If MotoGP becomes “Moto1,” Ezpeleta could phone Ducati and say, “Run us up a batch of 200 1000cc engines and send us a bill.” Each team will pick a chassis, bolt in its spec engine and go racing. Is this Moto1? Or is it “Ducati Cup”?
If the Moto3 model is chosen, any maker deciding to build engines must produce some for sale to others at a fixed price. Then, non-factory teams buy what they need, stuff it in a chassis of choice and go racing.
Now, this bombshell: In a recent interview given to Mat Oxley at Brno in the Czech Republic, Nakamoto said, “At the moment, Honda only has a factory team in MotoGP, while we have a ‘dealer team’ in World Superbike. But if we have a single ECU here in MotoGP, then Honda’s interest will change to World Superbike. Ciao, Carmelo! Dorna can make the decision, but we must continue spending on [electronics] development. This is very important to Honda.”
Two months earlier, Nakamoto had told me the same thing, that if a spec ECU was required in MotoGP’s future, Honda would be out.
Is this a bluff? Or has Nakamoto, understanding Ezpeleta’s hall-of-mirrors methods, decided to do a little reflecting of his own? He knows that Dorna’s show depends on Honda’s financial ability to simultaneously compete in MotoGP, supply all the engines in Moto2 and 40 percent of the engines in Moto3. If Nakamoto and Ezpeleta are partners, Ezpeleta cannot get his way 100 percent of the time with Honda meekly following like a little pig with a ring in its nose.
This reminds me of AMA Pro Racing here in the U.S. The power struggle between Yamaha, which has allegedly said it will leave the series if there is an electronics ban, versus the noisy no-electronics group, has just been resolved in favor of electronics, but with an $18K cap. Yamaha stood by AMA Pro Racing when others left over differences with Daytona Motorsports Group leaders. Now, in turn, AMA Pro Racing has stood by Yamaha. Is this compromise a model for MotoGP? Patience!
At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it became clearer to me that with engine delivery now smoothed by the “virtual powerband” technique, riders are using less anti-wheelie and traction control. Electronics remain central to the problem of making 1000cc engines finish races on the skimpy 21-liter fuel allowance. Why keep the 21-liter rule? Ezpeleta points out that Honda originally proposed it, and he retains it because it gives him “leverage.”
In his hall of mirrors, Ezpeleta says many conflicting things, such as his original response to World Superbike’s decision to adopt a spec tire: “Any championship with a single tire rule is not a World Championship but just a cup.”
Let’s talk Moto2, which replaced 250 GP two years ago with a class powered by mildly tuned production Honda CBR600RR engines built to a zero-modifications standard by Swiss contractor Geo Technology. Chassis design is free, meaning in practice that the teams buy them from Suter, Kalex or FTR. Spec Dunlop tires are used.
When the class began, it was a crashfest as 40 starters funneled into Turn 1. Looking at the streaming bikes, you’d see “turbulence” develop and, soon, bikes would be crashing while following riders swerved to avoid them. Spectators raved about this “action,” but when I asked them the names of their favorite riders, teams or machines, they had no idea.
Participants became acclimated and starting fields were reduced. It became essential to have a crew chief with MotoGP or World Superbike experience who could find a raceable setup from a bunch of unrelated parts bought from suppliers. Moto2 has become an intensive school of tire conservation. When the flag falls, the riders arrange themselves in a long stream in order of their immediate lap time. At Indianapolis, Dominique Aegerter stayed near the front for several laps, but I soon saw he was on a five-lap bike. That means a bike like last year’s SBK BMWs, which ate their tires in five laps and went backward to downfield finishes.