For the third year running, MotoGP is down to just 17 bikes on the grid. And for the second time in three years, a manufacturer is showing an alarming lack of commitment to the series, Suzuki fielding just one rider for the 2011 season. Sponsors are pulling out and teams are constantly complaining about a lack of money. Something has to be done.
Throughout 2009, MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission, debated ways of changing the class to make the series cheaper, thereby increasing the number of bikes on the grid. The solution, announced in December 2009, was the return to 1000cc machines under specific restrictions aimed at capping costs: a maximum of four cylinders, and an 81mm maximum bore.
But that in itself was not enough. Throughout the entire process, it was also broadly hinted that the requirement that engines must be prototypes would be dropped for privateer teams, with these so-called Claiming Rule Teams being allowed to run heavily modified production engines in a prototype chassis. To ensure the teams would not be forced to spend on electronics what they saved on engines, the CRT machines would also be allowed an extra 3 liters of fuel above the allowance for the factory machines (for our detailed explanation of exactly what the CRT rules entail, see The 2012 MotoGP Revolution Part 1.)
We have been here before, of course. Back in 2003, the WCM team, under the management of Peter Clifford, entered two 990cc Harris WCM MotoGP machines, their engines based on the dimensions of Yamaha's R1, housed in a prototype frame produced by Harris. The WCM bikes turned up at the first race of the year, but were disqualified by scrutineering as not being a fully prototype machine.
The same pressure that eventually killed off the WCM project also threatens the CRT teams, and the arguments that kept the WCM off the grid for the first half of the 2003 season are being brought up again for the CRT bikes.
Delpha Dockal Terrell Weekes Elva Banta Stanton Lessen Arica Nunno Federico Coffield