Which Manufacturers Could Fill Suzuki’s Shoes in MotoGP?
Dorna claims they have received interest from ’other manufacturers’by Harry Fisher, on LISTEN 04:33
Suzuki’s departure from the MotoGP paddock in 2023 has left a manufacturer-size hole on the grid and rights-holder Dorna claims there is manufacturer interest to fill it. But who could it be?
Who Will Fill Suzuki’s Shoes in MotoGP?
Suzuki’s announced departure from MotoGP from the end of the 2022 season has left rights-holder Dorna with a hole on the grid, something it is keen to fill in order to maintain the spectacle.
While talks between Dorna and Suzuki regarding the departure continue, which is in breach of the contract signed by Suzuki to remain in the series until at least 2026, it seems fairly certain that the grid slots will be filled, either by KTM entering a third team, possibly under the GasGas name, or by Aprilia expanding their involvement to four bikes with a pair being run by a satellite team.
However, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has suggested that he has had contact from manufacturers to replace Suzuki. This would be the ideal outcome for Dorna, to maintain the number of manufacturers involved, which currently sits at six: Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, KTM, Ducati and Aprilia. But who could be persuaded that investing tens of millions over a period of years is a good idea, especially in the face of challenging market conditions and a changing landscape in motorcycling in terms of motive power?
The most obvious might be BMW, currently the only manufacturer with a 1000cc sports bike in its line up to not have attempted MotoGP. BMW does have a presence on the MotoGP grid but only as far as supplying safety and medical cars.
BMW is currently heavily involved in World Superbikes, albeit without any great success and it would seem unlikely that, on the back of that, they would be easily tempted to up the investment and jump to MotoGP, which would as likely as not produce the same paucity of results with no guarantee of moving up the grid as time went on. MotoGP is arguably higher-profile than WSBK and to fail on that stage is not something that any board would be keen to countenance.
Any new manufacturer entering MotoGP would have to endure the growing pains that the likes of Aprilia and KTM have suffered, not to mention Suzuki. BMW’s M1000RR could be adapted to run as a full prototype in MotoGP but at what cost to its reputation over years of uncompetitiveness? One can imagine passionate Italians doing that, as Aprilia did, but not efficient Germans.
Another manufacturer that could possibly be tempted, even without a suitable production machine to reflect on-track glory in the show rooms, would be Triumph.
Already providing the engines for Moto2 and building a very healthy reputation for power and reliability through it, the three-cylinder engine used in Moto2 has very close marketing ties to Triumph’s road models, which also make extensive use of the configuration. While triples have been used in MotoGP (and 500cc before that), currently the V4 and inline four are the engine of choice and Triumph doesn’t have one of those. That’s not to say it won’t in future and Triumph is certainly in good health financially but you know the old saying: to make a small fortune out of racing, start with a large one!
What about MV Agusta? Already dabbling in Moto2, the company, under new ownership of Russian Timur Sardarov, has hinted that WSBK and/or MotoGP are possibilities for the future, building on its racing heritage up to 1974, although it has to turn around its road-bike manufacturing before that can happen and that in itself is a five-year plan.
There is, however, a large elephant in the room: the Chinese! Dorna would dearly love to have a manufacturer from one of the worlds biggest markets on the grid and it’s not as far-fetched as you might think. Already Loncin, Zongshen and QJMoto have all dipped toes into Moto3, albeit as sponsors for teams rather than running their own bikes but what about CFMoto? With strong ties to KTM, this could result in branding a second KTM satellite team, while CFMoto would have the budget to fund it themselves.
What is certain is that there will again be 24 bikes on the grid in 2023. It just remains to be seen which manufacturer gets the nod.