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Will 800cc Really be Safer?

In 2007, when the MotoGP rules require engine capacity to fall from the current 990cc to 800cc, will this really make the bikes slower? Will it really make MotoGP racing safer?

Currently, there are two basic components that make a great MotoGP engine. These are power and power delivery. A powerful bike is nothing unless it delivers that power in a way that is usable by the racer. The MotoGP manufacturers spend as much, or more, time developing a smooth, usable power delivery as they do developing peak horsepower.

When the allowable engine capacity drops to 800cc in 2007, the power race will start over again in MotoGP. As they did with the 990cc engines, manufacturers will struggle to balance peak horsepower with usable delivery, and some of the manufacturers will undoubtedly struggle with peaky, dangerous powerbands early on (just as they did with 990cc). This time, however, this struggle will be even more difficult.

Smaller pistons and higher rev ceilings, could well make the power delivery of these new bikes very violent. If one manufacturer is able to achieve a very high peak horsepower, and conquer the power delivery problem, other manufacturers will do everything they can to achieve competitive horsepower, but this may come at the expense of smooth powerbands, at first. A high revving, peaky engine will be extremely difficult to control. Sort of like a 500cc two-stroke. Remember those?

For those of you sitting at home thinking 800cc bikes will definitely be slower, think about this. There are Japanese engineers burning the midnight oil with one goal in mind. That is, build a somewhat smaller (roughly 20% smaller) higher revving MotoGP engine that makes just as much power as the current bikes do. They have plenty of money and have had roughly two years to make it happen. If one of those manufacturers hits the ground running in 2007, with the right engine package, the performance differential between the top tier of MotoGP and everyone else will be significantly greater than it is today, and the other manufacturers will be desperate to catch up. The fact that tires will be less of a limiting factor at 800cc will only make the engine component that much more important.