MotoGP weight debate rumbles on

Monday, March 05, 2012

Mutterings over the late change to the 2012 MotoGP minimum weight continued during last week's second Sepang test, when representatives of the three manufacturers all spoke to the press about the issue.

After a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at the Valencia season finale on November 5 it was announced that the minimum weight for the new 1000cc bikes would be 153kg.

This 3kg rise relative to the previous 800cc bikes was expected. However, the minimum weight figure then rose to 157kg after the next Grand Prix Commission meeting on December 14.

During the first Sepang test, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta explained that December's 4kg rise was to help the new class of privateer Claiming Rule Teams and had been possible because there had not been unanimous opposition from within the manufacturers' association, MSMA (click here).

But while Ducati was still finalising its 2012 MotoGP design at that stage, Japanese rivals Honda and Yamaha were already manufacturing parts based around a 153kg motorcycle. Both Honda and Yamaha have thus been forced to fit ballast to their motorcycles to reach the new 157kg limit.

First to comment during a lunchtime media debrief at Sepang II was HRC executive vice president Shuhei Nakamoto:

“Our philosophy at Honda is if you do something different you must do minimum 2000km reliability tests. This cost is not so cheap. I was so disappointed about this [rule change]. We did the test at Valencia and then suddenly the regulation changed. It's not fair.”

Masahiko Nakajima, general manager of Yamaha's Motorsport Development Division, was equally unhappy.

“Personally I am so frustrated about the GP commission decision. Because [to make this change] in December. Impossible!” he said. “We had already made all the assembly parts and some spare parts. Then at that moment they changed 4 kilos!

“If we have one year lead time we can prepare. For example braking performance, one kilo less is a big difference, so 4 kilos you can imagine! Very difficult.”

Honda and Yamaha are still experimenting with the positioning of the ballast.

In favour of the weight increase - but without making reference to the timing of the change - was Ducati Corse general manager Filippo Preziosi.

“We were open to that solution because we think that the minimum weight is one easy way to decrease cost,” he said. “So where you have titanium bolts, you could put steel bolts.

“The technology interest and show of the championship is not affected by the material of the bolts. The same for the exhausts and stuff like that.

“We are fighting, as technicians, against the [minimum] weight. So the easiest way to have a cheaper bike is to increase the minimum weight.”

Preziosi added that raising the weight limit was a better cost-cutting solution than restricting technology or materials.

“For me the right way is to increase the minimum weight and after that each manufacturer can decide which kind of technology is best to use for each component, in order to have the best performance and minimum cost,” he said.

“If the rules start to say you have to do this in this material and so on, you are not free to do what is cost effective. If for you it is more cost effective to do something one way, but the rules force you to do it differently, that doesn't make sense to me.

“The weight is enough to decrease the cost.”

The MotoGP minimum weight is due to rise to 160kg for the 2013 season.
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