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Sauber Petronas Three-Cylinder Motor May Have Few Takers

The Sauber Petronas motorcycle GP engine was revealed at a press conference at Suzuka last weekend. The motor was physically larger than expected, and representatives present indicated that it needed to be downsized somewhat. Bench testing indicated 200 plus horsepower, however, in an early development model. Promising.

The problem for this motorcycle engine venture is the asking price for the engine, several million dollars. Are there really teams out there willing to pay this? Certainly the major motorcycle manufacturers will develop their own engines so the potential market is the “privateer” teams, which would need significant corporate sponsorship to embark on a competitive GP campaign.

The Sauber Petronas design is clearly advanced, with the F1-experienced entity equipping the three-cylinder machine with pneumatic valves. The trick F1-style technology is clearly there but, as usual, it comes down to money. Kenny Roberts, Sr., who has run a privateer effort in 500 GP for several years, stated he has no interest in purchasing engines from Sauber (or anyone else, apparently). Who else is out there?

Maybe the F1 experience has given Sauber rose colored glasses. In F1, millions of dollars seem to float around like pennies. Not so in 500 GP motorcycle racing. It will be interesting to see if Sauber actually finds a customer to race this bike, or, more likely, ends up fielding its own team of riders to campaign the machine. Sauber indicated the machine would be displayed in a working chassis in a few months.