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GP Week : Issue 81
IT'S no wonder that MotoGP's core manufacturers, the mainly Japanese MSMA, are twitchy about the proposed 1000cc sanction. It puts their kingdom under severe threat. They have only themselves to blame. They've already had their last chance from Dorna. Jointly and severally, they muffed it. It is now looking too late for Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki to save pure prototype racing. They seem powerless to prevent non- MSMA factories from coming in on the cheap, through the back door. And in very threatening fashion. That at least is Dorna's hope. The rights- holding company developed an entirely new type of grand prix bike for Moto2, bringing independent constructors in around a standardised engine. There were 16 different types of chassis at Jerez, shared among 42 riders, including wild cards. The backyard builders responded in force. Dorna's proposals for the next generation of MotoGP bike aims to put more bikes on the grid, by taking the top class firmly in the same direction. All they will need for MotoGP is an engine. The manufacturers' last chance came over the past year, with the MSMA's own suggestions of the possibility of leasing only engines to satellite teams, rather than the whole motorcycle. This would open the class to independent constructors. But the same is true for the factories: the prototype engines are by far the most expensive part of the motorcycle -- and the price eventually put on leasing them, with the appropriate service contracts, was not very much less than the cost of a whole motorcycle: some 1.2-million Euro against 1.8-million, to service one rider. Perhaps the high cost is understandable, given that all the Japanese factories have been hit hard by the recession. It's hard enough to justify the costs of racing, without having to make a whole lot more engines at a loss. But it was viewed as some sort of a betrayal by racing bosses. At the same time GP Commission meeting at Assen, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta had put the pressure on with the first mention of litre-bikes. suggested the idea of swelling grid numbers with a sort of private-team underclass, using 1000cc production-based engines. "My idea is that we need plus or minus 20 bikes on the grid. Now we are 17, but the price of leasing the bikes doesn't admit more to come in future," he said. At the time, he insisted that these machines would not in normal circumstances be able to challenge the factory prototypes. But not everybody agrees. One hopeful is leading Moto2 constructor Eskil Suter, who is currently building a BMW-powered "Moto1" prototype (see separate news story). "I believe that a one- litre bike could be competitive. It will have more torque and less revs, and be easier to ride without needing the same level of electronics as the 800," he said. Perhaps the entrenched racing factories also agree. As recently as last weekend's GP Commission meeting at Jerez, the MSMA had still failed to come up with a better idea, but was still expressing concerns that factories that do not currently support MotoGP could now come in on the cheap, using a developed production engine, ostensibly leased to one of the independent "claiming rule teams". A scenario that would gladden the heart of Dorna, not least because it offers a more sustainable scenario than the current shrinking MSMA-dominated gene pool. Which other manufacturers? The great prize would be BMW, long at the top of Dorna's wish list. BMW already supplies all the cars for the series, from the V10 M6 Coupe course car to a spanking new 750i for Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, presented with due pomp at Jerez. Many thought this cosy relationship might sour after BMW cancelled its frequently denied plans to enter MotoGP (the three-cylinder bike they were developing staggers on, as the FB Corse), and turned to World Superbikes instead. But Dorna was not put off by rejection. BMW's S1000RR -- an engine option for 2012's projected 'claiming' engine regs? 38