In a meeting held December 10 at the FIM headquarters in Mies, Switzerland, the Grand Prix Commission—consisting of representatives from the FIM, Dorna, MSMA, and IRTA—unanimously decided to open up the MotoGP class displacement to 1000cc, with additional limits of four cylinders and a maximum bore size of 81mm, beginning with the 2012 season. This was enacted because of the increasing costs and difficulty for manufacturers and teams to financially sustain a MotoGP racing effort, especially in the current economic climate that has hurt racing across the globe.
Although it wasn’t stated in the new rules and regulations released by the FIM that included the 2012 move to 1000cc, there are reports circulating that the reason for the four-cylinder and 81mm bore limit is to allow some parts from production motorcycles to be used in the design of the new engines, thus hopefully cutting some of the R&D costs and allowing manufacturers to include more MotoGP racing technology into their streetbikes. Whether this will cause problems with the organizers of the World Superbike Championship (who are understandably sensitive to any shuffling of MotoGP onto their production-based racing turf) remains to be seen.
The move to an 800cc limit back in ’07 was supposedly mandated because of the ever-increasing top-end performance of the previous 990cc MotoGP bikes, with several riders recording top speeds well over 200 mph on a few circuits. Although there were no crashes that could be directly attributed to the increasing power and speed of the 990s (with the possible exception of Shinya Nakano’s rear tire coming apart at 200 mph on Mugello’s front straight during the Italian GP in ’04), Dorna’s alarm at what it felt was MotoGP outgrowing the safety of current racing circuits caused the imposition of the 800cc limit—a decision that many felt was knee-jerk at best. Most of the racing teams and manufacturers voiced opposition to the idea, but it was approved by the Grand Prix Commission (which included the MSMA representing the manufacturers) and went ahead anyway.
Will the move to 1000cc limit (it’s not quite “back to” the original MotoGP engines, as those were 990cc with no limitations on engine design) bring back the lurid tire-smoking sideways corner exits of yesteryear? With the increasing sophistication of traction control, that also remains to be seen.