MotoGP grid set to swell to 28 bikes in 2014

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The MotoGP grid could swell to its largest size in years with the potential for a 28-strong entry in 2014.

With Honda, Yamaha and Ducati all contracted to supply four factory prototypes each, there is the possibility that 16 additional entries will be permitted to compete, including Suzuki with a new two-rider factory effort.

Suzuki were to be subject to stringent entry criteria from Spanish rights owners Dorna, which meant the Japanese factory would have to collaborate with an existing team like Aspar or Paul Bird Motorsport, or buy a team’s place.

It seems though that none of the existing non-factory teams wish to share ownership or sell its place on the grid to Suzuki, and to avoid losing the prospect of a major factory returning, Dorna will increase the grid to 26 machines.

Suzuki though has still not formally committed to a full-time return in 2014.
But Davide Brivio, who is leading an extensive testing schedule for its new 1000cc project, said further talks on the entry process would commence once the green light to compete was given by Japanese management.

Brivio told MCN: “We want to move within the rules but I think that Suzuki is one of the biggest motorcycle manufacturers in the world and I think it would be welcome if they will enter. I guess all the parties involved would be happy for them to come back in this difficult economic situation. It would be a pity if Suzuki decided to enter and if for whatever reason we can’t have an entry. But I can feel Dorna and the other manufacturers and teams will be happy if Suzuki comes back.”

Half of the 2013 grid is made up of CRT entries like Forward Racing, Aspar and British-based PBM, who took advantage of rules designed to boost dwindling grid numbers at the end of 2011 that allowed independent entries to race tweaked production engines in prototype chassis.

CRT entries supply 12 bikes to the current championship and all have expressed a strong desire in remaining, with more competitive options being made available by Yamaha and HRC for 2014.

Yamaha is leasing a YZR-M1 engine project for around £630,000 per season to teams that must build their own prototype frame.

And for just over £800,000 a team can purchase a complete new production Honda RC213V machine.

Yamaha plans to lease a maximum of four engines and HRC proposes to sell a maximum of five complete bikes, and several existing CRT teams are in negotiations with both about a deal for 2014.

Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told MCN in Mugello recently that he was confident that Yamaha would be leasing all of its engines while HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto said interest in the production RC213V was growing.

Nakamoto told MCN: “Some teams have made contact with us but we don’t have the final details for the bike yet. I hope to have everything done towards the end of July. For the Valencia test (November) there is not enough time to supply bikes to customers but we have a couple of machines for the Valencia test and customers can test for two hours each, or something similar.  At Sepang test (February 2014) we can supply bike to customers. We would need confirmed orders for next by the end of July.”

The addition of Suzuki’s entry would take the grid to 26 bikes, but two high-profile Moto2 teams are also locked in talks about stepping up to MotoGP in 2014.
One is Scott Redding’s Marc VDS Racing squad. If Redding in unable to secure a factory prototype ride next season then his current Belgian-based Moto2 effort is pondering a move to MotoGP for the 20-year-old, who has been in sensational form in 2013 with wins in Le Mans and Mugello.

Pol Espargaro’s Tuenti HP 40 squad is also keen on a MotoGP move and both could be given a place on the grid given they are two of the most well-funded and professionally run outfits on the Moto2 grid.

Marc VDS team boss Michael Bartholemy told MCN: “What we have to understand is if we have a place. Carmelo (Ezpeleta) met Marc van der Straten in Le Mans and said to Marc that if you want to have a place you have to let me know as soon as possible. This is totally in the hands of Dorna and something we can’t control at all. I still believe that a partner like Marc VDS is very interesting for the championship.”
The concern for Dorna is that a rapid expansion of the grid reduces the money available for it to distribute in the paddock.

MCN understands that one option under consideration is that all new entries are not given any financial assistance in the first season like freight costs or prize money.
And for teams that finish in the last four places of the overall championship 2014, they will have their contributions significantly reduced or abolished for 2015.
That way Dorna is only financially supporting the existing number of 24 entries.
More details of the potential grid size for MotoGP in 2014 and how the premier class will be financially structured could be thrashed out during this weekend’s Catalunya clash in Barcelona.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt