I've sat through enough manufacturer' presentations recently to know that we're in trouble.
Ignoring the still booming Asian markets, the rest of the motorcycle World is in free-fall. Even looking at the figures optimistically we're still only selling half the volumes we were in pre-crash 2006. That's a big hit.
When sales plummet like this manufacturers have to tighten their belts to ride out the storm. A quick peek at the pathetic MotoGP grid (wobble round at your own pace and still score a point?) tells you all you need to know. The sky-high costs of fielding a two bike team have already driven Kawasaki and Aprilia away to WSB, forced KTM to pull out completely and even the might of Suzuki are now facing the reality of running a one-rider team for 2011.
Then - as a polar opposite - in Moto2, the class is massively oversubscribed. All of a sudden, here is a formula that is affordable, that sponsors get good return on investment and there's an even playing field for new teams, new engineers and ambitious riders to make their mark. The racing itself has been season-long proof that Mr Ezpeleta and his cronies finally got something right.
It had to happen in the smaller 125cc class, too. Everyone (yes, even us die-hard stink wheel fans) know that the two-stroke's days are numbered as the global atmosphere police clamp down on their hydrocarbon-rich emissions.
So, Dorna announced their new Moto3 rules and regs at Valencia this weekend (see below). It's not going to appease the racing purist who will always insist on bespoke prototypes hand-chiselled from unobtanium but it's sure to foster close racing and a packed grid. It is also massively cost conscious which, bearing in mind the state of the economy, is bang on the money. Or lack of money.
Effectively we're looking at 250cc four-stroke motocross engines in 125-proportion chassis which opens the floodgates to not only all the major Japanese manufacturers but also many European ones, too - some new to the MotoGP paddock. And as a point of interest the rules may outlaw pneumatic and variable valve operation but they don't count out desmodromic valve actuation.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
* 4-stroke reciprocating piston engines only.
* Engine capacity: maximum 250cc.
* Single cylinder only.
* Maximum bore size: 81mm. No oval pistons.
* Engines must be normally aspirated. No turbo-charging, no super-charging.
* Crankshaft speed limited to maximum: 14,000 rpm.**
* Maximum of 1 ignition driver.**
* Maximum of 4 valves.
* Pneumatic and/or hydraulic valve systems are not permitted.
* Valves timing system drive must be by chain.
* Variable valve timing and/or variable valve opening systems are not permitted.
* The engine is defined as the complete engine including intake system (throttle body, injectors), and one complete transmission.
* The maximum price of the engine must not exceed 12,000 Euro. No optional parts or service contracts may be used to circumvent this price limit.
* Each engine manufacturer must undertake to supply sufficient engines and spare parts to supply minimum 15 riders per season, if requested.
* Each engine manufacturer must submit a spare parts price and lead-time list for the season for approval by the Organiser, and may not charge more than these published prices. Approval is based on the prices and lead-times being in line with current market norms for these parts and technologies.
* In the event of engine updates or upgraded parts being developed, these must be made available to all customers at the same time, and respecting the price limits described above.
Inlet & Fuel System
* Variable-length inlet tract systems are not permitted.
* Only one throttle control valve is permitted, which must be controlled exclusively by mechanical means (eg. cable) operated by the rider only. No other moving devices (except injectors) are permitted in the inlet tract before the engine intake valve. No interruption of the mechanical connection between the rider's input and the throttle is allowed.
* Idle speed adjustment by means of an air bypass system, controlled by the ECU is allowed.**
* Fuel injectors must be located upstream of the engine intake valves.
* Maximum of 2 fuel injectors and 2 independent fuel injector drivers.**
* Fuel pressure must not exceed 5.0 bar.
* Other than engine sump breather gases, only air or air/fuel mixture is permitted in the inlet tract and combustion chamber.
* Fuel must comply with the FIM “Moto3” specification (tba).
* Variable length exhaust systems are not permitted.
* Noise limit will be a maximum of 115 dB/A, measured in a static test.
* No moving parts (e.g. valves, baffles…) are allowed in the exhaust system.
* A maximum of 6 gearbox speeds is permitted.
* A maximum of 2 alternate gear ratios for each gearbox speed, and 2 alternate ratios for the primary drive gear is permitted. Teams will be required to declare the gearbox ratios for each gear used at the beginning of the season.
* Electro-mechanical or electro-hydraulic clutch actuating systems are not permitted.
Ignition, Electronics & Data-Logging
* Only the ignition/fuel injection control units (ECU) approved by the series Organiser are allowed.
* This ECU must remain unmodified in hardware and software, as delivered by the Organiser. The only permitted changes are the setting (tuning) options included in the software.
* The Technical Director may require the team to change the ECU on any machine for another standard one at any time.
* This official ECU will include an engine rpm limiter.
(Only the standard Data Logger system approved by the series Organiser may be used.
** All the parameters identified by this symbol are set/controlled via the above mentioned ECU.
* Chassis must be a prototype, the design and construction of which is free within the constraints of the FIM Grand Prix Technical Regulations.
* Minimum total weight of Motorcycle + Rider: 148kg
* Brake discs must be made from an iron-based alloy.
* Suspension systems must be of a conventional passive, mechanical type. Active and semi-active suspension systems and/or electronic control of any aspect of the suspension and ride height is not permitted. Springing must be by means of coil springs made of Iron-based alloys.
Wheels & Tyres
* The only materials allowed for the wheels rims are Mg and Al alloys.
* The only permitted wheel rim sizes are: Front, 2.50” x 17” Rear, 3.50” x 17”
* The number and specification of tyres allocated to each rider per event will be controlled.
* Only tyres from the Official Supplier may be used.
Materials & Construction
* Construction materials must comply with Article 2.7.10 of the FIM Grand Prix regulations.
* Camshafts, crankshafts, piston pins must be made from Iron-based alloys.
* Engine crankcases, cylinder blocks and cylinder heads must be made from cast aluminium alloys.
* Pistons must be made from an aluminium alloy.
* Connecting rods, valves and valve springs must be made from either Iron-based or Titanium-based alloys.
* “X-based alloy” means the element X (e.g. Fe, for iron-based alloy) must be the most abundant element in the alloy, on a % w/w basis.
* Number of machines: the team can scrutineer only one motorcycle per rider.
* Number of engines: a maximum of 8 engines per rider may be used during all Grand Prix race events comprising the season. A rebuilt engine will be counted as a new engine.
* Teams will be required to register engines at Technical Control on the day before the first practice at each event. Such registered engines will be sealed (excluding cam cover, transmission if applicable) and seals may not be removed except under supervision of the Technical Director. Only sealed and registered engines may be used on track at Grand Prix race events. An engine presented for Technical Control without intact seals will be counted as a new engine.
* Apart from the above regulations, all other construction criteria, dimensions and specifications are as per the FIM Grand Prix Regulations.