MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO, ITALY, JAN 10 – The 2013 MotoGP World Championship will look like the championship of years past, when you could buy a motorcycle for a reasonable cost and the grids were healthy, if Carmelo Ezpeleta has his way.
The Dorna CEO is hopeful of a future with CRT motorcycles that can be bought, not leased, for 1 million euros, a change he hopes will increase the attractiveness of the championship. Contrary to what some believe, he’s not in favor of eliminating factory prototypes, but he would like to close the performance gap between them and the CRT bikes, which at the moment is huge. To do that he won’t rule anything out; rev limits, standard ECUs, weight penalties are all on the table. But the discussion has to happen quickly: He’d like to set the 2013 technical rules by May.
“If the manufacturers are able to provide bikes for 1 million euros, I’m okay,” Ezpeleta (seen in the photo with Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi) said. “I’m not in favor of whatever, I’m in favor of the show and the cost. This is what we are discussing.”
Ezpeleta held an informal press gathering prior to a short formal session with the media at Wrooom 2012, the Ducati/Ferrari team into in the Italian ski village of Madonna di Campiglio. The Spaniard spoke of the need to keep the spectacle alive at a time of declining sponsorship due to the world economic crisis. Though some companies are doing well, notably Ducati and BMW, the Japanese manufacturers have a long way to go before recovering to their pre-crash levels. And, he pointed out, when tobacco sponsorship went up in smoke, with the exception of Marlboro, no one stepped in to replace it.
“For me, after many, many discussions, the only problem we have is the money,” the Spaniard said in heavily accented English. (He’d earlier held a briefing for the Italian and Spanish media, whom he addressed in their native languages.) ” But still with the money we recover from promoters, from television, it’s enough to make a very interesting championship.
“The problem is that the performance of the bikes, and more especially the cost of the bike, it’s impossible to continue.”
The 2012 MotoGP grid will have 21 bikes, though the list has yet to be released. Broken down, it’s 12 prototypes, four each from Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati, and nine CRT machines.
Going forward, leasing bikes may or may not be allowed. He’s not against it, but he’d rather the teams have some long-term return on their investments.
“If they lease the bike for 1 million [euros] through a contract with me, and [the factories] agree on the kind of bike they will do and they will do for five years, it’s another solution which will be acceptable,” he said.
“I put a chart of ideas. One ECU, limit the revs, add kilos when you are winning, many things. Then they have the possibility to choose. But they need to take a decision. What is not acceptable, and the FIM and us, we say that, in May we want to know what will be the 2013 and consecutive year championships.”
Despite what could be radical changes, Ezpeleta’s under no illusion that he can turn into a championship where everyone is equal.
“In any case, always we will have two championships, will be the factory bikes and the rest, but is necessary to have a championship more close,” he said. “Then this is the goal we are trying to achieve and I think it’s reasonable to obtain that.”
More important than the number or type of bike is the rider. The less-powerful CRT bikes on the less well-financed teams also have some of the less experienced riders, a combination which is sure to be a cause of concern among the faster of the factory riders.
“My big concern, and the reality of the CRT, is the quality of the riders,” he said. “Some of them they are very, very reputable MotoGP riders, but others are new. On the other hand, this is normal, because if you have 17 and you require 21, at least four need to be new. If they are the best or not, depends; we will see. But I was saying before that we think that never will be a difference is as is between Red Bull and Hispania [the Formula One World Champion and a downfield team].
Where does the CRT future leave Ducati? They can continue to race their current bikes for five years, under the current rules. And Ezpeleta said “maybe they can make a bike for 1 million euros to sell in the future. Or just they will have the two bikes of… We have two kinds of problems. One is to make the CRT more competitive, but this is the smaller problem we have, because having things given to them, more things, is easier.” But reducing the level of performance of the factory bikes is also necessary, “and just limiting the cost is the only way to do it.”