By Matt Zollo

While the imminent CRT sub-category of MotoGP is splitting opinion, it is worth remembering that feelings toward a similar rulebook revolution, Moto2, were equally divided ahead of its first season.

Moto2 was created for 2010 to replace the increasingly elite 250cc World Championship, with the thoroughbred racers of the two-stroke class giving way to 600cc four-strokes, all powered by production-based (Honda) engines housed within prototype chassis designs.

Two years on and Moto2 has more than justified its existence; it has often been the most eagerly anticipated race of a motorcycle grand prix weekend. In addition, initial concerns over Moto2's lack of pace are slowly being put to bed thanks to the development and refinement of the hybrid production/prototype recipe and control Dunlop tyres.

But the main vindication of the introduction of the category is the quality and closeness of the racing. Over the course of the final 250cc season, which was hardly a dull one, the average gap from 1st to 3rd was 8.667s. For Moto2's first season, that figure was 4.452s, and 2011's was only slightly higher, at 4.997s.

Heading into a 250cc race only a handful of riders stood a good chance of a podium appearance. In fact, eleven 250cc riders stepped on the podium in 2009, but only seven did so more than once.

Now, however, you'd be hard pushed to rule out almost half the Moto2 grid from bagging a surprise result, with 17 riders tasting champagne in 2010 and 16 in 2011, with ten doing so more than once during both seasons.

And it's not just the variety of top riders that has improved with the move away from the Aprilia lock-down in 250. In 2010 eight of the 14 different chassis makes on that year's Moto2 entry list scored a podium; in 2011, all of the seven makes (MZ ran FTRs for most of the year) that entered achieved a podium.

Development attrition is inevitable, but despite that there are still seven makes so far confirmed for Moto2's third season in 2012.

All important grid numbers were a success right from the start, with an oversubscription for the first season and only one off the maximum of 40 for 2011. Compare that with 28 entries for World Supersport's 2011 season and 23 for the 2009 250cc season and it's easy to appreciate just how successful Moto2 has been from a commercial perspective.

Initially there was consternation over the pace of Moto2 bikes, and understandably so: at the 2010 season opener in Qatar the fastest lap was 3.158s off the 250cc circuit record.

Calculating the average difference between 250cc and Moto2 circuit records during 2010, at the directly comparable circuits - twelve after weather, circuit modifications and calendar changes - shows the 250cc lap record to be an average of 1.500s faster than Moto2.

Perhaps of more importance and more relevance are comparisons with World Supersport lap times. Using circuit records at Brno, Misano, Phillip Island and Valencia - Silverstone and Assen Moto2 races were wet - shows that Moto2 was an average 0.427s slower in its first year.

In 2011, however, Moto2 lap records were broken at 12 of the 17 circuits they visited - with four of the remaining five unbroken due to weather conditions - and often by over one-second. The roles have also been reversed when it comes to Supersport comparisons, and Moto2 bikes are now an average of 0.252s faster than their production bike rivals times at the same four circuits.

Comparing 2011 Moto2 records with the 250s', the two-strokes are now only an average of 0.517s faster, and at some tracks the Moto2 bikes are quicker. At Le Mans they were already quicker by half-a-second even in 2010; now they're over a second faster. They are also now quicker at Mugello, Indianapolis (both resurfaced, but with mixed reviews) and Misano.

Along with 2011's increase in pace, however, there has been an increase in crashes, from 382 in 2010 to 421 in 2011. This, despite 2011 seeing far less of the first corner catastrophes that we saw in 2010, helped by the change to three bikes per row instead of four. With the number of entries cut to 'just' 32 for 2012, hopefully next season will see the crash-count decrease.

One point that Moto2 has yet to prove is that it is a suitable feeder class for MotoGP.

Unfortunately Toni Elias's lacklustre return to the top class in 2011 didn't help Moto2's reputation in that respect, but it is likely Elias's lack of form was down to his continued failure to get to grips, literally, with the Bridgestone MotoGP control tyre rather than any bad habits picked up in Moto2.

Karel Abraham, despite only winning one Moto2 race, at the 2010 season finale, had a respectable first year in MotoGP, whilst 2011 champion Stefan Bradl has already impressed during the end of season Valencia test on the LCR Honda, posting a time only 0.328secs slower than Alvaro Bautista's on the same bike, and faster than any time Elias set over the course of the previous race weekend.

The 800cc bike and Bridgestone tyre combination has been notoriously difficult for any rider to get on with, regardless of what they raced before, and the changes to both bike and - to a lesser extent - tyre for MotoGP 2012 could make for a more seamless progression from Moto2 to MotoGP possible.

If Moto2 has proven anything it is that although using production-based components in prototype bike racing is perceived as a bad thing, the consequences of doing so can be positive - both for those watching and those participating.

Whether the changes in MotoGP have a similarly positive effect remains to be seen, but the omens from Moto2 are certainly good.


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