With the MotoGP grid barely treading water in its ability to remain above the mandated 18-bike minimum, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and the FIM have been under pressure to shore up the numbers by making it less expensive for teams to get involved in the sport. Ezpeleta and the FIM in turn have been pressuring the manufacturers to come up with an engine lease plan that would allow private teams to obtain engines and fit them into an aftermarket supplier chassis of their choice, rather than spend the millions required to lease the entire motorcycle. The manufacturers had been dragging their feet on the idea, mostly because of cost, material, labor, and the obvious proprietary design concerns. Tiring of the slow progress, Ezpeleta floated the idea of allowing “production-based” 1000cc engines to be used in MotoGP, albeit with restrictions to keep them from outpowering the prototype 800cc units. Mindful of Ezpeleta’s prior reaction to Michelin and Bridgestone’s dawdling on his threat to solve the circuit-to-circuit tire advantage problem or face a spec-tire series, the MSMA (Motorcycle Sports Manufacturers Association, representing the MotoGP manufacturers) had asked for a deadline of this weekend to come up with a lease engine counter-proposal to Ezpeleta’s production engine gambit.
Apparently the manufacturers have been granted a reprieve from the deadline, judging from interviews with FIM president Vito Ippolito and Dorna CEO Ezpeleta posted on the official MotoGP website motogp.com. “Looking at the future of the MotoGP class, we’ve been talking with the manufacturers to see how they can provide engines to the teams,” said Ippolito. “It would be an interesting way to expand the grid and to give a chance to new teams to join the series, as costs would be reduced. At this moment, negotiations are going in the right direction and manufacturers could offer prototype 800cc engines from 2011. We’re still in the process of defining the future of the MotoGP class and for the FIM and Dorna, it is crucial to achieve better stability in terms of the number of entries in the long term, taking into account the current technical and economic issues.”
“Given the current economic situation, the ever evolving technology in MotoGP and looking at costs cutting measures,” said Ezpeleta, “we had made a proposal to combine 1000cc engines and the current 800cc engines in the MotoGP class. The MSMA acknowledged the issues we’re facing at the moment and looked for another solution. Now their proposal is, that from 2011, they could lease engines to teams with a fair standard price. This would not involve a technical regulation change as engines would be the same as they are now and it would allow us to optimize costs.” Ezpeleta still hinted that the manufacturers must finalize the details of their proposal sooner rather than later. “The MSMA still has to announce what would be the price of the lease and we’re also waiting on an agreement with the manufacturers to commit to the Championship for a precise period of time. Once those two elements are set, it would be a very positive development for the future of the MotoGP World Championship.”