Forward Racing Leaving MotoGP for WSBK, with MV Agusta

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Since Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari was arrested on charges of corruption, money laundering and tax evasion earlier this year, the team’s places in MotoGP have been in jeopardy. Yamaha immediately stopped its support for the team, meaning that Forward did not have bikes for the 2016 MotoGP season.

After his release from arrest, and, according to his lawyer, the dropping of the charges of corruption, Cuzari was confident he would be allowed back on to the MotoGP grid, and was in talks with both Aprilia and Ducati for the supply of bikes. His fate, Cuzari told us at Misano, was in the hands of Carmelo Ezpeleta.

The head of Dorna appears to have decided that Forward Racing’s future does not lie in the premier class, at least for the foreseeable future. Today, Forward Racing announced they will not be racing in MotoGP, but will be turning their focus towards the World Superbike championship.

Forward will be working with MV Agusta to assist with their World Superbike and World Supersport efforts from 2016. Cuzari has been appointed Team Principal for the team, and given responsibility for MV Agusta’s racing department.

This is not Forward Racing taking over the running of the MV Agusta team, however, according to dedicated WSBK journalist Marien Cahuzak.

MV Agusta have brought in the technical expertise of Forward – in the shape of mechanics and engineers – to help with the factory’s own racing efforts. The MV Agusta team will remain a factory effort, but will be staffed by members of Forward Racing.

The press release issued by Forward Racing contained a few intriguing details. Marco Melandri has been engaged as a test rider for MV Agusta, to help develop the F4 RC.

There is no mention of whether Melandri will be racing for MV Agusta next season. It is known that Melandri was looking for a ride in World Superbikes, after leaving Aprilia’s MotoGP project and finding himself unwanted by any of the existing teams.

His stated aim has always been to continue racing. Whether this deal will allow him to is unclear.

The other detail in the press release is the mention of a return to MotoGP. The Forward release makes specific mention of the rule changes in 2017. Those rule changes are chiefly to the way the teams are financed, making it cheaper for teams to compete.

There are no new technical regulations expected in 2017, the biggest changes coming in 2016, with the introduction of spec electronics and the switch to Michelin tires.

Whether a manufacturer of the scale of MV Agusta (sales projections are for 12,000 bikes in 2015) can compete with the likes of Honda and Yamaha, or even Ducati, which sold 45,000 bikes last year, is an open question.

Costs have come down in MotoGP in recent years, but overall factory MotoGP budgets are still in the range of several tens of millions of euros, excluding rider salaries.

With total sales projections of €120 million, it seems improbable that MV Agusta could afford something like a third of that to put into MotoGP.

By comparison, Ducati, the smallest of the manufacturers involved in MotoGP, had a turnover of over €600 million in 2013. What’s more, Ducati is believed to receive something north of €20 million in sponsorship from Phillip Morris, to help cover their costs. That kind of partnership is unlikely to happen for MV Agusta.

Forward Racing may have lost their grid slots in MotoGP, but their Moto2 team will continue in 2016.

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.