Will MotoGP survive? Insiders say only radical cost-cutting and production-based Claiming Rules Teams (CRT) bikes can restore full grids and save teams from a shoestring existence in which lesser riders may be shaken down to cover parts costs. Sounds desperate.
I’m confused. Recently, I was told that World Superbike “has 15 teams, and they are all making money.” Quite a different reality.
The future calls for CRTs to begin using a spec ECU (made by Magneti Marelli and provided to teams free of charge) in 2013, extending to factory prototypes a year later. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta wants spec software, as well, but the manufacturers have not agreed. Ezpeleta called for an eventual 14,500-rpm redline (as with spec ECU, to be imposed on CRTs first, then prototypes a year later). No one accepted this, but that was easily explained away by the arm-waving assertion that Ezpeleta asked for more than he wanted to “compromise” at the number he actually desired: 15,500.
Honda engines have been revving to 16,500 and Yamaha to high 15K, low 16K. The TV feed from Ducati no longer includes revs, which formerly went to 17,000.
The question any factory will ask is, “Is this the end of it? Or will Ezpeleta be back next year, saying that another 500-rpm reduction will further cut costs, assure full grids and save teams money?”
Turn your head and see a new reflection. Honda announced 2014 supply of a MotoGP “production racer”—a simplified RC213V to sell rather than lease and at lesser cost. Could the 2014 Suzuki MotoGP prototype recently seen also be such a “production racer”? Isn’t the Aprilia “ART” in fact just a production racer?
Now, the question: Could the whole CRT concept have been just a feint intended to force production racers into being?
Just this past summer, production racers were dismissed as too expensive—1.3 million euro per bike, with engine service extra. But now it is said the 1.3 million includes two bikes, plus engine service. Which is true? Which will be true next month?
Would this mean the whole CRT establishment, now responsible for more than half the MotoGP grid, would be for nothing? Not quite.
Every team, factories included, receives subsidy from TV through Ezpeleta. This is no different from American baseball or football, in which the teams naturally share in TV revenue. So, what is to prevent a struggling Moto2 team from making a little on the side by fielding a CRT or two? Ezpeleta gives them some money, and they throw something together out of wheels, suspension, brakes and chassis lying around the shop, plus a war-surplus World Superbike-spec clunker engine or two. Building such a “junkyard dog” might earn useful money. In this view, if CRTs “go away,” their parts just go back in the pile.
If the gossip is to be believed, much of the paddock lives below the “poverty line”: five to a rental car, staying in two-star hotels 25 miles from the track and having to resort to ploys like shaking down pay-as-you-go riders for 24,000 euro to keep the bikes in carbon brakes. Times are hard.
Or are they? SBK says all of its teams make money and are happy with stable rules.
We hear that Moto3 was a collaborative effort between Ezpeleta and Honda race boss Shuhei Nakamoto. The idea is to power prototype chassis with single-cylinder 250cc four-stroke engines that cost no more than 12,000 euro and are rev-limited. At present, Honda and KTM engines are dominant.
Think Honda has big influence in MotoGP? It supplies Moto2’s spec 600cc engines, as well. The chat is that Ezpeleta has told Nakamoto that “MotoGP will go either the Moto2 or Moto3 way.” Which will it be?