As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. The leaked document is a figment of my fevered imagination, and Dorna intends to cut races in Spain, rather than expand them. We are more likely to see races in a wider variety of countries than see all the races be held in Spain. For another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...
Since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008, MotoGP has been desperately looking for ways to cut costs. A raft of measures aimed at lowering the technological costs of MotoGP have been rushed through over the past three years, with more expected to come in the coming months and years. But with much of the excess already cut from the bikes and the technology, the following area to undergo drastic cost reductions is the second largest budget item facing teams: Travel and transportation.
MotoMatters.com has received a copy of a confidential internal discussion document circulating inside Dorna setting out a plan to radically reduce the costs of travel and accommodation for the MotoGP paddock. The plan is certain to be controversial: the method for reducing travel costs currently under discussion is simply to do away with them, and host all of the MotoGP races in Spain.
As talks continue between Dorna and the MSMA over the future of MotoGP from 2013 onwards, some proposals are already looking solid for the future. On Saturday, Carmelo Ezpeleta told members of the Spanish press that Dorna and the factories had agreed further limits on the number of engines allowed for each rider during the season. As part of the cost-cutting proposals, from 2013, the number of engines is to be reduced from 6 per rider to 5.
The engine limits have been popular with the factories, as it has allowed a significant reduction in costs - at least, once the initial cost of developing a longer-lasting engine had been defrayed. So the proposal was readily agreed between the two parties. How this will affect the Claiming Rule Teams is as yet unknown, but as this is the first year of the CRT rules, Dorna and the teams will want to see how the season plays out before making any changes.
Dorna and MSMA Swap Proposals At Jerez For 2013: One Bike Per Rider, Price Cap on Satellite Bikes, Limits
Talks are continuing at Jerez over the future of MotoGP, with the focus on how to reduce costs for a sustainable championship. After the proposals that Dorna presented to the factories at Sepang, with measures including a rev limit and a standard ECU, it was the turn of the factories to come with their counterproposals to make the championship affordable.
In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta set out the proposals discussed. The measures under consideration included the introduction of a single-bike rule, just as there is in the Moto2 and Moto3 championships, as well as in World Superbikes and World Supersport, where each rider would be allowed to have just one bike scrutineered and approved for riding at a time. In addition, a limit on the number of mechanics each team would be allowed to have present could also be introduced, in an effort to cut wage, travel and accommodation costs for the teams. A proposal was also put forward to limit each factory participating to just two factory riders and two satellite riders, meaning that the situation as it is at the moment, with four Hondas, four Yamahas and four Ducatis could continue into the future.
With the excitement of MotoGP bikes being back on track subsiding to more manageable levels, the riders and teams were back hard at work again on Wednesday. The track had improved sufficiently to see times start to drop to where they might reasonably be expected to be. At Mugello in July of last year, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi had told the press that the simulations Ducati had run comparing their 1000cc bike - now radically changed since then - to the 800 showed that the 1000s should be about half a second faster round Mugello than the 800s, and that prediction proved to be just about spot on at Sepang.
The name of the rider at the top of the timesheet should surprise no one, Casey Stoner returning from a back problem - though still clearly stiff and not back to full strength - to post a scorching lap time, clear of the two Yamahas of Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner did only a relatively few laps on the RC213V, concentrating on getting the parts tested he had on his work list, rather than working on a setup for the 2012 season. He compared the two chassis he had been given - and asked for the best parts of both chassis again, unsurprisingly - and concentrated on the big stuff.
Ezpeleta On The Future Of MotoGP: Bikes Costing 1 Million Euros, Fewer Spanish Races And Performance Balancing
Although the Wrooom event at the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio is formally meant as the launch for Ducati's MotoGP and Ferrari's Formula One season, many other big names from the world of racing are also in attendance. One such person was Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and given the major changes coming to MotoGP for 2012 - and even bigger changes from 2013 onwards - Ezpeleta had arranged to give a short press conference to talk to journalists about some of his plans for next season and beyond. But he barely made it into the press conference: on his way in, he was doorstepped by a group of journalists who started grilling Ezpeleta about the future of MotoGP, leaving the Spaniard with little left to say in the press conference. His answers did provide a compelling look at the future of MotoGP as Dorna sees it.
The cloud hanging over the future of the Jerez MotoGP has lifted a little. Today, Dorna announced that an agreement had been reached with the Circuito de Jerez to allow the iconic Spanish circuit to host the MotoGP round scheduled for April 29th, 2012, confirming the calendar updates announced earlier this month. The 2012 round will go ahead as scheduled, despite the ongoing financial woes at the circuit.
Beyond the upcoming season, the future of the race is not entirely clear, however. Rumors persist that Jerez will be dropped from the MotoGP calendar from 2013, as new circuits such as Austin in Texas and Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina are added to the calendar. With Aragon, Barcelona and Valencia all confirmed through 2016, having four races in Spain is seen as detracting from MotoGP's stature as a World Championship.
MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission, adopted a number of changes to the MotoGP rules in a meeting on Wednesday. As expected, the testing restrictions were dropped, now to be limited by tire allocation. Other changes adopted include an increase in the minimum weight, the introduction of rear-facing red lights to be carried in wet conditions, a slight tweak to the 107% qualifying minimum time, and explicitly granting authority to impose penalties on event organizers. The GPC also considered the entry list for the 2012 MotoGP season, and accepted 9 CRT entries, along with 1 reserve CRT entry.
The introduction of the Claiming Rule Teams has caused a massive wave of confusion among MotoGP fans, and left then with a host of questions. Below, we attempt to answer most of the questions that race fans have about this new category of bikes, as well as addressing how it came to be created in the first place.
What on earth is a CRT?
CRT stands for Claiming Rule Team, and is a new category of entry in the MotoGP class. They will run alongside the normal factory and satellite MotoGP bikes (now officially classified as "factory prototypes" regardless of whether they are being run in a factory team or a satellite team), and be subject to slightly different rules.
What are the rule differences between the CRTs and the factory prototypes?
The CRT entries will be allowed more fuel and more engines: while factory prototypes will have 21 liters of fuel and be allowed to use 6 engines in 2012 (just as in 2011), the CRT entries will be given 24 liters of fuel to last a race, and have 12 engines for the 2012 season. Because of these advantages, existing manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha or Ducati) will be allowed to claim engines from CRT entries.
What does "claiming an engine" mean and how does it work?
The testing limits imposed as a cost-cutting measure in MotoGP have finally been lifted. At the meeting of the Grand Prix Commission in Valencia, MotoGP's rule-making body dropped the rules limiting testing to non-contracted riders outside of MotoGP's official tests, and allowed contracted riders (e.g. any rider currently racing in MotoGP) to ride the bikes at private tests. The GPC accepted the argument put forward by Ducati that testing is already limited by the number of tires available, and that restricting testing to test riders did little to cut costs, as the factory riders were being paid anyway.
That argument was not shared by all the members of the MSMA, though. When asked by MotoMatters.com at Valencia about lifting the test ban, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto said that the measure would favor European manufacturers who have their bikes, crew and riders already close to the track. For the Japanese manufacturers, they would either have to fly their team personnel and riders to Japan, or their bikes, equipment and Japanese engineers to Europe if they wish to test at European tracks. Lifting the test ban would not cut costs for Honda, Nakamoto said.
In part 1 of this series, we discussed the new 1000cc rules for 2012, especially those for the so-called Claiming Rule Teams, the privateer teams which will be allowed to use engines from production bikes if they so wish. In part 2, we discussed Infront Motor Sports' objections to those new rules as organizers of the World Superbike series, and why their objections are likely to fail. In part 3, we turn our attention to the reasoning behind these new rules, the politics which surround them, and the circumstances which have served to put the changes into high gear.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna, is one of the most vilified men among many fans of MotoGP. He is blamed for the many changes that have altered the face of MotoGP, not least for killing off the 990s and bringing in the 800s, which have robbed the sport of so much of its spectacle. Ezpeleta gets the blame for each new rule change, charged with fiddling while Rome burns.
Behind the world of motorcycle racing lies a hidden world of high finance, and moves there have a potentially huge effect on the racing itself. A report in the Financial Times from earlier this week - spotted and reported by Bikesportnews - carries news of a financial transaction that could, potentially, have major implications for the two major two-wheeled racing series, MotoGP and World Superbikes.
According to the report in the Financial Times, Infront Sports and Media, the parent company of Infront Motor Sports, which owns the commercial rights to the World Superbike series, is being put up for sale by its current owners, Andreas Jacobs (heir of the eponymous coffee company) and the United in Sports private equity fund. But the interest comes from the parties bidding to take over the company: the Financial Times reports that three parties are involved, two sovereign wealth funds - the Qatar Investment Authority and an unnamed fund from Abu Dhabi - and a British private equity group, Bridgepoint Capital.
Behind the glamour, passion and engineering excellence that is MotoGP lies a world which receives a lot less attention, but is at least as important: the world of finance. For running a motorcycle road racing world championship costs money, and though the goal of any enterprise - including running a world championship - is to make a profit, in a world of declining motorcycle sales and economic uncertainty, making money in motorcycle racing is no easy feat.
That task is especially difficult for Bridgepoint Capital, the venture capital firm that took a controlling stake in Dorna back in 2006. Bridgepoint reportedly paid CVC some EUR 550 million for the stake in Dorna, an amount that was widely regarded even at the time as a very generous valuation, especially as CVC had acquired Dorna for around GBP 45 million just 8 years earlier in 1998. The purchase was funded in part by loans taken out by Bridgepoint from a range of banks.
The outlines of the future MotoGP calendar are becoming clear, as deals are being signed throughout the year. One key question left open was the future of the French MotoGP round, with the contract between Dorna and the event organizers coming to an end after this year's MotoGP round. There was never any question that France would be left without a Grand Prix, the only question was whether the race would continue to be held at Le Mans.
And after a press release issued by Dorna, that question is still uncertain. For Dorna has renewed their deal with Claude Michy and his organization, PHA, to organize the French MotoGP round for the next 5 years, through 2016. However, as the deal is with the promoter, where the French GP is to be held is not specified.
If the changes to the 2012 MotoGP regulations were aimed at filling out the grid, then they appear to have succeeded. Today, the FIM released the numbers of teams who had put in for a provisional entry for the 2012 season. The numbers were very promising: 16 teams entered, of which 14 were accepted, representing a total of 21 riders.
As in the Moto2 class, the number of entries actually accepted will be much smaller. The ideal grid size, as both Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and IRTA staff have confirmed, is around 24 bikes. But with the total commitment of the current factories likely to remain somewhere between 14 and 16 bikes (6 Hondas, 4 Yamahas and probably 5 Ducatis), getting an additional 8 to 10 bikes on the grid from the current entry list should be perfectly feasible.
Though no names or details were issued of exactly who the entries are, MotoMatters.com has learned that most of the entires have come from top teams in the Moto2 class. This comes as no surprise, as indeed, this was the very purpose of the Moto2 class, to groom teams for entry into MotoGP. The final list of accepted teams will be made public at Le Mans.
Below is the text of the FIM press release:
MotoGP Class Applications for 2012 Season
It is becoming increasingly clear that the new MotoGP rules due to take effect from 2012 are just the start of more major changes coming further in the future. The hiring of Corrado Cecchinelli - formerly of Ducati Corse - as Director of Technology was one part of this puzzle, and today another piece fell into place, with the signing of the former Director of Bridgestone Motorsports, Hiroshi Yasukawa, as an advisor to Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.
Yasukawa's exact role is unclear; the press release merely says that the former Bridgestone executive will be "providing his insight on the further development of the sport." Given Yasukawa's previous job, it seems likely that his input will focus mainly on the role that tires play in the series, and ways of affecting the series through the use of a spec supplier.