MotoGP testing is to be further restricted from next season. At the meeting in Motegi of the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule-making body, the teams, factories, FIM, and Dorna agreed to limit the amount of testing which can be done next year and in 2019.
The 2018 testing season will look largely familiar, with a two-day test at Valencia on Tuesday and Wednesday after the race, then three three-day tests at Sepang, Thailand, and Qatar ahead of the start of the MotoGP season, and one-day tests after three of the European rounds (Jerez, Barcelona, Brno).
In 2019, the number of preseason tests will be reduced, with testing taking place only at Sepang and Qatar before the start of the season.
On the eve of the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP’s rule making body has allowed a system which was first mooted at the same race last year. In Assen, the GPC gathered to discuss various minor tweaks to the MotoGP rules, but among them was a major upgrade: permitting the use of dashboard messages by the teams from 2018. The ability to send messages is piggybacking off the system put in place to aid Race Direction. With spec ECUs and spec dashboards in Moto3 and MotoGP, Race Direction had long wanted the ability to send messages to the bikes on track.
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.
December is a time for reflection, and for making the necessary changes to the rulebook where incidents during the season have made clear.
Last week, MotoGP’s rule making body, the Grand Prix Commission met to review the 2016 season and make a few necessary adjustments to the MotoGP rulebook. Fortunately, they decided not to do anything quite so drastic as the Superbike Commission did at the same time.
The most eye-catching change is the dropping of intermediate tires in MotoGP. Intermediates had been introduced at the request of the teams and Dorna, to allow riders to go out during sessions when conditions were not suitable for slicks.
However, the experience of 2016 showed that intermediates were rarely used, and when they were, they added little or no value over soft slicks or hard wets.
The aerodynamic rules for the 2017 MotoGP season and beyond have been published. At a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Misano, a proposal from Dorna’s technical team was accepted, banning aerodynamic devices in as general a wording as possible. Wings, bulges, and anything protruding from the front of the fairing are now banned. The proposal was drawn up by a small group consisting of Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli, Technical Director Danny Aldridge, and Race Director Mike Webb. Their main focus was to keep the wording as general as possible, so as to avoid loopholes for engineers to exploit. Technical Director Danny Aldridge will have the final word on any fairing protrusion, precisely to prevent any doubt about workarounds.
From Silverstone to Misano: it is hard to think of a starker contrast in circuits. Silverstone sits atop a windswept hilltop in the center of England, surrounded by verdant valleys and ancient villages. Misano nestles just above the vast string of late 20th Century hotel blocks, which form Italy’s Adriatic Riviera.
Silverstone is often wet, and usually cold, no matter what time of year we go there. Misano swelters in the heat of a late Italian summer.
The tracks are very different too. Silverstone is a vast, sweeping expanse of fast and challenging tarmac. Misano is a tightly compressed complex of loops demanding more of fuel management, than of the rider.
Silverstone has old, worn, slippery tarmac with huge bumps rippled in by F1 and other car racing. Up until 2015, Misano was much the same. But it was resurfaced last year, and has fresh, dark, smooth asphalt that has a lot more grip than the old surface.
So the MotoGP riders face a very different kettle of fish a week after Silverstone. The layout of the track is likely to have the biggest impact.
Where Silverstone is full of fast third and fourth gear corners which riders enter carrying a lot of speed, most of the turns at Misano are all first and second gear. Drive and traction are the watchwords, though there are three or four corners where braking is at a premium as well.
The Grand Prix Commission has introduced a range of measures at their meeting in Brno. Among the most important are the switch from selling Moto3 engines to leasing them, and changing the flag-to-flag procedure, in an attempt to improve safety in pit lane.
Starting from next year, the flag-to-flag procedure has been revised. The number of mechanics assisting has been reduced, with only four allowed to assist in the bike swap. Those mechanics must now wear approved helmets, which will also make them easier to identify.
Winglets are to be banned in all three MotoGP classes from 2017 onwards. At Assen, the Grand Prix Commission met and decided on an outright ban on aerodynamic wings, after the MSMA had failed to reach an agreement among all manufacturers on a joint proposal. There has been much discussion of winglets over the past few months, as they have taken on an ever greater importance. With the introduction of the common ECU software, winglets were one way of reducing the amount of wheelie MotoGP bikes had. But as the factories – and especially Ducati – gained more experience with winglets, the winglets grew larger, raising safety concerns over the effect of an impact during a crash.
The test on Monday at Jerez was probably the most important test of the year so far. A chance to test the day after a race, in similar conditions, and with ideas born of the data from the first four races of 2016 to try out.
There really was a lot to test: not just parts and setup, but also three new front tires from Michelin, as well as further work on the “safety” rear tire introduced after Argentina.
First out of the pits was Bradley Smith, determined to turn his tough start to the season around. Last on to the track was Valentino Rossi, rolling out of pit lane some time after 2pm.
Celebrations of his astounding victory at Sunday’s race must have been intense: the Italian was very hoarse when he spoke to us at the end of the day.
A major focus for all of the riders was on tires. Michelin had brought three new front tires to test, and the riders also had the remainder of their allocation from the weekend to use.
There was nothing new at the rear, but given how little experience they had with the construction introduced after Scott Redding’s rear tire delaminated in Argentina, there was much still to be learned.
Bradley Smith had described it as “a prototype”. The tire had done a handful of test laps, and then two races. It had created problems for everyone at Jerez on Sunday, and so much work was focused on finding more rear grip.