Kawasaki's withdraw from MotoGP has prompted a range of suggestions to help improve the health (read grid size) in MotoGP, which could feature just 17 bikes in 2009 pending the outcome of efforts to hand the ZX-RRs to a privateer team.
In order to help retain the remaining four MotoGP manufacturers (Honda, Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki) and attract new future entries it is necessary to know what MotoGP offers manufacturers.
There are arguably two main reasons why a factory might want a MotoGP presence:
1) As a proving ground for the development of future technology.
2) As a marketing exercise to improve brand awareness and prestige.
The problem is that neither of these attributes is unique to MotoGP - Superbike championships can offer both (to a lesser degree) for a fraction of the cost.
But MotoGP's biggest problem is this: If a factory enters MotoGP it will spend tens of millions of dollars a year designing, developing and racing a motorcycle it will never sell
- at least in the case of Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and (previously) Kawasaki.
That is a hard case to put to a board of directors during difficult financial times - particularly if track success is not forthcoming - and probably prompted Aprilia, BMW and, in future, KTM to chose WSBK instead.
However Ducati - the smallest and most commercially aware of the MotoGP manufacturers - was quick to realise that, in order to justify a MotoGP presence, it needed to make money directly from its Desmosedici, even in the 'good times'.
Ducati, which entered MotoGP in 2003, unveiled the Desmosedici RR (road replica, pictured) in 2006 with the first deliveries made the following year. By June of 2007 Ducati had received 1,200 orders for the machine, which at the time was worth around 68 million Euros (£46 million) in business. Each RR costs around 55,000-60,000 Euros (depending on time of order).
So, in an effort to drive down costs and increase MotoGP's business relevance, why not require all MotoGP manufacturers to either:
1) Build at least, say, 100 road-legal replicas of their grand prix prototypes (technical similarities and allowable differences roughly as per the Desmosedici RR) for public sale by the start of the following season. The aim of this would be to limit the cost of each MotoGP machine and the types of technology used, with the added bonus of a sales income.