Carmelo Ezpeleta Interview: Manufacturer Contracts, Electronics And Moto2 Entries

While much of the current focus in the MotoGP paddock is on 2011, and the impending rider switches in the paddock - including Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati, Casey Stoner's switch to Honda and Ben Spies' promotion to the factory Yamaha team - there is a bigger change on the horizon, the return to 1000cc in the MotoGP class, the arrival of the 250cc Moto3 class and the introduction of the CRT concept, where 1000cc production engines will be allowed to compete in prototype chassis in the hands of private teams. These seismic changes are in the hands of the Grand Prix Commission, consisting of the manufacturers' association MSMA, the teams' representative IRTA, the FIM sanctioning body and Dorna, the commercial rights holders.

At Estoril, had the chance to spend 10 minutes with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and ask a few questions about the changes due to happen in 2012. We were particularly interested in the relationship between Dorna and the MSMA, given the fact that the contract between the two parties is also up for renewal at the start of the 2012 season. So that's where we started: I'd like to talk about the changes that are going to happen to MotoGP in 2012. MotoGP goes to 1000cc, and at the same time, the contract with the MSMA finishes, and you have to negotiate a new contract with the MSMA. Can you talk about that contract and how you expect that to change?

Carmelo Ezpeleta: Well, in principle the contract with the MSMA and us will be the same in terms of politics, but not in terms of economics. We will not continue making an agreement for all the manufacturers involved in the MSMA, but instead, we will make individual contracts with each of the manufacturers, regarding their participation in the world championship. So the agreement will remain the same in terms of politics, the MSMA maintain the right to veto if they're unanimous, they're unanimous, as it is right now. But contracts will change: until now we were paying x amount of money for the participation of the bikes. This will be changed, and we will make individual contracts with the individual manufacturers.

MM: So you will value different contracts differently?

CE: Yes.

MMThe MSMA will still have the veto on the technical rules?

CE: A unanimous veto, that means all members of the MSMA, if they agree, they have a unanimous right of veto, but not a unanimous right of proposal or whatever. If we propose something and they unanimously reject, we cannot make the change.

MM: This is also something in Moto2, people like Suter, FTR, Moriwaki, they don't seem to have representation, they are manufacturers, but they are not manufacturers.

CE: No, no, they are not manufacturers. They are chassis manufacturers, we are not considering working on an agreement with something like the MSMA but for chassis manufacturers.

MM: And you don't see a role for them in making the rules?

CE: No.

MM: The rules will change in 2012, how long do you expect the rules to stay stable.

CE: Five years.

MM: The other thing that Valentino talked about, Nicky Hayden has talked about, everyone has talked about, is electronics. Do you see a way to limit this?

CE: Not in the MotoGP class. Obviously in Moto3 there will be a spec ECU and we will control that. In Moto2 it is one single engine and one single ECU, that is not a problem. In MotoGP at the moment, there are no regulations, and electronics are being used less. When we go to 1000cc with the existing regulations, there will still be less electronics. It is not is not as bad as it was, there are less electronics than there were two years ago. Within the current situation, there is enough regulation.

But then I think to be honest now, not many people are talking about electronics. Did you see Casey sliding in Philip Island? If you see that, then nobody can say it is compulsory to use electronics. He was so fast, using less electronics than anybody else. For me this is no longer an issue, you know, we are OK with that. With the 1000cc, everything will be more competitive. But we haven't about electronics for the last half a year.

MM: It has just not been a subject at all. Also because there is the 81 mm bore which should limit revs?

CE: I think right now the impact of electronics is less than it was. With the single tire and with the situation of electronics right now, no one is talking a lot in the last six months about traction control or whatever. And everybody expects with the 1000cc there will be even less. With the existing electronics, we have less electronics now than there were in the last year of the 990s. And then with the 1000cc bikes, we will have less electronics than there were in 2001.

MM: Also, for Moto3, alongside a spec ECU there will be rev limit.

CE: Yes.

MM: Is a rev limit also an option in MotoGP or not?

CE: No. We have not discussed that.

MM: Do you have an idea how many teams are going to be taking part in 2012, because there's a lot of talk in the paddock of new teams wanting to join under the new rules.

CE: We would like to have no more than 22 bikes on the grid. The maximum is maybe 24 bikes, but our ideal number is 22. Maybe we need to have more, because so many people are asking for places, maybe we will rise to about 24, but we are thinking now 22. It is the ideal number.

MM: In Moto2 next year, do you know how many will be there?

CE: Unfortunately, we will end up with the same number, maybe one less, two less. To be honest, we already have more people than is necessary this year, now it is difficult to refuse some of the entries. We will try to refuse some entries, but even then, there are more and more people asking for places. Most probably, we will be around 40 next year. If we have only 38, we will be very happy, but right now, we don't see many possibilities of that happening.

MM: When do you expect to have a final list for Moto2? It was originally scheduled for Saturday.

CE: Everybody is still working on this, and we don't know the exact date, but they are working. It will be soon.

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"In MotoGP at the moment, there are no regulations, and electronics are being used less. When we go to 1000cc with the existing regulations, there will still be less electronics."

Is it only me who thinks that there is something peculiar about what he is saying? As long a some electronic bit (or a mechanical bit) makes the bike go faster it will be (along with other expensive bits) on the bike.

Imo, it means 1 of 2 possibilities.

1. Dorna feel comfortable with the technical restrictions they have put in place (i.e. banning tire temp sensors, electronic suspension, and homologating fuel injection systems).

2. The manufacturers have got their own resource restriction agreement running in the background, and Dorna have made more demands for the 2012 season before they draw up new contracts. Those demands have been met.

he seems quite sure that electronics will be used less when it comes to 1000cc bikes, and also he doesnt beleive that having no restrictions on electronics is a problem.

no sure why he thinks the factorys will use less, but i guess he's in a better position than most of us to know

Divide and conquer. MotoGP gets more like F1 everyday.

I think the MSMA collective contract also reveals that when Kawasaki left, the other participants received more pay. It means the manufacturers benefit by forcing one another out of the sport, but Dorna want to make sure that bad incentives do not continue. Decent business decision I suppose, but much less sweeping than people were hoping for.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that the MSMA will be stepping away from the driver's seat at all. Dorna simply reserves the right to buy MSMA votes to prevent filibuster. Not sure how this will pan out in the long run.

A little disappointed you didn't ask him about the tires in 2008. It would have made you a legendary journo. ;)

What he said is that unless the manufacturers are UNANIMOUS DORNA can ignore their input. Also the manufacturers can only veto things, NOT introduce things. So the MSMA definitely wont be in the driver seat.

It's always been that way. The GPC proposed the 800cc formula on behalf of the MSMA. The FIA and IRTA were pro, Dorna was against. Dorna decided to vote for the 800cc formula b/c they were worried about the political fallout if they filibustered. IIRC the vote happened in 2004 well before they studied the effects of reducing fuel capacity.

Nothing has changed. The MSMA were in the driver's seat previously, and they are still in the driver's seat. Dorna have simply given themselves the ability to buy MSMA allegiance via individual commercial rights contracts (if necessary).

It's called divide and conquer. Bernie did this for a long time in F1 with Ferrari, but the arrangement has never been terribly stable or successful. Wouldn't surprise me to hear that another Italian factory might be cozying up to the commercial rights people this time around either. a dubious claim.  Perhaps he thinks no one is talking about the subject because we're all worn out from talking about it!

It seems a pretty tough sell for him to say there are "less electronics" now than in 2006, but that there will be even less in 2012.

He is completely dodging the issue, because unless and until more fuel is allowed, his claims don't stand up to scrutiny.  Perhaps because English isn't his native language, he may be trapped on others' colloquialisms, but the phrase "less electronics" is entirely specious.  Their presence cannot be assessed quantitatively, but rather qualitatively.  Their functions have been changed, so what they do is somewhat different than what they did 4 years ago, and that won't change again just because he says so.  With this fuel limit, they will be ever-present.

"Perhaps because English isn't his native language, he may be trapped on others' colloquialisms, but the phrase "less electronics" is entirely specious."

I cannot agree with you on this. The language of motorsports has been and continues to be English - even in Italy. Listen to pit-to-driver/rider squawk in any series and you only hear English. Maybe there is the occassional French profanity, but . . . . (In fact, you are more likely to British English than any other form of English).

Carmelo Ezpeleta is in the same league as Bernie Ecclestone and Sepp Blatter - they may have a native language but they understand English perfectly and probably know racing colloquialisms better than you and I! Ezpeleta dodged the issue, that is all there is to it.

[David - feel free to chime in here about the language skills of people in MotoGP and WSBK. I believe (i.e., it is my opinion) that the riders and some of the team principals who put up the "I no-a speak-a English good-a" front are doing just that - putting up a front; they know exactly what is being said and he to respond in plain English. Maybe a topic for the Editor's blog . . . .]

I think less electronics is a result of the need to go faster rather than the method of going faster. To begin with the electronics were used to control peaky power. With development maybe the spread of power is more usable. Also the riders with the best throttle control - Stoner, Rossi, Lorenzo etc don't need the electronics to step in because they have the ability to take it right to the edge and gently past it i.e. Stoner at PI. It was always said right from the beginning by those who knew that excessive TC was not fast. It was just not politically correct to accept this due to a the natural order of things being upset by a certain young Aussie.

Another reason for less electronics is probably better fuel management. The last thing a rider needs is towards the end of a race when he has to fight for places the electronics going into fuel saving mode. So I have no doubt that the factories have been working out how to go full noise for the entire race.

It is unfortunate that as we near the point where the 800's get nicely sorted out the rules change again. 2012 will probably see one manufacturer get it really right and the others take a season or 2 to get up to speed as happened with the switch to 800's.

I'm with you RustyBucket. To say there is less electronic intervention than the 990 era is specious bollocks - plain and simple. A little tampering around the periphery whilst squeezing fuel restrictions further does not constitute less solenoids and more wrist.

How exactly will 1000cc be more competitive Mr Ezpeleta? - you did not back this assertion with anything meaningful. It is mere hope - hope we all have mind you!

As for MSMA control of regs that's hardly surprising. Somebody has to set the scene, and it is their budgets that allow the show to be run at after all.

Nice post too Mental Anarchist. The 800's do seem to be settling down nicely right now with little to separate the leading three manufacturer's (in the right hands of course). The GP boys seem to have remembered of late that these things can still be raced too, and not just ridden.

To be fair to Dorna and the FIA, they ARE homologating fuel injection systems starting next season. The purpose of fuel injection homologation is to eliminate the possibility of direct-injection which encourages torrential spending, and exponential growth of electronic fuel-control mechanisms. Direct injection also makes it very difficult to control the peak power output of the machines. The scuttlebutt is that several teams already use and experiment with high pressure direct injection systems.

If they are banning direct-injection, then there is some reason to believe that electronics will be decreased.

Furthermore, the fuel computers actually reduce electronic interference. I know, it's completely counter-intuitive, but Honda have twice confirmed that their fuel computer turns off the electronic devices when the bike is short of fuel. TC and wheelie control are apparently not a fuel-efficient technologies. If they make the bikes less fuel efficient by banning direct-injection (or just high-pressure direct injection), there is reason to believe that the teams will continue to run less rider aids.

What he's saying is consistent with the technology of the sport, imo, but I don't think it will work in the long run. It is much more probable that the MSMA will develop fuel-efficient version of the current rider-aid systems. In the long run, this "lazy"-faire approach by Dorna will never be successful. They need to limit the electronics via the rulebook, imo.