There will be only 23 bikes on the MotoGP grid in 2017. The FIM today officially announced that the 24th grid slot has been officially withdrawn, after manufacturers could not pledge to supply additional equipment.
There was plenty of interest in the grid slot. Five teams expressed an interest, and three teams submitted an official application for the 24th grid slot. Those teams are believed to have included Pons, LCR, and Ajo – all of whom had previously admitted publicly that they were keen to move up to MotoGP.
One of the main requirements put forward by the Selection Committee (comprising representatives of IRTA, Dorna and the FIM) was having a sound financial basis.
Though Dorna will be offering €2.4 million in support for each grid slot, actually fielding a rider in MotoGP would cost at a very minimum €4 million a year, and most likely more.
It was not the financial situation of the teams that was the problem, however. In the end, the decision to withdraw the 24th grid slot came down to a lack of competitive machinery. The manufacturers were not willing to supply extra bikes to a team to fill that slot.
For Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha, that is entirely understandable. Ducati has eight bikes on the grid, a veritable cornucopia of clearly competitive machinery. Yamaha is supplying four bikes, as it has done almost since the dawn of the four-stroke era.
Honda is supplying five bikes, and though it could have added a sixth, the price cap to be introduced would have had an impact on that decision. Prices are capped at €2.2 million, but HRC is believed to be charging over €3.5 million for the RC213V, so a sixth Honda would have been a costly exercise for HRC.
That would leave Suzuki, KTM, and Aprilia. 2017 will be KTM’s first year in MotoGP, and thus they will have their hands full developing the bike. Regardless, a KTM would be a massive gamble for a satellite squad.
Aprilia’s RS-GP is clearly a much better package in 2016 than it was in 2015, but it is still some way off the pace. Here too, satellite squads would be wary of gambling on the bike.
Suzuki’s GSX-RR is a much more attractive prospect, but Suzuki has long been wary of supplying satellite teams. When asked about it in Austin, Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio told us “we have no experience with satellite teams,” expressing fears they would not be able to support a satellite team properly.
This goes against an agreement made between the factories and Dorna in 2015, however. In exchange for the change in financing, the factories committed to supplying bikes to satellite teams with bikes.
Though it is unknown at this time whether any satellite team actually requested a bike from Suzuki, the rumors that Johann Zarco has been signed by Suzuki for 2017 suggest that they had. What impact that will have on Zarco’s future remains to be seen.
Though the 24th slot has been withdrawn for 2017, this does not mean that the grid will not expand in the future. The FIM press release states that the grid slot could be offered again in the future, when factories may be more willing to supply competitive bikes.
Photo: © 2016 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.