Drawing The Line - Moto2

Up To Speed

One hears depressing economic news so often nowadays that an upbeat story can really get your attention. The prospects for the new Grand Prix motorcycle racing series, Moto2, are about as upbeat as it comes.

When the MotoGP organizers decided to close the long-running-and intensely competitive-250cc two-stroke class and replace it with a 600cc four-stroke category, it was generally accepted as a logical move. Emissions requirements have pretty much shut down the sale of two-strokes, giving the 250s no relevance to streetbikes. But the timing of the switch didn't look good, as it coincided with the most severe economic downturn in decades. Would there be enough interest in the new class to fill the field? In the 800cc MotoGP category, it's like pulling teeth to get even one new entry. Was the new 600cc category similarly fated?

Turns out there was no need to worry. The MotoGP head, Carmelo Ezpeleta, recently told of his concern that the Moto2 class is now oversubscribed. Fully 25 teams have entered, with a total of 40 riders committed to the full season. This in a time of economic stress? What's going on?

This is the biggest change in GP racing since the 500cc two strokes were phased out in favor of 990cc four strokes in 2002. But in many ways it's an even bigger change, as the teams and riders pretty much made the 500-to-990 switch a continuation of the old scene with new bikes, whereas the 250-to-600 switch is bringing in new teams, new riders and a completely new atmosphere. In addition, the Moto2 class is different in that it will use a spec engine-a first in GP roadracing-with all entries powered by a special racing version of the Honda CBR600RR four. Rules require a prototype (read: non-production-based) chassis, and are intended to keep costs down with minimal electronics, steel brakes and a minimum weight that should mean teams won't have to use exotic materials.

We'll certainly see many 250 riders move on to Moto2, but there are MotoGP riders making the switch the other way, at least one coming from World Superbike, and even a few moving all the way up from 125s. Only one American is entered at this point: Spanish championship regular Kenny Noyes. The situation with the teams is similar, with MotoGP regulars such as Tech3 and Gresini signing up to join long-time 250 teams like Aspar and Scot, plus some altogether new outfits. There have also been some drop-outs, as would be expected with new teams looking at new rules and trying for new sponsorship dollars. Aprilia decided it wasn't in its best interest to campaign bikes with Honda engines, while Pramac decided it had a full enough plate with MotoGP.

Perhaps the most interesting sign of the strength of the new series is sponsorship. Getting 25 teams with 40 riders to the track will require some serious cash, which means that not only did many long-time 250 sponsors make the move, but there also has to be strong interest from new sponsors.

I think the key here is that this new series is really new. There are no established teams. No team has yet won a Moto2 race, and no team has lost. It's as level a playing field as one could imagine. Two more factors are important here: With the costs of running a team kept down, and with good television exposure, Moto2 looks like a great way for a new sponsor to get significant advertising benefits without spending the kind of money it takes to compete in MotoGP, World Superbike, or any form of auto racing. This might be the best deal in all of motorsports.

Drawing The Line - Moto2