The dawn of another new era in MotoGP: The debut of Suter Moto1

Perhaps MotoGP isn’t on its deathbed after all. Eskil Suter’s ‘Moto1’ creation debuted Thursday in Jerez and wasn’t miles off the pace. Perhaps this doesn’t make sense to some of you. Brief history lesson.

MotoGP switched to prototype 990cc four-strokes in 2002 after decades of 500cc two-stroke racing. After the death of Dajiro Kato, it was determined that the 990cc machines were too fast and the capacity would be reduced to 800cc for 2007. Costs rose exponentially and grids shrank drastically, often times not fielding enough riders on the starting grid to classify the race as a world championship. Oh, and the bikes didn’t get any safer.

So for 2012, the rules will change again. MotoGP will allow motorcycles up to 1,000cc and for the first time in modern history, will allow production based engines into the class. The goal of the latter was to cut costs for private teams to participate. Apparently it was embarrassing for MotoGP to see Formula 1 field 24 cars on the grid with teams spending £400 million a season while it could only manage 17 at a fraction of the cost.

And thus, we come to the Suter Moto1 project. Suter has been around MotoGP in the past half-dozen years, instrumental in the development of the now defunct Kawasaki and Ilmor projects. Suter set his sights on the all new Moto2 class for 2010, custom chassis fitted with engines provided by the series, essentially. There were a dozen other chassis manufacturers on the grid, but Suter’s was the one to have.

With that in mind, the move to the premier class was the only logical step from there. With the outstanding performance of BMW’s S1000RR engine and the new rules in MotoGP legalizing that engine, it was a match made in heaven.

So it made its debut today and was some three seconds adrift of Karel Abraham’s Ducati and five seconds off the lap record. Not terribly impressive, but considering the freshness of the project and the considerable development that the chassis and BMW powerplant will undergo in the next year, it’s actually not that bad. Really.

But for somewhere between half and two-thirds the cost (depending on who you believe) of leasing a full-on prototype machine from Honda, Ducati or Yamaha, the future actually looks pretty bright for Suter and MotoGP on the whole.

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