The rookie rule is to be dropped for the 2013 season. The Spanish daily El Pais is reporting that Dorna and IRTA have decided that the rule preventing MotoGP rookies from being signed to a factory team had to be scrapped due to the difficulties presented by the limited number of bikes available to ride. As a consequence, it was felt it was better to drop the rookie rule altogether, rather than create more problems for existing satellite teams by maintaining it.
MotoGP’s 2013 Silly Season is one of the most complicated in many years. Though the retirement of Casey Stoner has opened up the market, the real complication lies with two factors, and the way those two interact. The issue can be summed up in a single question: what are we going to do with Marc Marquez?
It has been clear for some time that Marc Marquez is going to be one of the hottest properties in MotoGP in 2013, the Spaniard expected to graduate to the premier class at the end of this season. Under normal circumstances, this would not be an issue, but the situation that MotoGP finds itself currently in means that we are a very long way from normal circumstances.
The combination of the global financial crisis and the radically depleted field, a consequence of the cost hyperinflation the switch to 800cc caused back in 2007, has meant that the series finds itself in a period of transition, with the return to 1000cc machines just the first step in a major rules shakeup.
The scale of the proposed changes – a rev limit, a single ECU, one bike per rider, a cap on lease prices, and a limit to the number of bikes each factory can provide – means that discussions about the rules are ongoing, the situation changing at each Grand Prix as the haggling and horse-trading between the factories and Dorna continues.
Marquez was expected to fall victim to the Rookie Rule, the provision introduced when Ben Spies entered MotoGP in 2010, preventing a rider from going straight to a factory team in his first season in the class. Both HRC and Repsol, the Spanish oil giant who have backed Marquez throughout his career, have made no secret of their preference of putting Marquez directly into the factory Repsol Honda team.
The Rookie Rule prevents this happening, leaving Repsol and Monlau Competicion, who run Marquez’ Moto2 team (and the 125cc team he raced in before that) casting about for alternatives. Their preferred option, if Marquez cannot go straight to the factory team, is for Monlau to move up as an independent satellite team running Marquez as the sole rider. The team would be backed by Honda, and Marquez would have full factory-spec equipment at his disposal.
But that itself poses a problem. Under the current proposals, which look very close to being finalized, each manufacturer will only be allowed to supply a maximum of four riders with bikes in 2013, two riders in a factory team and two riders in satellite teams.
With the direct route into the factory team blocked, Marquez causes a dilemma, for Honda, and for the satellite teams involved: placing Marquez with either the San Carlo Gresini or the LCR satellite teams will cause problems with the teams’ existing sponsors, and if Marquez brings his own team of mechanics with him, then it would also mean satellite teams breaking long-standing relationships with mechanics already working for the teams.
Likewise for Honda, if HRC grants Repsol and Monlau’s wish of creating a separate team for Marquez, that could mean being forced to take away a bike from one of the two Honda satellite teams.
To hear the perspective of the satellite teams themselves, I spoke to Lucio Cecchinello at Barcelona, owner of the LCR Honda team currently fielding Stefan Bradl in MotoGP. Cecchinello and Gresini are the parties in the most difficult situation, and though Cecchinello pronounced himself a supporter of the Rookie Rule, he was clear that the current set of circumstances made the situation even more complicated than it would normally be.
Barcelona looks set to remain on the MotoGP calendar for the foreseeable future, despite concerns over the financial viability of the round. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has confirmed that the contract, signed for five years in 2011, will be honored by both Dorna and the regional government of Catalonya, which helps fund the race.
Back in March, at the presentation of the Jerez round, Ezpeleta had stated that he expected there to be three Spanish rounds of MotoGP in 2013, with both Aragon and Jerez confirmed, and Barcelona and Valencia alternating. However, in the interview with Mundo Deportivo, Ezpeleta was less certain of the continuation of Jerez, as the agreement he had signed had been with the previous mayor of Jerez of the socialist PSOE party, and he had not yet spoken to the new mayor from the conservative PP party. However, Jerez, like Barcelona, has a five-year contract with Dorna to organize a MotoGP round, and Ezpeleta expect the race to go ahead.
Jerez saw another round in the game of bluff poker being played between Dorna and the manufacturers over the future of MotoGP’s rules, and both sides took another step closer to an agreement. Reports emanating from the discussions suggest that Dorna has made a concession to the MSMA over the rev limits, while the factories are pushing through a single-bike rule, and an agreement should be ready by the middle of the year.
Ever since the MSMA lost their monopoly over the rules at the end of 2011, when the contract between the MSMA and Dorna lapsed, Dorna has had the stronger hand, and Carmelo Ezpeleta has been pushing the factories hard for changes. The pressure is starting to pay off for Ezpeleta, as by a combination of cajoling, threats and promises, he has also reached an agreement over the future shape of the sport. MotoGP is to undergo a radical transformation from the pure technology exercise that was the 800cc era, and become a sport focused on entertainment, where costs are kept in check.
After much speculation that MotoGP would forego stopping in Portugal this year, the premier motorcycle racing series will keep five stops on the Iberian peninsula on its 2012 MotoGP Championship calendar after all. With the Portuguese GP struggling to make ends meet, it was thought that Estoril would be dropped for 2012, as it seemed increasingly clear that the local government was not going to step in and help subsidize the cost of hosting MotoGP in Portugal. Coming to some sort of accord with Dorna & the FIM, MotoGP has confirmed that Estoril will remain on the schedule for this year, though its future is certainly still tenuous.
UPDATE: Álvaro Bautista has signed with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team for the 2012 MotoGP season. The Spaniard is not expect to have a factory support within the team.
Rizla Suzuki has announced today that rider Álvaro Bautista has left the factory Suzuki team for the 2012 season. It has not been announced where Bautista will race next next year, though best guesses would peg the Spaniard as headed to the LCR Honda squad. Certainly linked to this news, Randy de Puniet was given the opportunity to test the 2011 Rizla Suzuki GSV-R yesterday, and the Frenchman has already made some impressions.
Fourth fastest on yesterday’s time sheets, de Puniet has been keen to get out of the Pramac Ducati garage, and onto a more competitive package. With Bautista, de Puniet, and John Hopkins all playing musical chairs around LCR Honda and Rizla Suzuki, Bautista’s departure at least progresses the game forward. The big question still remains though, with Bautista leaving the Rizla Suzuki squad, does that signal another rider’s entry into the factory team, or does it mean the Japanese company’s departure from MotoGP racing?
The Selection Committe, comprised of the FIM, IRTA, and Dorna, has released its official list of entrants for the 2012 Moto2 & Moto3 World Championships. Subject still to the final confirmation of riders contracted to the teams, we can initially see that Moto2 will get a slight grid reduction for 2012, as the middle-child of Grand Prix racing will have 32 riders from 20 teams competing on any given Sunday.
That number will also hold for the new Moto3 class, which will replace 125GP in the upcoming season. Notable team entries come from Bankia Aspar, which is currently leading the 125GP class, and Gresini Racing, which will have a stake in each of the three GP classes. Also present is Marc Marquez’s Monlau Competicion team, which adds some fodder to the increasing debate as to whether the talented Spaniard will ride in MotoGP for next season, though we expect to hear more on that at Valencia, if not at Sepang.
Though an official list, a final selection meeting will be held by the Selection Committee at the Valencia GP, after which a final list of teams and riders accepted will be published. Check the official Moto2 & Moto3 entries after the jump.
Two-stroke racing has been living in a four-stroke world, and the death blow to the smokers in GP racing has already been dealt by the GP Racing Commission. With 2012 set to see Moto3 replace 125GP as MotoGP’s introductory class, the FIM has released the full technical specifications of the up-coming, 2500cc, single-cylinder, four-stroke racing class. Designed not only to bring GP racing into the 21st century, Moto3 also aims to end the Aprilia domination that’s currently taking place in the class’s two-stroke predecessor. With companies like Honda and KTM building complete Moto3 machines, and engineering firms like Kalex working on custom chassis for the prototype 250cc engines, there certainly looks to be a bit of diversity coming to the introductory GP series.
Another issue plaguing 125GP, and GP racing as a whole, is the rising costs of competing in the sport, as evidenced by the diminishing grid size in MotoGP. With Moto2 boasting a healthy 40 bike grid, Dorna and IRTA believe they have found the secret recipe to making prototype racing work, and have applied that methodology to the new Moto3 class. Unsurprisingly then, the vast majority of Moto3′s technical regulations concern keeping costs down, especially when it comes to the series’ claiming-rule style engine & parts restrictions. It’s actually interesting to read the level of detail the GP Commission has gone through in order to head-off attempts to circumnavigate the spirit of the cheaper four-stroke series, though we might point out that water always finds its level. Check out the full Moto3 technical regulations after the jump.
Despite the criticisms from GP riders, the Indianapolis GP has been renewed on the MotoGP calendar through the 2014 season. With Dorna keen on having a larger US presence, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wanting to continue to host the premier classes of motorcycle racing, the biggest issue for the contract’s renewal (besides tarmac conditions), was the scheduling involved with IMS, Laguna Seca, and MotoGP.
Wanting to have the two US GP rounds back-to-back, Dorna faced two circuits with very inflexible summer schedules. Able to now schedule the Indianapolis GP for August 17th-19th in 2012, the Indy GP has effectively been moved a week earlier in the year, and will likely follow the Laguna Seca GP in 2012, with Brno to follow afterwards.
Nicky Hayden was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, checking out the newly repaved infield section on the historic American track. Testing the track on a Ducati Superbike 1198SP, Hayden took a number of laps before giving the nod that he approved of the refurbishment (the FIM also gave their nod on Indy’s work on July 7th). The repaving of the infield portion of the circuit, Turn 5 through Turn 16, comes as a response from riders’ complaints from last year.
With several varieties of pavement, a bevy of bumps, and some poorly placed drainage components, the Indianapolis GP has been a low-point on the MotoGP calendar for most of the MotoGP paddock the past few years, despite being held at an otherwise top-rate and historic venue. With Dorna likely pressuring Indianapolis into making alterations, the track probably faced compulsion to make changes to its infield, especially with the Circuit of Americas track currently being built in Austin.
Talk in the MotoGP paddock is that the Austin GP is now being aimed as less of a replacement for the Indianapolis GP, and instead will be a third stop in America for MotoGP, as Dorna wants to expand the premier class’s presence in the USA. With the 2011 Indianapolis GP just two and a half weeks away, all the GP riders will soon get to see the improvements at Indy, until then they’ll just have to take Nicky Hayden’s word on it. A brief Q&A with the Kentucky Kid and video of his laps and thoughts are after the jump.