If it ain't broke?
The MotoGP world championship is in such a good place at the moment that the only sensible way forward is to leave it completely alone.
Over the past decade or so rights-holder Dorna has tweaked the technical and sporting regulations to create close and unpredictable racing. The action is now better than it has ever been, with the closest top 10 (eight seconds) and top 15 (16sec) race records both broken during the last few months.
However, nothing is forever. Technology moves on and at some point changes will have to be made.
Next year MotoGP will run its first electric-powered race series. MotoE hasn’t been created because Dorna has fallen in love with alternative power sources, but because the company realises that if it doesn’t start an electric championship, then someone else will.
The early years of MotoE will be somewhat basic: a one-make series using pimped-up road bikes manufactured by Italian company Energica, owned by the CRC Group, which does rapid prototyping for several Formula 1 teams. MotoE will become an open class once the technology reaches a tipping point and the major manufacturers start making electric sports bikes.
MotoGP itself will undergo the next rewrite of its technical regulations in 2021. The most pressing matter will be reining in performance. Bikes are already surpassing 220mph and running out of run-off at the fastest (and best) tracks, like Mugello, Brno and Phillip Island. If MotoGP isn’t to be restricted to slower, less exciting circuits, then Dorna must work out how to reduce cornering speeds and top speeds, without damaging the show.
What about the longer-term future? A while back I asked several Japanese engineers to design their MotoGP bikes of tomorrow. Some of their responses were stunning.
Satoru Horiike, former managing director of the Honda Racing Corporation, came up with something so wacky that I wondered what he had been putting in his green tea. He designed a two-track machine, which certainly won’t solve the corner-speed issues but nonetheless fits the OED definition of a motorcycle: ‘a two-wheel vehicle that is powered by a motor’.
“The only stipulation of a motorcycle is that it must be two wheels, that’s all!” Horiike told me. “With an inline two-wheeler you can’t achieve more than 1g but if you put the wheels side by side you can achieve more g. This would mean more grip and lap times closer to Formula 1 cars. I think it would be possible to build this machine now – you just need a gyro and some electronics. I first had this idea in 1989 – I’ve already made the patent.”
Meanwhile Kawasaki race engineer Kenichi Furuhashi drew a semi-tilting streamliner with monocoque chassis, hub-centre steering and enormous 800/10-14 rear tyre (above), designed for a new kind of slower racetrack.
“We propose that racetracks should be shorter, so spectators can see all the course at once, like the Valencia MotoGP track or Supercross,” said Furuhashi.
Personally, I hope neither comes to pass.