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Yamaha Preparing for new 600cc Moto2 Class?

Two-Stroke? More like too much smoke. That seems to be the writing on the wall for the sound of ring-a-ding-ding that has dominated racing since the expansion chamber changed two-wheeled competition back in the ’60s. From Burbank to Bangkok, Marrakesh to Macao, local and national governments are making it harder to legally ride the heavily-polluting (yet oh-so-fun) two-cycle motorcycle. And now that’s spilling over into the most sanctified temple of two-stroke competition, the quarter-liter GP class.

Starting in 2011, the 250cc MotoGP class will be replaced by a new class called Moto2. Rather than being a no-expenses-spared showcase of one-off exotica, it’s envisioned as a lower-cost way to encourage budding talent and smaller race teams. The bikes will be limited to 600cc engines with redlines of no greater than 16,000 rpm (less for Twins and Triples). In fact, the engines will be offered for sale to competitors for 20,000 Euros after each race, discouraging the use of exotic materials and designs. Electronics, like dataloggers and transponders, can’t cost more than 650 Euros.

However, the sky’s the limit for chassis engineering. No production parts will be allowed for the frame, seat, fuel tank or bodywork, encouraging innovation in the racebikes’ design. What this will all mean is an odd mix of stock-based motors in exotic, one-off frames. Japan’s endurance-racing gurus at Moriwaki Engineering have already shown off a prospective Honda-powered Moto2 machine, and SBK powerhouse Ten Kate racing has also expressed interest. My guess would be to expect some very close racing.

None of the big OEMs are talking much about Moto2, but our man in Italy Oberdan Bezzi has sent along this sketch of what a Yamaha Moto2 machine – dubbed the YZM-R2 – could look like. He’s heard reports that Yamaha will sell this turn-key Moto2 racer, much like Yamaha sells race-ready TZ250 racers to teams today. Yamaha, of course, claims it has no knowledge of such a machine.

How will this affect street-based riders? Well, don’t expect 600-class motors to make a Great Leap Forward in terms of power, as today’s streetbikes are already getting close to 16k redlines. But things like suspension, brakes, aerodynamics and styling could get much more interesting. And we can expect middleweight multi-cylinder engines from more European manufacturers as well. Will it be enough to keep two-stroke fans from getting all misty-eyed when they smell burning oil? Probably not, but we’ll all benefit from the competition.