Michael Czysz on MotoGP: it’s lost

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500 > 990 > 800 > 1000 > CRT > ?

In an era where it is more important then ever for companies to innovate and differentiate themselves from the competition, the race track, for a motorcycle company, should be as central to their operation as the boardroom. If companies no longer deem racing essential, it is because the formula is no longer relevant. Worse, if racing classifications are not clear then fans fail to connect and eventually even care. Ask even a loyal fan to explain the difference between DSB and SuperSport or WSB and a CRT.

Photo: Grant Ray

Racing directs development and to make it relevant in the 21 century, efficiency should trump top speed. Every company (and individual) should be focused on doing more with less and fans should easily understand the structure and goals of each class. What is needed is new architecture, a solid, stable foundation that can scale from Moto3 thru MotoGP and WSB while maintaining each classes unique individuality.

Go to the heart.

Motorcycles go faster because every aspect improves but at the center of this improvement is the cylinder, the heart of the machine. Cylinders have evolved to a diametric science of laminar flow and turbulence. The heart has moved far beyond simple porting and polishing of cast heads. The design and development of the cylinder (airbox to exhaust) is a serious, expensive endeavor and with every seemingly random displacement or bore/stroke change the entire expensive cycle starts over. More than anything else, global rule changes preclude smaller companies from becoming competitive and even plays a part in why existing manufacturers drop out. The result? A MotoGP grid with 3 manufacturers.

The first step; lock down the lowest common denominator, the single cylinder. The obvious choice is a 250cc 4 stroke. The only limitation should be, no pneumatic valves. Ultimately the investors in race technology want to commercialize their technology and pneumatic valves are not easily commercialized. Limiting RPM or bore/stroke ratios are misguided, the goal should be to leave the rules as open as possible.

Once a team has successfully designed a single cylinder a single cylinder engine is a relatively small next step. Once a team has built a single cylinder engine a multi-cylinder engine is well within reach. All the technology and costs spent on any engine could be applied and shared with any other engine yet every engine and class stays and sounds unique.

The 250 multiplier.

We have been nearly here; the greatest era of GP racing from a cost development and fan appreciation perspective had to be the 125, 250 and 500cc era and the distinction between superbikes and GP were at their greatest; 2 stroke vs. 4 stroke. Even though 4 stroke engines have migrated into MotoGP there is still a solution- it utilizes what I call the 250 multiplier:

Moto3 = 250cc (250 x 1)

Moto2 = 500cc (250 x 2)

MotoGP = 750cc (250 x 3)

WSB/Superbike racing = 1,000 (250 x 4)

This allow the clearest path forward for even the smallest company from China or the largest company from India to enter and create a long term plan to race. Nearly all the investment made in Moto1 would be directly applicable to Moto2 and so on.

Of course fewer or more cylinders should be allowed with displacement considerations.

MotoGP vs WSB

MotoGP = 250cc, 500cc and 750cc prototype engines and chassis

WSB/Superbike = 600cc and 1,000cc production engines and chassis

Under the 250X format MotoGP will continue to race technology leading prototype chassis and engines. With a common cylinder across the classes, MotoGP will not only have built in feeder classes for riders but for manufacturers too. Superbikes will continue to be the most directly connected series to consumers as the motorcycles raced are available in showrooms. However Superbike needs to be more disciplined, a minimum number of motorcycles must be manufactured and delivered before allowed to participate. The trust is lost when a series homologates bikes or equipment arbitrarily that do not even meet the basic definition of “production based” (i.e. AMA/DMG)

Electronics, tires, back-up bikes, etc.

I generally feel fewer rules are better than more and that fewer restrictions will create more interesting racing and over the long run will cost less. Change costs money, the greater the change the greater the cost.

Electronics are a reality and will continue to play even a bigger roll in racing. Electronics can bring outside industry support and money to racing so it needs be managed, not limited.

Moto1 = controlled electronics (single supplier system)

Moto2 = homoligated electronics (open system from any supplier, available to all teams)

MotoGP = unlimited electronics

WSB 600cc = homoligated electronics (open system from any supplier, available to all teams)

WSB 1000cc = unlimited electronics

Tires = open

Back-up bike = allowed

CRT’s = cancelled

Historically, whenever a restriction is implemented to save money it often cost more. Currently WSB does not allow a back-up bike in an effort to save money. In response every team now has a back-up bike that is apart, packed in crates instead of already built and ready. There is little difference in outright cost but all teams encounter much more work and cost in the event there is a problem with the ‘one’ bike. By definition Suberbike is to be production racing, which means highly available.

Most importantly; vertical growth over lateral change.

There are hundreds of motorcycle manufacturers and suppliers in the world that are candidates to participate in racing but do not. The greatest limitation is not money but time. Unless a company is already experienced in racing it takes time to work into the system. Money is still a requirement but many companies have more than ‘enough’ to participate at some level and enough of them could significantly contribute to the overall health and wealth of the sport.

What I believe keeps many companies on the sidelines is the lack of transparency and reason behind wholesale rule changes reinforcing a general fear that the sport is too big and they (we) are too small. However if it was clear that a company would have years to move up and grow into the sport this fear would be reduced in not completely eliminated. If a company could be certain that every hour and every dollar it invested in racing would remain relevant and applicable as they executed a measured, vertical growth plan then the ROI and value proposition of racing dramatically changes.

If motorcycle racing become the best organized, most transparent race series with the clearest, communicated long term vision I believe it could be the most successful motorsport in the world. There is nothing as beautiful and courageous.

This article originally appeared on the MotoCzysz website and is reprinted here with permission. You can read more about Michael Czysz and MotoCzysz using these links.

  • tomwito

    Brilliant, make it happen!

  • Erik

    Why is the 250 cc four stroke cylinder the obvious choice? It was my understanding that Moto GP was historically intended for pure racing machinery with no direct links to production bikes, whereas superbike was intended for production based bikes. Moto GP allowed manufacturers to experiment without being constrained by the design needs for an everyday street bike, superbikes were for winning on Sunday so they could sell em on Monday. Then the lines between them became blurred. Superbikes became race bikes first and not very good street bikes second, best suited for track days and coffee shop posing. After motoGP banned two strokes, MotoGP bikes morphed with superbikes. In order to keep MotoGP as a distinct and premier class, it should go back to its roots, no limit on cylinders (or even whether there are cylinders), any engine design, all types of induction. Limit or mandate weight, fuel consumption, type of fuel, and maybe emissions. For entry level classes, how about bringing back the 50s? I would love to see 100 mph 16 speed 50cc race again. Have an ebike class. GP racing should be for pushing the envelope as far as it can go in any direction or it should just go away.

    • PenguinScotty

      I think the main reason why he’s proposing 4-Strokes is relate-ability. What i mean is that technology developed for 4-Strokes, can essentially trickle down to the manufacturing process of regular, street oriented, bikes. I fear that 2-Strokes are simply not relevant on the road right now.

      Don’t get me wrong, i understand that MotoGP and such, is intended for prototype racing, but, to me, there needs to be something that tells me “Hey, this can get put on our road bikes in a few years!”

      500cc 2-Strokes were amazing back then. The racing was insane, they are extremely simple, but, for me, i see no reason why manufacturers would pursue it.

      MotoGP reminds me a lot of F1, as of late. F1 is so restricted in what can be down now, that, essentially, all that can be done is aero work, which really doesn’t benefit anybody much, in the long run.

      Honestly, i’m not sure what would make MotoX fun again, but what we have right now, i will agree, is not fun.

  • Your_Mom

    It is an interesting proposal. What are the pitfalls? I for one do not know and this question must be asked – with an attempt to give a serious answer(s). Would the manufacturers support it? I am not a fan of the CRTs and agree that fewer rules are better.

    I’m thinking that the classes should also exclude things such as titanium connecting rods as these are unlikely to be used in production engines (except for a few exotic homologation specials). They have done this in Indy cars which hasn’t hurt the competitiveness. I would also get rid of aerodynamic restrictions for the MotoGP class. The aerodynamic restrictions have seriously stifled innovation – why? This is ridiculous and antithetical to advancing the art of motorcycle design and engineering.

  • http://www.xenophya.com Xenophya

    Interesting article, I was sceptical reading the title as I thought it was simply going to be a nonsense “Internal combustion engine racing is dead”. Instead it was a thoughtful proposition.

    I personally felt when Dorna changed the original formula from 500cc they missed an opportunity. I would have allowed 2 strokes to continue to compete and kept the historic blue ribbon 4t 500cc class. 2 strokes are cheap and allowed teams like KR to be competitive. I would have lifted the limits on the configuration and number of pistons allowing 4 stroke manufactures (like Honda who pushed for the change) to do what they needed to do in order to be competitive. Multiple cylinders (x12 anyone?), or maybe turbo’s? They were so keen to see the demise of 2t’s they would have made bikes that would win and if they didn’t the 2t’s would be hot on their heals.

    Either way I think Mr Czysz is right it’s time we did something as MotoGP is sadly in decline. I love our sport and I want it flourish.

  • dux [87 CBR600, 95 XR600R]

    I agree, just making it happen will be the hard part.
    Oh, and can someone clean up the typo’s? Please?

    • Pete

      Fair enough, since we’re nitpicking though you should be made aware that apostrophes indicate either possession or contraction. Using them otherwise creates typos (not “typo’s”).

      • aristurtle

        Classic example of Muphry’s Law in action.

        • markbvt

          I have to assume you did that on purpose…

  • Tony T.

    What does CRT stand for in this context?

    • Jon B.

      Claiming Rule Teams.

  • Barry

    CRT = Claiming Rule Team

    • jp182

      thanks i was loss on that point and missed Tony T.’s post

  • CafeDucati

    Interesting and valid proposal.

    I for one do not think Moto GP or WSBK are uninteresting, but I do love the energy of the current Moto2 format.

    MotoGP may not have the outright battles that it’s smaller siblings have, but they are more like battleships that pass eachother with calculated purpose.

    Regarding the CRTs, I am open to watch and see what happens. You will never please everyone and this could end up being a American Le Mans type racing series, where it is like two series’ in one. This might be like an unforseen connection, kind of like Montana bacon and German chocolate.

    Tasty,… BRING ON THE RACING!!!

  • stephen

    So I guess you guys are “Racing Republicans” or conservatives?
    Get them damn regulations off my property!

    HAHA! I totally agree with you guys on this.

  • jason

    This sounds like a great proposal :
    Can we get some oomph behind it?

  • aristurtle

    Fun fact: the budget for Honda’s 2011 MotoGP team was $450 million.

    The budget for a top-level WSBK team is around $10 million. Oh, and they race the bikes that they also actually sell.

    After I learned that I was amazed that MotoGP is still around. But then, I also wonder why F1 has more of a following than LeMans, so what do I know.

  • AHA

    Great sounding proposals. It strikes me that people who know and love the sport seem to have plenty of solutions for the current mess – unlike the people who created it. I know I’m cynical but I think FIM and Dorna are too incompetent to fix the problem. In fact, their misguided attempts to generate more cash achieve exactly the opposite. Incompetence and avarice is a very tricky combination to overcome.

  • smoke4ndmears

    Now that the investment entity behind MotoGP and WSBK is the same maybe it is possible that some decisive action can be made. Keep in mind that change would ultimately be shareholder driven. I do like the idea regarding the less-is-more engine size that Mr. Czysz proposes, the choice of 3 cylinders is certainly an unconventional layout. Might be a hard sell that one. Additionally, if MotoGP is supposed to be the top-flight series such a displacement/configuration would require significant regulations on the 1000/4 bikes to maintain parity.

    • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

      Tell that bit about three cylinders to Laverda, Triumph, Kawasaki, Yamaha, Aprilia, BMW, etc …

      • smoke4ndmears

        still unconventional in a high performance application, Triumph being the exception.

  • http://worldof2.com/ jpenney

    I’d love to see some unlimited series. Production based racing is great, and needed, but the top tier should be completely bonkers!

  • http://www.racetrackstyle.com Racetrack Style

    “WSB/Superbike = 600cc and 1,000cc production engines and chassis”

    The above sounds like a 1200cc twin & a 675 triple would be excluded from production-based racing. The added displacement advantage debate is no doubt complex, but a variety of cylinders is a very fascinating part of motorcycle racing and development/production.

    I like Mr. Czysz’ 250cc cylinder model due to its economical scaling capability for OEMs involved in mass production, however, Erik also has good points. Prototype racing should also welcome anything outside of that model that can qualify. And, quoting Erik: “Limit or mandate weight, fuel consumption, type of fuel, and maybe emissions”.

    Norton should have been allowed to try to qualify their rotary. Likewise, electric bikes or anyone doing more than 4 cylinders (e.g. Drysdale’s V8) should be welcomed to qualify.

    Prototype racing should lead to other developments, not just further developing the 30 yr old status quo. For example, if different induction was allowed to enter into prototype racing, would a turbo 500cc twin platform eventually end up in a production bike? A 500cc turbo twin could have liter-bike performance* due to the light weight and smaller size.

    *note: not equivalent power, but overall performance.

    • rohorn

      About 25 years ago, 250 turbos would have been legal in the 500GP class. Supposedly, BMW and Honda were working on them, but the fuel consumption was worse than the 500 two strokes. Or so I’m told.

      If I were roadracing dictator for a day, I’d ban all streetbike racing and race with pure roadracing machinery, both production and prototype. I find the whole notion of “Superbike” racing to be a giant lie when a “properly built” superbike “needs” virtually every component replaced by “race” parts, available only to favored teams, of course. I would think that the return of the production roadracer would be a good thing.

      Can anyone imagine how bad motocross in all its various forms would be if the racebikes had to be based on street legal bikes? Now that I think about it, before my time, they were.

      I’ve often wondered what sort machinery would work best in a class with only 2 rules: All air must enter the engine through an orifice of (x) area and leave through an oriface of (y) area – displacement,cylinder count, etc… is open.

      • http://www.racetrackstyle.com Racetrack Style

        A wide-open class like you suggested really should be expected by anyone remotely interested in these things. A variety of different tracks will play the deciding role in how the engineers set out to build their world-beaters…”here’s the set of tracks & # of laps, go build one bike that you think your rider can get around them the quickest”

        That would be liberating for them and fans

  • Isaac


    I’m totally with you. Moto GP is supposed to be the pinnacle of two-wheeled motor sports racing.

    The only thing IMO that should separate classes are displacement and rider experience. I think there should be a 250cc 4-Stroke class (since 2 strokes are outlawed now), then 500cc then 1000cc.

    Then the pilots should have to gain maturity. Say a 250 rider does 4 years then 500cc 2 years before any of them can be drafted to the next class. And starting age should be 16 years old.

    The bikes should be pure prototype all the way down to the smallest nut and bold. Nothing should be out sourced to other companies with the exception of tires. And those should remain open to ANY manufacturer.

  • Isaac

    Oh one more thing, engine configuration should be open too, V2, V4, V6, V8, I4, I3 ect…