After the first Moto GP race of 2014 – and a terrific contest it was, as well – with the rules finally settling down and other manufacturers openly discussing entering the field, it’s maybe a good time for a quick look at how present and future grids and competition are looking.
First, the current situation has settled down and the intent of the original CRT rules – to get more bikes on the track – seems to have worked out. Arguments, fights, and tantrums about which teams were to be allowed which rule package (mostly number of engines and related modifications and testing, fuel allowances, and software packages) seem to have ended.
In truth, after the first race at Qatar the usual factory suspects were still at the front. But Ducati seems to have finally made some encouraging improvements, and some of the so-called Open class bikes were impressive, particularly the one under Aleix Espargaro.
From a low of 17 entries at the end of 2011, we were up to 23 starters in Qatar. And with Suzuki still saying they’ll be back in 2015, and Aprilia just announcing they plan to return in 2016, potential grids are looking very healthy.
A big part of that is due to the apparent agreement by Honda to abide by the spec ECU and software as series owner Dorna wanted, starting in 2016. The ECU and spec software was the big stumbling block to Dorna’s plans to reduce costs, and it would seem that a more open approach to the software – all the teams involved will be able to work with the software as long as any changes or updates are available to all – has provided a face-saving opening for Honda to agree.
Aprilia’s announcement will put the Italian factory officially back in Moto GP for the first time since the ill-fated Cube triple of 2002-2004, although several Open teams are using versions of the ART V-4, which is based on the RSV4 superbike powerplant. Aprilia’s announcement said the new engine would use pneumatic valves and a seamless transmission, and the team hopes to possibly do a couple of wild card entries in 2015 with a full effort in 2016.
That would bring five factories into the scheme – Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha – and at least three of those (Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha) have promised to make customer versions of their bikes for sale, as Honda already is.
From near-disaster over the past couple of seasons, things are looking pretty optimistic.