MotoGP Goes Back to 1000cc in 2012

December 11, 2009
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

On December 11 the Grand Prix Commission, comprised of top officials from the FIM, Dorna, IRTA and MSMA, amended the GP regulations for the upcoming seasons. While changes to the 2010 regs include the final rules for the all-new Moto2 class, the headline announcement is that MotoGP will return to 1000cc machinery for the 2012 season.

Valentino Rossi - 2002
Valentino Rossi enjoyed some success back in the 990cc era and has been vocal about returning the premier series back to its pre-800cc form.

The new “basic concept for MotoGP,” as it is stated in the press release announcing the changes, is limited to the general engine parameters, with three specifications:

1. Maximum displacement limited to 1000cc
2. Maximum cylinders limited to 4
3. Maximum bore capped at 81mm

It isn’t clear yet what the further limits of the new 1000cc MotoGP class will be, with the official MotoGP website reports that Dorna Chairman, Carmelo Ezpeleta, plans two more meetings to hammer out the rest of the specs. However, there are some intriguing implications to the three basic changes.

The good news is MotoGP is going to return to 1000cc engine, replacing the short-lived, controversial 800cc era. The decision placates the wishes of GP’s brightest star, Valentino Rossi, who is on the record stating the 2007 move from 990 to 800 was a big mistake. The Doctor has called for a return to 1000s with more restrictions to the electronics, so the rider has more to do with the lap times than the traction control settings.

The move back to bigger bikes also figures to improve the fortunes of American riders, whose Superbike upbringings brought better results on the previous 990cc machines. It is notable that no American has won a MotoGP race since Nicky Hayden’s championship-winning 2006 campaign – the final season of the 990 MotoGP era. Then there’s also new American rider Ben Spies, who’s done one or two impressive things in his career aboard a 1000cc racebike.

Speaking of Hayden’s 2006 title, it came aboard Honda’s dominating V-5 based RC212V. We won’t see that configuration in MotoGP any time soon because the proposed 2012 specs make the V-5 illegal, which begs the question of what route Honda and other manufacturers would take while abiding by the 1000cc and four cylinder with specific bore restriction. Honda, Ducati and Suzuki have taken a V-Four approach to the 800 class, with Yamaha and Kawasaki (now gone) opting for Inline-Fours. The boost up to 1000cc, four cylinders and 81mm bore, present another tempting option – and potentially, the source of a legal firestorm: Conflict with the production-based racing known as World Superbike

Gallina Vecchia! It means  The old chicken makes good soup  but its no use for laying eggs. Valentino Rossi and his fans put together a trackside celebration poking fun at his age.
The Doctor will be happy to have the 1000s back in MotoGP. It may give Rossi another reason to stick around, besides upping his title tally up to double digits.

One possibility for 2012 is that teams might be allowed to run heavily modified production superbike engines in MotoGP. If true, the cost-saving move would put the prototype status of MotoGP in question. Grand Prix has already seen the purity of its “prototype” identity challenged with rule changes, including the recent change to a spec tire. One thing GP can bank on, however, is that the production-based and FIM-sanctioned World Superbike Series will not be happy about the decision.

It is widely understood that behind the scenes wrangling from WSB boss Pablo Flammini killed the WCM MotoGP effort, which at the time used a production-based engine and prototype chassis. Should any teams or manufacturers choose to run a production-based 1000cc engine in the premier class, Flammini and company would surely make a more serious move than voicing displeasure in the press.

Sounds like the kind of litigious ambiguity that keeps lawyers awake in the middle of the night, while visions of billing by the very expensive hour dance in their heads…

Stay tuned for further developments.