History says a ten-race plan could be MotoGP’s future…

| | MotoGP

Suggestions by Ducati boss Paolo Ciabatti that a MotoGP championship comprising only ten or 12 rounds could be held this season is backed by historical evidence.

A look at how the 500cc (now MotoGP) class developed over the decades proves that it operated well with this number of rounds from the later 1960s to the mid-1980s. There were enough races to find a true champion, and it was only in the nineties that the calendar crept up to 15 rounds, and from there to its present total of 20.

The 500cc world series offered only seven events when it started in 1949, but even that was enough for the Italian Umberto Masetti to prove that his four-cylinder Gilera was a better package that Geoff Duke’s second-placed Manx Norton, and Les Graham on a twin-cylinder AJS Porcupine in third. Even by 1960, when John Surtees won the 500cc title for MV Agusta, there were still only seven rounds.

The last time there was a ten-round championship was in 1976, when Barry Sheene won on a Suzuki. The last 12-round series was in 1985, when Freddie Spencer triumphed on a Honda. The spread of the series to the Americas and Asia fuelled the growth to the present packed calendar.

But when - if - the world recovers from post-Covid trauma, will national economies, manufacturers, promoters and teams have enough resources to support the return to 20 weekends? Reducing debt, paying for housing and feeding the kids will be the priorities.

And anyway, are 20 rounds such a great idea? One strength of BSB and WorldSBK, which are based on a calendar of a dozen or 13 rounds, is that each weekend is cherished because there aren’t that many of them. Every round has a distinct character. The MotoGP schedule, in contrast, slips into something of a blur.

And do riders, pit crews and core MotoGP staff really want to spend all that time in the air and in pitboxes? We know that motorcycle racing is thrilling and addictive, but surely they’ve got other interests and relationships in life as well as going round corners and making money.

There’s another consideration. In a world trying to go green before it burns itself up, activities such as motorcycle racing are going to come under pressure to clean up their act. All those air miles, all that trashed rubber, 1000cc internal combustion engines - that’s an easy target for the environmental movement to aim at.

Perhaps Paolo Ciabatti’s idea could be a more practical and humane solution. And, in an economic wasteland, it could be the only game in town.