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GP Week : Issue 33
>>Moto GPMALYASIA Rest in Peace, 250s … the already moribund 250 class. It is hard to see it even lasting until 2010. The technical regs for the Michael Scott MotoGP editor IS Marco Simoncelli the last real 250 champion? The class is scheduled to run until 2010, but the murderous blow struck by the proposed replacement, by production-based 600cc four-stroke “Dornotypes,” has had an early effect. KTM has announced it will pull out at the end of this year. Apart from leaving the hapless Japanese rider Hiro Aoyama and doubtless some others jobless (though factory team-mate Kallio is off to MotoGP), this leaves the traditional 250 class bereft of competition. There may or may not be a lingering Honda and the occasional Yamaha, but it seems unlikely. Especially since, at the time of writing, less than 15 riders have indicated they will sign up for 2008. The entry list may also be enlivened by different names: Aprilia, Derbi, Gilera. But they are all the same bike. It’s just badge engineering. It will be a one-make championship. KTM has something of a history of abandoning ship. In 2005 the company supplied its otherwise stillborn V4 engine to Team Roberts, before pulling out unexpectedly mid-season. But the small Austrian manufacturer, run by principal shareholder Stefan Pierer, can not only afford to be autocratic; it can’t afford not to be. Regarding the aborted 250 programme, Pierer made it clear that he could see no future in investing in a dying class, in spite of KTM’s “Ready to Race” slogan. They remain ready to race … in 125s, and World Superbikes, in the near future. He can hardly be blamed for this decision, but it rips the heart out of 600cc replacement are still not finalised, but some things are certain. The engines won’t have to be production based, but the frightening expense of developing new racing engines mean that they inevitably will be. And they will even be detuned: a 16,000 rev limit is lower than that already enjoyed by street riders of some of the sports bikes whence they will be sourced. In spite of this, the paddock still resounds with fears that the expense of running racing four- strokes will be prohibitive. This is one lesson already driven home by the MotoGP four-strokes. Maintenance and replacement costs will be so high that it might even drive some teams and sponsors to the bigger class. Why spend almost the same money for a second-string series? And it will also drive other teams and sponsors either down to 125s. Or to Grand Prix extinction. There is another change planned for the Dornotypes: a 20,000 Euro ‘claiming’ rule. Planned to keep costs under control, it means any team will be entitled to buy another team’s engine (or complete bike) for that price. The reason for the change was said to be the rising costs of leasing factory bikes in the 250 class. Most reckon this to be mainly smokescreen: the real reason is that Honda hates two- strokes, and the rest of the industry and all of racing are following meekly in Honda’s footsteps. If cost was really the issue, then why didn’t Dorna simply introduce the same claiming rule in the 250 class? Problem solved. It’s because they didn’t want to. RIP 250 two-strokes. The epitaph will read: “Prematurely Murdered.”And it wasn’t by KTM. 41 opinion