The Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule-making body, met last week to make a few minor updates to the rules for MotoGP in 2016. The two biggest changes to the rules relate to the two biggest changes to the series for next year: the change of tire suppliers and the switch to spec-electronics.
The change that will most please the fans will be the official end of the Open class. All references to both the Open and Factory classes are to be removed from the regulations, as the switch to spec electronics, all teams running both the standard Magneti Marelli hardware and official Dorna unified software, mean there is only one class in MotoGP again.
This does not mean that all factories are equal, however. Special concessions remain for factories that have not won a race and have not yet accrued six concession points (based on podium positions).
Manufacturers with concessions will be allowed to use twelve engines for a season instead of seven engines, they will be allowed unlimited testing with factory riders instead of test riders, and engine development will not be frozen.
Those concessions are likely to stay in place for the foreseeable future. The aim of the concessions is to slow the rate of progress of the successful factories to give newcomers and less successful factories a chance to keep up.
The progress Ducati made in 2015 has confirmed to the series organizers that this is a successful policy, and will be continued.
The one thing which manufacturers with concessions will lose is access to the soft tire. From 2016, Michelin will supply the same two rear tire compounds to all teams at every race.
The extra soft tire was originally intended to help the CRT teams, racing bikes with much less horsepower than the full factory machines. Now that the CRT class has gone, along with the Open class, there is no need of the softer tire.
The tire allocation is to be changed in other ways as well. Teams are to get more tires for every type of condition. The number of slicks is to be raised from 21 to 22, with teams getting an extra rear tire (now 12).
This should benefit the riders at tracks where only one of the tire choices is working well, giving them an extra tire to run. It should also help riders who have to go through Q1 to get to Q2, giving them an extra rear tire for qualifying.
Riders will also get more rain tires, a total of seven fronts and seven rears. This should give them at least one set of wet tires for every session of the weekend, should it rain all weekend. Each rider will also receive three sets of intermediate tires, for when conditions are neither wet nor dry.
Other changes were also agreed, some more significant than others. One item with a possible long-term effect is the approval of new regulations for safety equipment, such as helmets, leathers, gloves and boots.
With the advances made by Dainese with their D-Air system, and Alpinestars with their Tech Air system, it is clear that rider equipment is the next area where safety gains will come from. Imposing standards on rider equipment is a simple, effective way of improving the safety of the sport.
The last change worth touching upon is the change to homologated engines. With Ducati supplying three satellite teams as well as their own factory team, the maximum number of three different homologated engine specifications was more difficult to manage.
This has been altered, to allow each factory to supply a maximum of five different homologated engine specifications, depending on the number of satellite teams being supplied.
Though relatively insignificant in itself, it may possibly be a pointer to more changes in the future. Before 2015, there was a general agreement that each factory would supply two factory riders, plus a maximum of four satellite riders.
The change to engine allocations implies that this limit is to be dropped, and that manufacturers will be allowed to supply more satellite teams.
Dorna has long wanted factories such as Suzuki to supply satellite teams as well as their factory teams, hence the stipulation being added that each factory must agree to supply at least two satellite riders as well as the factory riders.
If Ducati continues to supply eight bikes, then the need for Suzuki to supply bikes to a satellite team would disappear.
However, if the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR is as big a step forward as many hope, then it may yet be an attractive option. With factories currently required to supply satellite bikes at a maximum cost of €2.2 million per rider from 2017 onwards, that situation is one to keep an eye on for the future.
Photo: © 2015 Tony Goldsmith / www.tonygoldsmith.net – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.