FTR Boss Steve Bones Talks Moto2 And 2010

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Moto2 championship has been the rise to the forefront of some complete unknowns, in terms of riders, teams and manufacturers. While 2010 champion Toni Elias was the rider most widely tipped for the title at the start of the season, very few people expected Simone Corsi, Jules Cluzel or the sadly lamented Shoya Tomizawa to be such a regular feature at the front of the grid. Likewise, the Aspar and Gresini teams were expected to do well, while the names of Marc VDS Racing and Technomag were completely unheard of.

Likewise, the names of many of the bikes on the grid were unfamiliar. Though Suter's name was known from the Swiss designer's work on the Kawasaki and Ilmor MotoGP bikes, and Moriwaki is a very famous name in Superbikes and Endurance racing, the likes of FTR and Kalex were virtually unknown. For FTR, their relative obscurity belied their long involvement in the sport, the Buckinghamshire-based engineering firm having produced parts for teams in MotoGP and World Superbikes for many years, but with Andrea Iannone winning on a rebranded FTR, and Alex Debon and Karel Abraham scoring podiums on the bike, the British firm has put its name firmly in the spotlights.

FTR's press office released an interesting question and answer session with the company's boss, Steve Bones, in which he discusses his take on the inaugural 2010 season. Despite being basically a press release, the Q&A provides some interesting insights into the Moto2 class. Here's the full text of the release:

With the initial Moto2 World Championship almost concluded – with just two of the 17 rounds remaining – FTR Moto's Steve Bones reflects on the first year of the new category.

Q. In early 2009 the Moto2 class was discussed by the Grand Prix Commission then the decision taken to introduce the new category from 2010, has it evolved in the manner you expected?

A. "Not really, no. The initial belief was that the class would be combined with 250cc two-stroke machines from 2010 and that the engine regulation would be 600cc but open to any manufacturer. So, the eventual grid for the opening round in Qatar in April this year was 100 per cent four-strokes and all Honda engines. But it's all worked out, been positive and for the good of the class. I think the Moto2 class has captured the imagination of everybody – even if it is a bit daunting sometimes watching 40 machines hurtling into the first corner!"

Q. From FTR's business and marketing viewpoint has the 2010 Championship been a success?

A. "Yes, definitely. As a brand we were unknown a year ago and now I'd like to think that plenty of people know the FTR Moto name and, hopefully, are complimentary towards our work! We set out with no real ambition other than to be on the grid for the 2010 Championship."

Q. With all four of your permanent riders achieving podium finishes in 2010 could the season have been any better?

A. "For a very first year of World Championship competition I'm pretty sure we would have said a big ‘yes' to the results we've had if they had been offered to us back in March. But then Alex Debon got second place on the FTR M210 in Qatar, the very first race of the new Championship – so our ambitions changed with that. Once we knew we could be competitive and we'd had that taste of success we began wanting it every race, almost demanding it. So when Karel Abraham completed the quartet of FTR riders on the podium with a great third place in Japan it simply became another tick in a box. And I'd like to recognise the one-off wild card appearances of Kev Coghlan at Aragon and Jason DiSalvo in Indianapolis, their displays are a good gauge of the capabilities of the M210."

Q. Obviously Andrea Iannone can still get runner-up place in the World Championship, is that what you expected in 2010 or is it better than expected?

A. "I suppose it is better than what we expected but we've also learnt an important lesson this year in our own education about racing and recognising that the team and its technical personnel are crucial and we've been fortunate to work with some of the best technical teams of the 2010 Championship."

Q. During 2010 you've developed the M210, was that in response to one specific team or to the general feeling from all of the FTR M210 riders?

A. "Yes, we've listened to all of the teams, riders and technicians throughout 2010 and it's really important, imperative, to have that feedback and information, not just in motorcycle racing but in any technological arena. We revised the frame, introduced an improved version of our triple clamps and improved the fuel tank and seat, all based on that feedback."

Q. The original FTR prototype, raced in Spain at the end of last year, featured a stemless steering arrangement, that doesn't seem to have been adopted by the 2010 teams, will it be seen again?

A. "Yes, without a doubt. The problem was the lateness in which many teams confirmed their plans for 2010 and, as a result, testing time pre season was limited and the teams were keen to continue with a steering arrangement that they knew so we reverted to their proven option."

Q. How do you generally think Moto2 machinery has been received?

A. "Overall the new machinery has proven very popular. In addition to the World Championship we're racing in the Spanish Championship and that has 25-30 riders, we ran at the Isle of Man TT and the fans loved the noise of the machine and simply watching a pure racing machine. We've had discussions about national championships in a lot of countries and there's plenty or interest in our retro machines based on Moto2."

Q. What are the next steps for FTR Moto and Moto2?

A. "We're already under way with a new aerodynamics package and further changes to the frame, swing arm and steering in readiness for the 2011 World Championship and in response to demand for the M211 machine. We've had plenty of enquiries about the 2011 machine and we're now in the final stages of concluding agreements for World and Spanish activities." 

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There are far easier ways to carve out a living from engineering. Mr Bones and his little company deserve a full order book 2011 on the back of their very successful 2010 season.

David are there any other national series contemplating a Moto2 category in the future? Throughout the nineties grid were full across the world with TZ's, NS's and RS's of the 250 variety. It would be nice to see pukka GP machines racing nationally again. The 2010 cast off's should be going relatively cheaply.

In addition to the Spanish championship, the Italian championship is due to run Moto2 next season. Germany decided against running Moto2 for 2011, but I believe they will still be allowed to qualify at IDM meetings. 

Moto2 has been the most consistently entertaining flavor of motorcycle road race all year. Just seeing the starts of those races, with 60+ bikes going into whatever first corner they're made to go into, is reason enough to tune in. And the rider-name/position/time crawl at the bottom of the screen is always hilariously out of date -- there are so many positions to note it seems like they only get through it all the way about three times per telecast.

Which brings up an interesting question: What is the point of racing? Is it the sheer entertainment of close competition, or is it the display of technical prowess, of men (riders and engineers) and machine working together at the highest level of achievement possible?

If it's the former, a good turtle race can suffice. And, given some of my experiences in rural America, it does. I've been in crowds of wildly involved spectators at lots of little county fairs and small-town festivals. And, I gotta say, I was right there, yelling for whatever turtle was second but closing.

On the other hand, I was transfixed when Mat Mladin ran away with all those AMA superbike races. He'd be miles ahead, and the tv producers would switch to the race for second or eighth or something because it was "more interesting." I guess because that's what they figured we viewers would want. Dunno, maybe some, or a lot, did. But I loved watching Mladin. He made riding fast look so easy it pretty much just made me mad at the rest of the riders -- they were so far out of touch that I ended up having to watch them bumble their way around the tracks instead because they were the "better show."

So, pure prototype or spec?

When all the commenting members seem to be focused on how they would pull the puppet strings of the motorcycle racing world by discussing the piston velocity, compression ratios, control ECUs and how it would all be different if a homespun dyno jockey were in control of a Japanese factory, no one ever wants to address the question of "what is the point of racing?".

It's the key question when looking for respite from the torture we are forcibly exposed to at gun point every race weekend. I have my opinions and they are not great, complete or likely in agreement with others. But to not address that question first makes all the rest of the solutions quite pointless.

Interesting view on the the other riders during Mladin's AMA reign. I don't think I could fault the other riders at all, more likely the opposite. If Mladin was easily outpacing the competition, maybe he would be better suited to go to a more competitive series (WSBK or MotoGP).

Would you feel the same way if an extremely competitive MotoGP star such as Lorenzo/Stoner/Rossi/Pedrosa or even Ben Spies came back and just annihilated the competition every year instead of stepping up for a challenge in a more competitive series?

I really can't blame Mat for staying in America. To show the world you are the best is great but Mat was making a small fortune here and as a pro he went where the money was.

It's easy to say that he should have "moved up" to more competition but when you can make millions in the New World vs a few hundred thousand elsewhere I think (know) I would make the same choice. When I raced, I sold my tropheys back to the track (when I could) for a few dollars to help pay my gas money. When you do something for a living you tend to go where the money is.

It's not Mat's fault none of the lessor paid WSBK riders didn't want to challenge him for the big bucks.

Lord knows I miss watching him manhandle a motorcycle!

I also loved watching Mat motor at breath gasping speeds, but it was even better when he and Spies were banging bars and swaping paint. Sometimes you don't know what you have, until you loose it.

Fantastic or fantastic-er - I'll take both.

I really should try and remember to make better use of the subject line next time I post.