There are two major factors that I see impact the cost of racing above all- limitations and change.
New rules have just been released in an attempt to reduce costs for teams participating in the MotoGP World Championship. These new rules may in fact have the opposite effect.
Change = cost
The single greatest cost to a team is when a new rule renders their current equipment uncompetitive or worse, illegal. For the third time since 2002 an entirely new engine and chassis will need to be designed by the manufacturers for MotoGP, what may be a welcomed exercise for a major manufacturer may be a complete barrier to entry for a small manufacturer. It is not only the cost of the new project that is looming for a team but the uncertainty that a similar rule can be employed again at will, rendering their “new” motorcycle useless.
I do not believe there is a conspiracy to keep out young innovators that could challenge the status quo but frequent rule changes virtually guarantee such an outcome. Even companies the size of Ducati will be at a bigger disadvantage than those the size of Honda. Change = costs and companies with poorer results but more money gets to reset and reboot the competitive level of the grid with every global rule change.
Limitations = cost
It would seem logical that by limiting a team’s ability to evolve every part of the motorcycle would ultimately result in reducing costs. A standard business model; scope reduction = costs reduction. Want to reduce the cost of your new real estate venture, reduce its scope/size. However racing is a different business; each team will look for any and every competitive advantage available to them, that is how you win and winning is why you race. Limitations often divert efforts to smaller and smaller areas where it is increasingly more expensive to find a competitive advantage.
Hypothetical scenario- In the effort to save teams money NASCAR ruled a shock could not have an “external reservoir”. An external reservoir shock is the current standard and readily available to every team at a minor additional expense. This ill-conceived idea was to add a limitation thus a cost savings was certain to follow. The small teams simply adopted this rule and found their current supply of shocks illegal and now needed to purchase drawers of new lower spec shocks which- added cost. The stronger, better funded teams designed or purchased a secret shock- a shock that was one of the most specialized and expensive shocks in the world. A shock with a reservoir that was concentric to the shock body and thus technically not remote. These shocks functioned identical to the banned version but added significant cost to the teams. Additionally, racing became less competitive due to the haves and have nots. Hypothetical or little known secret?
Max. bore 81mm
As the current MotoCzysz C1 990 has a bore of 82mm I feel we may actually have a slight and temporary advantage in reference to the rule change, if a max. bore must be implemented I am glad they chose 81mm.
I suspect their reasoning was similar to ours; 81mm-82mm is the greatest bore, thus bore/stroke ratio, thus piston speed, thus RPM we felt we could manage with valve springs. The new rules have fixed the max bore size and displacement, thus the stroke length and effectively RPM, sort of. Though this is generally a good idea, it is a very convoluted way to get to the point- an RPM limit. The casualty of the new rule- diversity and character.
With the rules limiting the bore to 81mm and the maximum number of cylinders set at 4, it is virtually guaranteed all competitors will run either V4 or I4 configurations. It will no longer be possible to have a competitive 3 cylinder or twin and the rules simply eliminate 5 or more cylinder options. The future? Honda may run a version of their VFR- V4, Ducati a version of their Desmocedecci RR- V4, Aprilia a version of their RSVR- V4 and Yamaha may use a version similar to their R1- I4. The same with all the others; BMW if they entered, a version of their S100RR -I4, Kawasaki a ZX10R- I4, only Suzuki really being the wild card, probably dropping the V4 for a GSXR I4 version. The best we can hope for- some unique firing orders to mask the otherwise already seen offerings- not exactly leading edge technology, pushing the boundaries of our sport. Again I think this may give MotoCzysz a distinct advantage with our longitudinal hybrid version of a narrow V and I engine, it would also be unique and quite exotic amongst all the competitors in the field.
Real limitations, real costs savings
If cost reductions are the honest reason for the rule change then let’s pick rules that will actually limit costs. The goal should be to limit costs without limiting creativity, diversity or competitiveness. Equally important the new rules should preserve what is at the heart of the series, a series that is supposed to shape and give birth to future motorcycles- innovation.
RPM’s- Limiting bore will not unilaterally limit RPM’s, it does however make higher RPM’s even more costly. Teams will focus on reducing piston inertia and mass by utilizing more exotic materials, methods, possibly even foregoing some durability. If you want to reduce the costs associated with higher RPM’s cap RPM’s- period.
Black Boxes- The other great expense? The enormous and complicated electronic package that is equal in importance to the entire mechanical effort in obtaining a faster lap. A “spec box” leased to each team by Dorna for 1 dollar annually could eliminate this redundant cost and effort duplicated by each team . The boxes could be propagated with all the menus and windows required to personalize the entire electrical system for each team’s unique application. The “spec box” could ultimately be as powerful as the best currently in the pits today but available to all teams making this the easiest, single means to add parity to the grid. And yes- the box should have TC embedded into the code, shut it off if you dare or your rider insists but I assume none would.
Spec Fuel and Spec Tires- Though in an ideal prototype championship you would have NO limitations, spec fuel and tires (like electronics) do reduce costs, add parity and do not significantly lower the fans racing experience.
Less restrictions- Instead of more restrictions, which only redirects costs and dumbs down championship racing, we should try lifting restrictions. What if there was no limit on displacement? There is no easier method to obtain competitive HP than thru displacement. Why not let Suzuki or Motoczysz run a 1,200cc or 1,500cc or 1,750cc engine if they feel they can mitigate the certain compromises of their decision. In addition allow teams to employ mechanical aspiration solutions like turbo charges or superchargers, maybe KR was just a small supercharger away from drafting Honda down the straights of Sepang. KERS or hybrid ideas should also be allowed as long as teams start the race with no extra energy on board. This would certainly add diversity and possibly new manufacturers.
Add Pit stops- Ok I may be on the verge of losing all my credibility, but here goes… allow all teams unlimited fuel and give them a near Q race tire, but require 1 pit stop. This will reduce the amount of testing and tuning and fine set up that cost millions of dollars a year whilst trying to get the most out of the least.
Grid positions are too often a reflection of R&D budgets. The amount of money saved and the elevated competition this one idea could add to racing is a game changer. Some of the best racing I witnessed last year centered around rain races and the added strategy and excitement of watching the riders pit and change bikes- magic. If a team can have as much fuel and traction as they require then the race matters more and testing matters less. Give Colin Edwards two soft tires per race and he will be racing with Stoner every weekend. Give Nicky all the fuel he needs (equals less evasive off throttle electronics) to point and shoot at will and the weight difference between he and Danni will only be that of the… um… family jewels. My bet is on Nicky!
Damn those 800′s
If the latest rules would have been announced three years ago MotoCzysz would still be focused solely on trying to enter MotoGP… My ultimate goal- still! Unfortunately for our MotoGP effort but fortunately for our business effort MotoCzysz has directed its primary focus on electric propulsion and though I do believe this to be the ultimate performance vehicle of the future, I would give anything to have a shot at MotoGP in to 2012. I believe based on the rules that MotoCzysz could have an extremely competitive 81mm 4 cylinder motorcycle ready for the grid by 2012. We know exactly where our strengths and weakness lie and how to remedy the shortcomings and elevate the entire motorcycle. We came a long way in our first engine design and I am confident by our second iteration we will be competitive. The chassis is very complete, all who have ridden the C1 claim it to be the best handling, most neutral motorcycle they have ever ridden.
I apologize to those that feel I have let them down but I can assure you it was not because of lack of effort by everyone involved. Building a competitive MotoGP bike is an undertaking harder and more challenging than most can imagine (see KR, Kawasaki, KTM, Ilmor, Aprilia, BMW and in an unrelated but related event- Buell) doing so in the publics eye can be humiliating. But it is what it is- my ultimate goal that I will continue to work towards as opposed to sitting back and criticizing others who are or at least trying.
The 2012 season is a great opportunity! MotoCzysz now has the base motorcycle, enough time and rules actually leaning a little in our favor- we could not ask for a better opportunity. Let’s hope others feel the way I do. There is heavy lifting to be done but great things can be accomplished with many hands and the assistance of a few true believers.