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.
There has been a trend over the past decade for rider contract negotiations to get earlier and earlier.
Where once, talks about new contracts would start sometime in June, and agreements finalized and signed during August, now, initial discussions start at the Valencia Grand Prix the year before a contract is due to end, and deals are signed in the first few races, or as in the past two contract cycles, before the season has even begun.
The underlying causes for this trend are numerous, but at its heart, it comes down to the glut of talent that is in MotoGP these days, both in terms of riders and in terms of bikes. The best riders have more choice of competitive machinery, and there are more talented riders for the factories to choose from.
This has forced the factories into pursuing and signing up the riders they want as early as possible.
As former HRC team principal Livio Suppo told ace French journalist Thomas Baujard, “In the MotoGP class, the manufacturers are the slaves of the top riders.”
The MotoGP penalty point system is no more. The system, introduced for the 2013 season, whereby Race Direction could punish rider infringements with penalty points, which would accumulate throughout the year and could result in a race ban, has been scrapped at the latest meeting of the Grand Prix Commission.
The penalty points system had been introduced in response (at least in part) to a number of incidents involving Marc Marquez through the 2012 season. There were complaints from the fans, but also from teams and other riders, that Race Direction was not being even-handed in applying existing penalties to riders.
It was sometimes hard for Race Direction to explain why one rider had been given a particular punishment, but another rider who had done something apparently similar had not.
In an attempt to make the situation simpler for all to understand, a penalty point system was introduced, similar to that used in several countries for driving licenses.
The Grand Prix Commission has made a couple of minor changes to the MotoGP regulations for the 2017 season, and unlike many rule changes, at least one of them will be met with outright joy by most MotoGP fans.
The biggest change to be announced is the adoption of Michelin’s wireless technology that allows them to automatically identify which tire a rider is using, and pass that information back to the Dorna data feed.
This data will then be available to all teams and riders, but far more importantly, it will also be available to TV broadcasters. No longer will they have to rely on the sterling work of pit lane reporters such as MotoGP.com’s excellent Dylan Gray, they will have the information at their fingertips.
As we reported on Tuesday, changes are to be made to Race Direction. At a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, the Grand Prix Commission decided to change the way disciplinary matters are handled by Race Direction.
For this season, a separate body is to be set up to handle all incidents on track requiring disciplinary action.
These issues have been handled by Race Direction until now, but the incident at Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez led to calls for such decisions to be taken away from Race Direction, to allow quicker decisions to be made.
From the start of the 2016 season, all disciplinary matters will be dealt with by a separate panel, consisting of three people. One of those will be Mike Webb, who as MotoGP Race Director is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the MotoGP race.
Mike Webb will be joined by two stewards appointed by the FIM. Those stewards have yet to be appointed, and the press release issued by the FIM does not make clear whether the stewards will be appointed permanently, for a full season, or for each race individually.
In the case of an incident which needs to be investigated by the panel of stewards, Mike Webb will hand over his duties as Race Director to a newly appointed deputy, Graham Webber.
Race Direction is to be altered in the wake of the clash in Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. A proposal to split the responsibilities of Race Direction is to be adopted at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission to be held on Thursday.
The proposal will see the responsibility for disciplinary matters removed from the current four members of Race Direction, and placed in the hands of a separate panel of stewards.
Race Direction will continue to be in charge of all aspects of running the race, including marshalling and safety, but incidents between riders will be investigated by the new panel.
They will be charged with judging all incidents of unfair play, and especially of violations of rule 1.21.2, which mandates responsible behavior by the riders on track.
The MotoGP grid is looking in surprisingly good health in 2015. The series has come a long way in the five years since 2010, when there were just 17 full-time entries on the grid, and Suzuki was teetering on the brink of withdrawal.
Dorna’s CRT gambit has paid off: the much-maligned production-based bikes may not have been competitive, but they did spur the manufacturers into action to actually supply more competitive machinery to the private teams.
The CRT bikes became Open class bikes, and Dorna’s pet project of standardized electronics has been adopted into the MotoGP rules.
From 2016, there will be one class again (well, sort of, the concessions – engine development, unlimited testing, more engines – for factories without regular podiums are to remain in place), with everyone on the same electronics, the same fuel allowance, and the same tires. A bigger change is coming for 2017.
The Grand Prix Commission have filled in the last question marks over the 2016 MotoGP regulations.
While the decision on the amount of fuel the bikes would be allowed to run had already been decided last year, the rules on a minimum weight, the number of engines to be used, and how and whether the concessions allowed to manufacturers without a win would be extended into 2016 and beyond.
All of these questions were settled at Qatar.
Once upon a time, Grand Prix racing rules were fairly simple: bikes had to have two wheels, weigh 130kg, have a maximum capacity of 500cc and a maximum of four cylinders. The switch to four strokes in 2002 added a lot of complexity to the rules, and things have been getting slowly worse since then.
MotoGP now has two different categories with three different rule sets covering a single class, depending on entry type and results in recent years.
With Suzuki and Aprilia entering the series in 2015, and another rule change on the horizon for 2016, it’s time to take a quick look at the rules for this season, and see what has changed since last year.
When the minutes of the latest meeting of MotoGP’s ruling body, the Grand Prix Commission, were unveiled, there was one passage which confused many who read it.
The press release included a paragraph on the spec software which is to be adopted for all MotoGP bikes from the start of the 2016 season. The passage read as follows:
It was already announced that Factory teams in the MotoGP class must move to using unified software with effect from 01 July 2015. It has now been confirmed that different teams, using machines from the same Factory, may use different versions of the unified software.
The wording seemed to suggest that from 2016, factory teams would still be allowed to use a different version of the ECU software to that used by satellite and private teams.
The meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, held on Tuesday in Madrid, made a number of minor changes to the rules for all three Grand Prix classes, as well as a couple of more significant revisions.
The biggest changes concerned the setting of the maximum fuel allocation from 2016 at 22 liters, and the adoption of the SCAT3 test for concussion for riders after a crash. But perhaps the most significant outcome of the meeting of the GPC is not what was decided, but what was not.
Of the various minor rule changes, a few are worthy of comment. The first is the reduction of the time penalty at the start for a rider exceeding the engine allocation in any given year.
From 2015, anyone using an extra engine will start the race from pit lane 5 seconds after the green light is displayed after the official start (once all riders on the grid have passed pit lane exit), rather than 10 seconds.
This will have little direct impact on the outcome of any races, but should make it easier for riders using an extra engine to get close to the backmarkers, and perhaps score a point or two.