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Will Horsepower be the Deciding Factor in MotoGP, After All?

Ducati’s decision to abandon its traditional L-twin engine design for MotoGP is telling. Ducati admits its traditional engine design is very important to the company image, and that efforts were made to design a twin that would be competitive in MotoGP (including one with oval pistons). Those efforts did not work — Ducati decided horsepower will rule MotoGP, and a four-cylinder was necessary.

Early speculation indicated that tires would be the limiting factor in MotoGP. Everyone would make horsepower — more than enough under the regulations permitting 990cc engines. Ducati’s engineers indicate that 220 crankshaft horsepower, at a minimum, will be the cost of admission to competitiveness in MotoGP. Rumors have Honda shooting for 250 horsepower at the crank from its V-5.

Reports from Suzuki’s four-stroke MotoGP tests indicate Kenny Roberts feels he will spend far more time at full throttle on the big four-stroke than he did on the two-stroke 500. All of the riders who have made the switch to four-strokes indicate, despite the power boost, the power is more usable and controllable. Does this mean that the top riders in the world (used to controlling the light-switch delivery of a 500 two-stroke), can effectively use 250 horsepower? If it does, this would point to Honda making the right decision by going with the maximum number of cylinders (five) permitted in the weight category (four-cylinders must meet the same minimum weight standards as five cylinder machines). We will see.