There was a small flurry of excitement when the minutes of the last meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, including rules on the spec-ECU and factory entries were announced last week. That was then followed by a bout of confusion, as everyone tried to figure out what all of the various changes meant, and what impact they may have on the series. It appears that the answer to that question is “not as much as you might think,” so let us take a look at what has changed.
We have already extensively reported the coming rule changes for the 2014 MotoGP Championship season (most recently the conclusion of the engine claiming rule), so the news today is really more about the FIM has giving its blessing to the new direction that Dorna is taking for the premier class.
Drawing a new distinction now as to how teams are classified as “factory” entries, and thus subject to differing fuel, engine, and entry requirements, the real crux of the equation revolves around whether a team uses the the spec-electronics software from Dorna, or decides to use its own software (note: all teams will be on a spec-ECU from 2014 forth).
It may be, in the colorful phrase of Jeremy Burgess, a “shitty little race track,” but somehow Laguna Seca always manages to produce moments of magic. This year was no different, with Stefan Bradl finally getting his first podium, Marc Marquez breaking record after record, and Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa coming back, after they both had damaged their collarbones at the Sachsenring.
As memorable as those performances were, they will all be overshadowed by one moment. Marc Marquez passed Valentino Rossi in the Corkscrew on lap 4, running through the dirt in scenes reminiscent of Rossi’s iconic pass on Casey Stoner back in 2008.
The incident fired the imagination of MotoGP fans for so very many different reasons: the reminder of Rossi’s pass on Stoner; the even deeper line which Marquez took through the gravel in 2013; the thrill of a rider running through that corner and still managing to return and maintain his position.
Naturally, it was the talk of the press conference. When asked about the pass, Rossi turned his attention to HRC team principal (and Marc Marquez’ team boss) Livio Suppo. Suppo was Casey Stoner’s team boss back in 2008, and had complained bitterly of Rossi’s pass at the Corkscrew.
“You and Stoner break my balls for two or three years about that overtake, because I cut the curb. So what do you say about that? Have to be disqualified eh?” Rossi asked to much laughter. Not to be outdone, Suppo replied in kind: “Thanks for the question, and thanks to Marc, because after a few years, we pay you back!”
Speaking during an interview with the company’s corporate blog, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer spoke his mind about the current state of international road racing, and KTM’s involvement with both the MotoGP and World Superbike Championships, and their support classes.
Stating that MotoGP lacked any return for the massive monetary investment it would require from the Austrian manufacturer, Pierer did go on to later to praise the Moto2 format as one that he would like to see KTM to compete in, with some changes of course.
As we reported at Mugello, the claiming rule is to be dropped from the MotoGP rulebook. Introduced to prevent factories entering MotoGP under the guise of private teams, the claiming rule allowed any factory to claim the engine of a bike entered by a CRT team.
But after the Grand Prix Commission agreed to the introduction of a spec-ECU, the decision to run the spec-software proved to be an alternative and more effective way of separating full-factory efforts from privateer teams. The claiming rule was never actually used, the factories having said when the claiming rule was introduced that they had no intention of ever claiming an engine.
It was kept there as the ultimate threat, Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘big stick’ to prevent other factories from even considering such a ruse.
The new distinction between factory and private teams is now the spec-ECU, and so the claiming rule has been dropped with immediate effect for all teams (Forward Racing, Avintia Blusens, PBM’s Michael Laverty, CAME Ioda Racing) currently using the spec-software.
From 2014, all teams will have to use the spec-hardware, and so the claiming rule will be dropped completely for the 2014 season.
At Assen, Ducati MotoGP Project Director Paolo Ciabatti revealed that they too will be offering bikes for non-MSMA teams in 2014. While Honda is selling a simplified production racer version of the RC213V, and Yamaha is to lease M1 engines, the package Ducati is offering could turn out to be very interesting indeed.
Instead of producing a separate machine, Ducati will be offering the 2013 version of the Desmosedici to private teams, to be entered as non-MSMA entries, and using the spec-electronics hardware and software package provided by Magneti Marelli.
Although the current 2013 machine is still far from competitive – at Assen, the two factory Ducatis finished 33 seconds behind the winner Valentino Rossi, and behind the Aprilia ART machine – the special conditions allowed for non-MSMA entries make the Desmosedici a much more interesting proposition.
Casey Stoner has quashed rumors that he could make a return to MotoGP. In an interview with the British magazine Autosport, he says he will not come back to Grand Prix racing while it continues in the direction it is heading in. “I’m closed. I’m done with it,” Stoner told Autosport.
There have been persistent rumors that Stoner could come back for a couple of wildcards at the end of the season, though the Australian has denied he would be interested in coming in as a wildcard.
More outlandish rumors surfaced a month ago, claiming that Stoner was close to making a shock return to Ducati, and that the Italian company’s new German ownership had offered him a large sum to race again.
MotoGP’s Claiming Rule is set to be consigned to the history books. At the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Barcelona, a proposal will be put forward to abandon the claiming rule altogether.
With the advent of the new distinction, between MSMA entries and non-MSMA entries, the need to claim an engine ceased to exist. The demise of the claiming rule opens the way towards the leasing of Yamaha engines to private teams without fear of those engines being claimed by other factories.
The claiming rule had been instigated at the start of 2012, to allow the grid to expand. At the end of 2011, with the departure of Suzuki, and both Honda and Ducati cutting back the number of satellite bikes they were prepared to provide, numbers on the MotoGP grid looked like falling to as low as 13 or 14 bikes.
The switch back to 1000cc engines meant a rich spectrum of engines was available to custom chassis builders, to produce affordable race bikes. To allow such teams to compete with the full factory efforts, such teams were allowed extra fuel (24 liters instead of 21), and double the factory engine allowance, 12 instead of 6.
To prevent new factories from taking advantage of the loophole, the MSMA members – the factories involved in MotoGP – retained the right to claim the engine of such teams. Hence the name, Claiming Rule Team or CRT.
With the MotoGP paddock once again assembled for the start of the season at Qatar, the four organizations who make up the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rulemaking body, took the opportunity to meet, discuss, and adopt a number of rule changes. The rules cover a number of areas, including testing for all three classes, the 2014 technical rules for MotoGP, and further steps to control the real cost of engines in Moto3.
The most significant part of the press release is perhaps also the least obvious. The GPC confirmed the 2014 technical regulations previously agreed upon, after Dorna received assurances – and detailed proposals – that the manufacturers were prepared to supply private teams with affordable machinery. The news that Yamaha has agreed to lease engines to teams was the final piece in the puzzle which ensured that the rule package for 2014 would be adopted.
Fresh on the heels of the news that Honda would continue to supply Moto2 with spec-engines through the 2015 season, Yamaha has confirmed that it will lease to MotoGP teams its YZR-M1 engine, on an annual basis, through the 2016 season.
Teams will then be free to develop their own bikes around the engine, or work with an independent chassis manufacturer to build a complete race bike.