What if the 2012 surprise is not the return of 990cc GP bikes, but the introduction of 800cc SBKs?
Everyone knows I like to gather bits of information and try to assemble them into a big picture. The economic crises within MotoGP has brought a lot of information to light and it has lead to major changes to both WSBK and MotoGP, but I'm having trouble figuring out what the next big change will be.
MotoGP seems to have worked itself into a bit of a catch 22. As anyone in GP will tell you, MotoGP MUST be faster than WSBK, a big part of GP's identity is wrapped up in featuring the fastest bikes on the planet. Over the last few seasons GP's performance advantage has become less obvious. If the governing body continues cut costs and control the tires and slow GP bikes down, WSBK will gain rapidly, but if GP speeds the bikes up (990s) they will have safety problems. Also, the IRTA chief Herve Poncharal has expressed recently his frustration that GP and WSBK are not properly differentiated. He claims he frequently must explain to sponsors which series he is trying to obtain sponsorship money.
I was thinking about 2012 and the possible return of the 990s, but I began to realize that 990s will not really solve the performance differential between GP and WSBK because GP has already said they don't want the sport to be faster. Furthermore, the manufacturers do not appear to be making arrangements to return to the 990s. Instead, they are testing new ideas to expand 800cc operations by producing more engines and leasing them to chassis builders. It made me ask the question, what if GP slows down WSBK instead? What if the big surprise for 2012 is not the reemergence of the 990 beasts we love, but the introduction of 800cc SBKs? Or worse, maybe the 2012 surprise is that the big 4 are pulling out of WSBK all together in an attempt to differentiate between the two series?
I know it seems inconceivable that the manufacturers would pull out of WSBK, but if you remember the very high profile meeting that Dorna had with the MSMA and the FIM, you may remember that one of the biggest objectives of the MSMA was to use motogp to start driving sales.
What if the manufacturers are planning to turn SBKs into 800cc MotoGP clones instead of independent 1000cc racebikes, and then use MotoGP race activities to sell bikes instead of WSBK racing activities? 1000s don't really sell very well in relation to 600s mainly because of the cost and the excessive unusable performance characteristics. I wonder if the manufacturers think 800s might do much better in the global market place?
If you look at historical events under the assumption that the MSMA is going to change WSBK or even withdraw from WSBK, it gives new meaning to the events of the past. What if WSBK allowed Ducati 200cc displacement and it rushed Aprilia and BMW into WSBK b/c they were worried that the Japanese manufacturers would be able to drop SBK or change the SBK premier class to rules more similar to the 750 formula?
Yamaha's WSS withdrawal announcement has come amidst widespread rumors that the 2010 or 2011 R6 will be a close relative of Valentino Rossi's MotoGP bike----sharing almost identical fairings and a cross plane crank with the M1. Yamaha's move looks like a trend setter---turn production bikes into a MotoGP clones and stop using WSBK to drive sales. Furthermore, Yamaha are rumored to be dropping most of its support for the WSBK outfit if Spies wins the title and makes the jump to MotoGP. Are Yamaha really going to lay off a world class racing outfit like Yamaha Italia? or are they going to transition them into GP to run satellite bikes and test parts that can't be tested under the current rules?
Anyway, I'm wondering what the future holds, and if the GP manufacturers are moving SBK assets under the shroud of darkness (the economic recession) to GP. There have been widespread reports/rumors of drastic reductions to SBK budgets and factory support, and there have been widespread reports that manufacturers are actually trying to increase support in the GP class. Don't forget Honda have already started to transition WSBK assets to GP by putting Ten Kate on Moto2 engine prep duty.
I have a very strange feeling that a cold war of sorts is brewing behind the scenes, and I think the Japanese are preparing to turn GP into a fortress that has no little or no access to outsiders regardless of what the rules say (the engine leasing rules are part of the entrenchment process). Not even Commodore Perry will succeed in reopening GP to the general public.
Kawasaki are walking the ridgepole of the roof. Which way will they fall? Try to conquer 1000cc SBKs against Ducati, Aprilia, and BMW? or ante up and return to GP with their compatriots? I think it's obvious that the OEMs are getting tired of running 2 circuses.
What does this mean for the national series?
I really think something big is about to go down and motorcycling as we know it will be changed for the foreseeable future.
Only what if.....