Aprilia To Abandon Moto2 Plans For A Return To MotoGP?

The news that 1000cc production-based engines will be allowed to race in MotoGP alongside the prototypes appears to be having some unexpected consequences. After at first announcing their intention to offer cut-price Aprilia RSA 250s to run in Moto2, and then dropping that idea to concentrate on building a chassis for the Moto2 class to wrap around the spec Honda engine due to be used, the Spanish website Motoworld.es is reporting that Aprilia may decide to switch tack altogether.

According to the reports, Aprilia will instead start work on plans to enter the MotoGP series, dropping their support for the Moto2 class altogether. Five teams had already been lined up to use Aprilia's Moto2 chassis, but hints that the project had been shelved appeared when news broke that Julian Simon and Mike di Meglio of the Aspar team are testing the BQR chassis at Valencia today. Aspar has very close links to the Aprilia factory, and so their choice to test a different chassis could be interpreted as a sign that they have already been informed that Aprilia's plans have changed, and there will not be an Aprilia chassis.

Aprilia will reportedly redeploy the resources that would have gone into their Moto2 program, and set up a second World Superbike team, to continue the development of their RSV4 machine. That team could feature the currently unemployed Alex de Angelis, according to the senior American journalist Dennis Noyes. De Angelis is known to be carrying a sizeable chunk of sponsorship from the Republic of San Marino, and though that sponsorship may not have been enough to get him into MotoGP, it could well be enough to fund a competitive World Superbike effort.

The intention of Aprilia to enter MotoGP raises and interesting dilemma, and could pose a real legal problem for the new regulations. For Aprilia to enter MotoGP as a factory, they would have to put together a completely new prototype, which uses none of the parts from their current Aprilia RSV4 Superbike. Their other option would be to build a chassis and engine kit to sell to privateer teams, but this could land the MotoGP series in trouble. If the chassis bears more than a passing resemblance to the one used on the RSV4, Infront Motor Sports, the commercial rights holder for World Superbikes, would be almost certain to mount a sustained legal effort to get the bike - and possible the MotoGP regulations - banned. Given that the current RSV4 is probably the closest thing on the market to a MotoGP bike that the general public can buy, it is hard to see a potential Aprilia 1000cc production-based MotoGP bike being a whole heap different.

The news - if true, of course - does highlight that the switch to 1000cc is a move in the direction that Dorna and the FIM were hoping for. The organizers have presented the switch back to 1000cc as a way of getting more MotoGP bikes on the grid, and if there's already interest from Aprilia just a couple of weeks after the news started to surface, that's a sure sign that the grids in 2012 will be a good deal fuller than they are now.

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The MotoGP VS WSBK war is just beginning. WSBK has gotten faster, larger and better promoted. While Motogp has gotten smaller and less credible as time goes by. Superbikes are within striking distance of Motogp Lap times at most of the shared venues. And they are doing so for (dare I say) far less than the outlay of MotoGP squads. You have vast disparities in salaries in MotoGP which do not help. Will Aprilia be the first or last to abandon plans for another series to make the jump to "MotoGP Lite"?

I agree that they are getting better, but I still think the WSBK is woefully under promoted. I'd watch every race live if I could. But they can't manage to pull it off. And I don't think they pull in nearly the gate receipts of motoGP let alone TV ratings. Their lap times get closer but the rest lags behind. The interesting part might come when the FIM decides if they'll take a reliable leadership role and put forward a stable plan for the future of the sport that people can build a business model around. They may have to rethink some things. But as it is, one of the series may decide that FIM's rubber stamp is not worth the ink it leaves behind and they'll forge their own way. There's a very unpopular Brit that could possibly do the job if they can tear him away from his dominatrix!

Of the two events I know for a fact, attendance at Assen and Valencia was around the 30,000 mark for World Superbikes, and not a lot shy of 100,000 for MotoGP.

That's the difference between all weekend and the event. On race day at Assen there was just over 100,000 for MotoGP and if I recall correctly, between 30 and 35,000 for World Superbikes. That 76,000 figure is probably the three-day figure. In which case, you would have to compare 76,000 for WSBK with something over 200,000 for MotoGP.

The figures are always confusing, and never given in a uniform way. They are meant to impress event sponsors, and are therefore always lightly massaged.

Ok, but I found information that at Valencia this year there was 65000 spectators at raceday - Sunday, so I still don't believe in that 30000 people per day.


Do you have a link for that information? Somewhere in the huge pile of papers that sits on my desk (which I am going to tidy up one day, honest) is a sheet containing the numbers handed out in the press room during the Valencia WSBK round, (unless I've thrown it away). However, what I do recall is that although the grandstands were full on the start and finish and round Turn 1, around the other side of the track they were deserted. Very different from the MotoGP event, where those seats were pretty full (though still with conspicuous gaps, something that didn't use to previously happen.

My impression, from having attended both events, is that the MotoGP race at Valencia had at least twice the number of spectators of the WSBK race, and the numbers I remember being told bear this out. There are definitely races where WSBK had higher attendances (the race at Brands Hatch always had huge crowds, 100,000 and up if I recall correctly) but as a rule, attendance at WSBK rounds is significantly lower.

Of course, the difficulty remains in judging just how accurate those figures are, for both series. They are released by the circuit press office in conjunction with the series organizers, and often seem to be wildly inflated. The most entertaining trick you see is that at some events (the poorly attended ones) they release figures for the whole weekend, while at others, they give the numbers for race day. They should always be treated with a sizable pinch of salt.

I think Foggy and his dominatrix should be left well enough alone....

Anyway, all things being equal (which of course they're NOT), I think there's only two places in the world WSBK has a chance to out-draw GP, and that's in the US & UK. The rest of the world is still pretty much ALL about GP.

WSBK/WSS were conceived as privateer racing series. Obviously, as the popularity grew, the factories were drawn into the mix. I remember when they moved to 1000cc the factories expressed interest in returning the sport to it's privateer roots and the MSMA were discussing a non-aggression pact that would prohibit works involvement in favor of homologated racing kits for customers. Obviously, Ducati didn't go along with the plan and the Japanese ended up being pulled into the sport by using "unofficial" works teams like Ten Kate, Alstare, Yamaha Italia, and Paul Bird.

Ducati requested the 1200cc rules so they could reduce their investment in the series. It appears that the sentiments of the MSMA may be swinging back towards a kit part privateer series that is based largely on stock equipment. I won't be at all surprised if they reduce displacement either. Liter bikes aren't exactly practical sportsbikes and they don't sell terribly well regardless of how awesome WSBK is.

Liter bikes are huge sellers in most of the world. Only in countries where they are regulated or too expensive for the average person (China,India) to be able to justify are they not the biggest sellers..

The 1000cc hyperbikes are by far the most popular roadbikes down under - get out on the good bike roads on any weekend and they are everywhere.

In the other places you are talking about, companies like Honda sell 12x as many motorcycles as they do in Japan, Europe, and North America combined. In the developed world we actually have a very broad mix of high displacement motorcycles. America is the biggest market for high displacement bikes (250cc+), but cruisers are far and away the best sellers in the US and dirtbikes are big as well. I've heard, though I have no data, that 600s outsell 1000s in the US market about 5 to 1 which explains why Honda NA don't seem to care that they haven't won an AMA SBK race in 3 years. A quick glance at craigslist seems to confirm the 5 to 1 figure.

AFAIK, Germany and Britain are the only countries that feature 1000s amongst the best sellers, and even so, the 600s and 1000s are still a relatively small part of the total high displacement sales.

My point is that the manufacturers spend hundreds of millions of dollars (as an industry) racing, developing, and marketing SBK and SS bikes, but they are barely a drop in the global sales bucket. They tell us we really want SBKs, but the data indicates otherwise---in most places people don't particularly want SBKs and neither to governments. Since we want the MSMA to continue racing activities, I wonder if we should be encouraging such poor business practices (as directed by IMS and the FIM). A 2009 R6 makes as much power as a 2000 carburetted R1. Most of these advances have been the result of FI and massive destroking of the engines (A CBR900RR has a substantially longer stroke than a modern CBR1000RR). I think it would be smart to reduce displacement and re-stroke the engines. MotoGP is the land of impractical race bikes, WSBK shouldn't be MotoGP-lite, imo.

To clarify, the sales in the countries I mention are not driven by racing or in the cases were they are, it is in a very peripheral matter such that racing displacement has zero effect on those sales.

Cruisers and dirtbikes can be excluded from the discussion since in the case of cruisers, US sales are dominated by a single manufacterer (who doesn't race road bikes) and dirtbikes have their own racing and marketing that behaves independently.

The last article I read (which I also can't reference since I can't find it) put liter bike sales over 600cc sales. The differential is certainly not 5 to 1. However, more important to the manufacturers is that liter bike performance leads sales of 600s. People buy 600s expecting to get the little brother of the liter bike at a much lower cost. That said, if more of the world could afford super bikes, you can rest assured that they would be buying them.

Regardless of actual sales, the super bike is the flagship for the manufacturer just like the Corvette is for GM - they don't need to sell a lot of them, they are using it to sell the rest of their line.

Race bikes have almost always been impractical - they are pure of purpose. WSBK has pretty much always been that way even when displacement was lower

We both agree that manufacturers race as an indirect marketing exercise and we both agree that it is crucial to their brand. However, the economic hardship has exposed the current financial arrangement to be an inefficient and frivolous waste of company funds (in the long term). Maintaining the status quo is contrary to the actions of the Japanese conglomerates and the FIM. There are only 3 options (I know of) going forward from this point. 1. Drastically reduce long-term capital investment in racing properties 2. Modify the relationship between the consumer marketplace and the racing platform to improve DIRECT profit/sales 3. Both 1&2

I don't want #1, but it is already happening b/c the direct sales relationship is poor. If the relationship can be improved, the companies will stay invested.

Production racing replicas have always been impractical from a daily usage standpoint, but from a horsepower standpoint, they've been quite practical until very recently. Fuel injection and engine de-stroking have cause an exponential growth in peak power output. Some models have gained 50 horsepower in this decade alone (like the Yamaha R1). Rider skill hasn't improved drastically in the last decade so reducing total power by reducing displacement and decreasing the bore/stroke makes sense. However, I do acknowledge that it may not drastically improve sales.

Lets not forget that Aprilia's roots are production racing bikes. Carbon framed Aprilia MotoGP bikes for sale or lease? Sounds plausible to me. This news item may give an inkling of how removal of the ridiculous 800cc rule could open the grid in MotoGP. We can only live in hope.

Granted, we have a small market here, but just comparing 600cc supersport sales to 1000cc sales. According to the Australian Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, 134,112 motorcycles, scooters & ATVs were sold in 2008, up 3.2% on the previous year.
And so far this year, 82,601 were sold to the end of September. That's a 14%decline on the 2008 figure.

The figures up to the end of the 3rd quarter this year show the top ten supersport/superbike by sales to be: First figure is this year, 2nd is last year and then % change

Yam R1 814 632 28.8%
CBR1000RR 492 1088 -54.8%
GSX-R1000 405 511 -20.7%
Hyosung GT650R 392 329 19.1%
1098/1198 370 493 -24.9%
YZF-R6 326 422 -22.7%
GSX-R750 290 365 -20.5%
CBR600RR 281 487 -42.3%
Kawa ZX600 272 197 38.1%
GSX-R600 249 410 -39.3%

Full sales figures by category, if you're interested, are here http://www.fcai.com.au/library/PRcomparison%20Top%2010%20Report.xls
The figures show a couple of surprises, Hyosung being one of them.

But comparing Yamaha R1 to R6 shows this year, less than 3 to 1, last year less than 2 to 1.
Honda sell roughly twice as many CBR1000 as CBR600. Kwaka obviously sell more 600s than litre bikes, while the picture for Suzuki is muddied by the presence of the GSX-R750.

Of the top selling road bike models for the quarter the biggest is the Postie bike, (CT110) which until now, is only purchased by Australia Post. Second biggest is the Ninja 250R, followed by a plethora of dirtbikes.

My reading of the figures shows that while the money spent on racing may not result in a proportionate jump in sales, it certainly does keep the brand name high.

But there are other ways of achieving high sales. Look at the Hyosung for example.

This just started out as a post in response to some of the above discussing sales of 600s Vs litre bikes. Here's the figures for Australia. For what it's worth.