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MotoGP : Save Our Sport


By: Neil Everett | Published 16 March 2009, 00:19 | Views: 3,325 | tags: motogp, valentino rossi, casey stoner, dani pedrosa, loris capirossi, jorge lorenzo, chris vermeulen, honda, suzuki, yamaha, kawasaki, ducati, dorna
Another fascinating and exhilarating MotoGP season is now merely around the corner, with many fans anxiously awaiting their first opportunity to hear the bikes bark to life, as the most advanced prototype motorcycles in the world go head to head in a battle of supremacy. The sport has taken a number of knocks over the off season both financially and commercially, but it has survived and continues to provide the world with the premier category for two wheeled competition, but the question is for how much longer?
Motorsport fans are incredibly loyal and this is clearly visible in the premier class of automotive sport, Formula One. Arguably the championship has suffered for a couple of years with professional racing, however the fan base remained loyal and now the governing body has been working hard to level the playing field and bring the fans a show for their hard earned money. In 2008 five different teams managed to win a race and there hasn’t been that many different manufacturers winning since the 2003 season.

There have been murmurs for a while from the fans that MotoGP races have become too processional and unfortunately if you look at the stats they appear to back them up. Since the dawning of the 800cc era only six riders have tasted victory in 36 races, Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Chris Vermeulen, Loris Capirossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Now compare this to the final year of the 990cc class in 2006. The championship ended up producing a nail biting finish at Valencia where Nicky Hayden took an emotional victory for himself and Honda. Maybe more importantly, there were more victors in 2006 than either of the two seasons that would succeed it. Seven different riders made their way to the top step in 2006, compare these results to the unpredictability of the 500cc era, back in 2000 there were eight different riders who scorched and slid their way to victory. Where did the entertainment go?

It’s not just down to the number of victors either, it’s the method of victory. At the final round of the MotoGP Championship at Valencia in 2008 the top four riders were separated by twenty-four seconds. In either of the World Superbike rounds at Phillip Island that took place recently the top ten riders would have crossed the line before that same twenty-four seconds had expired.

There are many contributing facts that have led to a decline in the visual enjoyment of the sport which has turned in effect into a stopwatch marathon, but it appears regularly there is misplaced anger at parties that really aren’t doing anything wrong and by that I mean the riders and the teams.

Fans aim their frustrations at the riders, who at the end of the day are only doing what they are paid to do. Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa aren’t paid to make races interesting and exciting, they are paid to win and if they have the machinery to do this then it is not their fault. Secondly, the teams are given a brief from the governing body about what is and what isn’t allowed when building a new prototype motorbike. Developers will do what they are paid to do, continually push the boundaries of what we think or know is possible within the rules provided.

So who is to blame? Well it is my belief that the management of the series needs an overhaul. Although it is very easy to look in from the outside and say “I told you so”, a short history lesson will illustrate my point.

Back towards the end of the 500cc era, competition was rife, with the volatile nature of the 500cc monsters and limited rider assistance present the racing was close, exciting and unpredictable. It was decided at this time that a move from two to four stroke machinery would be allowed and a development cycle began. In 2002, Rossi took his second title after dominating on the new Honda RC211V, in fact the bike won an amazing fourteen of the sixteen races that year, with only four riders making it on to the top step. Sound familiar?

Over the course of the next four seasons the teams all worked hard to continually develop their machinery until we got to the stage in 2006 where we had the most competitive season in the history of the 990cc era. It was also the year when the last satellite team victory was recorded by Toni Elias at Estoril. Then the cycle of change starts again and we are now at the stage of starting our third season of the 800cc era.

It would appear that change isn’t always good and it has proved harmful to the competitive nature of the premier class of motorcycle racing. A fact that hasn’t been helped by the resurgence in form of World Superbike where teams like BMW and Aprilia have easily managed to merge into the championship at a competitive level.

MotoGP does need help - with riders, manufacturers, journalists and fans all calling for change so the sport we all love can return to it’s glory days with last lap battles and championship’s decided in November not September. But what is the cure? That is a question I’m afraid I don’t have a definitive answer to and if I did then I would be off somewhere making lots of money. All I can say is that the constant knee jerk reactions that the championship organisers make in a desperate attempt to heal the wound results in little more than putting a plaster on a deep cut. It might mask the blood, but eventually you will need to go and get it fixed properly.

Sometimes to go forward you have to go back. It might sound stupid to say it, but if the championship wants to return to its glory days then the organisers can look at two options which may succeed in producing closer racing. The first option is to leave the championship alone, stop making changes and hope that in two or three more seasons that the competitive level is back to that of the final 990cc season.

The second options is to get tough, admit mistakes have been made and cut their losses, invite all the teams into a meeting and thrash out a tough, stringent, restrictive set of guidelines for the new formula. This would include standardisation or removal of some of the rider aids, greater control over the materials and engineering methods of engine development and maybe budgets should be set on development making it more feasible for satellite teams to obtain top line machinery.

Will MotoGP remain the premier class? Undoubtedly, but if it’s to survive then the organisers need to listen to the fans, because without them there is no money, no need for sponsors and no championship.

4 Comments

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Jay | 16 March 2009, 00:27
A very good take on matters Neil. Now's clearly the time for MotoGP to eat some humble pie and listen to the key stake-holders in the sport. With the economy the way it is, if they don't, they'll be fighting a losing battle.

andrew&7 | 16 March 2009, 10:28
Wonder when the last time was that we had more teams joining than leaving?

stuey46 | 16 March 2009, 23:03
Two words - 'Traction Control'!

Afro | 23 March 2009, 16:15
I don't think removing traction control will instantly make the races more exciting again, I mean WSB has it's fair share of electronic aids nowaydays.

A reduction in electronics is something to look into though as it seems to have worked in F1. I actually watched a few races and didn't fall asleep midway through.
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