MotoGP Closes Two Crucial Loopholes in Its Rulebook

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Heads up GP fans, as the MotoGP Championship is set to close two crucial loopholes in its rulebook for the 2019 season, which the Grand Prix Commission says in its press release are needed in order to keep the sport within the spirit of the rules.

The first loophole blandly affects the spec-ECU and its CAN protocol and connection, which is fairly innocuous until you read between the lines of it, while the second concerns the regulation of aerodynamic bodywork, which should be more obvious to regular MotoGP fans.

If you will allow us to Tarantino these two rulebook changes, the MotoGP Championship will impose more regulation on aerodynamic bodywork, namely it will remove the loophole that allows manufacturers to change the internal structure of their don’t-call-them-winglets.

Under the current rules, MotoGP manufacturers can homologate only two fairing designs, but the rules were written in a way that only regulated the external shape of the bodywork, allowing teams to swap out different internal pieces in a more modular design.

This modular ability is set to be banned for 2019, however, with the MotoGP Technical Director set to impose new aerodynamic/body dimension limits, as well as a limitation on the different aero combinations that bodywork pieces can accommodate.

As such, the Grand Prix Commission says that current aerodynamic designs will be allowed, but teams will no longer be allowed to swap/remove significant aerodynamic pieces.

This will affect Ducati Corse and HRC the most, with their winglet design allowing for different aero pieces to be used, depending on the race circuit and rider preference.

As for the less-sexy rule change affecting the CAN protocol and connection to the spec-ECU, the new provisions for the 2019 season are likely to make a considerable change to the performance of some machines.

The Grand Prix Commission gives hint to the real purpose of this rule in its press statement, saying that it plans to create “limitations imposed on the information exchange among the various CAN devices (e.g. the inertial platform) and the ECU.”

The tip-off is the mentioning of the IMU, which provides a bevy of information about the movement of the motorcycle back to the ECU…or at least, that is what it is supposed to do.

More clever teams have figured out how to use the IMU as a sub-processor to the rather watered-down spec-ECU, effectively upping the computing power onboard their motorcycles, while still working within the confines of the MotoGP spec-ECU rules.

This has allowed manufacturers to backdoor some of their more sophisticated electronic rider aids back into their GP bikes (namely, turn-specific electronic settings) – the very thing that the spec-ECU rule was designed to regulate and limit.

With IMUs being a critical part of development on the production bike side of the business, MotoGP manufacturers effectively lobbied the writing of the spec-ECU rules to allow control over what IMU they can use with the spec-ECU.

This was done under the justification that the IMU was a point of development that MotoGP could provide to the production bike efforts of participating manufacturers (of note, Yamaha created its own IMU for the YZF-R1, based on the company’s work in MotoGP).

This is a fair argument, as we see IMUs coming on a large swath of production motorcycles now, across a variety of price points.

But with no rules concerning the processing power of the IMUs, what information it sends back to the ECU, and how it connects to the ECUs CAN bus, the room to exploit this provision was rather sizable. For 2019, that will be no longer the case presumably.

So, for the 2019 MotoGP season, we can expect to see more traditional fairing designs (and also consistent use of the same design throughout the season), with also the MotoGP machinery getting a bit more neutered on what can be achieved with electronics.

This should balance performance amongst the manufacturers a bit more, though we must say that the 2018 season has so far been one of the most balanced in recent history.

Source: Grand Prix Commission

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.