Would Honda Really Quit MotoGP over a Spec-ECU?

12/30/2013 @ 12:33 am, by David Emmett32 COMMENTS

Would Honda Really Quit MotoGP over a Spec ECU? dani pedrosa hrc motogp scott jones 635x423

The 2014 MotoGP season marks a key point in the evolution of Grand Prix racing. Next season, all entries in the MotoGP class must use the Magneti Marelli standard ECU and datalogger as part of their hardware package. For the first time in history, electronics have been limited in motorcycle racing’s premier class.

It is a small victory for Dorna and the teams; however, only the hardware has been regulated. All entries must use the standard ECU, but the choice of which software that ECU runs is up to the teams themselves.

If a team decides to run Dorna’s standard software, they get extra fuel to play with, and more engines to last a season. If a factory decides they would rather write their own software, they are also free to do so, but must make do with only 20 liters to last a race, and just five engines to last a season.

The difference between the two – entries under the Open class, using Dorna software, and as Factory option entries using custom software – is bigger than it seems. Open class entries are stuck with the engine management strategies (including launch control, traction control, wheelie control, and much more) as devised and implemented by the Magneti Marelli engineers, under instruction by Dorna.

Factory option entries will have vastly more sophisticated strategies at their disposal, and manufacturers will be free to develop more as and when they see fit.

The freedom to develop electronics strategies has been a deal-breaker for the factories throughout the four-stroke era. The change in capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007 vastly increased the importance of electronics in the overall package, with more and more money going into both the development and the management of electronics strategies.

The combination of a vast array of sensor inputs, fuel injection, and electronic ignition has meant that vehicle control has moved from merely managing fueling to dynamic and even predictive engine management. Engine torque is now monitored and managed based on lean angle, bike pitch, tire wear, fuel load, and a host of other variables.

So it comes as no surprise that Honda is already making threatening noises over the regulations due to come into force from 2017 onwards. Dorna intends to remove the freedom for factories to use their own software from 2017 onwards, with all bikes using the same, spec, Dorna-supplied software, as currently being developed for the Open category.

Indeed, the reason that the ‘Factory Option’ to run their own software was called ‘Factory Option’, is because options are much easier to remove. Dorna’s goal is to cut costs, make the racing more spectacular to watch, and reduce the gap between the factory teams and the independent teams.

For Honda, removing their ability to write their own software is unacceptable. Speaking at Valencia during the post-race tests, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto made Honda’s position perfectly clear.

In response to a question from myself on what Honda’s response would be to being forced to use spec software, with all entries run under the single, Open category rules, Nakamoto was unequivocal.

“All Open class, with only production racers, it is 99% certain that Honda will stop racing,” he told the press conference. “No reason to continue to race. For Honda, machine development is quite important. The MotoGP platform is very very good for machine development,” Nakamoto said.

But would Honda really go through with their threat to pull out of MotoGP if electronics are banned? Or is this just posturing in the run up to negotiations which are set to begin in earnest in the middle of this year?

To find the answer to that question – or perhaps more accurately, to make an educated guess at an answer – we first have to examine the reasons why Honda go racing. There are three main reasons for HRC to be in MotoGP: research and development; marketing; and to train their engineers.

Research and development is the reason most commonly given by manufacturers when asked to justify their participation in racing. A large part of the budget for the racing departments of all the major manufacturers comes out of the corporate R&D budget, with engineers pursuing the opportunities provided by racing to test new ideas and materials.

Much can be learned, in chassis design, in engine layout, in frame and swingarm flexibility, in the interaction between suspension and chassis, and, to a very large degree, about throttle response and making an engine easy to control within the confines of a set of regulations. The areas in which factories gain knowledge are manifold: material science, chassis geometry, chassis flexibility, engine control strategies, the list goes on and on.

Marketing is also a major factor. Racing provides exposure to a global audience, and increases brand awareness, and can play a key role in positioning a brand. Though MotoGP bikes are not on sale to the general public, there can be no doubt that racing helps factories market and sell their bikes.

The popularity of MotoGP replica paint jobs, whether it be Repsol Honda Fireblades, Nicky Hayden replica Ducatis, or the vast numbers of scooters sold in Asia with Valentino Rossi liveries underline the marketing power of the sport.

The old adage of ‘Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday’ does not appear to hold true, however: despite a recent dearth of success in either MotoGP or World Superbikes, Ducati sports bikes continue to sell in large quantities, while Aprilia RSV4s are almost impossible to shift.

The importance of racing for the marketing efforts is evident from BMW’s participation in World Superbikes. The German brand came to WSBK to rid itself of its staid and boring image, BMW riders carrying the nickname ‘the pipe and slippers brigade’ throughout the English-speaking world. BMW’s objective in participating in WSBK was to project a more sporting, youthful and sexy image.

The fact that BMW’s S1000RR is one of the world’s top selling sports bikes proves that they have achieved that aim, without winning a WSBK title, and despite limited success on track. The marketing power of racing helped shift the public perception of BMW, and helped them increase their sales.

Ironically, when you ask factories what their return on investment is from racing, in terms of both marketing and R&D, they will not give you an answer. I know, because I asked.

The answers I did receive left me wondering whether the manufacturers even know themselves. It was understandable that factories refused to share absolute numbers, but they also would not tell me whether racing gave them more in terms of R&D or in terms of marketing.

The nearest I ever got to an answer was from Suzuki team boss Paul Denning, before the factory pulled out. “If we only went racing for the marketing it gave us, it wouldn’t be worth it,” he told me in 2010.

Underlying the responses I got was a sense that factories went racing because racing is what they do, and not necessarily because of the returns it brought.

Racing offered much more than just pure financial benefits: it channels the passion of both fans and manufacturer employees, giving them all something to both cheer for and aspire to. It acts as a binding factor, inspiring loyalty and enthusiasm, among both staff and customers.

Which brings me to the third reason Honda – and the other Japanese factories – go racing: to train their engineers. Japanese manufacturers like to rotate their engineers through various departments to keep their minds flexible, and prevent them from getting stuck in particular trains of thought. The racing department is one of the most important steps in an engineer’s career.

Here, engineers learn to think quickly, to analyze problems rapidly and work through solutions. They learn to think on their feet, and not get trapped in familiar patterns of thinking. In the extreme environment which racing creates, their ideas are tested beyond the boundaries of their own imagination. Racing finds a way of breaking and stretching boundaries in ways which engineers and designers are unable to conceive of.

So if Honda were to pull out of racing, they would lose the benefits from all three of those areas. Such a decision would revolve around whether the loss of the ability to develop their own software strategies outweighs the benefits gained from R&D in other areas, marketing and training engineers. Where does the balance lie?

Certainly, the loss of electronics R&D would blow a huge hole in Honda’s exploration of ideas which could transfer to road bikes. The most important lessons learned from racing is not so much in terms of traction control, but more in maintaining a predictable throttle response and smooth power delivery with limited fuel, and at part throttle. As emissions regulations grow ever stricter, learning more about how to run an engine as lean as possible without the rider noticing is crucial.

However, losing the ability to write their own software algorithms to handle this area may not be the loss which Honda would have us believe. MotoGP would still provide a vast amount of data on fuel usage, controlling fuel/air mixtures, and managing throttle response, just from gathering the data from the racers. They may not be able to test their software ideas on track, but they will at least still have the input data on which to base their ideas.

What’s more, electronics is not the only area in which knowledge is gained. There will still be plenty to be learned about chassis geometry, frame flexibility, material usage, and a host of other areas. Lessons of mass centralization, engine packaging and aerodynamics will remain just as important as they are now.

And with less control over engine management strategies, engineers will focus on developing engines with a more user-friendly power delivery instead. Instead of relying so heavily on electronics to manage torque outputs, they will have to focus on fundamental engine design. Those factors are just as applicable to road bikes as the electronic management strategies currently being applied.

The loss of marketing opportunities if Honda were to pull out could possibly be compensated by marketing offensives in other areas. Triumph, for example, does very well indeed without racing, relying instead on the strength of its model line up and a strong marketing strategy.

Would Honda lose out to Yamaha if they were to pull out. Shuhei Nakamoto refused to be drawn on this when I asked him at Valencia. Would Honda be willing to stand idly by and watch Yamaha or Ducati snap up the MotoGP title year after year? “I don’t know Yamaha or Ducati’s opinion, I can only say Honda’s opinion,” was Nakamoto’s cagey reply.

The one area which Honda could not compensate for if they pulled out of racing, however, would be in its training of engineers. No other environment can replicate the high octane pressure cooker of a racing department. Speed is of the essence, both on and off the track, and most especially, a flexibility of mind.

Racing teaches engineers not to get trapped, to think outside the box, as the jargon has it, to search for new, simple, inventive, and quick solutions to problems they didn’t realize they had. Working towards a common goal helps provide the motivation that ensures that everyone working under those conditions can stay sane, and not burn out quickly.

It is essential to have a reason, otherwise you simply cannot maintain that level of intensity.

This would prove the most costly loss to Honda. Pulling out of MotoGP would leave Honda with nowhere to train its engineers. However, with Honda due to make a return to F1 – albeit in a limited capacity, as an engine supplier to McLaren from 2015 – this could provide still provide the training they would be losing. Of course, whether a spell designing F1 engines would help train motorcycle chassis engineers is open to question.

On the face of it, it appears that Honda have too much to lose from pulling out of MotoGP. So why make the threats? HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto is not given to making empty threats, but he is also a man of formidable negotiating talents. Since arriving as head of Honda’s MotoGP program, he has consistently outmaneuvered Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, despite much cajoling from the Spaniard.

Nakamoto has conceded little of importance, only losing out a couple of times. Honda badly underestimated KTM’s commitment to Moto3, building a bike to the spirit of the rules, where KTM created a de facto factory team, and destroyed Honda’s Moto3 effort. Honda also badly misread Ducati at the end of 2011, when the manufacturers’ association MSMA failed to reach agreement on a weight increase.

Those defeats aside, Nakamoto has managed to resist Ezpeleta’s attempts to persuade him of the importance of improving the entertainment factor in MotoGP. Indeed, when asked directly by Dennis Noyes at the end of 2012, Nakamoto replied that providing entertainment was not Honda’s business, nor their responsibility.

The last time Dorna threatened to impose a spec ECU and software on MotoGP, in the run up to the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Honda always managed to parry their objections.

Yet there is reason to believe that this is a battle which Honda will eventually lose. The defection of Ducati is key: under current rules, the MSMA can only reject proposed rule changes by a unanimous vote. The previous Ducati Corse boss, Filippo Preziosi, was clear that a spec ECU was unacceptable.

New boss Gigi Dall’Igna sees the situation differently, telling reporters at Valencia that he believed the Open category (with the spec Dorna software) was the future of MotoGP. Where previously, the MSMA be counted on to rubber stamp Honda’s position, HRC now faces internal opposition from another MSMA member. Honda will have to make their own decision.

Honda’s internal policy could also work against them. HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto has been in his position since early 2009, and will be entering his sixth season as HRC boss. His time at the head of HRC is limited, and when decisions come to be made and contracts come to be signed, Nakamoto could well be gone, moved to another part of the company.

In his place will probably be someone with less experience than Nakamoto, and certainly someone less hardened in the continuing battle between Dorna and HRC. Shuhei Nakamoto is arguably HRC’s most successful and powerful leader since Youichi Oguma; he leaves big boots to fill.

If Nakamoto leaves before the contracts and regulations for 2017 are finalized, Honda will have a hard time stopping the imposition of spec software. It will take a very strong leader to convince Honda to pull out of MotoGP. Nakamoto has that power; whether his successor will is open to question.

In the past, Honda’s threats of withdrawal have also been backed by the sparseness of the grid. When Dorna and Honda were negotiating over the 2012 rules, there were just 17 bikes on the grid. The CRT bikes helped to fill the grid, but they also provided enough leverage to convince Honda and Yamaha to supply lesser spec equipment to private teams.

Honda agreed to sell its RCV1000R, and Yamaha is leasing M1 engines and chassis. With Suzuki looking set to return in 2015, and Aprilia talking of a radically improved MotoGP effort, the grid is looking stronger than ever. In 2011, a Honda withdrawal would have killed the series; in 2017, MotoGP looks very capable of surviving Honda pulling out.

Will HRC make good on their threat to pull out of MotoGP if they lose the ability to develop their own electronics? I would argue that they would lose much more by doing so than by accepting a spec ECU in the premier class.

There is still plenty of R&D left to be done, even without electronics development, and MotoGP remains a strong platform for marketing and for training engineers. Honda will do everything in its power to get its own way, but if they don’t, I believe they will eventually back down and stay. But then again, I’ve been wrong before…

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

Comment:

  1. Slangbuster says:

    Good read Scott. When faced by a posturing and charging 800 lb gorilla in a small space, it’s usually best to stand your ground in as much of a non-threatening stance as possible. The gorilla will see that you are not as big a threat as it perceived and will settle down and not tear your arms and legs from their sockets. I believe this is the best course of action. But then again, I’ve been wrong before too…….

    It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

  2. smiler says:

    Much as I respect Honda and understand their view about racing for development. The reality is that they clearly spend much more than anyone else. So if they did leave this in itself would reduce costs and would also make the racing closer. Since 1973 they have always been the manufacturer to beat.

    However Dorna could start by sorting out their own house first.
    Schedule the races efficiently.
    Ensure that new rounds are placed where they will actually sell some tickets.
    Spread the viewing of MotoGP as wide as possible instead of the ndaylight robbery that goes on now.
    Stop chaning the rules all the time. Since 500′s there have been three capacity changes, huge costs and a barrier to entry and continuity. No wonder Suzuki left and Ducati have been struggling.
    More than one tyre manufactuer would also reduce costs.

  3. TexusTim says:

    Honda is the only big four not to install factory electronics on it’s sportbike line up and many EU bikes have made the transistion as well..I find it troubling that you did not mention this..you see that blows a big hole in all these theories that the development will trasfer to the street…the Honda CBR1000RR has not changed since 2008 other than some bodywork an suspension upgrades..even the highly touted SV version set for April 2014 only involves off the shelf Brembo calipers and ohlins suspension and handpicked rods (so the say) in other words a “blueprinted engine” meaning they ballance it more efficiently..does that mean all the other cbr’s are not ballanced ? this is another question that suggests honda is using words not actions.
    gossip is part of racing and so is lying and even cheating..hence the term “it’s not cheating unless you get caught”
    what I see is Hoda pulling out just after the realese of it’s V4 superbike and letting Dorna miss them so much they change the rules to allow for each factory to write there own software using the spec Marelli ecu.
    you see only Aprilla will suffer as well and they only have 3years to work there magic, I suppose Aprilla see’s this as and advantage untill 2017 when they will have to give up there software but it could be that there’s will be the closest to the Dorn spec sofware by then since they use the Magneti Marelli ecu…could this be the real reason for all the “posturing” from Honda as they see Aprilla as the next big threat? http://www.rsv4aprilia.net/engine.aspx
    what will blow a big hole in all this is if the v4 superbike honda comes out with uses the Marelli ecu.
    this is the kind of thing I wish you could look in to as it means more to the average person ridng what the can really buy out there and is more in tune with what matters.

  4. David says:

    Good riddance…if Honda leaves.

    The racing should get much better without them controlling everything. It’s time to move on.

    Besides, Honda has pretty much abandoned the street sport bike market.

    Let Honda start their own MotoGP scooter series.

    But maybe, Honda could start something new in MotoGP if the rules don’t stipulate a rider has to be human.

    Honda Robotic riders…….COOL!

  5. Tom says:

    An excellent article – intelligently written, with a nice depth to it. I actually learnt things from this, something seldom found in motorcycle journalism. I often get frustrated with the slow speed of updates to this site, however strong, informative and genuinely interesting articles such as this more than make up for that. Good journalism, thanks from the UK.

  6. Norm G. says:

    re: “On the face of it, it appears that Honda have too much to lose from pulling out of MotoGP”

    correct, on the face of it. but if you scratch beneath the surface you’d see it’s Dorna that’ll lose.

    why…?

    ’cause they (Dorna) can’t so much as cast an engine case or machine a camshaft. this is motorsport remember (emphasis on the word MOTOR). their position is superfluous, redundant.

    power base is with manufacturing. ie. the talented, the educated, the engineers, the producers of tangible goods. see entry for Honda, Yam, Kawi, Suzi, etc. in contrast, if Dorna were to vanish from the face of the earth tomorrow…?

    nobody would miss them.

  7. Norm G. says:

    re: ” I actually learnt things from this, something seldom found in motorcycle journalism.”

    and YET, there is much to learn. (blind Shaolin priest accent)

  8. Norm G. says:

    re: “Good riddance…if Honda leaves.”

    and should they decide to throw their toys out the pram taking their M2 engine supply with them, is the “riddance” still good…?

    not saying they will. this is just to stress the importance of critical thinking, and how “unintended consequences” can result in failure, in the event we stop shy of seeing the BIG picture.

  9. Ken says:

    Years ago, Oguma was heard to say through a non-factory interpreter “The other factories don’t know why they race. Only Honda knows why they race….” I believe Honda is very thorough in their engineering and are pursuing motorcycle control strategies that are way beyond the current level of production bikes. They don’t want this process interrupted by a spec ECU requirement. Dorna is only concerned about the bottom line and the show and could give a hoot about the technology development. They’d go back to carbs and bias ply tires if they could. If I were in Nakmoto’s position, I’d pull out of MotoGP and recommend Honda build a production motorcycle that crushed the BMW on the dyno and in handling, for the same money. Then let the club racers get the word out and follow it up with “factory” support for national series rather than anything run under Dorna.

  10. Saul says:

    great read but there is a big issue not addressed. this only a matter of MotoGP (ok, and possibly WSBK, because of Dorna).

    Honda will refocus their racing efforts into domestic series, All-Japan/AMA/BSBK / etc…. They will get the same development and engineer training rotations but more on their production expertise. This may stifle the evolution of technology but Dorna’s ridiculous rules with SpecECU will do that anyway!

    RUN WHAT YOU BRUNG! GO FAST OR GO HOME!!

  11. This is a prime time for Ducati to bring back the tire debate! The 2 companies should be firm b/c if they quit MotoGP * that would leave Yamaha practically racing alone…not a good business plan for Dorna!

    MotoGP hasn’t been anything but a nightmare for Ducati; even when Stoner won it for them it was difficult. So, this hypothetical time away from GP would do them well. Plus, more tire choices would make the field more competitive which according to this article is Dorna’s goal.

    * quitting GP does not mean they would quit racing.

    I disagree with some of the 3rd point (that Honda would lose its ability to train engineers if they quit GP racing). Honda has plenty of ways to train their engineers in a variety of scenarios & they have the resources to race however they choose.

  12. jet says:

    Who gives a dam,They can be replace w/ another brand,honda suck’s any way’s …lol

  13. Jake says:

    Good article but still too many “urban myths” for my tastes. BMW didn’t sell tons of S100RRs because they went Superbike racing. They sold many because they built argurably the best sportbike you can buy. I really doubt if they had skipped their SBK experiment sales would have been worse.

    Secondly NONE of these companies need to go racing for development. They can get the same results simply by testing the bikes in those same circumstances be it private track tests or trackdays. Racers will jump on me for saying that but it’s true. The developments achived from racing are great for racing but generally are over kill for the masses and really are nothing more than bragging points for the owners.

    So no Honda and the like don’t need racing and do so to prove they are better than the other manufacturers. So if that is taken away from them what is the point. Costs may need to be controlled but there are better ways to do than generic racing packages. I don’t particularly care for spec racing. Moto2 can be exciting but it doesn’t hold my attention because the bikes don’t interest me. Likewise despite some great races in 2003 & 2004 those SBK season bored me because it was Ducati or nothing. I don’t have the answers but I don’t agree with the current path and have steadily lost intertest in MotoGP. Spec racing isn’t going to bring that back

  14. @smiler: “More than one tyre manufactuer would also reduce costs.”

    Certainly none of the MotoGP or F1 teams believe this to be true. Everybody in the industry itself is more than cognizant of the fact that developing tires for individual bikes and the requisite testing thereof creates hugely increased expenses for all parties. Spec tires may not float everybody’s cork — especially those teams who have struggled to make the tires work with their chassis — but they definitely help keep costs down. Whether they improve “The Show” is another question entirely.

  15. Kevin says:

    Are you kidding me? Between the AMA and Dorna, this is ridiculous. I thought the purpose of racing was for the manufacturers to be pushed to develop the highest performance motorcycles possible. What does fuel & ecu limitations have to do with anything? I realize costs are a factor, but this is ridiculous. Let the manufactures play out their best under racing conditions. Everyone knows privateers don’t stand a chance and racing is expensive as a test bed for innovation. I believe a new series needs to be brought to the forefront, where development and innovation are encouraged. Let’s create an unlimited class with displacement requirements per class, and let innovation rule the day. I guarantee we have better racing and a much better show.

  16. I agree to an extent with what Kevin said.

    When all of the machines begin to become clones it makes for pretty boring racing. It’s what happened with Nascar, it happened with Indy cars (Nearly every last one becoming a Honda) and now it appears to be happening with Dorna.

    I think both Honda and Dorna have valid points, however, it appears to look like a “Mexican Standoff”. Honda has huge advertising dollars that gets dumped into GP and yet it’s Dorna’s house. The question is will Dorna cave to Honda’s demands or will they hand Honda their hat and say “sayonara” ?

    There are those of us who would like to see BMW, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia, EBR heck I’d even like to see Triumph have an offering in MotoGP.

    You want to see the flood gates open with dollars and enthusiasts I say let all those manufactures get on the grid and let the wars begin. This petty picky nonsense of rules is becoming tiresome. The entire world is becoming one big regulation bowl it’s no wonder anyone is having fun anymore. Give us all a break.. PLEASE!

  17. H.L. says:

    Hmm, I don’t believe Marquez can beat Lorenzo without the Honda. I don’t think they’ll leave MotoGP but if any one or two of these manufacturers (BMW, KAWI, TRIUMPH, APRILLA FACTORY) join Suzuki by 2017 it would more interesting for the fans in my opinion. Addition by subtraction so to speak. By the middle of the season I do get tired of seeing only 3 bikes and riders battling while the gap to 4th/5th/6th is 2-3 seconds and more for 7th and up. Honda will lose because it is not bigger than MotoGP at this point. Make the changes and let rider skill prevail.

  18. JD says:

    Yea man…thats why I smoke weed man…when you smoke weed man.. they’re all fast bikes man..

    But really, I love them bikes to death my entire life so stopping the GP is out of the question silly boys. This sounds alot like politics and as always throughout history of competition… the best will win. They one because they were the best and they followed the rules..

  19. damn says:

    i don’t hear Yamaha about this issue i don’t hear ducati moaning……oh and thats is…… 1 because there are no other factory’s(suzuki,kawasaki) 2 will it realy be that bad then? if you go backwards with ecu does that mean that the real bike building becomes more and more important? is Honda scared off yamaha because yamaha knows as noone else how to build a good frame? without the special honda ecu will the rcv be that fast still?? nakamoto has alot off questions… he knows without jorge’s injury yamaha would have won the title again. he sees Jorge constantly inproving as he has no boundaries to do so. with more fuel other factory’s are even more capable to improve. i think nakamoto/honda get a little scared because of the ecu and more fuel. right now honda has a big cart in thier hands. its not like nakamoto race for development for street bikes. non of the honda’s has someting special. just like all the tests say about the sp….. its a honda you feel at home but its boring. when kawa gave the zx 200bhp honda said: we could do that easy, but still nothing. no hp no electronic no nothing! and test riders said we realy miss traction controle! seems honda is shitting them self

  20. roslida says:

    f**k Dorna…they are the one to blame. they changed rules & regulations every year…sh*t!!!! c’mon Honda, pull the plug…get out from that stupid house of Dorna…

  21. Mariani says:

    I am left rolling my eyes at this.

    This is a racing category, for crying out loud. Ban the damned electronics and force the riders to fully control their machines!

    “Oh, but riders X and Y use anti-wheelie/ABS”

    And they are wrong as a result. I genuinely do not understand why this doesn’t bother most people.

  22. Norm G. says:

    re: “more tire choices would make the field more competitive”

    for the record, I chuckle any time I hear somebody say this.

    why…?

    ’cause when you say this, you inadvertently reveal you’re baby young to grandprix, so just be advised. not that there’s anything wrong with that (everybody had to break their cherry at some point), but once upon a time we HAD tyre variety in grandprix. been there, seen this. it’s not the panacea you think.

    it too was wrought with problems. in fact, it’s how we come to have control tyres in both F1 and WSBK as well. control tyres were BORN from this prior era. the organizers of these respective series didn’t just wake up one day and switch to a control format outta the clear blue. that’s not what happened.

    look, nobody’s saying it’s the perfect solution… just saying it’s better than the alternative. i recognize how if one lacks historical perspective, it might be hard to see this. sure in an ideal world, having access to “everybody and they grandma’s tyres” would be great…

    unfortunately we don’t race in that world.

  23. Norm G. says:

    re: “great read but there is a big issue not addressed.”

    re: “The question is will Dorna cave to Honda’s demands or will they hand Honda their hat and say “sayonara” ?”

    neither one of these two things is the issue or the question. but lemme tell you what it is. it’s actually a multi-headed HYDRA so to speak. the “Sword of Damocles” hanging over Dorna are the looming issues of the suit brought by Schwantz, the retirement of VR46 (2016, Normstradamus says mark your calendars), and last but not least, the Repsol question…

    if Honda cancels Christmas, what happens to all the “doubloons” provided by the series ONLY durable sponsor…?

    as H.L. eludes, Marcus can’t beat Jay without a 213. or more specifically, without being propped up by Spanish oil money. follow the dominos. Honda leaving, could mean Repsol leaving. Repsol leaving means (in no uncertain terms) Dorna is left without their “show pony”. remember, regardless of what happens, Valentino “Elvis” exits the building in a few years time.

    so if he (Ezpelata) loses the suit brought against him by Schwantz (and there’s a damn good chance he will), Nakamoto’s going to snatch Carmelo’s nuts out from under him and use ‘em for DICE. the only thing stopping him would be sportsmanship or altruism. oddly, the stand-alone M2 issue (only I brought up), may actually pale in this context.

    re: “Honda will lose because it is not bigger than MotoGP at this point”

    hey good luck with that.

    Honda was around 50 years before anybody knew from MotoGP, and they’ll be around 50 years after MotoGP. that’s another one of those mathematical certainties.

  24. Norm G. says:

    re: “Honda has plenty of ways to train their engineers in a variety of scenarios & they have the resources to race however they choose.”

    correct, all this is predicated on the assumption that standing trackside is the be all/end all methodology for training up engineers. and for the sake of argument, lets say that it is…?

    Honda owns both Suzuka and Motegi.

  25. Edwin H says:

    Not certain why we cannot see the hierarchy as it should be. Since when do the players in the game determine the rules. Admittedly I’m not a Honda fan but I don’t see why they can’t simply accept that a set of rules have changed and take on the challenge of continuing their dominance in the new environment.

    Honda says “providing entertainment was not Honda’s business, nor their responsibility” I strongly disagree…they are welcome to take that position in their production of motorcycles but if they chose to come racing, from the spectators perspective, providing entertainment is and should be acknowledged by Honda as their primary business and responsibility. And, if Honda truly feels providing entertainment is not their business or their responsibility, they own several great race track on which they can take their machinery and bask in their own glory…all by themselves without any pressure to provide entertainment.

    It appears that Dorna has a clear understanding of the need to provide entertaining races, though I’m certain their motivation is their own financial benefit and not some altruistic obligation to the racing fans. Regardless of their motivation, the truth is that if the races do not draw good crowds then the sport suffers as a whole…check the sad state of the current AMA Superbike Series.

    I never had the pleasure of experiencing the early days of MotoGP and WSBK or AMA racing but it is great to hear the old timers talking about spending a few thousand dollars and buying/building a competitive race bike. Not sure if this is even a option that can be monitored but why not place a cap on the actual production cost of the bike? You can pay the riders whatever you want, spend as much as you want on the motor-homes or pit set ups but place a cap on overall production of the bike…and this should include R&D, electronics, salaries for engineers and all non rider development team members, testing facilities etc.

    Like so many here have admitted, I don’t know the answers however one thing I do know…vilifying Dorna for their desire to create a more entertaining racing series is ludicrous…especially if you’re motivation to do so is based on the fact that “your team” is the one most affected by the changes. In my personal opinion it was a sad day when Moto2 and Moto3 became more entertaining to watch than MotoGP.

    Get a grip Honda (and any other motorcycle manufacturer that chooses to take the same position), the motorcycle racing world does not revolve around you…matter of fact, it revolves around us…the motorcycle racing fan…without us you are nothing but a bunch of brilliant technicians showcasing your amazing machinery to one another on your private tracks.

  26. Norm G. says:

    re: “Get a grip Honda/the motorcycle racing world does not revolve around you”

    actually, in grandprix, it kinda does…? but in the grand “scheme” this is Ezpelata’s problem. if BIG RED’s a monster…? and i honestly don’t know if they are…? logic dictates HE had a hand in creating the beast.

    it’s his series, yes…?

    right then, in ’01 nobody put a gun to his head and ORDERED him to mothball 500′s (wholesale) in favour of 4T…? later in ’09 nobody told him to get in bed SOLELY with Honda for supersport engines…? these are CHOICES he made (choices i personally would’ve NEVER made). choices he made, or should i say concessions made under duress…? to help him beat back the threat posed by the Bros Flammini and the juggernaut of WSBK.

    fast forward a decade and we see control of the production ENEMY has successfully been wrestled, but now we have Honda dug in like an Alabama tick.

    re: “matter of fact, it revolves around us…the motorcycle racing fan”

    not matter of fact… matter of FANTASY.

    looks good on paper, but you might wanna consider that you’re confusing moto-race fans…? with the robust “fandom” of Nascar, F1, and Football. apples V. oranges this. it would only revolve around US (comma) if we came off the dime like those guys. see, the unintended consequences of short-sighted choices aren’t unique to people at the top… this burden also rests on the shoulders of people at the bottom.

    re: “without us you are nothing but a bunch of brilliant technicians showcasing your amazing machinery to one another on your private tracks.”

    translation: i am jealous of their skills and education and dislike the fact i have to depend on them to produce for me things i don’t have a snowball’s chance of ever creating.

  27. 2ndclass says:

    @Norm G,

    “right then, in ’01 nobody put a gun to his head and ORDERED him to mothball 500′s (wholesale) in favour of 4T…? ”

    Actually yes, they did. The change to four stroke engines was made by the MSMA, who are responsible for MotoGP’s technical regulations. Dorna are responsbile for the sporting regulations.

  28. Edwin H says:

    RE: “actually, in grandprix, it kinda does…? but in the grand “scheme” this is Ezpelata’s problem”

    I respectfully disagree…and why would we consider this Ezpelata’s problem? This is our, the Moto-Fan’s problem. The consumer holds the ultimate power, unfortunately we are just too divided to realize this. It appears to me that Ezpelata and Dorna however are seeing the writing on the wall in that with the current “boring” state of MotoGP races they stand to lose valuable viewership which will make attaining fresh new sponsorship almost impossible.

    RE “right then, in ’01 nobody put a gun to his head and ORDERED him to mothball 500′s (wholesale) in favour of 4T…? later in ’09 nobody told him to get in bed SOLELY with Honda for supersport engines…?”

    I believe that most of us feel that the scrapping of the 500′s was a shame however due to the lack of 2 strokes being built for street use there was not a lot of motivation for advancing that technology so I think we can chalk that one up to the environmentalists. And do you seriously believe that Moto2 would be any less exciting if the standard supersport engine was manufactured by another manufacturer like Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki or Ducati?

    RE: “Honda dug in like an Alabama tick”

    Apparently not, they are ready to abandon ship solely because of some rule changes. I say let them hit the road throw another engine in the Moto2 bikes and fill the MotoGP grid with all the other brands of bikes. Nothing happened to MotoGP when Suzuki and Kawasaki left and if Honda leaves it will have no affect either. And if your point is going to be Repsol sponsorship…seriously, if Honda does leave, Repsol will throw their sponsorship money at whatever manufacturer has the hottest Spanish Rider on their bike.

    RE: “translation: i am jealous of their skills and education and dislike the fact i have to depend on them to produce for me things i don’t have a snowball’s chance of ever creating.”

    Now that’s just plain silly, per your logic I’m also jealous of the people who make my microwave oven and the CFL light bulbs in my house. On the contrary, I highly respect them and have no envy whatsoever…but the most brilliant individuals creating the most efficient gizmo that is of no interested to anyone is simply a brilliant individual with a highly efficient gizmo…not doing anything with it.

  29. paulus says:

    at what point does everything become ‘one make’.
    Suspension and brakes next?

  30. Stephen Johnson says:

    Prototype racing has always been about “who has the most cubic inches of money” and the freedom to spend it. F-1 appears to have no Honda entries.

    Ride Free

  31. Meanwhile, Honda returns to F1 as an engine supplier in 2015.

  32. Norm G. – my tire comment was to illustrate that Ducati was more competitive when there were tire choices, which adds another brand to the mix for the podium. This should not be read as catering to one OEM either.

    Sure, tire choices have issues, but dealing with those issues is a better path than saying everyone (in a prototype class) must use x tire & y ECU & …, &…