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GP Week : 01-Sep-2009
Factories propose lease engines for MotoGP FEARS that MotoGP could be slipping towards a production- engine future were calmed at Indianapolis, when the racing factories rejected a proposal for one-litre 'grid-filler' second- string machines. Instead, the manufacturers' association (MSMA) has come out in favour of leasing 800cc MotoGP engines to private teams. Details and costs have yet to be calculated, but they hope to offer prototype lease engines for the 2011 season. This would preserve the full prototype character of the premier class, at the same time side-stepping threats of blocking action from World Superbike chief Paolo Flammini. It also gives private teams the chance to design and build their own chassis and control more of their own budget, rather than having to pay a set fee, and then hand everything back to the factory at the end of the year. But there are doubts as to whether it will really contribute to significant cost savings; while a chassis without an engine is of strictly limited value. The news came from FIM President Vito Ippolito, after the MSMA (racing manufacturers' association) reported back to Dorna and the federation at Indianapolis. Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta had tabled the original proposal at the German GP on July 19, saying that 1000cc production engines in prototype chassis would have performance strictly controlled to make sure they did not threaten the smaller 800cc prototypes. The cheaper machines would attract private teams, and rebuild grid numbers from the current 17. The suggestion caused a storm of protest, but many (including GPWeek) saw it as a high-risk ruse designed to frighten the factories into giving greater support to packing the MotoGP grid. If so, it was successful. "At the moment, negotiations are going in the right direction," said Ippolito, adding: "We are still in the process of defining the future of the MotoGP class." The actual strength of support for lease engines remains to be seen; although if only one factory agreed to supply sufficient numbers, it would be enough. Ducati's race team director Livio Suppo sounded a note of caution: "I'm not 100 percent sure that it would be cheaper," he said. "Like it or not, the most expensive part of the bike is the engine." Honda has supplied lease engines in the past ... to Moriwaki and more notably to Team Roberts, where Kenny Roberts Junior took two podiums in 2006. Production-engine Moto-1 plans canned Moto GP news >> 13