October 11, 2006 A completely new MotoGP machine is set to be unveiled tomorrow and although it doesn’t have the name of a well known motorcycle manufacturer behind it, there’s some quiet money being wagered that the new team will make a significant mark. MotoGP’s newest team, Ilmor, will unveil the X3 at the Estoril circuit in Portugal prior to the Portuguese MotoGP round at which the bike will compete for the first time. Though it is not expected to be competitive in its first race, the 800cc V4 with air valve springs is designed for the 2007 MotoGP rules, where it is expected to be highly competitive. The project is the brain child of the Swiss engineer Mario Illien (Ilmor) and Eskil Suter. Illien is better known for his many four-wheeled achievements in Formula One and Indy racing, his engine designs have won two F1 championship titles with McLaren-Mercedes plus the Indy 500 race 11 times.
The team tested for two days in Jerez (Spain) last week and the final shakedown prior to competition was the team’s fifth outing following their fourth test the week prior in Estoril where despite being hampered by appalling weather and debris on the track, five times GP winner Garry McCoy put the bike through its paces around the new track formation.
Back in September in Barcelona the Australian rider stunned the MotoGP fraternity with a super-fast test aboard the innovative 800cc Ilmor X3. McCoy put in an astonishing performance outpacing the new Ducati 800cc GP7 - the benchmark for next season's new MotoGP machines when the sports rules dictate a maximum engine capacity of 800cc, down from 990cc.
McCoy commented: "The bike was impressive in testing although we are still in shakedown mode. It’s such an exciting project and I'm glad Mario has asked me to race for the team, I'm keen to get amongst the MotoGP guys again. Even though we have tested well so far, I'm not placing big expectations on the first two races, the established teams have 20 per cent more engine performance because they are still running to the current rules."
McCoy will race the bike in the final two races of the Championship in Estoril and Valencia.
The Ilmor engine and Suter chassis have been designed together to achieve the optimum package. A wealth of experience from Formula One and Motorbike racing has been incorporated into this venture making the project truly unique.
Commenting on the impending launch Mario Illien said: "It’s a real bonus for us to have a rider like Garry, who has won in 500cc GPs, on the bike for the two wildcard races in Europe. Our recent tests in Estoril and Jerez have given us a fantastic opportunity to really educate ourselves about the bikes performance under a variety of different conditions. Both Ilmor and Eskil Suter’s teams have worked tremendously hard over a short space of time to get to this point and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what we can do in Estoril."
Ilmor was founded by Mario Illien, Paul Morgan and Roger Penske in 1984. It quickly became successful in Indy racing and progressed to competing in Formula One in the early nineties, winning the world championship with McLaren in ’98 and ’99.
In 1998, the decision was made to broaden the business base and a separate offshoot began to grow, first around a project to produce components for Roger Penske’s NASCAR team, followed by two successful projects for Triumph Motorcycles, Harley Davidson and a number of other clients.
In 2001, Ilmor began development on the GM IRL engine, which led on to a speculative engine design for the new 2003 rules and the beginning of the company’s relationship with Honda. The design, manufacture and joint development of this engine resulted in a further expansion into what became known as the Special Projects Group, forming a discrete business with its own dedicated resources. This team of people, working in partnership with Honda Performance Development in California created an engine that has totally dominated the 2004 and 2005 seasons of racing in the IRL, leading to supplying a “one make” series in 06.
In late 2002, Mercedes-Benz elected to begin a phased buyout of Ilmor. This began to stifle opportunities for Special Projects and so Roger and Mario elected to buy the business, along with the Ilmor name. This was accomplished by the end of June 2005 and so a new Ilmor was born. The company is led by Steve Miller, an engineer with a 15-year history of success in US racing.
Ilmor now possesses its own independent design, development, testing and manufacturing facilities, along with the necessary support functions such as finance, procurement, production planning and inspection, employing 60 staff in total. Ilmor’s main business is the development and production of racing engines, from conception through to trackside. In addition, Ilmor currently have some interesting projects in the defence arena.
Suter Racing Technology (SRT) was founded by 82 times GP starter Eskil Suter and his brother Simon in 1996. Suter Racing specializes in the design and manufacture of components for motorcycle racing including engine and complete chassis solutions and is best known for its slipper clutches which have been used by numerous MotoGP and Superbike teams.
In 1998, Suter Racing designed and built the 500cc MotoGP bike chassis for MuZ and achieved two pole and several top 10 results.
In 2002, Suter Racing designed and built the Petronas Superbike engine for the Malaysian oil Giant’s WSBK Project.
From 2003 until 2006 Suter Racing (SRT) built the Kawasaki MotoGP Chassis. SRT employees today 35 staff in their facility in Turbenthal, Switzerland.