The 800cc formula is dead. MotoGP is set to return to 1000cc from 2012, according to a proposal submitted to the Grand Prix Commission at Valencia today. The 800cc bikes have received a deluge of criticism, almost from the moment they were introduced, and that deluge has finally buried them.
The decision has hinged upon a change of mind by the MSMA, the manufacturers association. So far, the manufacturers have been opposed to any changes to the MotoGP formula, partly because high costs of entry created a barrier to new entrants in the class, allowing the existing participants to dominate the class. But the high costs have taken their toll even on the existing manufacturers, and with the future of Suzuki in the class in doubt under the current rules, and even doubt about just how long Honda was prepared to continue, a change was almost inevitable. 2012 is the earliest date it is possible to make the change, as the current 5 year contract that exists between Dorna, the FIM and the MSMA expires at the end of 2011. That contract states that no changes may be made to the engine capacity without a unanimous decision by all of the manufacturers in the MSMA.
The initial proposal was to allow the use of production engines in prototype chassis, but the current proposal makes no mention of production engines at all. MotoMatters.com asked Herve Poncharal about the proposal, and asked whether this was to be production engines or not.
"Nobody's talking about production engines," Poncharal told us. "The Grand Prix Commission is thinking about going back to 1000cc engines. This is more than supported by Dorna, more than supported by Dorna, but the first reaction to this by MSMA is very very positive." The MSMA's new position has been the key difference, Poncharal pointed out, and the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha boss was delighted at this change of heart. "I'm really happy, I'm very happy about that. It looks like there is a consensus, but we have to take it day-by-day."
The fear is, of course, that a change in engine capacity would not be enough to cut costs, and merely create a new class of expensive prototypes. Poncharal said that this would not be allowed to happen: "The whole idea supported by everybody including the MSMA is to get the costs drastically down." Just how to ensure that is a different matter altogether, though. Poncharal admitted it would be difficult, but said that the Grand Prix Commission would not try to solve everything at once. Asked how to ensure that costs didn't once again spiral out of control, Poncharal replied "That's the next question. One day at a time!"