Motorsport Thoughts

Thursday, January 03, 2008

125s and 250s - the future

Last month we saw the publication of the entry lists for all the GP classes – check out the lists on or – very soon – the Fantasy League price lists in that thread.
One big thing stood out in the 250 and 125 lists – and that was the almost total departure of Honda from those classes. Two 250 Hondas for Yuki Takahashi and Ratthapark Wilairot plus a 125 machine for class debutant Louis Rossi – no relation – is all that's on offer from Honda for 2008 in the development classes with Aprilia dominating and KTM increasing their presence correspondingly.

Now that isn't a criticism of Honda at all or indeed anyone – the fact is more that it's a signal that times are changing.

I love the 125s in particular – they're my favourite class in general. Brilliant wheel-to-wheel racing, tons of overtaking, close finishes (including that Dovi/Jorge dead heat), equality and of course all the young talent coming through in a class with massive grids of more than 40 riders at some events. Our first glimpse of the future MotoGP champions – when I started watching GPs, Dani Pedrosa hadn't even debuted in 125s for instance. In terms of out-and-out racing, I don't want the 125s to end – and neither does anyone with an appreciation of what great competition is all about.

But as I say, things are changing. Two-stroke engines are on their way out in production terms, and as such the 250s and 125s have lost relevance with regard to road bikes. And being support classes, there isn't enough money going round to support prototype bike development for them. Fair enough. Somewhere – possibly on this forum in the past – I read something about the 2-stroke class rules being renewed til the year 2015, but it appears unlikely (and I have it on extremely good authority) that we'll have changed over to new classes some way before then. The new classes may well be 450 and 250 four-stroke categories.

This thread is all about what I hope the FIM and Dorna can create with the new classes. It is a positive look at things and a good look to the future to support classes that can be genuinely as good or even better than what we currently enjoy.

There are some great teams running in the little classes, and of course it's important to keep hold of them so we will still have the big grids that there are at the minute. This will mostly be down to cost of the new classes. Manufacturer parity has also been very good, particularly in the 125s with Aprilia (and badged versions thereof), Honda and KTM (and other Bartol-designed projects like past Derbis) taking wins. That's down to regulation management. The FIM know what they're doing with this. The relevance of the classes to road-going machinery should be back – as the 450 and 250 four-stroke engines are in dirt-bikes. The promotion of the classes should remain as it currently is – which seems pretty good. Dorna know what they're doing after all.

The tricky bit is getting them to race as well as the 125s currently do, we'll have to wait and see on that one but I've got faith that we'll still get the entertaining mayhem we're used to. Hopefully they'll also still prove a great training ground for future MotoGP stars, as the 250s have shown recently and look to do in 2008.

There is an area where the new classes have the potential to improve on the current classes, and that's to do with their relevance and accessibility to domestic level series. Year upon year we see wildcards show up at various GPs and they're usually all at the back or not even on the grid – which is hardly a good sign of who should be coming into the class the next season of the national riders. As a example – although it's certainly not the only one – at Donington all the wildcards will be at the back. And it's down to the disparity between the machinery available – in the wet things even out, as Brits saw with Dan Linfoot taking top tens in 125s and 250s, and Rob Guiver storming past Marco Simoncelli for 6th a couple of years ago before falling off. The talent's there in many of the national series, not just Spain's excellent CEV championship. A look at the 125 GP field and the British 125 champ easily identifies the problem – a pack of Aprilias of various levels of tuning, versus a pack of exclusively Hondas of lesser tuning in the British series. Some money injected into national series for some reasonably equal machinery would give national championships so much more relevance to the GP support classes and opportunity for a greater range of up-and-comers to experience more highly tuned bikes earlier without having to sell the family home and move to Spain. If such an injection could happen as the new classes came in it'd be a real boost for national championships. It could also bring a greater opportunity for national level teams who wanted to move up to GPs.

The other thing to sort out is the gap in 250s between the 'haves' and 'have-nots', which has lead to some strung-out races in that class (although there've also been some very good ones there too)

Part of me was a bit scared when I realised that the 125s would be ending within the next few years, but having a think about it has made me realise that I shouldn't be. The ingredients for great support classes are already in place and the FIM/Dorna are very good at getting their head down and having things planned out nice and quietly in good time (is it just me, or did the 800s get very fast very quickly?) - as opposed to Formula 1 for instance where even non-news gets dragged out into the open immediately. I'm confident about the proposed new formulas.

Bring on the future!


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