MSMA: Engines To Be Leased From 2011, More Details To Follow At Estoril

MotoGP's biggest problem right now is the number of bikes on the grid. The withdrawal of Kawasaki, leaving just a single bike in the Hayate team cut the grid down to 18 bikes, and once Sete Gibernau's Grupo Francisco Hernando team pulled out, the field was cut just to 17. With Kawasaki almost certain to withdraw the last remaining bike from the Hayate team next year and the return of the extra Ducati for the Aspar team, the grid is likely to stay at 17, though it could increase to 18 if Honda does add an extra bike, as HRC has hinted it might.

To deal with this problem, and drastically reduce the costs of participation, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta suggested that the rules be altered to allow production-based 1000cc engines in prototype chassis to run against the existing 800cc full prototypes. As a serious suggestion, it was almost certainly doomed from the start, but as a bargaining gambit, it has been a stroke of genius. The suggestion immediately jolted MSMA into action, and at the Sachsenring, the manufacturers organization offered a counter proposal to lease just 800cc prototype engines on their own, rather than entire bikes. They asked the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rulemaking body, for some time to come up with a more detailed proposal, which they promised to present at the meeting scheduled for this weekend at Indianapolis.

That proposal was presented this morning to the Grand Prix Commission - sort of. After the Grand Prix Commission met, the press release issued contained only a few minor detail changes to the 2009 tire regulations, so tracked down Herve Poncharal, boss of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team and IRTA's representative inside the Grand Prix Commission and asked him just what the MSMA's proposal had consisted of. The answer, it appears, is a little more complicated than just a straight proposal. 

"Mr Tsubouchi gave us MSMA's position," Poncharal told us. "The members are thinking to lease engines, so this is positive. This will happen from 2011.  But they've been asking for a bit more time to give the numbers and the price." Despite the request for more time, the proposal is almost certain to go forward. "The idea, the philosophy, the concept, they like it."

Though the proposal was far from complete, this broad agreement almost certainly ends the idea of allowing production engines to be used in MotoGP. "If they can manage to supply enough engines at a reasonable price, an affordable price, that will of course kill the so-called "Moto1" project," Poncharal said. "Ideally, it is better to keep one engine [type] only, which is the 800cc prototype." Poncharal also said that any capacity changes in the near future are extremely unlikely: "I think also that the MSMA made it clear that for the next term, which is from 2012, they want to stick to 800cc. This is stability, this is good," the Tech 3 boss said.

The precise details are to be worked out in time for the Estoril Grand Prix. "The next Grand Prix Commission which will be in Estoril, so we could get some information before, but by Estoril we will know more. But what we are almost sure will happen is that they will supply (engines)," Poncharal told us.

When asked about Honda's opposition to the plan, the French team boss said that the positions of the individual companies were not discussed by the MSMA, but that even if Honda did not want to supply engines, that would not necessarily block a potential deal. "Honda already provide 6 bikes and maybe 7 next year, so if they don't do it, you can understand, they are already at the maximum," Poncharal said, as action by the other manufacturers would be sufficient to solve the problem. "If Yamaha and Ducati are doing it, then this [the grid] is increasing. If Yamaha do it for 2 and Ducati do it for 2, that's already another 4 riders on the grid. This is already acceptable, then you reach 22, 23 riders," Poncharal said.

The end result was positive, according to the Tech 3 team boss. "This is very good news for the championship. I think clearly, this will put more bikes on the grid and this will be cheaper." And that, after all, was the point.

~~~ Update ~~~

The official website is also carrying a story on the subject of the MSMA's engine leasing proposal. Most interesting of all, is the fact that the site has interviews with FIM President Vito Ippolito and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta discussing the proposal.

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they should just go back to 990cc and also lease engines. no fuel restrictions,no sealed engines, no limited off season testing except see below.

Maybe restrictions on electronics! Rider actually restricts with his right hand!

As far as off season testing all teams test, or none! Teams with more$$$ have to help lesser teams in transport and costs!

I don't get it. They go faster now then during the 990 era.

Besides that, it's not the formulas that's been expensive but the changing of the formula.

If they went back to 990, they'd just apply everything they've learnt about 800 and apply it, resulting in 270hp engines. Really, there is no going back when there's so much competition, particularly between Honda, Yamaha and Ducati.

There is a component that you leave out. If larger capacity is available, the horspower becomes cheaper to produce. So, you say, then we will just end up with 270hp bikes and that seems logical until you consider that no bike is capable of using 270 hp and all of the electronics are aimed at cutting unuseable power.

There is a limit to how much power is useable so making reaching that limit easier and therefore cheaper eliminates one more place to spend money.

Additionally, you give smaller teams a fair shot at getting closer to the front.

If engines are limited to 6 per season as is proposed, then renting some out to privateers would surely be a serious option. Fingers crossed that this idea comes to fruition.

If engines are sealed anyway then why not have each supplier build a set of engines at the start of the season and these are allocated to all their satellite teams by ballot to ensure everyone gets equal spec engines. Maybe even the factory teams should be allocated their random allotment of engines from the common pool - although getting the factories to agree to this might not be so easy.

If they do not raise displacement or abolish displacement rules altogether, I will not be watching. I have never seen a sport go down the tubes quicker than MotoGP. It is embarrassing. Ezy would be better off getting bids from a handful of manufacturers for a wide variety of engines that meet certain specifications for price, power, and engine life. The homologated engines could be given to the participants.

Moto2 had nearly 100 proposals and next season Moto2 will have over 40 bikes. Why the hell is Ezy making us watch the Japanese impose "responsible" performance on prototype racing fans? Why are we watching them build a fence around their new 4 stroke grand prix series? Get a spine Ezy, or just sell GP to Honda.

I think that changing the formula to allow virtually unlimited power through increased or unlimited capacity would see MotoGP become a two, maybe three manufacturer race. The budgets just aren't there anymore even for some of the biggest factories, and you'd have no-one interested in running customer bikes because they could never keep up with the factory bikes in their hp war.

Davo's idea of using a ballot system to allocate engines is an interesting one - definitely with the factories included in the allocation. It would help cut costs overall for the manufacturer - not having to develop separate parts for factory and customer bikes - and over time the customer teams would REALLY benefit. Faster customer bikes = better quality riders being attracted to teams, with better results and a flow on effect of increased sponsor interest. The factories would of course keep their edge via chassis and electronics advancement, and would continue to attract the best riders, but overall we would likely see much closer races and more tv coverage of privateer bikes.

See my reply above. Unlimited displacement make hp cheap and since no bike can actually use much more horsepower than is currently available, there isn't anywhere to race to. If you think that Honda and Yamaha aren't already capable of producing more power, I think you aren't considering all the fact.

However, if you try to force a spec engine on the series, you do a couple of things, neither of which makes it any better. First, Factories have no incentive to compete. Why would they even enter if they are on a level field with their own satellite teams? Regularly losing to teams with fewer resources is just embarrassing and the factories will simply take their money elsewhere.

Well, no, I don't think that I implied that the big factories are scratching for power (apart from Suzuki perhaps) - their biggest problem is making use of what they already have.

So you are saying that the factories would reach a capacity/hp compromise that would be the best, and things would stabilise there? I'm not sure about that, and even if it were to occur it would take time and a lot of money to get to to that point. I agree with your assertion that allowing increased capacity would mean cheaper power - bigger pistons are far simpler and cheaper to implement than endless development of engine mapping, cam profiling, F1 valve technology etc. - but I think it's something of a utopian view when the overall aims at the moment are to lower costs and increase grid sizes. As an example - what if an independent tools up for a 1000cc motor for 2011 and in the 2010/2011 off season Honda decided to go with 1200cc? Honda can afford to play, racing is after all something of a game to them, but the independent player is now hopelessly outclassed and needs to come up with the tooling costs to build a whole new design, or spend the year racing at the back of the field.

Regarding factories and satellites, well that's _me_ taking the utopian view, but not without good reason - if the factories aren't prepared to compromise to keep the satellite and private teams afloat then there is no series at all. The factories must assume some risk here, after all it is their financial power and rulebook clout that has lead us to the current situation. There will be nowhere for the factories to take their money to!

The upshot is that utopian ideals are all good and well, and there's a strong argument for them in the pinnacle series of motorcycle racing. But there is an economic reality to face - motorsport in general is in a downturn, all we can do is continue to support it even if we don't like the finer details of how it is being managed.

This is what I envision, though it has plenty of problems. I would love to see the FIM step up and actually control the engines. In other words, I would like to see the FIM require engine homologation from the manufacturers who want to make engines. The FIM would issue a request for a proposal for engines of a certain peak power, engine life, and price. Prototype engines only with no production parts allowed. Ducati could build a 1250 desmo twin, Aprilia could build a spring-valved I-3 990, Honda could build a 880 V4 and a 990 V5, Yamaha could make a 900 I-4, etc etc. The proposed engines and electronics packages would be given to the governing body, they would be homologated if they met the requirements. The engines would be frozen, rev-limited, and every engine dispensed by the governing body would be sealed. Data recorders would be used to keep cheating to a minimum. No engine development of any kind during the season, engine updates/modifications would have to be prepared/homologated for the following season. Add some kind of rules that require engines to be offered for a minimum of 3 years and each manufacturer can only have 2 engines homologated simultaneously.

The privateers and the manufacturers get identical equipment, but the manufacturers have an obvious advantage because they used a series of test bikes to develop the engine and electronics. In the end, the name of the game would be to hire a good rider and then develop a chassis that makes the rider comfortable.