Just a few races into its inaugural season, Moto2 is yielding close, exciting competition.
American Honda has announced that it will field a "wild card" entry in the Indianapolis round of the MotoGP world championship, August 27-29. The entry is in the Moto2 class, and it's a very interesting effort on several levels.
The bike will be a Moriwaki, powered by the Moto2 "spec" engine that is based on the Honda CBR600RR. It will be ridden by Roger Lee Hayden, youngest of the Hayden brothers and a former national champion in the AMA 600cc Supersport class. Former 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz has been chosen as team manager of the one-race program. So far, just another race entry-what makes it significant?
As most readers will know, Moto2 has replaced the previous 250cc two-stroke "feeder" class in Grand Prix motorcycle roadracing. The 2010 season is just four races old as this is being written and the new class is already being heralded as a rousing success. More than 40 riders start each race, riding a dozen types of chassis, and so far three different manufacturers have won. In qualifying, typically 20 to 30 riders are within one second of pole.
In most forms of motorsport, fields dwindle as expenses mount, and as more money is required for success, the racing becomes less close and less exciting. Organizers look to new rules and new formats to create a better "show," but their recent efforts haven't been working. Now along comes Moto2, which shows what can be done with creative rulemaking.
Moto2 isn't just limited to the MotoGP series, either. Already the CEV (the Spanish national championship) has replaced its 250s with Moto2 bikes, with full grids of 35 entries and tight racing. As the concept catches on, the chassis manufacturers will be supplying an increasing number of national series, so they'll likely make money.
Already Dorna, the MotoGP organizer, is talking about replacing the 125cc two-stroke class with Moto3-a 250cc four-stroke-single-based class modeled after Moto2. While promising to keep full prototypes (of as-yet-unspecified displacement) in MotoGP, there is a move afoot to bring 1000cc production-based engines with prototype chassis into the top class-call it Moto1. Suter, one of the Moto2 chassis manufacturers, is already testing such a bike, using the BMW S1000RR motor. Performance differences between the full-on prototypes and the production-based bikes would be equalized by weight and fuel-use adjustments.
American Honda has opted out of direct sponsorship and support of AMA/DMG roadracing. Though expense was the most public reason, there have been obvious conflicts between Honda (as well as other manufacturers) and DMG over rules and the decision-making process.
This casts American Honda's entry in the Indianapolis MotoGP in a different light. Is Honda thinking of Moto2 as a possible means to revive American roadracing? It's too early to say, as the Indy effort is just a toe in the water. But Moto2 is already establishing a manufacturing and supply base for true racing motorcycles that are relatively affordable and maintainable.
Honda also can't be unaware of the PR benefits of a class in which all the engines are fast, reliable and made by Honda. The Spanish have shown what a national Moto2 series looks like. Is America next?
Under the current AMA/DMG governing structure, Moto2 is unlikely to find a home here. A class using prototype chassis and Honda engines certainly wouldn't encourage participation by other manufacturers, but they currently aren't very enthusiastic anyway. What the Moto2 format does is open the door to modestly funded teams to buy a chassis equal to those raced at the world championship level.
To have a prosperous American Moto2 series, an engine facility would be needed here, similar to the Swiss company Geo that supplies and services the European Moto2 series. There's an obvious candidate for that role in HPD (Honda Performance Development), the Santa Clarita, California-based company that (among other things) supplies engines to the Indycar series.
Chassis? Check. Engines? Check. Affordability? Check. Close racing? Check. I've been watching American roadracing far too long to think that this won't be a long shot. But it sure is an interesting long shot...