MOTOGP » 16 February 2009
MotoGP to change for the better?
Herve Poncharal believes the MotoGP rule changes currently being discussed in response to the global economic crisis are an exciting opportunity to make the sport better.
As well as being team manager of Tech 3 Yamaha, Poncharal is also president of the International Road Racing Teams Association (IRTA) which - along with Dorna, the FIM and MSMA - forms the Grand Prix Commission, which must approve all MotoGP rule changes.
Despite a gradual erosion of satellite and independent teams due to the escalating budgets required to race in MotoGP, the continued presence of the big five factories - Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Ducati - meant that those whose agreement was required to induce change apparently saw little reason to do so.
Since the four-stroke class effectively replaced 500cc in 2002, the only significant technical changes have been the (expensive) switch from 990 to 800cc engines for 2007 and the (fortunately timed) introduction of a single tyre rule for 2009.
“There was a lot of politics involved before the single tyre decision was made, but now with the current economic situation, everybody is happy with it,” said Poncharal, speaking exclusively to Crash.net.
But that wasn't enough to prevent Kawasaki - the least successful of the MotoGP manufacturers - breaking ranks and quitting the sport in early January, in response to the escalating global financial crisis. Pressure soon mounted on even the most successful factories to at least slash their MotoGP budgets, in the face of redundancies elsewhere in the companies, while satellite teams found the search for sponsorship harder than ever.
Poncharal confirmed that the financial crises had forced a fundamental shift in thinking by some inside the paddock, and is optimistic about what is now possible.
“At the moment the whole world is suffering, not only MotoGP. Everybody is very pessimistic. I think they are overly pessimistic. We will suffer in MotoGP, for sure, but let's try to take advantage of this opportunity because now everybody is more open to change,” said Poncharal.
“I would never have thought three months ago that some of the people here would be so open to change.
“The basic feeling from FIM, MSMA, IRTA and Dorna is that we've got to move and we've got to do something.
“Without this crisis everybody was happy to see things stay the same year after year. And when you don't change anything maybe you end up getting a bit boring. Even the most attractive thing, when you see it everyday without any change, becomes ordinary.
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