Today, the Grand Prix Commission, acting at the Brno GP in the Czech Republic, voted unanimously to confirm what had previously been under discussion, as follows:
MotoGP class for 2012
Technical specifications (as already announced 2/17/10)
Capacity up to 1000cc
Maximum number of cylinders 4
Maximum bore 81mm
Minimum weight 150 kg (up to 800cc) 153 kg (over 800cc)
(330 lb., 337 lb.)
Number of engines per rider 6
Fuel tank capacity 21 liters (5.5 gal.)
Exception for Claiming Rule Teams
Number of engines per rider 12
Fuel tank capacity 24 liters (6.3 gal.)
What is important about this announcement is that it confirms some things that had previously been hotly argued. Most important here is the fuel tank capacity of 21 liters, which has not been easy for 800cc MotoGP bikes to achieve, and which, in the view of many, has made MotoGP into a glorified fuel economy run. The 25 percent displacement increase being offered, from 800cc to 1000, will make fuel economy an even larger engineering problem.
The other much-discussed point is the number of MotoGP engines permitted, per rider, per season. At the present moment, it is not clear whether MotoGP teams will have trouble completing the 2010 season under this rule, and there has been a move afoot to increase this number to nine engines.
Potentially leading to direct conflict with World Superbike is the concept of “Claiming Rule Teams,” which are to employ motorcycles consisting of prototype chassis powered by race-modified series production 1000cc engines (that is, Superbike engines). World Superbike sees this as a threat because, in the current severe recession, one or more manufacturers now competing in World Superbike might choose to divert the money they are now spending in WSB over to MotoGP.
Why change the current rules? Motorcycle manufacturers have no money, but they need the excitement that MotoGP associates with their products. They need to keep the appearance of racing but remove expense wherever possible. By limiting bore to 81mm and fuel to 21 liters, these rules seek to end the expensive rpm race that has reached 20,000 and leads ever-upward. By allowing only six engines per rider, direct costs will be further cut.
Critics of 800cc racing have proposed that a return to 1000cc will “bring back the excitement.” They see the 800cc era as one of high corner speed and limited passing, and imagine that the torque of liter motors will bring back the past in the form of the old tail-sliding point-and-shoot riding style.
In fact, tire development and chassis design have moved on, and the rubber compounds now available make high corner speed the winning strategy. Increasing engine displacement will not set technology back to the #1734 Goodyears that Kenny Roberts raced on in 1978. A 21-liter fuel allowance discourages any riding with the tires “out of line.”