the right circumstances. If the teams are in this to be competitive, the costs saved by running as a CRT team look to be fairly minimal, at this point in time.
Throughout the negotiations to change the 2012 regulations and allow CRT teams to run in MotoGP, the aim has been to radically cut costs. Herve Poncharal has repeatedly told MotoMatters.com that the aim of the Grand Prix Commission is to cut the required equipment costs by half. Judging by the cost of the first candidate for MotoGP CRT status, that aim is still a very long way away.
With electronics likely to continue to play an important role in MotoGP after the return of the 1000cc bikes, the dream of a considerably cheaper series still seems a very long way away. The problem, as the phrase currently popular in the paddock has it, is that you can't uninvent the atom bomb. MotoGP went nuclear with the switch to 800cc, and that doesn't look likely to change any time soon.