With the 2013 MotoGP season just a few hours away, it’s time for a quick recap on the rule changes which come into effect this year. Though the technical rule changes are minor – slightly more significant changes are to be made for 2014, but that is a story for another day – the change to qualifying is significant, and will have a real impact on all of the practice session, albeit indirectly.
Looking to add more manufacturers to the traveling circus, AMA Pro Road Racing has homologated the Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS for racing duty, though with one interesting caveat. Instead of giving the 999cc Italian V4 a birth in the AMA Pro Superbike class, the RSV4 Factory has been homologated instead to race in the AMA Pro Supersport.
With Aprilia USA lacking a 600cc machine and the budget necessary to race at the factory level in the Superbike class, AMA Pro Road Racing officials have come to a compromise with the Italian company on how it can enter the American road racing scene with its current equipment, and hopefully thus spur its sport bike sales.
Live outside the Golden State, and you realize that California is a special place, in virtually every sense of the word. As a sixth-generation inhabitant of the world’s ninth largest economy, regular readers of A&R will already have made note that I am somewhat militant about California, and one of the many reasons for this is the state’s pro-motorcycle culture.
Land of perpetual sunshine, abundant coastal and mountain roads, and the epicenter of the American motorcycle industry, California has another thing going for motorcyclists as well: you can lane-split here. You motorcyclists in the other 49 states of the Union don’t understand what you are missing with this simple act, and if there was one single law that the AMA/MIC should be pushing to pass in every state in order to help swell the ranks of motorcyclists on the road, it would be laws allowing lane-splitting (also known as lane-sharing, or lane-filtering).
What is driving in a safe and prudent manner though? A highly subjective and poorly defined bit of phrasing, the CHP and state legislature have done themselves a disservice in waiting so long to define exactly how they interpret this provision. After all, there is no provision in the CVC that outlaws steering a car with one’s feet, though one would think the California Highway Patrol (CHP) would certainly, and rightfully, ticket you back to the stone age for such an action.
Lane-splitting in California is no different, with no working definition on what was “safe and prudent” on a motorcycle, common practice and adoption have taken hold of the two-wheeled art of getting through traffic congestion. Thought originally to be a concession to the air-cooled machines of the time, lane-splitting catered well to motorcycle riders whose machines would quickly overheat while sitting in traffic.
Also a relic of a time when highway congestion of was considerably less of an issue than its current metropolitan pandemic, for lack of a better reason, California’s pro lane-splitting stance persists because the state has waited too long to act otherwise, and we are that much better for it.
However, what constitutes “safe and prudent” lane-splitting has always been a mystery box definition for motorcyclists, and when left to the subjective opinion of a CHP officer, the application of “the rules” can be varied, at best.
With the first full test for the World Superbike class behind us, and the first test of the MotoGP grid about to get underway at Sepang at the end of this week, it is time to take a look at motorcycle racing’s pre-season, and evaluate where we stand so far. Just what is the state of play for both MotoGP and World Superbike in 2013?
The question is even more pertinent now that both series have been taken under the wing of Dorna, much to the consternation of World Superbike fans and, to some extent, the WSBK paddock as well. It was feared that Dorna would either kill off World Superbike entirely to strengthen the position of MotoGP, or impose such stringent technical regulations on the series as to dumb it down to Superstock spec.
Fortunately, neither of those options looks likely. World Superbikes will continue as a separate series, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta was keen to explain when quizzed about the takeover at Ducati’s Wrooom launch event early in January. The aim is to build a strong WSBK series to stand alongside MotoGP, preserving the unique identity of the two series – WSBK as a place to race production bikes, MotoGP as the series for racing prototypes.
But exactly how should the phrase “production bikes” be interpreted? As a hotted up version of the road-going model, as is the intention of Superstock, or as a genuine racing machine built using the production bike as a basis, which is much closer to what some regard as the ethos of WSBK? The answer, it appears, will lie somewhere in the middle, and the factories will have a major say in how this all turns out.
The Philip Morris-sponsored Wrooom event is not just the event at which Ducati launches its MotoGP season, it has also become the de facto kick off to the MotoGP season as a whole.
With an important section of the international media present, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta inevitably seizes the opportunity to talk to the press about his view of the season ahead, and where necessary, of the future beyond that.
This year was little different. Ezpeleta spoke to the media ahead of the presentation by Ducati Corse boss Bernhard Gobmeier, and answered questions from a number of media outlets separately, answering questions on the future of both MotoGP and World Superbikes.
From his statements, a picture of Dorna’s vision for the two series starts to emerge: the future of world championship motorcycle racing is to be price-limited, with more support for the current teams, and factories holding a stake in both series, in exchange for keeping a lid on costs.
Now that it has the World Superbike series under its control, Dorna is turning its attention to the question of costs. It was an issue that, WSBK insiders claim, the Flammini brothers and Infront spent too little time on, preferring to focus on trying to compete with MotoGP instead. The series’s critics charge that this obsession allowed bikes into the series that were more like MotoGP prototypes than production road bikes.
The Aprilia RSV4 is one of the bikes most often named in this regard, though perhaps the most extreme example was the Foggy Petronas FP3 machine, of which the entire homologation run is rumored to be stored in a warehouse owned by the Malaysian oil company in Kuala Lumpur. As a result, grids have shrunk from around thirty starters in 2009 to just twenty in 2013.
Dorna’s solution is a mixture of methods gleaned from their recent experience in MotoGP: price caps and pressure on the manufacturers to reduce costs of their own accord. In an interview with the German-language website Speedweek, Carmelo Ezpeleta said that his aim is to have all manufacturers supply teams with bikes at a cost of €250,000 per rider.
Included in that amount would be two bikes per rider, and full support to complete an entire season. Only crash damage would be excluded from the quarter of a million per season, that being a cost that is outside the control of the factories. In addition, Ezpeleta said each manufacturer had to be prepared to supply up to six riders with equipment, should there be sufficient interest, a measure currently being enforced in Moto3.
When Dorna took over control of the World Superbike Championship, speculation began to fly what the changing of the guard would mean for motorcycling’s premier production-based racing series. Always seen as the annoying little sibling to the prestigious MotoGP World Championship, many have expected to see Dorna cut out a clearer distinction between the two series, with WSBK returning to machines that are closer to stock-spec, while MotoGP continued to play with its CRT formula.
Now, reports out of Europe say Dorna is set to kill the 600cc and 1,000cc superstock classes in 2014, leaving only the superbike and supersport classes for 1,000cc and 600c based racing, respectively. Looking to switch to a three-race format, like in MotoGP, the World Superbike Championship would reportedly add a 250cc production-based class, which would serve as the development class for the series, and would help bolster the new fleet of small-displacement sport bikes OEMs have producing recently.
Following its meeting last week, today the GP Commission has released a bevy of rules for the 2013 & 2014 MotoGP Championship. An interesting mix of rules that stem from issues had this past season, the GP Commission has also drafted some regulations that aim at further reducing the cost of the sport.
For starters, Race Direction now has a penalty point system at its disposal, which can be used to address riders who are continually being warned of unsafe behavior. The points accumulate over the course of the season, and have thresholds with escalating consequences. If that doesn’t make your eyes roll and your mouth mutter “Marc Marquez” then Moto2′s new quickshifter approval rule probably will.
While all three classes will see a number of provisions to help control costs, the most interesting is the capping of brake and suspension prices, which will see the cost of service contracts also limited. The latter point is especially important, as parts suppliers have gotten around previous caps by merely rolling the lost costs into extremely expensive servicing fees and agreements.
On a more geeky and technical note, an optional in 2013, mandatory in 2014, in-dash flagging system will be put in place. Presumably useful for all situations, the system sounds like a direct response to Jorge Lorenzo’s complaints after crashing in Valenica while going through lapped traffic. The full list of new rules is after the jump.
The last of the 990cc pole records finally went at Valencia, along with the last record held by Valentino Rossi at any of the tracks currently on the calendar. Dani Pedrosa’s astonishing last lap was inch perfect, and put him 0.158 seconds faster than Rossi’s time, set in 2006 at the infamous season finale in which Rossi got a dismal start, then fell off trying to catch Nicky Hayden, handing the American the world championship in the process.
Pedrosa’s lap really was something special, though the Spaniard was not as impressed as the onlookers. He had had a few good laps in his career, he told the press conference, and this was definitely one of them. Pedrosa has looked ominous all weekend – actually, since Indianapolis – and if it were going to stay dry, then you would be hard put to think of anyone who could beat the Repsol Honda man.
Jorge Lorenzo is keen to try, and is fast all the way round the circuit to the final sector, but is losing a couple of tenths just in the acceleration out of the final corner and towards the line. The Hondas dominate there, good round the long left before the final corner – both Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa were hanging the rear out all round that turn, showing a hint of the old tire-smokin’ 990 days – but absolute missiles on acceleration.
That has been Lorenzo’s complaint all year, not sufficient acceleration and not the wheelie control which the Hondas appear to have. If Lorenzo arrives at the final corner with a Honda behind him, he will fear for his position.
New MotoGP Rules for 2014: Spec-ECU, Spec-Software, Fewer Motors, Less Fuel, & Combined Weight for Moto2
After an almost interminable period of discussions and debate, agreement has at last been reached over the technical regulations to be applied in MotoGP for the 2014 onwards. The agreement has been a compromise, with both sides of the table being given something to satisfy them.
The new rules see the introduction of a compulsory spec ECU and datalogger, and the ECU now acts as a divide between the two classes of teams in the paddock. MSMA members will be allowed to use their own software for the spec ECU, but the punishment for doing so will be a reduction in the fuel limit from 21 to 20 liters for a race.
Teams electing to use the spec software supplied by Dorna will be allowed 24 liters. The MSMA members will also be limited to 5 engines a season, while the rest will be allowed 12 engines. The reduction in fuel and engines was made at the request of the factories, to give themselves an engineering challenge to conquer.