Has MotoGP made a mistake not opening MotoE up to multiple manufacturers?

Should the MotoE World Cup have moved to a multi-manufacturer format to entice other brands rather than agree a contract with Ducati to supply field?

Ducati MotoE sketch

MotoGP is full of surprises but even then the announcement Ducati would be coming in as the new supplier for the MotoE World Cup from 2023 certainly made everyone - both in motorsport and the motorcycle industry - lift their eyebrows.

A manufacturer that has noticeably shied away from discussing in great detail whether it will adopt an electric strategy in the near future, at times Ducati has even dismissed the idea that one of its purebred motorcycles would ever drink from a socket.

But, while Ducati has a lot of sway in motorcycling terms, even it can’t petition world leaders which is why it needs to begin planning for a future without the (natural) grumble of an internal combustion engine. 

Which is why MotoE makes perfect sense for Ducati on many levels. Firstly, it buys the manufacturer time.

More than most manufacturers, Ducati cannot afford to get electric wrong and it’s fair to say it has more pressure than most against a tide of negative reaction towards the impending shift. 

Indeed, while the likes of Honda, Yamaha and Kawasaki et al. can test the waters with electric and hybrid small displacement models if they so chose, Ducati will be coming in at the top end and - perhaps ironically - it won’t be able to do it quietly. 

It’s notable that Ducati pointed out its first electric model - though in development already it says - is still as much as eight years away, by which time technology and public opinion will have changed significantly.

Secondly, a racing championship plays up to its racing heritage while giving it a platform to promote its electric intentions without having to hit the road with a model, which should at the very least cushion the blow for those who will never accept an electric Ducati. It’s something of a win-win for Ducati in that sense.

However, have the FIM been short-sighted in handing a four-year deal to Ducati at a time when - if it REALLY wanted to encourage the impending green movement - it could have considered pinning down regulations and opening it up to become a multi-brand championship.

Should MotoE be a multi-manufacturer series?

MotoE is already at odds with the philosophy of MotoGP… and not just because it is electric.

The first four seasons have seen the series use Energica Ego sportsbikes based on the road-going versions, which while an impressive advert for today’s electric options - so long as you aren’t doing an unfair comparison to MotoGP - is at odds with the prototype ethos.

Ducati’s offering, however, will be a prototype, albeit more because it won’t be adapted for a sale even though there is more than a hint of Panigale in the way it looks. 

However, by handing the reins over to Ducati, it runs the risk of becoming the Ducati Show, which while not necessarily a bad thing in that it will ensure impressive, well-engineered motorcycles doing great impressions of conventionally fuelled motorcycles, is at odds with what MotoE claims to be doing for the motorcycle industry.

Granted, 2023 might be a little too early to throw things open to all manufacturers to get involved, but it does have a very successful template to inspire it in Formula E, which made big bold claims about what it wanted to achieve against a cynical chorus of purists yet has gone on to become a massive success.

While this success might not be measured strictly in viewers per se, Formula E has broken ground with its quirky formats that has turned its limitations into strengths, furthered the technology limits exponentially by encouraging competition and set a new standard when it comes to attracting big name manufacturers into the ring.

It’s the latter that MotoGP could be missing out on by keeping MotoE as a control supply format.

Such is the cost and competitiveness of MotoGP today, it seems fairly unlikely a new big name firm is willing to pump in a significant amount of money to develop a brand new entry, at least without a big change in the regulations.

However, in an effort to change the perception of what electric can achieve, it’s more likely manufacturers will free up some cash to give burgeoning models a platform to perform - and what better way to do that than on the MotoGP package without having to commit to MotoGP?

Indeed, while the likes of Kawasaki, BMW and Triumph aren’t seemingly likely to enter MotoGP, MotoE does present a potentially interesting option to get a slice of the promotion the series offers with a specific goal, without going to as much expense.

That ‘could’ still happen by the time Ducati’s tender ends at the conclusion of the 2026 season, but CEO of Energica Livia Cevolini says she was surprised and a bit disappointed the plan hadn’t been enacted for 2023.

MotoE will take a step under Ducati but has the FIM missed a big open goal not to give the electric movement a big shock in the right direction…?