MotoGP: Private Tests Banned, Moto3 Engine Costs Curbed

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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.

Honda had previously agreed to build a customer version of their RC213V machine, five of which they will supply to private teams, and with Yamaha supplying four engines for lease – or more likely, a package including a Yamaha engine in a Yamaha-inspired chassis built by FTR – the grid will have at least twelve prototypes, nine MSMA-supplied privateer machines, and three other bikes, two of which could be factory Suzukis.

Ducati has not been asked to supply privateer teams, unsurprising given the fact that the Italian factory is the smallest manufacturer by a very, very long way, and designing and building a separate engine or bike for customer teams is simply beyond their resources.

If agreement had not been reached, the consequences could have been very far reaching. Dorna’s back up plan if Honda and Yamaha had not agreed to build customer bikes was to impose a draconian set of technical regulations, including spec-hardware and software for electronics system, and imposing a rev limit. That, however, would have caused many, if not all, manufacturers to walk away from the series. This is the best solution, for the time being.

The GPC also agreed that although previous meetings had agreed to only permit a single specification of brake disk, in an attempt to cut both development and maintenance costs, they conceded that such a specification will not be sufficient for every track on the calendar. A circuit like Motegi, with lots of high speed straights and very heavy, straight braking requires a much larger disk to help dissipate the heat generated. This rule has therefore been modified to allow different specs of brake disks at certain named circuits on the calendar.

An important change was also made to the Moto3 engine regulations. When the rules were announced, one of the key components was a cap on prices, limiting the cost of an engine to 12,000 euros, and introducing a price-controlled list of homolated tuning parts and kits. Price-capping the engines naturally led the manufacturers to seek a way around these controls, and they found it in the service contract.

For instance, KTM and Honda partner with Geo Tech, who will sell you an engine for 12,000 euros, and parts to tune the engine at a fixed price. However, if you want the engine to work properly, you need to enter into a service contract with the manufacturer to manage the engines for the season. The cost of a service contract is believed to run in the low six figures, or pretty close to what it would have cost to lease a top-spec Aprilia RSA at the end of the two-stroke 125cc period. As happens all too often, imposing cost-cutting regulations has merely created even more expensive loopholes.

The GPC have now found a set of rules which they believe will rein in the most blatant abuse of the service contract system. Instead of the manufacturers supplying engines to the teams directly under a service contract agreement (which often meant that the teams would have to hand the engines back at the end of the year), the manufacturers will have to supply the engines to Dorna, who will distribute them on a random basis to the teams using that engine. The arrangement will see teams end up with 6 engines which they own at the end of the year, for a price of 68,000 euros.

Though it closes one loophole, it will not wipe out the service contract altogether. Teams will still agree to separate contracts with factories for support in order to get the best of the engine, though the parameters within which they operation have been greatly narrowed. The factory engineers will still have more knowledge on how to use the exhaust and electronics to get the best out of the bike, and the richest teams will still be able to afford both the contracts and the best technical staff.

Perhaps the most dispiriting change comes to the testing regulations. The use of private tests at which “contracted riders” – the official term for riders racing full-time in the MotoGP Championship – take part has now been banned once again. This a reversal of the previous ruling allowing testing, made before the 2011 season, which was itself a reversal of the ban imposed in 2009, in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

Though the intent is admirable, its actual effect on cost cutting will be negligible. The ban had previously been lifted for two reasons. Firstly, to allow more intensive testing with the 1000cc MotoGP machines, which were introduced in the 2012 season. And secondly, to allow Ducati to speed up the pace of their development, by having Nicky Hayden and then new signing Valentino Rossi ride the Desmosedici, instead of the test team, who were not felt to be fast enough to explore performance at the very limit.

For 2013, Ducati has put together a vastly more effective testing structure, hiring Michele Pirro as a test rider for the Desmosedici. Pirro, capable of lapping at proper MotoGP race pace, is making a big difference to Ducati’s development efforts, and so Ducati no longer needs their contracted riders Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso to ride the bike so often. And with the 1000cc machines now broadly established, and major rule changes not expected until 2017, the need for extra testing for Ducati and the other factories is less pressing.

Who the new testing restrictions hurt most of all are new manufacturers in the MotoGP class. Though Suzuki is free to test as much as they like ahead of entering the series, should they decide to race in 2014, they will be restricted to testing with contracted riders to the official tests only. Should Suzuki find themselves still in need of major development work – given the newness of the bike, that is very much to be expected – they will have to try to find a rider fast enough to develop the bike, and with experience with the official Bridgestone tires.

That is a very short list of candidates indeed. Below is the press release containing the revised rules agreed at Qatar:

FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix

Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Executive Director, Sport), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 06 April 2013 in Losail (Qatar), made the following decisions:

Technical Regulations

MotoGP Class

New technical regulations, effective from 2014, that were approved at the GPC meeting held at Valencia in November 2012 and already announced, were all confirmed. This follows the successful conclusion of negotiations between Dorna and the Manufacturers concerning the supply of additional machines and/or engines for the MotoGP class from 2014.

For reasons of safety, it was agreed that a different specification of brake disc could be authorised by Race Direction for use at specified circuits. Currently, the only circuit at which this applies is Motegi.

Moto3 Class

Changes to the regulations concerning supply of engines for the Moto3 class were approved. The objective is to reduce the cost of the engine programme for the teams and to ensure that there is equality of performance between engines supplied by the same manufacturer.

With effect from 2014 engines will be provided to Championship Organiser by the manufacturers in three batches during the season. The engines will be sealed and distributed randomly by the Technical Director and will become the property of the teams, with no requirement for them to be returned under any “service contract”. When an engine has completed the normal cycle of use it will be replaced by another sealed engine and it is anticipated that the six engines will be more than sufficient for the season. At the end of the season the team then owns six engines with only minimal mileage accrued which can be used for testing or sold on. The fixed cost for the engine package is €68,000.

The concession to allow timing chain replacement on Honda engines at regular intervals, which involves supervised breaking of the engine seals, will be extended until the end of 2014.

With effect from 2015 the maximum revs permitted for Moto3 machines will be reduced from 14,000 RPM to 13,500 RPM and the timing chain replacement concession will be cancelled.

Sporting Regulations

Effective Season 2014 (i.e. from 11 November 2013):

Testing Regulations – MotoGP class

New testing restrictions will be introduced for the MotoGP class. This will restrict the amount of testing permitted by contracted riders to:

One three day official test at a circuit in Europe between the final event and 30 November.

Three of three day official tests in the period between 01 February and the first event of the season.

A maximum of three tests, each of one day, on the Monday after events designated by Dorna/IRTA in Europe.

Any activity authorised by Race Direction.

No testing is permitted between 01 December and 31 January, both dates being inclusive.

Test riders, as opposed to contracted riders, will continue to be allowed to test for development purposes at any time and circuit using the “test tyre allocation” available to each team. This will also apply to contracted riders of CRT category teams, subject to approval of testing at a Grand Prix circuit being granted by Race Direction in advance of the test.

Testing Regulations – Moto3 and Moto2 classes

Changes to testing regulations for the Moto3 and Moto2 classes were also approved. Testing is now permitted as follows:

At any circuit, with any riders, between the final GP and 30 November.

Three pre-season official tests, but only with contracted riders, at circuits in Europe nominated by Dorna/IRTA.

Teams may also designate one GP circuit and one non-GP circuit where they may test at any time from 01 February onwards with any riders, but not within 14 days of an event at the circuit.

Teams may also participate in tests held on Mondays and/or Tuesdays after events in Europe when these days are not required for MotoGP class testing.

Any activity authorised by Race Direction.

No testing is permitted between 01 December and 31 January, both dates being inclusive.

FIM Medical Code

Changes to the FIM Medical Code were approved. The changes mainly concerned more precise definitions of the roles and responsibilities of the Chief Medical Officer, the Medical Director and the FIM Medical Representative. (Previously the FIM Medical Observer). However, the changes also officially recognised the presence and role of the “FIM World Championship GP Medical Team”.

This team is the group of doctors experienced in the management of severe trauma. Their role is to provide support of immediate trackside medical assistance in the event of serious injury until transfer to the medical centre or hospital. The team will be located in fast medical intervention vehicles to work alongside local medical personnel.

Source: Dorna; 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.