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Grand Prix Four-Stroke Rules Would Leave World Superbike as the “Production” Class

After over a year of speculation about the future of 500 GP roadracing, the FIM announced last week the proposed rules for introduction of four-stroke “factory works machines” to the 500 GP roadracing class. During the rumor period, World Superbike bosses were claimed to be very nervous about competition from 500 GP racing if four-strokes were allowed. It should be a non-issue, however, given the extremely light weights and different engine capacities allowed by the 500 GP four-stroke rules (printed below).

World Superbike rules require production based machines weighing substantially more than the FIM’s proposed rules allow. This will ensure that the competitive bikes in 500 GP will be full works machines, rather than based on road-going bikes.

In any event, it will be interesting to see the types of machines that are produced under these new rules. There is some fear that Honda, with a far higher research and development budget than any other manufacturer, coupled with the extremely high expenses associated with development of racing four-stroke engines, could dominate 500 GP with exotic four-stroke machinery. I doubt this will take place, however. The smaller manufacturers have some talented engineers (Yamaha, of course, and even tiny Aprilia), and many of the manufacturers (not just Honda) voted in favor of these rules. I think it will make for very interesting and competitive racing.

Here is the FIM announcement:

The Grand Prix Manufacturers Association (GPMA) have proposed, yesterday 8th April 2000, that the FIM makes a proposition to the Grand Prix Comission with the following exceptions to the technical regulations for the 500cc class of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, that will be effective from 1st January 2002, and the FIM has accepted to do so.

The said exceptions are the following:

  • For two-stroke engines only, the fuel tank capacity will be limited to 32 liters maximum.
  • Four-stroke prototype motorcycles will be experimentally allowed in the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix, with the following characteristics:
    1. Engine displacement: maximum 990cc, regardless of the number of cylinders (minimum 3 cylinders).
    2. Minimum weight:
      • three-cylinders: 135 kg.
      • three-cylinders (oval pistons): 145 kg.
      • four- and five-cylinders: 145 kg.
      • four or more cylinders (oval pistons): 155 kg.
      • six or more cylinders: 155 kg.
    3. Fuel tank capacity:
      • maximum 24 litres for years 2002 and 2003.
      • maximum 22 litres from year 2004.
    4. Noise limit:
      • pre-race limit: 115 dB/A.
      • post-race limit: 120 dB/A.
    5. All the rest as per current regulations.

However, if the following revisions are proposed by GPMA within one month of the signing of this agreement, providing enough arguments to guarantee that only prototype motorcycles will be used for Grand Prix racing, FIM will accept and approve them:

  1. Engine displacement: maximum 990cc regardless of the number of cylinders.
  2. Minimum weight:
    • 3 or less cylinders: 135 kg.
    • 3 or less cylinders (oval pistons): 145 kg.

“It is a very important day for our sport,” President Francesco Zerbi said. “The philosophy of this new agreement is to clearly state that production motorcycles cannot be transformed to participate in the Grand Prix, which are restricted to prototype bikes. I think that this means a very important step forward in the progress of motorcycling and for our sport to be adapted to modern technologies.”