Moto2: Moto GP's New Support Class Revives Old Names, Inspires New Technology

It's been a decade since Italy's Bimota took the grid at a World Superbike race, and even longer-34 years, to be exact-since Germany's MZ entered a Grand Prix. But both brands are staging comebacks in 2010, competing in the FIM's new Moto2 World Championship. In addition, racing specialists Harris, Suter, Moriwaki and more are making a major commitment to the new 600cc category, which replaces the long-running 250s.

Interest in two-strokes has been declining for years-especially amongst manufacturers-as ever-tightening emissions restrictions force that technology out of the marketplace. Thus the Moto2 formula replaces production-irrelevant two-stroke 250s with four-stroke 600s that are more closely related to production sportbikes. This change theoretically makes the racing more relevant and exciting both to enthusiasts and the manufacturers that underwrite the sport.

Unlike the prototype MotoGP category, Moto2 is a spec class. All teams will use identical, production-based, 150-horsepower inline-fours produced by Honda. Each bike will roll on the same Dunlop slicks, while limited electronic controls, steel brakes and a 298-pound minimum weight limit should reduce costs and increase parity. Though controversial, the decision to use Honda power has created an undeniable opportunity for small firms like Bimota and MZ, which lack the budget or resources to develop competitive powerplants of their own.

Chassis configuration is practically unrestricted, making Moto2 attractive to frame-makers like Harris and Suter. That said, the first-generation machines are fairly conservative, all using some variation of a perimeter frame and conventional forks and shocks. No girders, Hossacks, Elf or RADD-style alternative front suspensions have yet debuted, though MZ has made clear its intention to use the class to develop a patented (but as yet unseen) front-suspension solution.

Moto2 seems tailor-made for Bimota, a firm that made its name crafting fine-handling motorcycles powered by engines from other manufacturers. Bimota's Moto2 entry, dubbed the HB4, uses a composite chassis that's essentially identical to its Ducati-powered DB8 superbike, consisting of a tubular-steel trellis bonded to cast-magnesium side plates. Every aspect of the chassis geometry is adjustable, including the steering head angle, swingarm pivot position and engine location (both vertically and fore/aft). Bimota's planned partner FB Corse canceled its Moto2 program at the last minute, but Thai Honda-SAG saved the day when it signed with the Italian company, reportedly paying 100,000 euros to lease an HB4 for one year, including the services of a dedicated Bimota engineer.

British-based Harris Performance, a well-known firm with a long history of supporting the Japanese Big Four in GP and SBK racing, immediately recognized an opportunity in Moto2. Harris has been developing its platform since early '09, under actual racing conditions in conjunction with Spanish team Promo Racing in the existing Spanish Moto2 series. The PromoHarris machine uses a main frame fabricated from CNC-machined billet members, mated to a small tubular subframe enclosing the steering head. This design is said to make head-angle adjustments easier, and also to provide more lateral flex to improve handling at full lean. The PromoHarris bike has already won races and lapped both Catalunya and Jerez at sub-250cc GP lap-record speeds.

Suter Racing Technology, led by Swiss racer-turned-engineer Eskil Suter, is perhaps the most prolific builder in Moto2, with more than a dozen teams racing its MMX machine. Suter-who built frames for Kawasaki and Ilmor in MotoGP, along with Foggy Petronas in SBK-offers an utterly conventional twin-spar aluminum design that has nonetheless proven very fast in pre-season testing. Japanese specialists Moriwaki-which has a long history of developing Honda-powered racing machines like the MD250H-will supply six teams with its similarly conventional, alloy twin-spar MD600.

Italian engineer Riccardo Drisaldi's RSV DR 600 features an unusual aluminum-trellis frame. This bike has also proven to be quick in pre-season testing, and Drisaldi says the trellis design allows him to more easily manipulate frame flex characteristics. The result is less chatter and improved suspension compliance at extreme lean-important considerations in a class where high corner speeds are expected to be the norm.

Though traditionalists will miss the smoky, screaming 250s, none can deny that Moto2 is a step in the right direction.

Moto GP's New Support Class Revives Old Names, Inspires New Technology

The only American rider in Moto2, Kenny Noyes, will ride the PromoHarris machine for Antonio Banderas's Jack & Jones team.
The HB4 is the first Honda-powered Bimota since the CB1100F-based HB3 of 1985. A street-legal version is likely if Honda will provide engines.
German manufacturer MZ, now run by former GP racers Martin Wimmer and Ralf Waldmann, will field a Moto2 machine ridden by Anthony West.
Riccardo Drisaldi's RSV DR 600, which will be fielded by the heavily favored Aspar and Cardion teams, features a unique aluminum-trellis frame.
Japanese tuning specialist Moriwaki is offering the MD600 for Moto2 competition. The bike looks surprisingly similar to the current Honda CBR600RR.