During at stop in Utrecht, Netherlands, David Emmett over at MotoMatters was able to have a sit down discussion with FIM bossman Vito Ippolito. In their conversation, Emmett gets a rare chance to ask Ippolito a variety of questions regarding the latest MotoGP rule changes, and inner-workings of the FIM, and its involvement in roadracing events.
The interview sheds terrific insight into how manufacturers, sponsorships, national and internationa pressures, and rule making shape the sport we all enjoy, and as the interview winds down, Emmett asks Ippolito about the role the FIM is taking in electric motorcycle racing, and how the FIM sees the future of motorcycling. With permission from MotoMatters we’ve reproduced this section of the interview after the jump, but recommend everyone to read the full interview transcript on MotoMatters.com. It’s well worth the read, and one of the best interviews we’ve seen in a while in the racing space.
MM: One last subject. Electric bikes. Last year we had the TTXGP, the first electric race, that went surprisingly well, I think it surprised a lot of people. This year it looked like we were going to have one international championship but instead we have I think three championships, with the FIM having a championship and the TTXGP organizers running a championship, and the TT also organizing a race. Where did it all go wrong between the FIM and TTXGP?
VI: I thank you for asking this question! The objective of the FIM is to promote and support all kinds of alternative energies, all kinds. And also not only alternative engines but also the kind of energy. The kind of fuels, etc, all in the direction of low emissions etc. This is the policy of the FIM.
Last year on the Isle of Man, a guy with a lot of ability organized the first race, and we supported it. We know that there are a few bikes in the world, a few manufacturers, really small manufacturers. But I think it’s a good manner to show that we can have new kinds of vehicles, electric vehicles in this case. We tried to have a deal with the promotor Azhar Hussein, but after a lot of discussions, we could not get a deal. Then he continued, which is good, and the FIM will continue to promote of course, because, for the FIM what’s really happened is that we spend money to promote this, we are not trying to have, “this is the gold and we will make a lot of money”.
Our policy is to show that we are very interested, which is true because we have an environmental commission, we have an alternative energy working group which we have had for many years. We are working, because in the future we don’t know if the factories will say “OK, guys, now this is the bike: No oil, no gasoline, now we use water.” Water? “Yes, it’s true, now no more gasoline.” Oh. Then we have a big problem at the circuit, you understand? Then we have to prepare our people and ourselves for the future. We don’t know if we will use hydrogen fuel cells or lithium ion batteries or any kind of new technology.
The idea of the FIM is to promote, because we are interested too, because it’s part of our social responsibility, it’s the sport and society. And we are concerned like many people around the world about the environment, it’s part of our responsibility. Then we support this type of new use of technologies with low emissions. We couldn’t get a deal with Azhar Hussain, but then we continue and say, OK we can have a series.
Because one of the problems is not only to have five or six races, the question is we need to show this technology. And the FIM has the world championship in MotoGP and World Superbike and World Endurance. Then we have this opportunity to show in these places where thousands of spectators and also the media, to show what is happening in the world with the new technologies with these kind of motorcycles.
MM: So part of the FIM’s job is to make sure that these races happen in front of large crowds, and you do that by having them as support races? If you have a separate series, then maybe only a few people turn up to watch?
VI: Yes! Then we can have the race here [waves at the car park outside] and afterwards we say OK, we support that kind of event, but that is not serious. It will be easier in the future when there are more national championships, because now there are very few bikes and riders. There are some industries in enduro and motocross with small but very real production, the numbers are very small, but they are production runs. There is one in Switzerland, in the US, they are small scale, but they are producing bikes for motocross and enduro.
MM: All over the world, people who ride off-road in natural settings, through forests and parks, petrol engine bikes have been banned from many such places. Here in Holland, it’s almost impossible to find somewhere to ride off road. Do you think that electric bikes could create new opportunities for off road riders?
VI: Yes! Yes! In case of off road, it is very important to have this kind of bike, because countries like Holland, of course there are motocross circuits, but the specifics of this country don’t permit to have bikes off road. So it’s a good opportunity to have people practicing the sport on this kind of bikes.
MM: You also talked about alternative engines, one of the things you see in boats for example, they use marine two strokes, because modern two-stroke engines are very clean. Do you see an opportunity for those kind of two stroke-engines to come back into racing somehow? Because right now, we’ve only got one two-stroke class left.
VI: Maybe, because I think that is possible, but the problem for the FIM is what the industry decides to do. Because we have to follow the manufacturers, we don’t produce the bikes, they produce the bikes. In my opinion, the two strokes, they have a new technology in two strokes that can produce very low emissions, I think the two stroke in principle is a good engine for the young because it’s less expensive, especially the maintenance is less expensive. The power-to-weight ratio is very good, there are some very good advantages, but …
MM: But your hands are tied by the manufacturers?
VI: Yes. We don’t have the technology! We don’t produce bikes.