Now, the usual leaders—Marc Marquez, Thomas Luthi and Andrea Iannone—were at the front, and as the laps unwound, it became clear that A) they are the class of the riders; and B) their bikes are set up for Lap 20. As everyone else’s tires went off, the leaders’ tires came good. Marquez slashed through backmen like they were slalom poles. Bear in mind that some fast riders are fast only so long as they follow someone faster. If they pass or the leader drops out, they leave the only situation in which they are comfortable and either slow down or pile up.
Moto2 is a soup from which the occasional bit of meat rises to the surface. It has not become the fabled “close racin’” of the Daytona SportBike type—knots of 6-10 riders kept together by drafting. The many turns on GP circuits quickly shake out the riders in order of lap time.
Just as Stefan Bradl was Moto2 world champion last year and is now prospering on a satellite LCR Honda in MotoGP, so current class points-leader Marquez has been chosen by Honda for similar elevation. When he recently went to Portugal for testing, big Honda trucks went with him.
Moto3 replaced 125 GP, which had run from 1949-2011. Chassis are free (build your own, adapt old 125 GP stuff or buy from Kalex, FTR, etc.) and, at present, power comes from one of three available single-cylinder four-stroke engines with maximum bore of 81mm (as in MotoGP) and limited to 14,000 revs.
At Indianapolis, I spoke with Honda engineer Hideki Iwano, previously an assistant to Nakamoto. He said, “Moto3 is entry-level racing, so most important thing is not technology but easy feeling, more cheap. We must make more cheap machine. If not, nobody can race. But if [we] start racing, especially Honda, we must win. But regulation say, if we do something, make a good change, we must give to everybody.” “Give” in this case means make available for sale.
If you Google “Moto3 approved engine and parts,” you will see a list of 13 companies. A few of them—KTM, Honda and ORAL—make engines, but the others offer approved aftermarket parts, such as an exhaust cam, a back-torque-limiting clutch or a cylinder head with improved performance.
Iwano continued, “Now, we must change thinking. For the future, technology must be good and cheap.”
When asked about Honda’s role as Moto2 spec-engine supplier, he said, “We give engine parts, not make complete engines. [We] then send to Geo Tech, who builds engines in Europe. Next year, proposal is to change to a Spanish builder. In Spain, many people lose jobs, especially young guy, so Dorna want a Spanish [engine] builder.”
When would this happen? “Very difficult [to say].”
Might another OEM take over the task of supplying Moto2 engines? “We ask Yamaha, but the answer is ‘not possible.’”
This puts Honda in the position of being the only company with the money for this. So, Honda is essential to Dorna for more than one reason. Yet we hear that Ezpeleta was recently told by legendary Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, “You will never have a successful championship until you have either run Honda out of it or taught them who’s boss.”
That was supposed to be NASCAR’s automatic success formula: boot the manufacturers. In 2009, DMG, the new managers of AMA Pro Racing, made a good start on that program. With only Suzuki and Yamaha left, and few remaining spectators, Roger Edmondson of DMG admitted, “I underestimated the importance of the manufacturers to the series.”
As Ezpeleta changes his mind, feints in one direction then moves in another, the steady effect is to make MotoGP appear unstable and directionless. Each proposed change works to take yet more of the “Grand” out of Grand Prix in the name of cutting costs. Does “grand” no longer matter to spectators? Maybe all that’s needed are men, motion, noise and color. Maybe Ezpeleta sees a change the rest of us have missed, that trackside spectators and television viewers will be just as happy with two-wheeled bumper cars.