Examining The Options: Would Honda Really Quit MotoGP Over A Spec ECU?

The 2014 MotoGP season marks a key point in the evolution of Grand Prix racing. Next season, all entries in the MotoGP class must use the Magneti Marelli standard ECU and datalogger as part of their hardware package. For the first time in history, electronics have been limited in motorcycle racing's premier class.

It is a small victory for Dorna and the teams, however. Only the hardware has been regulated. All entries must use the standard ECU, but the choice of which software that ECU runs is up to the teams themselves. If a team decides to run Dorna's standard software, they get extra fuel to play with, and more engines to last a season. If a factory decides they would rather write their own software, they are also free to do so, but must make do with only 20 liters to last a race, and just five engines to last a season.

The difference between the two - entries under the Open class, using Dorna software, and as Factory option entries using custom software - is bigger than it seems. Open class entries are stuck with the engine management strategies (including launch control, traction control, wheelie control, and much more) as devised and implemented by the Magneti Marelli engineers, under instruction by Dorna. Factory option entries will have vastly more sophisticated strategies at their disposal, and manufacturers will be free to develop more as and when they see fit.

The freedom to develop electronics strategies has been a deal breaker for the factories throughout the four-stroke era. The change in capacity from 990cc to 800cc in 2007 vastly increased the importance of electronics in the overall package, with more and more money going into both the development and the management of electronics strategies. The combination of a vast array of sensor inputs, fuel injection and electronic ignition has meant that vehicle control has moved from merely managing fueling to dynamic and even predictive engine management. Engine torque is now monitored and managed based on lean angle, bike pitch, tire wear, fuel load, and a host of other variables.

So it comes as no surprise that Honda is already making threatening noises over the regulations due to come into force from 2017 onwards. Dorna intends to remove the freedom for factories to use their own software from 2017 onwards, with all bikes using the same, spec, Dorna-supplied software, as currently being developed for the Open category. Indeed, the reason that the 'Factory Option' to run their own software was called 'Factory Option', is because options are much easier to remove. Dorna's goal is to cut costs, make the racing more spectacular to watch, and reduce the gap between the factory teams and the independent teams.

For Honda, removing their ability to write their own software is unacceptable. Speaking at Valencia during the post-race tests, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto made Honda's position perfectly clear. In response to a question from MotoMatters.com on what Honda's response would be to being forced to use spec software, with all entries run under the single, Open category rules, Nakamoto was unequivocal. 'All Open class, with only production racers, it is 99% certain that Honda will stop racing,' he told a press conference. 'No reason to continue to race. For Honda, machine development is quite important. The MotoGP platform is very very good for machine development,' Nakamoto said.

But would Honda really go through with their threat to pull out of MotoGP if electronics are banned? Or is this just posturing in the run up to negotiations which are set to begin in earnest in the middle of this year?

To find the answer to that question - or perhaps more accurately, to make an educated guess at an answer - we first have to examine the reasons why Honda go racing. There are three main reasons for HRC to be in MotoGP: research and development; marketing; and to train their engineers.

Research and development is the reason most commonly given by manufacturers when asked to justify their participation in racing. A large part of the budget for the racing departments of all the major manufacturers comes out of the corporate R&D budget, with engineers pursuing the opportunities provided by racing to test new ideas and materials. Much can be learned, in chassis design, in engine layout, in frame and swingarm flexibility, in the interaction between suspension and chassis, and, to a very large degree, about throttle response and making an engine easy to control within the confines of a set of regulations. The areas in which factories gain knowledge are manifold: material science, chassis geometry, chassis flexibility, engine control strategies, the list goes on and on.

Marketing is also a major factor. Racing provides exposure to a global audience, and increases brand awareness, and can play a key role in positioning a brand. Though MotoGP bikes are not on sale to the general public, there can be no doubt that racing helps factories market and sell their bikes. The popularity of MotoGP replica paint jobs, whether it be Repsol Honda Fireblades, Nicky Hayden replica Ducatis, or the vast numbers of scooters sold in Asia with Valentino Rossi liveries underline the marketing power of the sport. The old adage of 'Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday' does not appear to hold true, however: despite a recent dearth of success in either MotoGP or World Superbikes, Ducati sports bikes continue to sell in large quantities, while Aprilia RSV4s are almost impossible to shift.

The importance of racing for the marketing efforts is evident from BMW's participation in World Superbikes. The German brand came to WSBK to rid itself of its staid and boring image, BMW riders carrying the nickname 'the pipe and slippers brigade' throughout the English-speaking world. BMW's objective in participating in WSBK was to project a more sporting, youthful and sexy image. The fact that BMW's S1000RR is one of the world's top selling sports bikes proves that they have achieved that aim, without winning a WSBK title, and despite limited success on track. The marketing power of racing helped shift the public perception of BMW, and helped them increase their sales.

Ironically, when you ask factories what their return on investment is from racing, in terms of both marketing and R&D, they will not give you an answer. I know, because I asked. The answers I did receive left me wondering whether the manufacturers even know themselves. It was understandable that factories refused to share absolute numbers, but they also would not tell me whether racing gave them more in terms of R&D or in terms of marketing. The nearest I ever got to an answer was from Suzuki team boss Paul Denning, before the factory pulled out. 'If we only went racing for the marketing it gave us, it wouldn't be worth it,' he told me in 2010.

Underlying the responses I got was a sense that factories went racing because racing is what they do, and not necessarily because of the returns it brought. Racing offered much more than just pure financial benefits: it channels the passion of both fans and manufacturer employees, giving them all something to both cheer for and aspire to. It acts as a binding factor, inspiring loyalty and enthusiasm, among both staff and customers.

Which brings me to the third reason Honda - and the other Japanese factories - go racing: to train their engineers. Japanese manufacturers like to rotate their engineers through various departments to keep their minds flexible, and prevent them from getting stuck in particular trains of thought. The racing department is one of the most important steps in an engineer's career. Here, engineers learn to think quickly, to analyze problems rapidly and work through solutions. They learn to think on their feet, and not get trapped in familiar patterns of thinking. In the extreme environment which racing creates, their ideas are tested beyond the boundaries of their own imagination. Racing finds a way of breaking and stretching boundaries in ways which engineers and designers are unable to conceive of.

So if Honda were to pull out of racing, they would lose the benefits from all three of those areas. Such a decision would revolve around whether the loss of the ability to develop their own software strategies outweighs the benefits gained from R&D in other areas, marketing and training engineers. Where does the balance lie?

Certainly, the loss of electronics R&D would blow a huge hole in Honda's exploration of ideas which could transfer to road bikes. The most important lessons learned from racing is not so much in terms of traction control, but more in maintaining a predictable throttle response and smooth power delivery with limited fuel, and at part throttle. As emissions regulations grow ever stricter, learning more about how to run an engine as lean as possible without the rider noticing is crucial.

However, losing the ability to write their own software algorithms to handle this area may not be the loss which Honda would have us believe. MotoGP would still provide a vast amount of data on fuel usage, controlling fuel/air mixtures, and managing throttle response, just from gathering the data from the racers. They may not be able to test their software ideas on track, but they will at least still have the input data on which to base their ideas.

What's more, electronics is not the only area in which knowledge is gained. There will still be plenty to be learned about chassis geometry, frame flexibility, material usage, and a host of other areas. Lessons of mass centralization, engine packaging and aerodynamics will remain just as important as they are now. And with less control over engine management strategies, engineers will focus on developing engines with a more user-friendly power delivery instead. Instead of relying so heavily on electronics to manage torque outputs, they will have to focus on fundamental engine design. Those factors are just as applicable to road bikes as the electronic management strategies currently being applied.

The loss of marketing opportunities if Honda were to pull out could possibly be compensated by marketing offensives in other areas. Triumph, for example, does very well indeed without racing, relying instead on the strength of its model line up and a strong marketing strategy. Would Honda lose out to Yamaha if they were to pull out. Shuhei Nakamoto refused to be drawn on this when I asked him at Valencia. Would Honda be willing to stand idly by and watch Yamaha or Ducati snap up the MotoGP title year after year? 'I don't know Yamaha or Ducati's opinion, I can only say Honda's opinion,' was Nakamoto's cagey reply.

The one area which Honda could not compensate for if they pulled out of racing, however, would be in its training of engineers. No other environment can replicate the high octane pressure cooker of a racing department. Speed is of the essence, both on and off the track, and most especially, a flexibility of mind. Racing teaches engineers not to get trapped, to think outside the box, as the jargon has it, to search for new, simple, inventive, and quick solutions to problems they didn't realize they had. Working towards a common goal helps provide the motivation that ensures that everyone working under those conditions can stay sane, and not burn out quickly. It is essential to have a reason, otherwise you simply cannot maintain that level of intensity.

This would prove the most costly loss to Honda. Pulling out of MotoGP would leave Honda with nowhere to train its engineers. However, with Honda due to make a return to F1 - albeit in a limited capacity, as an engine supplier to McLaren from 2015 - this could provide still provide the training they would be losing. Of course, whether a spell designing F1 engines would help train motorcycle chassis engineers is open to question.

On the face of it, it appears that Honda have too much to lose from pulling out of MotoGP. So why make the threats? HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto is not given to making empty threats, but he is also a man of formidable negotiating talents. Since arriving as head of Honda's MotoGP program, he has consistently outmaneuvered Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, despite much cajoling from the Spaniard. Nakamoto has conceded little of importance, only losing out a couple of times. Honda badly underestimated KTM's commitment to Moto3, building a bike to the spirit of the rules, where KTM created a de facto factory team, and destroyed Honda's Moto3 effort. Honda also badly misread Ducati at the end of 2011, when the manufacturers' association MSMA failed to reach agreement on a weight increase.

Those defeats aside, Nakamoto has managed to resist Ezpeleta's attempts to persuade him of the importance of improving the entertainment factor in MotoGP. Indeed, when asked directly by Dennis Noyes at the end of 2012, Nakamoto replied that providing entertainment was not Honda's business, nor their responsibility. The last time Dorna threatened to impose a spec ECU and software on MotoGP, in the run up to the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Honda always managed to parry their objections.

Yet there is reason to believe that this is a battle which Honda will eventually lose. The defection of Ducati is key: under current rules, the MSMA can only reject proposed rule changes by a unanimous vote. The previous Ducati Corse boss, Filippo Preziosi, was clear that a spec ECU was unacceptable. New boss Gigi Dall'Igna sees the situation differently, telling reporters at Valencia that he believed the Open category (with the spec Dorna software) was the future of MotoGP. Where previously, the MSMA be counted on to rubber stamp Honda's position, HRC now faces internal opposition from another MSMA member. Honda will have to make their own decision.

Honda's internal policy could also work against them. HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto has been in his position since early 2009, and will be entering his sixth season as HRC boss. His time at the head of HRC is limited, and when decisions come to be made and contracts come to be signed, Nakamoto could well be gone, moved to another part of the company. In his place will probably be someone with less experience than Nakamoto, and certainly someone less hardened in the continuing battle between Dorna and HRC. Shuhei Nakamoto is arguably HRC's most successful and powerful leader since Youichi Oguma; he leaves big boots to fill. If Nakamoto leaves before the contracts and regulations for 2017 are finalized, Honda will have a hard time stopping the imposition of spec software. It will take a very strong leader to convince Honda to pull out of MotoGP. Nakamoto has that power; whether his successor will is open to question.

In the past, Honda's threats of withdrawal have also been backed by the sparseness of the grid. When Dorna and Honda were negotiating over the 2012 rules, there were just 17 bikes on the grid. The CRT bikes helped to fill the grid, but they also provided enough leverage to convince Honda and Yamaha to supply lesser spec equipment to private teams. Honda agreed to sell its RCV1000R, and Yamaha is leasing M1 engines and chassis. With Suzuki looking set to return in 2015, and Aprilia talking of a radically improved MotoGP effort, the grid is looking stronger than ever. In 2011, a Honda withdrawal would have killed the series; in 2017, MotoGP looks very capable of surviving Honda pulling out.

Will HRC make good on their threat to pull out of MotoGP if they lose the ability to develop their own electronics? I would argue that they would lose much more by doing so than by accepting a spec ECU in the premier class. There is still plenty of R&D left to be done, even without electronics development, and MotoGP remains a strong platform for marketing and for training engineers. Honda will do everything in its power to get its own way, but if they don't, I believe they will eventually back down and stay. But then again, I've been wrong before...

Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2014 racing calendar, or by making a donation.

Back to top


Cheers, David, Merry Christmas to you and all!

Very big dilemma Honda faces, and I agree with your assessment.
They *could* pull out of MotoGP, but I can't think of another series that would net them similar benefits.
All other roughly equivalent moto series have a less open rulebook.

Amazing article, haven't finished it but you've (as always) asked and answered questions I hadn't thought of. Cheers and Merry Christmas, all!

@2ndclasscitizen I don't agree with you! As far as I know Honda cars are leaders in their classes or they are near the top. Cars like Jazz, Civic or Accord has always been there, as far as I can remember. Hondas are often leaders in economy. If you want luxury, buy Acura :)

Besides that, Honda has been the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer since 1959, as well as the world's largest manufacturer of internal combustion engines measured by volume, producing more than 14 million internal combustion engines each year. Honda became the second-largest Japanese automobile manufacturer in 2001. Honda was the eighth largest automobile manufacturer in the world behind General Motors, Volkswagen Group, Toyota, Hyundai Motor Group, Ford, Nissan, and PSA in 2011.

Check out these links:



Overall a spec ecu should help MotoGp. It's obvious what Dorna wants to do though, a full grid of CRT's comes to mind. I think there are many ways to improve the entertainment/views without neutering the bikes. Unfortunately I don't know better ways to cut costs.

With much of the areas for development in MotoGP being closed down or restricted it is hard to imagine that MotoGP will always be the excellent training ground for Engineers.

The loss of electronics development removes this area from engineer development.

The spec tyre means that engineers are constrained by the narrowness of chassis design potential as it must work with a tyre that has no resemblance to a tyre in any other race series or road going rubber.

Engine development is also constrained by the small number of engines available for use through out a season. At best it limits the think on your feet fast benefits racing provides to engineers as there is no need to think fast when any modifications/developments can at best be bought on line later in a season or next season.

But the biggest issue for manufacturers and their desire to continue in MotoGP past 2017 will be the ever approaching end to the fossil fuel powered internal combustion engine. I know Dorna has zero ability to look down the road and predict outcomes but a company like Honda does not become a company like Honda by being deaf dumb and blind to the ever changing world we live in. Unless Dorna has an alternative fuel strategy up it sleeve with their rules package in the near future then MotoGP will be totally irrelevant to life in the world we are moving into rapidly.

Maybe Honda has the strategy of throwing everything they have into alternative fuel racing post 2017 and bringing all their credibility and power to it.

"...the ever approaching end to the fossil fuel powered internal combustion engine."

Heard of Butanol?

Yes, but I have not heard of it as a front runner as the future for powering internal combustion engines.

More importantly is Dorna able to be visionary or will they be reactionary like they seem to be now? The alternative fuel/alternative method of producing propulsion search is well under way. Companies like Honda will definitely be looking to be at the front of the search. A race formula that only allows R&D on the 'horse and cart' which will soon be the fossil fuel internal combustion engine will have no use to the likes of Honda much sooner than most people believe.

"ever approaching end to the fossil fuel powered internal combustion engine"

Back when I did geography at school they told us the oil would run out in 5 - 10 years. That was over 25 years ago.

I work in the oil industry (tangentially, I'm in IT), they are still finding new fields or new ways to extract more oil from old fields that previously would have been considered spent. The end of oil has been over hyped by the green lobby in my opinion.

Who said anything about end of oil? I am talking about the approaching end of using oil. Where I am from hybrid cars are everywhere. Almost every taxi on the street is hybrid. Many bike and car manufacturers are developing vehicles that use electric or combinations of electric and fossil fuel to power them. There is a consumer driven change happening. The manufacturers are responding. Look even 3 years down the track and manufacturers will be spending more and more of their R&D dollars on alternative fuel options. This article discusses the use of MotoGP as a R&D tool for Honda. Once you take away the R&D option of developing low fuel electronics there is no point for Honda. They need to develop for the future not for the past. The future is certainly not fuel guzzling petrol engines. Dorna will be like many people and companies trying to hold on to the past. And like the others they will be standing their holding nothing but their tool in their hand.

The link to the original PDF is in the article and states that sales of new gasoline powered vehicles are to expected to decline from the current 82% to 78% in 2040. Developing efficient gas engines will be money well spent for decades to come.


It would be nice for Dorna to specify the fuel limits in units of energy instead of liters of a spec petrol but implementing it would require waivers on all the engine regulations and having a party interested in doing actual R&D on the racetrack.


Who ever wrote that article is a complete numpty. Probably failed to predict the GFC and no doubt believes that climate change is just happening within normal cyclic parameters. A more accurate prediction will be zero fossil fuel powered vehicles sold in 2040.

As soon as battery technology improves (the race is absolutely on already) there will be absolutely no reason for the internal combustion engine to continue to be produced.

To be honest Chris I am very surprised that you would do anything but laugh at the article you linked to as you seemed to be more switched on than that.

"As soon as battery technology improves (the race is absolutely on already) there will be absolutely no reason for the internal combustion engine to continue to be produced."

I've heard that same crappy song for the last 30 years.

It sounds a bit nicer now, but I think that's really just because I've become numb since I've heard it *so* many times.

Maybe the "battery improvements" song has been sung for a long long time, but haven't there been improvements in battery technology in the last 30 years as well?? Take a look at the output and life of cell phone batteries of years gone by - compared with cell phones now. ;)

Maybe it's just that small incremental changes often go unnoticed... I won't hold that against you. :)

The other thing to consider is that now Joe Public can actually buy EV bikes that are faster than the fastest production IC motorcycles! This is a first, EV is here to stay, it only gets better with further improvements in battery technology.

I wonder how many people realise that the Mission RS will be able to post faster lap times than a Panigale R or BMW HP4 straight off the showroom floor?? The Mission race bike has already lapped Laguna Seca faster than those IC bikes, and the RS production bike will be light and have a higher top speed than the race bike. Wrap your mind around that! The electric motor used by Mission is good for much more output as well, they're just waiting for the battery technology that can power it.

>>Take a look at the output and life of cell phone batteries of years gone by - compared with cell phones now. ;)

A lot of the 'battery' life improvement in electronics is due to improvements in microprocessor efficiency and better programming. Smaller chips=less waste heat=longer battery life. Better programming=less CPU cycles used=less battery use for the same task. As I said somewhere else, F=ma does not leave much room for optimization strategies.

>>The other thing to consider is that now Joe Public can actually buy EV bikes that are faster than the fastest production IC motorcycles!

Perhaps you'd care to back that up with some information? Mission's website says 150mph top speed. My single cylinder racebike did 151 at VIR and 157 at Daytona (likely with a tailwind). Any 600c sportbike can easily break 160 and 1000s can break 180.

>>it only gets better with further improvements in battery technology.

No argument there, and it has a long way to go.

>>I wonder how many people realize that the Mission RS will be able to post faster lap times than a Panigale R or BMW HP4 straight off the showroom floor?

Probably only you because it is not true. The RS holds the e-bike record at Laguna Seca at a 1:31.1, a time which would put it 5th on the AMA 600cc grid and last in the 1000cc race. That was with a pro racer at the controls, slicks, and battery 'mapping' that does not allow for 150 miles of use.


The report was from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, so yes nuptys, but ones that advise policymakers.

>>A more accurate prediction will be zero fossil fuel powered vehicles sold in 2040.

That's something I'd bet the farm against.

>>As soon as battery technology improves (the race is absolutely on already)

The race has been on for decades and batteries are still way behind. Once the laptop computer market became big there's been huge financial rewards for people who can make a better battery. Then add in the cell phone industry and the demand for batter batteries is gigantic. Yet improvements are slow in coming because it is hard to make a better one. Most of the apparent increase in battery life is due to silicon and processing efficiency improvements. F=MA is not subject to too much optimization.

Not to mention the consequences of putting an additional load of multiple gigawatts on the power grid. When charging, a car needs 2-3x the energy use of an entire house. A Tesla fast charger (not the 'Supercharger') needs 100A of 220V service. That's a continuous charge current. That's more than my entire shop when I have both CNCs running. The grid simply can't handle millions of cars charging. I think a fossil fuel powered fuel cell will be the best solution as it eliminates the 60% inefficiencies of the ICE yet has all the benefits and convienences of a liquid fuel that can easily be transported without loss.

>>you seemed to be more switched on than that.

I am. If you only read mass market media or live in SF or NY you'd think batteries are all but taking over the ICE. Read some trade rags and you'll see the people who make cars think that full electric are decades away from anything but niche market applications.


Niche market... yeah I'd agree with that.

But don't forget this was all about MotoGP... I'd say that it's hard to get more niche than prototype racing motorcycles. ;)

Seems like a perfect fit to me.

>>I'd say that it's hard to get more niche than prototype racing motorcycles. ;)

You've not been paying attention to the rules lately, have you? It's not about prototypes anymore, its about attempting to level the playing fields through implimentation of standaridized components. That's the polar opposite of prototype racing.


is just killing the sports. on crash.net i read the comments and 1 guy said : bring back 500cc 2stroke agai. and all were thumbs up for that. after 500cc 2 stroke 990 4 stroke.. then 800cc then again max 1000cc. now that is very very expensive. so dorna to want to make it cheap is just bullshit! making 5 engines for a whole season isn't cheap. dorna is making it more and more expensive, suzuki is gone kawa is gone because of the abnormal rules by a man who is way to old to think. if you want relative cheap racing watch wsbk, want to see even less expensive racing watch bsb. if you want to see racing at the highest level on earth.....watch motogp. in the beginning all was possible 6cilinders v5 etc. and now max this max that. if you can't exell in 1 thing maybe you can exell in other ereas if you had the opertunity. but with all the rules....there's nothing to gain anywere else. rules only creat rules. and we are not watching motogp lately but rulesgp. nothing is original anymore, be carefull you dont crash you may lose a engine and be out of the challenge, no designflaw to fix nothing. yes you can always build and bring a 20.000.000,- new bike to the grid so all is new and that is possible. but is it cheap????? this bald old man is failing and brings motogp down to the stone ace

All of the rule changes you mention were proposed by the factories. Under the agreement the factories have with Dorna, the factories (the MSMA) have a monopoly on making the technical regulations. The factories wanted four strokes, the capacity reduction to 800cc, the fuel limits, and 5 engines. Dorna opposed those changes, but could not prevent them. You should be blaming the factories, not Dorna.

David, a very merry Xmas to you. An excellent article as always.
It is the above list of item "the fuel limits, and 5 engines", that are killing the close racing and thereby the entertainment value of MotoGP. Fuel limits for example limit the ability of the riders to close down on a rider that has been able to breakaway, due to the ECU overriding the rider’s own input; if the ECU calculates it will not make it to the end of the race due to a lack of fuel.

Could you please ask Nakamoto how much electronics R&D will Honda get from the many many millions of dollars they will spend on F1 where there is spec software?

There will be a ton of R&D electronics development upcoming in F1.. just not in the ECU. The entire engine package has been rewritten and a huge portion will now be on energy recovery systems, double the power the're using now, and harvesting everything from braking to exhaust heat and whatever else they can think of in between. At 160 HP per lap, developing the systems to do this is very relative to the Honda Motor Co.

To me the writings on the wall... Honda will still be around in MotoGP, but just to field a bike for long time paying sponsors who are still willing to run what they've brung. Essentially becoming a factory supported effort where they send over some engineers, rather than a full bore factory run program and R&D effort.

When Nakamoto moves on, there wont be any need to convince anyone else at Honda what their involvement in MotoGP should be. Nakamoto-San will be high enough up to control that plus far more, he may even be the head boss one day. It wouldn't be the first time the head of HRC became the head of the entire company, president and CEO.

for the time and work you put into this site/forum.

When I get a thank you from my boss instead of a bonus, I always joke, that "thank you" can't buy you things, unless you're a very good runner.

In your case, thank you, "buys" you respect; and I really do respect you and your effort!

I will be a happier man, when I'll be able to support your effort, but can just barely support myself.

So until that that day...

Thank you and best wishes to you, your close ones and this site/forum.

If Honda leaves, I would no longer subscribe to MotoGP and wouldn't bother watching the races.
Without Honda, Yamaha would win almost all races - all hollow victories.
I pay to appreciate the best racing and engineering talents.
Why would I bother watching mediocrity?

You just described AMA superbike racing, which I haven't found interesting enough to watch for the last few years, but hey, think of the money they are saving.

Ok, so Honda leaves MotoGP - but there will still be world-class racers looking for a ride. If Yamaha comes out as the top factory team then ok, they'll have their two riders. They probably can't afford more than that (or is there a rider limit in the rules)?

So you have maybe 2 championship potentials riding for Yamaha - but there's more than 2 potentials on the grid. Then you have potential champions racing on more equal machinery (assuming that spec ECU achieves this)... as long as you've got those racers there and the equipment is not too dissimilar I see it as a good thing!

I know what you mean about having a completely unlimited race series, but as history has shown it just doesn't work like that. And there will always be limits of time and money, these affect some factories & teams more than others and that is perhaps the worst situation of all.

I thought MotoGP was a prototype class.

If Honda go I hope Yamaha join them.
Dorna should realise they already have a production series in WSB.

Great analysis of the situation. However, you seem to think that there are only two options available:

1) Dorna Backs down and Honda keeps on writing their own software code.

2) Dorna eliminates the Factory option and Honda bolts.

I think the most likely option is:

Dorna eliminates the factory option and Honda scales back greatly on it's factory team, probably selling it. In effect, moving their participation in MotoGP to the Indycar paradigm. That is, one customer team is a de facto factory team handling most of the development chores, with several other customer teams on ostensibly the same equipment with slightly less factory support.

Honda competes in lots of Motorcycle and Car racing series this way. In fact, Since Honda pulled out of F1, MotoGP is the ONLY series in which Honda has anything like a full factory team. It's unusual for Honda these days.

So, if Dorna insists on an all-open class, why wouldn't Honda respond by selling the factory team and supplying 6-to-10 production racers to interested customer teams with varying levels of factory support?

but if factories want to go home, goodbye! :)

With the level of adrenaline of the moto2 races and the boredom and snoozefest racing were getting at "the pinnacle of racing" , it seems the right idea for us the watching public is chopping the immense advantage the factories have over the smaller fish. I have seldom seen a GP race that was more exiting and fought over than any moto2 and we will loose what? one second a lap? All the technology in the world is worthless if your race is Marquez and Lorenzo on their cyber-bikes one minute ahead of the rest. Couldn't care less about what technological battle it's going on if I will never even get a mile close to one of those wonderbikes.

I'm here for the racing.

There's a difference between seeing 'good racing' and the 'best racers'. 10 kids on scooters can put on a good race with each other.

I'd rather see marq and lorenzo racing alone then a bunch of stupid rules that try to gimp them so the also-rans can have a crutches to the front.

Do you not see both the "best racers" and the "best racing" in Moto2? No one can say for sure, but I'd bet there plenty of world championship material that is, and has come through the Moto2 ranks. As far as the best racing - I can only speak for myself but those races in recent years have been some of the very best of the weekding!!

Forgive my ignorance but a "proddy racer" series it's not a WSBK league, chassis, engine tuning, electronics, the level of the racers will still be the...erm..."pinnacle of racing", Lorenzo and Marquez will still be at the front and Bautista will still be on the gravel regardless of what is going on in the CPU of the damn bike. Bikes will still be capable of immense capabilities and the only difference will be they will not just ride into the sunset and leave the rest for dead.

Or so I hope ;)

Just let Honda do what they want, well it doesn't really work for them does it?

Where would Honda be without wonderkind Marquez, or the blinding speed of Stoner?
Before that, Honda (barely) jagged a win with Hayden. And then they needed Rossi in his prime in years past.
The more I think on this, previously they need Doohan to do it for them, and Lawson.

In these eras, the trailing gaggle of Hondas were just that, trailing.
Even Marquez' rival lost the championship even when he won 8 GPs on a Yamaha.
To be honest, Honda trails the pack all too often.

Call Hondas bluff.
Their arguments are hollow. The tech isn't used on their road bikes and it doesn't help their race bikes to dominate.

Everyone on the MotoGP grid should be looking over their shoulder (with envy) at Moto2 and Moto3 and the WSBK/WSS grids.

Tricky article to write, thanks for the clarity and reason. It has been hard to watch closely the changes in rules over the last dozen years as a fan. For an insider to have a closer view of the politics must be much more so. MSMA leading the series via rulebook has gotten us all where we are here and now. Dorna and Co must now bring change in who determines the rules and how, not just rule changes. And this must be viable now. What steps can be taken? I must admit pleasant surprise with how Dorna's CRT rules led to an Aprillia project and Espargaro catching up with the Ducati and nicked satellite mid pack finishes and then some. And in doing so gotten Honda "on the ropes" re scaling BACK restrictive fuel and engine alotment rules.
Perhaps Honda's strong language is a good sign of a big shift of who has control of our beloved sport. And who has control of our beloved bikes...THE RIDER. I am excited to see more and more projects undertaken to get bikes in all the classes, less focus on electronics, more fuel and motors, heck even a wider range of Bstone rubber compounds is on tap. Eagerly awaiting Espargaro's Open Yamaha ripping into Goliath.
Honda won't "stay" or "leave" MotoGP, they will change the nature of their involvement for a limited period of time, and I am all for it. HRC go make that V4 Superbike, watch 4 manufacturers regularly grabbing podiums in MotoGP, lick your self-inflated wounds, then redouble your efforts. Honda's rule changes have been RUBBISH for our beloved sport.

How many employees of Honda Motor Company do NOT know of the declaration made by Soichiro Honda in 1954?

a snippet . . .
"Let us bring together the full strength of Honda Motor Co. to win through to this glorious achievement. The future of Honda Motor Co. depends on this, and the burden rests on your shoulders. I want you to turn your surging enthusiasm to this task, endure every trial, and press through with all the minute demands of work and research, making this your own chosen path. The advances made by Honda Motor Co. are the growth you achieve as human beings, and your growth is what assures our Honda Motor Co. its future. . . . .
This I affirm
Soichiro Honda"

Walking away is not so easy for Honda, but they have done it before. Nevertheless, in any discussion about their involvement in the top level of motorcycle racing, I do not believe that this declaration can go unmentioned.

Lest we not forget, it was Nakamoto that has KEPT Honda in MotoGP....he's the one that sold management on the idea of STAYING in the sport.

If he's suggesting that this is a possibility, what he is saying is that Dorna is taking away the few arrows he has left in his continued fight.

I would also suggest that missing in the calculations of the article, is a much more important fact...sportbikes are NOT what is carrying Japanese bike production these days. Asia is the market; scooters & small displacement bikes are what is selling.

If I was in the Honda board room, I would invest my R&D and engineering talent in car development; while focusing my process talent in small motorcycles (to make good quality BUT CHEAP) for the South and SE Asian markets.

Never take it personal....it's just business...even racing

I would hate Honda to withdraw their efforts from MotoGP but it has to be said that factories being involved is bound to lead to a conflict of interests.

Factories use racing for the aforesaid reasons quoted in David's article. The remaining teams are there to race!
This is where there is a conflict of interests which, to my mind should not exist.

The teams, the paying customer, Dorna, the FIM and the circuit owners want exciting and technically interesting racing. The factories have a conflicting agenda to this and so therefore the solution is simple, ban factory teams.
Allow them to supply either chassis or engines, but not complete motorcycles.

I am also unhappy with Honda's involvement in Moto2, why has this class not been developed along the lines of Moto3, i.e. 500cc twin cylinder engines from multiple suppliers? This is a natural progression of technology and rider skills.
Yes the racing is exciting but lacks technical interest, glorified supersport bikes have no place at GP level in my opinion.

I sympathise with Honda with regard to KTM's attitude to the rules of Moto3, this should have been jumped on from the start!

If MotoGP is allowed to get out of hand like Moto3 after 2017 then Dorna and the FIM need to take a long hard look at themselves. They could do worse than to ban factory teams from the sport altogether!

All these rule changes came from Dorna it was espeleta himself who screwed it up and Whent to 800cc formula if that dumb ass was not making rules after freaking rules I bet 2014 would still be 990cc bikes the best bikes idk why now they wanna make racing as cheap as possible.. If Honda pulls out hope Carmelo is ready to take one up the ***

The further Moto GP and F1 for that matter get away from the absolute pinnacle of technological marvels the less I care about it. If Marquez goes speeding of into the sunset because he has the best bike by the best team of engineers by the company willing to commit the needed funding to get the best than so what. I watch the sport for the whole picture. Whether Marquez and Lorenzo or whomever is on top have spec bikes or pure prototypes they will ride the wheels of whatever they have. So you will always have their best performance to watch. Were all of Agostini's wins by a hair? What about Hailwood's? No, they won be minutes sometimes. The "good ole' days" were far more boring than anything today as a whole(with the exception of backing it in). You can't expect every race to be epic. Same in F1 and Sports Cars.

Watching the best riders on the best equipment is better than watching them crash a spec bike that has lower limits than the riders. If they want to get the fan base back up than look to the past. Not in vehicle technology but in rules. Take the current rule book, set aside all the elements that are in place for safety and then burn the rest. With open rules the smartest engineer has a chance over the richest. The tightening of the rules kept MotoCyzsz from being able to compete. I would like to see Honda and Yamaha pull out and get behind a rival series that has actual prototype rules.......like Ferrari has threatened to do a few times.....

I really enjoy the benefits of major factories in Motorcycle Racing. Racing has brought us motorcycles that push the envelope in pure HP, cost effective performance, safety, reliability. All of this is a very low cost.

If the factories did not go racing our choice could be limited. We might all be riding air-cooled, pushrod, ill handling, underpowered, well polished turds?

Another great article. Keep up the good work and happy new year :)

Why do Honda need so much power in electronics?

Is it to control a problematic chassis and/or vicious engine and/or difficult control tyres?

Change the tyres,
simplify the engine rules,
get rid of carbon brakes
...and allow (limited) electronic control of suspension.

Seriously, it's the 21st century, we can do better than a shim stack.

In order for these bikes to put the amount of HP to the ground they have to have electronics. I'm not saying it wouldn't be possible however, the amount of crashes with the riders trying to push the envelope would be staggering.

I believe DORNA is taking the rights steps. First priority is to dumb down the production series. The amount of electronic aids in WSBK is just as big as MotoGP. Once you can slow down the production racers you can start to slow down the prototype racers. Making HP is easy, making controllable HP is the hard part. By limiting the costs to make controllable HP will help bring in more manufacturers to the fold (unless Honda takes their ball and goes home). Street bikes now make just as much HP as the old 500 prototypes, so getting teams on an even playing field with HP is a good start.

..why Honda will compete in F1 without 'free' electronics, when it's such a deal breaker in MotoGP..is just one example of an inconsistent argument.

Why lie to the GPC about weight limit voting and claim your new production racer is only 0.3s slower than a prototype?

Why not take advantage of 24 litres and 12 engines?

Why no responsibility?..when rules you made for 10 years threaten to kill the sport through lack of competition?

What's wrong with a test track for development, especially given the above mentioned lack of rivalry at the races?

Why is GDI for your motorcycles not mass produced yet, when lame arsed claims that pneumatic valves and corner-by-corner mapping are relevant production technology?

The list is endless..

The majority of motorcyclist don't ride bikes to be nannied by corporate dictat.
Depriving riders from serving a skill apprenticeship in time-honoured fashion may encourage dangerous liberty taking before the 'throttle goes both ways' badge is earned..borderline irresponsible, it could be argued.

Race fans want their heroes to be fighting for control unaided..paying if the abundance of power over grip mark is taken lightly, sorting the men out from the boys.

Honda's philosophy isn't racing in the real sense at all..the bully boy tactics and threats need to met head-on..unblinking, without a twitch. Give 'em 18 litres, 3 engines and see how they like them apples?

For me, recently retired Charlie Chucker says it best:

"Honestly I'm very positive about the introduction of the EVO class. Technology doesn't bring more emotions, maybe more safety, but the field is surely going to be much more levelled."

"In such a difficult time for the economy, especially in the world of motorcycling, cost reduction is crucial. Superbike is not about technology, it's about great competition for all the people involved in the series."

Listen up Nakamoto San..or on yer bike.

I have a great idea to cut costs, make teams more equal and races more exciting. Why dont we think of using one production bike ex. an R1, put race tyres, no modifications and all teams race with that.
And call this motogp.
Then even I could have the budget to participate! No need for rules, R&D etc etc.
Seriously now, I believe one big part of motogp spirit is the battle at the development field. Instead of restricitng teams with competitive advantage on that field by introducing "rules" I think it is better to support weaker teams to become stronger and note vice versa.
For example a system that shares motogp income giving more share to weaker teams and less to stronger could bring some more balance. But personally I do not agree on restricting innovation.

I agree with thecosman on likely tech. Power grids are just not designed for a full-electric economy and it doesn't make much sense to have everything electric (efficient though it is once you have made it, it isn't the most efficient use of fossil fuels. Until we get viable and affordable fission the use of fossil fuel (or biomass) to generate electricity isn't the best idea if you believe that pouring CO2 and heat/pollutants into the atmosphere has some undesirable long-term payback. A multi-fuel economy makes a lot of sense in many ways. Diversity is always good and keeps the door open for new tech to be developed and adopted. Solar, wind, and wave sources have their place but are unlikely to be a majority solution in anything other than limited areas that have the right weather/geology etc.
Honda are not undertaking true R&D in my view. There is D but not that much R. It is a training school and playground (I don't mean that in a dismissive way). I think David has it right when he says no Company can give a good answer when asked why they race. It is largely about people having some fun that is linked with their work. It has lots of small tangible benefits and intangibles too. I think that is very true and Honda (or anyone) should stop denying that they are in the entertainment game to at least a large extent and also consider what makes good professional racing, not just good R&D. It will inevitably involve related tech advances and other innovations/evolution (such as the HD/on-board/slow-mo over the last 10 years or so).
F1 has a lot right - the hybrid car utilising recovered energy and smaller power plants is a no-brainer in energy terms. Short-term recovery and storage using capacitors or flywheels makes a lot more sense than the heavy batteries needed for all-electric. Even with battery stations you still need to lug all that weight around and any country with a warm or hotter climate will struggle to keep them cool/maintain life. I'm not suggesting Dorna should literally copy that, but the lesson is worth studying. Bikes need to be lighter than cars and not burdened by weight - if it can be made light, fine, otherwise - get a car.
Dorna should have a prototype rule that allows anyone who can demonstrate a safe, fast, well-funded machine to participate. Simple - no rules except that Dorna have to agree the proposal is safe and OK. It works for circuits.
Perhaps let tyre Co's enter teams provided they do not use full-factory engine/chassis combo's on top of clever compounds. Pick 2 from 3.
Otherwise a 'base spec' that gives teams who 'just want to race' use a defined package to adopt makes a lot of sense and they are likely to always form the core of any grid.
Aggressive ploys such as Nakamoto's should be given short shrift. As far as I'm concerned HRC can take their ball and go play in F1 if they wish. It will be their loss not ours. It might cause problems for a while, but the longer term prospect is much better. A democratic, flexible, friendly and entertaining MotoGP is what I hope to see. Preferably with a more open tyre choice.

And the best batteries are an order of magnitude away from gasoline. Ran some quick numbers and it takes 16 Kg of gasoline (20 L) to power 200 HP for an hour or 160 KG of Li-Po power. That's the weight of the entire bike just in batteries.

Also makes you wonder why carry around more fuel than need and is it really a benefit to say here slower teams have an extra 4 Kg of weight to lug around, i.e. 5 L of fuel, when its not necessary.

Motorcycles to me have always been about a superior power to weight ratio, hopefully they will remain that way.

Super capacitors are another matter and could have a place,but not on bikes as relatively all braking is done on front wheel where ther are no mechanical gadgets to work from. The motorcycle is just not suited to hybrid schemes. It's all or nothing I believe, so we will just have to weight : ).

That said the older nickle metal hydrides were an order of magnitude down from Li-Po's of today too so there is progress there. RC cars and planes have really benefited but they only run for short durations.

The one area where an electric motorcycle actually beat a gasoline one was Pikes Peak this past year. A 20 min hill climb of twists back and forth, it was close but not suffering from altitude sickness like their air breathing ancestry was the main reason why. There was also an interesting project where a quarter mile drag bike, fully electric was making some very impressive times, youtube Larry mcbride, aka Spider-Man and electric and I'm sure it'll come up.

I wouldn't watch MotoGP without Honda or Yamaha, that just isn't the same championship. I'm not interested to watch a grid full of "Moto1" machines that are run by a teams, machines with same specs (like Moto2) and maybe, just maybe, diferent stickers of a manufacturers who don't have enough technology and money to make something new.

What is next? Should we clone Marc Marquez until we have a full grid and than ask Honda to give us enogh bikes for the clones? Than we will have a great championship!

Kicking out the manufacturers is not the best thing to do.

Let's put it this way. HRC has boat loads of money, Yamaha apparently a little less, and then we have Ducati pulling up the rear.

If the factories were to leave and we end up with a Moto 1 series with production motors based in prototype frames, the end result is still going to be the same. He with the biggest budget wins. Redbull steps in and buys a team and dumps millions, followed by Monster and so on down the line. We are left with the same pecking order as when the factories were in charge. Anyone here think Go & Fun can compete with Redbull?

The biggest benefit for the factories to be there is the consumer of said motorcycle. The tech always trickles down, from upside down forks, to slipper clutches to todays street version of traction control. If the factories are dumped and they invest in the WSBK evo class will we still see the benefits that have driven the technology?

Three things:

- One, Honda is stepping up its involvement in World Endurance racing. Those bikes - and the rulebook - are arguably more advanced and free than current MotoGP bikes. And Honda has a history of building wicked, advanced, free-thinking endurance bikes. If its engineers needed a motorcycle racing-related challenge, they certainly could find it here, free of Dorna's entertainment-above-all mantra and innovation chokehold. And Honda could certainly get some marketing mileage from endurance machines that are faster and more sophisticated than spec'd-to-death "GP" machines.

- Two, Honda has never been involved in MotoGP and F1 at the same time. And the last time Honda was involved in 500s and F1 at the same time, both were relative bargains. Not only will Honda's engineers be buried in F1 technology development, F1 will tax its racing budget.

- This article fails to address an even more critical question: Can Dorna afford to lose Honda? Dorna has only a race and television rights to sell, and it is leveraged to the hilt to investors. What is the commercial value of a race to broadcasters and promoters when the biggest name in motorcycling is missing?

"This article fails to address an even more critical question: Can Dorna afford to lose Honda? Dorna has only a race and television rights to sell, and it is leveraged to the hilt to investors. What is the commercial value of a race to broadcasters and promoters when the biggest name in motorcycling is missing?"

You hit the point with this paragraph!

"Honda has never been involved in MotoGP and F1 at the same time"

Honda had a full F1 effort from 2006 until the end of 2008 when it was sold to Brawn.

Absolutely true. I stand corrected.

Perhaps it's telling that I'm an F1 fan and I had completely forgotten that period of Honda's F1 involvement. Maybe it's because Honda had one win in three years and finished fourth, eighth and ninth in the constructors' title.

"What is the commercial value of a race to broadcasters and promoters when the biggest name in motorcycling is missing?"

Valentino Rossi will retire at the end of 2014, and then I guess we'll find out...

Without being flippant, to answer your question as to whether Dorna can afford to lose Honda, you have to look at it in a different way. If Dorna can keep Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, and maybe Aprilia on board, then there is still the credibility of a manufacturer-backed series there. In that case, Honda can't afford to leave. If Dorna can't keep Yamaha and Suzuki, and only Ducati stay, then it becomes more of a problem. On the other hand, if Yamaha, Suzuki, Ducati and Aprilia are all racing in MotoGP, can Honda afford to leave? In fact, can Honda afford not to have a presence in MotoGP?

Part of that question comes down to the balance of ROI which factories get from participating in MotoGP. It is a question which I have tried hard to find an answer to, but which nobody was willing to give me an answer to. Honda say that there main reason for being in MotoGP is for R&D, but if you look at other series they participate in, there seems little R&D return there. There is also still plenty of R&D to be done in MotoGP despite engine freezes, and despite electronics freezes. I heartily recommend reading Kevin Cameron's series on valve control over on the Cycle World website to get an idea of some of the areas. Valve design, inlet design, combustion chamber shapes, crankshaft, crank webbing, con rod design, piston wristpin placement, cylinder coatings, oil supply management, lubrication control, oil channel design; the list goes on and on. Honda and Yamaha both built and designed seamless gearboxes; both Honda and Yamaha engineers have assured me that those designs will never be used on road bikes. The R&D done had no direct application to production bikes, but it taught their engineers to think in different ways, to locate problems and solve them.

So there is still R&D to be done, even with engine freezes. There is still much to be gained from racing in MotoGP. The question is, can Honda afford to lose that? At the moment, we are in a Mexican standoff, with Honda saying if electronics are removed, then they will stop racing, and Dorna saying that they have to remove electronics to make the series more entertaining. The question is, who will blink first?

At the bottom of this problem is one question: why do fans watch? Are they watching to see the best riders in the world, or are they watching to see the most advanced machines in the world? The sense I get is that there is a small minority for whom the technology is more important than the riders. It is an attitude with which I sympathize: one of the best things about my job is having the chance to get up very close to those machines, and to ask questions about them. The question is, if the bikes become more restricted, will that minority stop watching? To answer that question, perhaps you have to ask, what could they watch instead?

The vast majority of fans watch for the riders. Humans find it easier to relate to other humans than they do to machines. As long as the best riders are involved, and as long as the sport is made attractive, I believe those fans will keep watching.


Why do fans watch? Because of the best riders or the most advanced machines in the world? The right and only answer is both! There is not one way or the other. The best riders on the World wouldn't save the show from falling apart if they were on Moto1 machines and vice versa.

I think that Honda hasn't anything to prove in MotoGP, they have it all already, most wins and most championships. If they leave, that wouldn't be the first time either. They left the championship at the end of 1967 for similar reasons, and they have put it all on F1, if I'm not mistaken.

MotoGP without Honda is like F1 without Ferrari. I wouldn't watch it. I would start to follow F1.

I wouldn't be so sure about Suzuki, it is a big question if they will return. I think they will not. If they will, that will be for just a couple of seasons and then they will go away again. The same is for BMW and Kawasaki. Aprilia is also a big question and Ducati despite his big parents is in a real problem, plus if they lose Phillip Morris... Only Yamaha looks real good to me.

And for the end, people do watch the riders and they get attached to them, but in the end they go to the dealers and buy Hondas or Yamahas or...and in the end they do get attached to the manufacturers, like me.

"Why do fans watch? Because of the best riders or the most advanced machines in the world? The right and only answer is both!"

No, that's why YOU watch. Everyone is different. Everyone has their own reasons for watching. We can't assume that all bike fans have the same motivation. That is the biggest mistake to make if the sport is to continue to exist.

Man, if I had the single, absolute answer to why people watch anything, I would be richer than Rupert Murdoch. I suspect that combination of riders/machines is closest to the truth for most, but I agree that there is no single answer as to why people watch motorcycle road racing, and understanding that is key to being as successful as it can be from a fan point of view.

I think what we seek are rivalries. Whether it be man, team, or machine, audiences seem to enjoy rivalries. Here in the U.S., I understand the NBA gets a great deal of mileage out of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, whether the teams individually are doing well or not. In SoCal, UCLA-USC competitions are major events, whether the teams are doing well or poorly, objectively. Take away the factories, which have much longer story lines than any given rider, and you take away part of the story of the contest - a big part of the story, personally, to me.

But this particular question is about whether Honda stays or goes, and its impact on MotoGP. Let's face it, if Honda leaves MotoGP, it will not have a major impact on Honda's bottom line; that is why Honda's involvement always is an issue of interest. We all know, deep down, that Honda could leave any time and go find somewhere else to play, and that other sandbox would welcome Honda with open arms.

Having said that, I really struggle to think of a successful series that has deliberately kicked out a manufacturer, or that has grown healthier with the departure of a manufacturer. WSBK struggled after the departure of manufacturer teams, and grew in stature as the manufacturers increased their back-door - and then official - support.

My observation is that a sustainable race series has two manufacturers who are able to win any given race, and accessible customer machines capable of fighting for a podium. A healthy series has three or more. Clearly, right now, Honda and Yamaha are very close, and each has a long, healthy history in the sport, a UCLA-USC rivalry built in to every race.

Lose Honda, and you really have one manufacturer capable of winning. Ducati is showing zero ability to turn its ship around, and even if Suzuki comes back (which I agree is anything but certain) it will likely not be competitive with Yamaha for a while.

Finally, the reason I mention Dorna is that the company's job is to create the best possible return for its investors. If Honda goes, the series could survive. But will Dorna be able to sell the remaining product (sanction fees, TV rights) for as much as it could if Honda was there? As an investor-driven firm, Dorna cannot make decisions that will reduce its ROI.

It's not a question of whether Dorna will make money, but will it make as much as it could if Honda was there?

Ultimately, that will be the calculation that will drive Dorna's rulemaking, and thereby Honda's involvement.

""Why do fans watch? Because of the best riders or the most advanced machines in the world? The right and only answer is both!"

No, that's why YOU watch. Everyone is different. Everyone has their own reasons for watching. We can't assume that all bike fans have the same motivation. That is the biggest mistake to make if the sport is to continue to exist."

Fair enough, this is my opinion! It the same thing with me. I'm reading a lot of different opinions from a lot of different journalists and not everyone has the same opinion on this particular subject. Pretty normal. One thing is common though, every and each one of them thinks he is got it right.

Then Honda leaving is merely going to change the situation from having 4 possible winners to 2.

If they leave the M1 would be the dominant bike in 3 varieties. How much of an appetite does Yamaha have for competing against themselves, especially when they are covering at least 3 of the riders' salaries? What new development and innovative thinking will be needed by engineering to ensure the superiority of their factory team when it will be accomplished by selling lesser spec bikes to everyone else? Suzuki's testing showed that they are not going to be a podium danger anytime soon. That's if they actually come back. Ducati? Well, Ducati, they hope to get it right in 2 years, coincidentally just as the rules are about to change again. How long until PM calls it quits and forces them to refocus on neutered WSB success? Do they still have Aprilia? 2 bikes and a questionable corporate commitment to expansion of the GP effort. What is sure is they will not build a new GP motor and without Aliex overachieving they'll be outside the top 10 again.

The past season has convinced me that the boring racing was more a result of the racers than anything else. Fuel restrictions, tires, engine limits, etc, all matter diddly-squat compared to the mentality of the riders. With Rossi sidelined at Ducati the top 3 were happy to have a nice cordial relationship, both on track and off. Marquez comes in, pisses the leaders off and generally does all the stuff you shouldn't be able to do and recover from on a modern GP bike: blow braking zones and claw it back, ride the bike loose and sliding and not kill the tires, and generally recover from mistakes that due to the fuel-sipping-computer-controlled nature of the bikes should be fatal.

The best chance we have for good racing is for the rules to remain unchanged, Honda to stay and for Lorenzo to realize that every race is a special occasion and ride accordingly! Pedrosa will either step it up or be a constant 3rd and the target for the second group. Chasing out the big name in the paddock is not a good idea.


The whole purpose of racing is marketing. Nothing more, nothing less. HRC can test new parts and develop inside a lab and Motegi, they don't need racing to develop anything. Granted, racing breeds innovation a little faster, as your R&D department is competing against other R&D departments however, justifying racing as R&D is a fairy tale.

As for HRC's development, I believe every liter biker on the market except the blade has TC. Good job Honda!

Unfortunately the global economic climate is not healthy enough for manufacturers and teams to dump enormous amounts of money to go racing and in my opinion, DORNA is not making it any cheaper by sole sourcing everything under the sun (tires, ECU ect). The easiest way to make things cheaper is set up the rules and leave them alone for a good 10 years. This allows the have nots time to catch up to the haves.

"As for HRC's development, I believe every liter biker on the market except the blade has TC. Good job Honda!"

I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, you don't learn throttle control with TC on.
I hope Honda don't go period. But stabilisation and relaxing of the rules somewhat may help.
I can't help but think that the fundemental problem with Moto GP lies within the media itself and by becoming theatre that must appeal to a global market much in the same way F1 has.

"I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, you don't learn throttle control with TC on."

Riders and racers should not be learning throttle control on a 1000CC machine anyway :) If they are, they're doing it wrong (IMO). The point was not so much as what a rider should learn on, but that the Honda's are behind the 8 ball on the technology side of their machines compared to the competition, even though HRC is touting that they use GP for development.

Unfortunately we live in a world that thrives on "drama". Tune into any network and there is a rash of "reality TV" shows. The drama is what sells. Personally I cannot stand it.

I work for an OEM in the auto world, and I can tell you that almost certainly they cannot put a figure on what racing brings to the table. If anyone tried, the numbers would tell them it's a huge money sink and not worth our time. We have a big racing budget as well, and the reasons above are all the reasons we go racing too. R&D, Marketing, Engineer training and passion.

Passion is by far the biggest driver. The factories race because the people who work in the automotive world (be it cars or bikes) love what they do. The reality is, there is bugger all profit in Automotive. Most OEMs (factories) make around 3% return on investment on their overall product line, the best of them may hit 8-10%. The people who work in these companies, from the factory floor to the CEO, do it because they love the product and the business.

I disagree that the only way to get that high-energy solve fast at all costs mentality is through racing. Anyone who's worked in an OEM through a major vehicle launch can tell you that. These are not times where engineers sit idly by and do their 8 hour days. The team that runs launch will be working 12-14 hour days, 6-7 days a week during pre-production builds. The end product may be different but that high energy pursuit of perfection requiring fast solutions outside the box is certainly comparable. Cars may take 5-7 years from design to production, but they come together from first production prototype to full scale production in the space of around 6 months. The number of issues that are discovered and resolved in those 6 months will number around 2,500-4,000. They all need to be fixed, the time frame to fix the majority of them is between the end of one day's build and the start of the following day's build. I have first hand experience of this in two OEMs, and it is relentless.

What racing does do, is push the boundaries of Engineering in ways that production vehicles do not. A perfect example of this is the F-duct in F1. I would argue that a large amount here is done in testing and strategy in the early phases of the bike though, rather than the high-energy "overnight express" developments that provide incremental improvements.

R&D, Marketing, and to a lesser extent Engineer training is how we justify it to our shareholders, and to ourselves. Passion is why we really go racing.

Racing is marketing. It's a chance to show who makes the best bike. They can deny this all they want but it's the only reason to race. It's why Suzuki
Wants back in. To show they can compete.

Honda and Yamaha have their own test tracks to test any fuel saving strategy, and electronic rider aid they wish.

All this posturing by Honda is them trying to maintain their competitive advantage. You think they want a level playing field where 5-6 mfr's can compete for a win? If you believe that then book a trip to Colorado and smoke up Johnny!

Feel free to point out exactly how this whole 'ambassador of Dorna' role works. I'm especially interested in the financial side, as it seems to me that I always come out of my dealings with Dorna out of pocket. In this particular argument, I side with Dorna, as motorcycle racing is nothing more than entertainment, like all professional sports. Beyond a very minimum of safety intervention, electronics add nothing to racing, except expense. As a former programmer, I am fascinated by the complexity and ingenuity of the systems, but I am acutely aware that this is a fascination of the geekiest kind. As a fan of motorcycle racing, I believe electronics have no place in the sport.

I presume that when I write an article criticizing Dorna for their failure to properly promote the sport, as I have previously, you will be back to accuse me of being an ambassador for the factories?

...it was a legitimate question. The article was/is incredibly biased, and I'm glad you've come out and admitted to that bias in your answer to the question. But I think the article deserved some kind of disclaimer or acknowledgement of that bias as a caveat to deeper consideration of its content.

Whether it's a commercial or personal bias doesn't really matter because the conflict of interest does exist. You appear to be paid to provide commentating, commentary, interviews and interest pieces for Dorna, whether directly or via some kind of subcontract relationship, and they're part of the subscription services and free content Dorna produces and distributes.

As to direct payment of the "ambassador" role, I'm not sure that's necessary when you're essentially the face of the brand (for some markets) in those roles as compere, commentator and interviewer in their broadcast productions. Whilst that might not pay spectacularly, I'm sure it's worth doing because you're seemingly very keen and productive.

However, if you feel that you're worth more to them as a living and breathing ambassador of the sport (and you are this, the only argument is to the extent of it) then you should be hitting them up for compensation commensurate with whatever you feel you're providing for them by virtue of your consistency and longevity out front on much of their media.

I find it a little strange that an article purporting to be journalism by posing a question with multiple possible viewpoints (and multiple possible answers to each) is singularly focused on the premise that the 1% possibility of a very strong (and consistently supported) claim by the man in charge of Honda's racing "Nakamoto was unequivocal. 'All Open class, with only production racers, it is 99% certain that Honda will stop racing,'" was false, a negotiating tactic, deception or otherwise inaccurate.

Given that Nakamoto is Japanese, a significant figure in and of the company he's representing and been consistent on this point, I doubt he's prone to making such a claim (with an attached percentage) unless he's willing to back it up. So the much more interesting set of options to examine become those that accept Nakamoto at face value. What's going to happen if the answer is "YES! We're (Honda) gone."?

Yet this potential answer to the question posed by the title of the article is barely even considered.

What are the chances Dorna's going to have a change of heart?

What level of significance does Honda play to the worth of MotoGP to Dorna?

What level of significance does Honda play to the income and interest licensees generate from MotoGP broadcast rights purchased from Dorna? Do licensees get the right to renegotiate if Honda leave considering they're widely regarded as the dominant manufacturer?

What happens to the world's best riders if the best team to ride for is no longer an option in the best tier of motorbike racing?

This is only the very beginning of the questions that come to mind if the answer to this article's question comes out in the affirmative. And the guy that makes this call is 99% sure of it. So it's well worth examining this side of the options. I think.

Gavin Emmett is employed by Dorna to commentate on MotoGP. He also writes for Off Track On Road, another publication. Here's a picture of Gavin, taken by the good folk at Vroom Media:


My name is David Emmett. I am not related to Gavin in any way, shape or form. I am not an employee of Dorna. I do not receive any payment from Dorna. I do not do any commentary for Dorna, or MotoGP, or other broadcaster. I am not employed by Dorna. Here's a picture of me, by Scott Jones:

As you can see, we are two completely different people. You may want to revise your comment.

... I'd very much like to remove the parts about conflict of interest and confusing you with someone else.

Unfortunately I can't edit the comment as you seem to not have that facility.

But the points about bias remain, as do the questions posed by the potential that 100% of Nakamoto's 99% claim be accurate.

What does happen to the sport if he's legit, telling the truth, and is absolutely representative of Honda's viewpoints on the matter?

I doubt the man's prone to posturing.

Thank you very much for clearing up my confusion on who you are.

Now I'm a little more confused. Why are you so passionately and emphatically on Dorna's side of this argument?

As I said, motorcycle racing, like all professional sports, is primarily entertainment. Nakamoto-san (who I regard as one of the smartest and certainly most interesting and intimidating characters in the paddock) gave an interview with Dennis Noyes, over a year ago, in which he told Noyes that he had no interest in providing entertainment. That was not why Honda goes racing, and they have no interest in doing anything to improve the spectacle. That's bad for MotoGP.

Why do I think Honda will blink? Both Nakamoto (and his predecessor before him) and Ezpeleta have been stuck in a Mexican standoff for the past ten years or more. At first, Ezpeleta gave the factories everything they asked for (including the capacity reduction to 800cc), and the factories were supposed to fill the grid with bikes. One by one, the factories have left, citing the high cost of competing, and the difficulty in taking on Honda and Yamaha.

Behind the scenes, Ezpeleta has grown sick of the factories, for not holding up their end of the deal. He has ramped up the pressure on the factories, forcing through changes which the factories would rather not have had (these included the spec ECU). Ezpeleta is less and less inclined to give in to Honda, as he has done in past years. So Ezpeleta's position has hardened.

Honda truly does not want to lose the ability to develop their own software package for the spec ECU. But if Honda wants to gain the PR benefits from racing, they have nowhere else to go. If, as Honda claim, their primary purpose for racing motorcycles was to develop fuel efficiency, throttle response at partial openings, and engine reliability, they would have a massive factory presence in Endurance racing. They do not.

Ezpeleta and Nakamoto are engaged in a war of words over the future of MotoGP. One will have to budge. In the past, Ezpeleta has been afraid of losing Honda. Now that he has enough bikes to fill the grid and the world's best riders aboard, losing Honda is not the devastating blow it would have been. It would be ugly, but it would not kill the series at a stroke.

Will spec software make the racing closer? Not at the front. If you put everyone on Honda Cubs, Marquez, Lorenzo and Pedrosa would still win by a generous margin. But spec software would make the gap between the front and the mid-pack smaller, less dependent on technology. The talent gap would remain.

Most importantly, imposing spec software would make the bikes more visibly interesting to watch. Right now, the factories and teams spend all of their time trying to keep the bikes in a straight line, especially on corner entry, and the front wheel on the ground on corner exit. Remove the electronic controls and it is something riders will have to do again, riders will be seen to be riding the bike again. The level of skill involved would be the same, but it would be visible to spectators, and not just to keen students of the sport.

While I don't think you are in Dorna's pocket how about at least presenting both sides of the story? A 'prototype' race series that has spec tires, spec ECU and software, and a homogolated engine presents little to no opportunity for R&D and all the quick thinking that needs to go with it and is in reality not a prototype race series. It is changing the very nature of GP racing and while entertainment needs to be part of the equation I don't think that Dorna has the capacity or capability to run the entire game. From their website they are a 'sports management, marketing and media company'. Their marketing efforts in getting new or increased sponsorship have been dismal. Their new media skills are adolescent. They do a very good job of managing the logistics of a race weekend and its video production. Too bad they can't be relegated to only that.

>>The freedom to develop electronics strategies has been a deal breaker for the factories throughout the four-stroke era.

This is a bit of a misleading statement. Until the latest push for regulations from Dorna the factories were free to develop any strategies they could think up for any system they could dream up. The history of GP racing is someone thinking up a better way and others struggling to do the same. I'd say that is the defining feature of a prototype race series: it doesn't matter where the parts originally come from, as long as I'm able to change or modify them at will. Next week's bike does not have to be the same as last week's. The new rules completely disregard this history. There were electronics in the late 2 stroke days but nobody talked about it. I'm sure they had an influence in making the factory bikes faster than the privateer bikes, it was just less visible.

>>Will spec software make the racing closer? Not at the front.

So this is all about making the race for 5th or so more compelling? That's a very lame reason.

>>The importance of racing for the marketing efforts is evident from BMW's participation in World Superbikes.

Didn't BMW just announce the closing of their factory WSB team? If Dorna wants to make entertainment and marketing the focus of their offering then they should be prepared for manufacturers to jump in and out as their marketing team deems it worthwhile and not feel slighted when it happens.

I understand how the above commenter felt this post was a Dorna sponsored perspective. There are a ton of questions to be asked about a potential Honda withdrawal that just aren't asked. Would Honda continue make a production racer for a series they just left? Would Yamaha keep making new GP engines every year? Who will pay the huge rider salaries that the factories now do? What would Repsol do? Would this give Ducati cover for leaving? There are a lot of scenarios that could result from a Honda withdrawal, them not being missed is the most unlikely one. Stoner left and his shoes were promptly filled (and then some) by Marquez. Who will do the same for Honda's shoes? They also have a lot of good reasons not to spend tens of millions of dollars on what will be a complete marketing exercise, something that is not clear at all from the article.


The point about presenting this side of the story is that Honda's side gets enormous coverage everywhere. Honda is a huge company with a lot of money, and can afford to present their own arguments in a range of publications. I am interested in whether Honda can afford to pull out. I don't believe they can.

To address some of your points:

First, about the 'prototype' racing series. I would love to read a cogent definition of the word 'prototype'. I have yet to have one presented to me which doesn't have more holes than a colander wholesalers. People tend to use prototype as a kind of totem word, to mean whatever they want it to mean. This does not mean that I agree with spec engine configurations or spec tires, but I see only benefits in imposing spec electronics.

As for the freedom to modify parts, well, if you read the rulebook, you will see an awful lot of rules which no longer have any basis in reality, but are leftovers from the 1950s. All of the aero regs, for starters. The forbidding of certain materials is another questionable rule.

Dorna as a sports marketing company: you'll get no argument from me. They put on a pretty good show, and the organization is exceptional. But marketing and promotion? Not so much....

Re: limiting electronics. There has been a push from inside Dorna and IRTA to limit electronics for at least five years that I know of personally, and I am told there was talk of it previously. In 2006, limits on electronics were so far beyond acceptable to the factories that nobody even dared ask. It has only been in the run up to the switch to 1000cc, and now the 2017 regulations that factories have even been prepared to countenance them.

As I said (and which you chose to ignore), restricting electronics is about two things, not one. One is moving the battle for fifth closer to the front. The other, more important one is to make the battle for the lead more visibly difficult. Personally, one of the greatest privileges of my job is standing at track side and watching Jorge Lorenzo sweep through corners like Caesar on the Assyrians. It is monumentally stylish, in part because the total control Lorenzo exerts. But to casual fans, the battle with the bike is no longer visible. Lorenzo's effortlessness hides the immense effort needed to ride that way. Electronics help an awful lot, keeping wheelies at bay and the wheels in line on corner entry. Removing electronic aids in and out of the corner would make the spectacle more visually appealing, without prejudicing the fairness of the contest. It will still be a supreme test of rider and team skills, but those skills will be more visible. Just as they are in Moto2.

BMW's WSBK effort: As I have written previously, BMW pulled out of WSBK because they achieved their marketing goal, to rebrand themselves as a producer of performance vehicles, and to shake off the 'pipe & slippers' image which dogged them for many years. Honda's objectives are different. They define themselves through racing, to a very large extent.

Would Honda continue make a production racer for a series they just left?

If they were making money on it, they probably would. But even if they don't, those bikes belong to the teams after two years, and they are free to do with them what they will. They could even try to make them faster, as was the practice during the two-stroke era.

Would Yamaha keep making new GP engines every year?

I suspect Yamaha will spend exactly enough to keep winning. So the answer to that question is yes if they are challenged, no if they are not.

Who will pay the huge rider salaries that the factories now do?

Marc Marquez is the best motorcycle racer in the world. He loves what he does. If nobody is paying him several million a year, do you think he will stop racing? Could he earn the same amount in another sport? What should a MotoGP champion be paid? A hundred grand? A million? Ten million? The correct answer is what the market will bear. When the market changes, riders' salaries will be adjusted accordingly.

The other answer to that question is of course Dorna. Dorna could easily afford to pay all of the riders, and in the case of one factory rider, is rumored to pay all of his salary.

What would Repsol do?

Yamaha, Ducati, Aprilia... Repsol will do whatever helps them sell petroleum products in Spanish-speaking markets.

Would this give Ducati cover for leaving?

Possibly. On the other hand, with Honda gone, it might make MotoGP more affordable. The relentless pace of development might just slow up enough to allow Ducati to catch up and start to be more competitive. Right now, Honda's participation is one of the major factors keeping Aprilia, BMW and Kawasaki out of the series. They now they can't compete against the might of HRC's R&D genius, unless the playing field is leveled a little. Removing the electronics advantage would make a big difference. I would point out that Honda has already done this, having poached two of Yamaha's top electronics programmers at the end of 2009. Their fortunes have changed radically remarkably since that move.

There are a lot of scenarios that could result from a Honda withdrawal, them not being missed is the most unlikely one. Stoner left and his shoes were promptly filled (and then some) by Marquez. Who will do the same for Honda's shoes? They also have a lot of good reasons not to spend tens of millions of dollars on what will be a complete marketing exercise, something that is not clear at all from the article.

As I said, if Honda leave, there is a good chance Aprilia, BMW and Kawasaki could return. They will not return with current levels of spending. They cannot compete against the 70-80 million euros which Honda are currently spending. If spending can be limited to 10 million a season, maybe they can be coaxed back in. It's a lot easier to justify that kind of money than the current amount demanded to be competitive.

The solution I would prefer to see is that Dorna (or someone) managed to attract a lot of outside sponsorship, in the multiple millions of dollars. But to do that, they need to provide a more attractive product. Right now, all there is is a sport which appeals to engineers first, and then fans. Making it appeal to fans first, and then engineers, would be a huge step forward. Whether Dorna is the right company to do that is another question altogether.

>>I would love to read a cogent definition of the word 'prototype'.

I gave one. A machine that can be updated within the rules at will. No homologation, no spec parts. No external attempts at 'leveling the playing field', as if that has ever worked.

>>All of the aero regs, for starters. The forbidding of certain materials is another questionable rule.

Get rid of them. Specify fuel capacity in joules. Make getting horsepower cheap and restriction-free. Its the super-high-revving ultra-low internal friction engine that is expensive, managing it with electronics is cheap. Allow increased efficiency engines (turbos, superchargers) so that fuel efficiency is easier to achieve. Allow direct injection. And if Honda does not like that, tough shit, they can walk. I don't want to lose Honda over the issue of Dorna getting more control over the grid through proprietary software and hardware that will not achieve its stated goal. I would wave goodbye to them if they were not interested in thinking outside the box, or at least allowing others to do so.

>>They put on a pretty good show, and the organization is exceptional. But marketing and promotion? Not so much.

Maybe that's the problem. Not what ECU or software any particular bike uses but the fact that the people that run the show can't accomplish crucial tasks the show needs to prosper.

>>Re: limiting electronics. There has been a push from inside Dorna and IRTA to limit electronics for at least five years

My point was that GP racing never had such restrictions to work around. Displacement and number of gears as rules worked well for years. Of course manufacturers would push back against being told that they can no longer do things (development) that are an integral part of GP racing.

>> The other, more important one is to make the battle for the lead more visibly difficult.

Easily done by changing the spec tire spec. You don't even have to throw out the spec tire rule, just tell BS that you want degradation and then put gaps into the compounds. Riders will complain, but when don't riders complain? Lots of people bitch about the throttle management skills a rider used to need that electronics have reduced (?) the importance of. Nobody seems to complain about the loss of the need for tire management skills. Rock hard rubber that does not seem to wear out has done nothing positive for racing, has created lots of injuries (usually during colder morning sessions), and has done more than any other single factor to push bike design in a direction that rewards wheels-in-line racing. It single-handedly hobbled Ducati's entire GP effort for 4+ years. Its the reason that substitution riders are so hard to find. No rider or team wants to look bad bacause ony a select few even know how the tire behaves. In previous years position changes at the end of a race were usually due to different tire strategies that different riders used. As the fast starting soft tire wore out the slow starting hard tire strategy came into its own and the race was to see which one was a better choice. Now there is one tire strategy and once we're a few laps in, one race order. We don't even get a Q tire to mix the grid up, the weekend is all about developing your race pace, qualifying in your race pace position, and then riding 20-something laps at your race pace until the checkered flag. And we are surprised the race is not visibly exciting?

>>Honda's objectives are different. They define themselves through racing, to a very large extent.

I'd say that it is the competition that interests Honda and asking them to fight midgets while one hand is tied behind their back to make it a fair fight does not interest them from a corporate perspective.

>>The other answer to that question is of course Dorna. Dorna could easily afford to pay all of the riders, and in the case of one factory rider, is rumored to pay all of his salary.

If that is the case then they are penny wise and pound foolish. Or maybe they are smart and exerting control behind the scenes to own every aspect of the series. It seems that all the actions they take, especially in Moto2 and Moto3, seem directed to increase their control over the entire paddock, yet another departure from what racing used to mean, and not to reduce costs or increase competition or whatever the publicly stated goal is.

>>Right now, Honda's participation is one of the major factors keeping Aprilia, BMW and Kawasaki out of the series.

Its always big bad Honda that's too hard to beat. Except that Yamaha has more titles in the 4 stroke era. If Honda leave any manufacturer that comes in will have to beat the bike that is only a tiny fraction slower if at all than the Honda. Seems to me that Aprilia's poor sales kept them from expanding their GP effort. Kawasaki left at the peak of the GFC and have not made any noises about returning and are very happy with their WSBK successes so far. BMW has repeatedly stated they have no interest in joining GP. And if they do, will it be by designing a new GP engine? I doubt it. They want a 2nd WSB series to try to win at. Yamaha are always quiet and let Honda take the static but in the end vote the same as Honda. Why think they would change that behavior?

>>They cannot compete against the 70-80 million euros which Honda are currently spending. If spending can be limited to 10 million a season.

BMW spent more than that in WSB without getting a title. Yamaha do a good job beating Honda a lot for a lot less. A new factory GP effort can't be done on a 10M budget. The cost of developing an engine and bike is more than that, then add in the cost of actually doing a season. Unless they will adapt their S1000RR engine, in which case all Dorna is doing is converting GPs into a WSB-derived variant. And for a manufacturer to think they should be able to enter the highest form of 2 wheeled competition and just stroll up to the front with minimal expenditure is silly.

I guess my problem is that Dorna has lots of internal performance issues, none of their proposals seem to be very effective, and in the face of easier ways to create visible competition (tire change) they instead want to make major rule changes that only reinforce their control of more levels of the back-end of the series without any reasonable chance of actually improving the show. I'll pass on that, thanks.


I can certainly agree with your complaints about the spec tire, it has hampered innovation and driven up costs for the bike manufacturers. And as I am sure you know, I have argued previously that a radically open class would  be vastly better than what we have now. However, I believe that if we have a technical rulebook with a fair number of restrictions, then not restricting electronics is the worst possible thing to do. Electronics, like aerodynamics in F1, is basically a money pit, the more you throw at it, the more you get, as so much can be gained from modeling. Taking that out of the equation makes for a more level playing field. As for Honda not wanting to battle midgets, midgets is all there are. Compared to Honda, the other manufacturers are all tiny.

One remark re: BMW. Honda spends upwards of 70 million euros a year. As I understand it, BMW was spending 10 million euros a year in WSBK. They may have spent that much in total, but in the same time period, Honda will have spent in the region of half a billion dollars, and probably more. Kawasaki was spending something 65 million a year in MotoGP when they were still racing. They are getting a much bigger bang for their buck in WSBK. The trouble is, only Honda can sustainably afford to spend that much money on racing. Even Yamaha are struggling, and they are spending between 20 and 30% less than HRC.

>>I can certainly agree with your complaints about the spec tire, it has hampered innovation and driven up costs for the bike manufacturers.

So another far-reaching rule change is proposed that will have questionable effectiveness and that is an improvement? A tire change would be easy to test, easy to reverse if results were not as desired, and in general be a very low effort and low cost change. Do you have any idea why this is idea is not even being discussed?

>>However, I believe that if we have a technical rulebook with a fair number of restrictions, then not restricting electronics is the worst possible thing to do.

If a little is bad more must be better? If Dorna is so up on revising the rules for close racing why not just remove those restrictions and open up the possibilities?

>>Electronics, like aerodynamics in F1, is basically a money pit, the more you throw at it, the more you get, as so much can be gained from modeling.

A money pit is the more you throw at it the less you get. From what I can see electronics development has produced easier to ride, faster, more fuel efficient racing motorcycles. The gift that keeps on giving. And I see a lot of production motorcycles with GP derived electronics technology while production cars look nothing like a F1 car so the manufacturers are finding a use for the electronics.

In days of yesteryear you had several engine technicians at each race with variations of parts that actually had to be made. Now you have a few electronics techs there with a laptop and as many maps as they want. Changing the rules is a zero sum game as far as budget goes. Factories spend what they can. Electronics are cheap, its the engines that are expensive. Yamaha is selling part of last year's (completely amortized) bike for as much as Honda is selling a complete production racer for. It is possible because the 'production' engine is cheaper. Upgrading the rest of the bike to a factory spec is an incremental cost increase. Upgrading the electronics is $20-30k. Upgrading to a pneumatic-valved, quick-shift-trans engine is 3-4x the cost. Its the engines that cost the lions share of the R&D budget. Make HP and efficiency cheap and costs decline dramatically. And maybe you'll get companies like Ilmor and other engine R&D companies back in as they can use it to develop tech that is relevant to production vehicles. Only motorcycles use small displacement ultra high revving engines. If compressors were allowed the engine tech relevancy to small production cars would greatly increase which would give companies besides motorcycle manufacturers a reason to participate. Isn't that what we need?

>>Taking that out of the equation makes for a more level playing field.

Do you really think so? It flies against all common sense. As you restrict areas for development through rule writing you allow the factories to focus their considerable resources on the remaining areas, making those development efforts more effective. Another zero sum game. When you open the rules the possibility always exists that someone will come up with a new approach that is better than the old one. As manufacturers, Honda and Yamaha choose to play the 'I'll be 0.1% better next year' game and it usually works but leaves them open to the possibility of someone figuring out a new way that is 1% or 5% better. But not if the rulebook prohibits any alternate techniques. As long as people are allowed to use their intelligence to attack problems there is no such thing as a level playing field. And how can you espouse the idea of a level playing field when rider salaries and team budgets can vary by an order of magnitude? That in itself precludes 'fairness' if there is such a thing besides adhering to the letter of the rulebook.

>>As for Honda not wanting to battle midgets, midgets is all there are.

Yamaha does quite well against them and Ducati was doing well until the spec tire effectively put them out of the picture. Rules decreasing competitiveness, wow! So in response we need more rules? Looking at who wins in the 4 stroke era it does not seem to matter how much Honda spends but what riders they have. If you remove 2002 and 2003 (when the M1 was a poor excuse for a GP bike) from 2004-2013 Yamaha has 79 wins to Honda's 64. So much for having the biggest budget. And yes, Honda won 30 races in 2002-3 compared to Yamaha's 2. Were people complaining about creating level playing fields or was it considered great racing and the V5 a revered example of Honda's engineering prowess and the greatest racing motorcycle ever? I don't recall anyone recommending handicapping the Honda to make Yamaha or any other bike look better.

>>As I understand it, BMW was spending 10 million euros a year in WSBK.

I've read a few places that they spend 15-20M per year since 2009. Their rider salaries are a few million so I don't think 10M is an accurate number. Maybe that was their race team spending but not factory support costs.

Any way about it the change to spec software won't decrease costs and will more than likely not produce closer racing. So what is the real reason it is being pushed so hard?


And the best rule change I can see at the moment is to impose a spec ECU with spec software. It will reduce costs, because my experience is that the gains from software are proportional to spending. The more you spend, the faster you go (you're right, money pit is the wrong word). The point of diminishing returns is not reached for a very very long time, unlike chassis development. Which basically means the richest factory wins.

What about all those Yamaha championships? I think you mean Rossi championships, for a start. The early titles were all Rossi. Phillip Island 2003 demonstrated just how much Rossi had to spare against Biaggi and Gibernau. Rossi's 2008 and 2009 titles were harder fought, and won with a more equal machine. Honda was still in the doldrums, only turning their fortunes around with the arrival of Nakamoto-san. Lorenzo won his first title while Honda were still struggling with terrible rear pumping and stability, only fixing it later that year. Then there was Pedrosa at Motegi. Lorenzo's second title was a sublime performance, but also taken as Honda struggled with the softer front tire. Yamaha's titles have more to do with their riders and their rivals.

As for BMW, even if it is 20 million, that's still not 50 million which Yamaha are spending or.80 million which Honda are spending. That's the problem.

What's the point of limiting electronics? It will make the bikes more interesting to watch. They will move about more, more like in Moto2, and the effort riders have to put in to controlling the bikes will be more visible. For that reason alone, it is worth doing, regardless of whether it cuts costs (which I believe it will do).

>>It will reduce costs

Whose costs? Those of the factories that have to spend money to adapt to the new equipment? The satellite teams who lease packages from the factories who will pass on their development expenses? Maybe the teams with the ART bike who will no longer be allowed to use Aprilia's electronics and will have to spend money to adapt to the new equipment? The only ones left are the teams currently using the spec software. But since they are already using it there won't be any savings for them! So where are the cost savings?

Sounds like you want to reduce the amount of money Honda spends which spec HW/SW will not accomplish. Unless you want them to spend zero by pulling out.

>>Which basically means the richest factory wins.

More often that not over the past 10 years that has not been true.

>>What about all those Yamaha championships?

Like I said, 'it does not seem to matter how much Honda spends but what riders they have.' Same goes for Yamaha.

>>Rossi's 2008 and 2009 titles were harder fought, and won with a more equal machine.

And against a bigger company that spent more money yet the big money spender did not win.

>>Honda was still in the doldrums, only turning their fortunes around with the arrival of Nakamoto-san.

So it's not all how much you spend?

>>Yamaha's titles have more to do with their riders and their rivals.

Doesn't every title have to do with the riders and their rivals?

>>As for BMW, even if it is 20 million, that's still not 50 million which Yamaha are spending or.80 million which Honda are spending.

20M for racing a production bike that rolls off the production line all day long. 80M for a prototype that goes into uncharted territory and actually teaches you new tricks. Not a bad balance to me. And as usual these are all numbers that we have no idea about the accuracy of. Seems a little unreasonable to me to try and favor rule changes to reduce budgets that we don't know anything about. Nakamoto-san has said that something around 20M euro would be a reasonable cap for a manufacturer budget for MotoGP. http://www.motorcyclenews.com/mcn/sport/sportresults/motogp/2012/april/a... That makes an 80M number seem unlikely but again, we just don't know.

>>What's the point of limiting electronics? It will make the bikes more interesting to watch.

Will it? The bikes running the spec software this year gradually got more into the inline technique as their anti-wheelie and engine braking programs improved. Will the spec software not have anti-wheelie or engine brake control? I doubt it. And Marquez on the highly advanced Honda was very exciting to watch all season long as he and the bike moved all over the place. Lorenzo and Pedrosa are 250 aces. Maybe that's why they like riding it like a big 250. Any way about it the Yamaha was never a bike that looked out of shape when going fast. Marquez never got on a 250 and cutting his teeth in 125 then Moto2 made him a bit of a brawler. Maybe Moto2 is good for more than I give it credit for!

>>They will move about more, more like in Moto2

Surely you jest? Moto2, with the primitive slipper clutch, no engine brake control, no FBW and oversize soft Dunlop control tires? Any rule changes using the current breed of BS tires will result in little to no changes to the appearance of the bike while racing or a whole lot of highsides. The current tires need to be highly loaded to reach operating temperature. A sliding tire is not being highly loaded. It may quickly heat (and possibly degrade) the outer compound but the carcass will not heat up, with predictable results. Modify the tires and this all changes but then again, modify the tires and you don't have to do anything else!

From whatever perspective they are presented it seems that the proposed spec software rule has no chance of achieving what it is intended to do. And from past experience that will not be a surprise.


Once the primary design is done the effort goes into refinement, and that's just trial and error combined with a little mathematical modelling.

Production of software costs zero. Hit the buttons that says -COMPILE- then sip a drink, and presto, produced.

The cost of the mathematicians and programmers to refine the mappings is minimal compared to that of engine design and production, and their engineering efforts... and computer time.

It's a fallacy that ECU regulation will reduce costs.

And ECU programming is the biggest single advantage we layman get from motorbike development this century.

Dorna deciding to limit it to their mappings is unprecedented levels of short sightedness of their part.

Either ditch the electronics, or let them have at it. There's vastly more expensive parts of bike design and development left in the basket.

And yes, bring back tire choice. That was the second silliest possible thing they could do.

You two are having an interesting debate here.
It seems to me that it's about 'pure' racing vs 'entertainment'.
I am with DE on this one. I don't believe that MGP serves as a playground for engineers who want to run anything they wish. I do think some 'prototype' rules that allow an innovative team to join might be a good thing as long as it's Dorna who decide, and not other competitors.
I want to see close racing from flag to flag and, whilst it seems inevitable that someone/some team will be dominant from time to time, avoiding boring races is more important than who wins championships (important as that is to the overall entertainment).
BSB has shown that cheaper racing isn't boring. It can be argued that it's not fair either. But the entertainment takes priority and they tweak the rules if something seems unbalanced in retrospect (as with the latest points adjustment).
MGP, with its engine spec, is still arguably a prototype class (where can you buy any of that stuff retail?), and I would hope that Dorna are reflecting on these specs. However, to argue against HRC being unfairly dominant doesn't hold water IMO. Budget will always have a greater chance of winning than not and Yamaha have arguably been clever/lucky in their choice of engineering solutions and riders. Just as Ducati have been 'unlucky'.
Much of the current rulebook is OK from where I watch. I would prefer rules requiring the same brakes to be used in wet and dry conditions; more tyre options that cover carcase choice as well as compound; as much fuel as you like; and open software for the common hardware.
The latter is not ideal, but electronics are an area almost more complex than all the others put together and, seeing how almost every other international road race series is moving to similar electronics harmonisation, I can see no better solution for the next few years. I also think that HRC and the others should continue their software R&D , but for the common good, not corporate domination. Any other user would do so at their own risk - I'm sure Dorna etc. have got their liability covered-off with some suitable words somewhere.
For me the rule changes should not be about stopping HRC, but bringing everyone closer to the front. When I read about the problems of the also-rans in not being able to afford to test, never mind update chassis etc., or employ engine developers, you are never going to close that gap in a series like MGP by anything other than money.
Doing away with rules will just allow the big boys to spend their money on something better that the rest can only dream of. MGP is not broken - it just needs some R&D.
Rider salaries for the smaller teams are a problem, clearly. But enforcing payment will only allow teams to claim it back through contracts etc. If people are lucky enough/passionate enough to have the skills and still ride for nothing, who are Dorna to argue? Personal sponsorship is a fact and has just as much 'unfairness' as the rest of the sport as far as I can see - it just depends on your perspective.

Their bike electronics, especially the HP4, have changed the landscape, paradigms and expectations of consumers, forever.

Now the questions are not about power and aesthetics. It's about ease of use in a whole new world where the maximum power will be assumed. We no longer need to concern ourselves with things like "tractability", because software does it for us, dynamically, or to our command.

I can now buy the most powerful bike on the market (or close enough to it) with little to no fear of it killing me because I suck at throttle control, brake control or any other aspect of control. I can progressively unwind the assists, or leave them on forever and have the best of the best of all worlds.

It's a whole new world. This is not like the jump from two stroke power bands to four stroke linearity of power. This is much bigger than that.

For a few extra grand (over a Japanese bike) I can be sure that I have to go out of my way to mess up. That's a game changer. I just get the best bike, and be done with it. As I get better or the landscape opens up I wind back the aids.

It's like a video game's training package on a bike, and it works.

To limit development and research in this most crucial of areas to the "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday" equation is just mind numbingly stupid.

It seems to me that the efforts with ECU regulation are an attempt to "solve" the problem of various teams adapting to the tires less well than others. The solution to that might be in the structure of the tire provisioning.

It's utterly bizarre that the future's single most significant consumer facing technology (electronic aids to bike riding) is the area Dorna wants to restrict their prototype manufacturers from doing research and development. That's just so retarded and obviously stupid that I didn't think it needed pointing out.

But if sport is about marketing, and this sport is about marketing bikes and the sport as entertainment, then setting a uniform part and software for this most important and marketable component of new bikes is simply the most stupid thing Dorna could propose.

Yet this where Dorna's head is at. Leaves me thinking they simply went looking for a way to trump their super stupid antics with tire regulations. Well, this tops it. Well done, idiots.

.....Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki still sell a gazillion superbikes (any bikes for that matter) with the most basic electronics known to motorcycling mankind, which kinda destroys your argument.

You may see electronics/software as the "most important and marketable component of new bikes" but that is plainly not the case for most consumers. Build a Bimota Mantra with the best Magnetti Marelli has to offer and I don't care what price you put on it it ain't gonna sell. Same goes for something that makes 200hp, weighs 150kg's dripping wet but sounds like a Moto3 bike, no way Jose is it gonna be a winner in the sales race.

I fail to see why there is so much whining over rules and restrictions on machinery. I can guarantee the first time two of Sylvester Roper's steam powered velocipede's raced between drinking establishments in 1870-ish there were arguments over wood vs coal firing and they had to come to an agreement on fuel. So why the bitching now over ECU's and their development?

Why not argue about max gear ratio's or dual clutch gearboxes instead? The development from the old 3 speed slush boxes on car's to the CVT or amazingly slick 7/8 speed auto's now is amazing. So why am I stuck with a medieval 6 speed foot basher?

Why no outcry over limiting brake rotors to 320mm? Why can't I see if Erik Buell is actually onto something with his rim-brake tech?

Why is traction control allowed and not ABS which is a far more useful technology to the average road rider? (I'm sure it's happened but I personally don't know of a single rider who's highsided on the road, vs many of my riding buddies who have had front end crashes of one description or another)

Yet folks get all tired-2-year-old-whiny about not being able to see a bike being constantly interfered with corner to corner via GPS co-ordinates, a tech they will never ever see applied to their roadbike. Actually it's ludicrous to the point of absurd: these folks are arguing for keeping something THEY CAN"T ACTUALLY SEE! The other irony is that the tech advantage is being used as a weapon by manufacturers who refuse to apply the tech to their relatively archaic road machines while applying banned tech such as ABS and dual clutch gearboxes instead! So realistically it looks like the way to increase the tech uptake on your road bike is to ban it from MotoGP.....or stay out of MotoGP altogether a la BMW and rewrite the roadbike performance rulebook.

Nup, MotoGP as part of motorcycle racing in general is supposed to be a sport, and to be relevant there has to be at least a veneer of fair play. Sure there is competition amongst the manufacturers as much as the riders but when it reaches the point that the sport is so exclusive, so prohibitively expensive, that no new competitor is able to participate then something is very obviously wrong. And these competitors are very large multi-national corporations not backyard shed types. Yet folks defend the status quo? They defend what is basically a 4 rider race because they like the idea (remember, they can't actually see it) that some invisible 1's and 0's, structured by an invisible man 1000's of km's from the track, make the racing somehow sexier.

I'm all for technical development but it needs to be real world relevant (carbon brakes, pneumatic valves?), it needs to be reasonably affordable (at least to a multi-national corporation, lol), and it needs to be to the betterment of the sport. If it doesn't tick those boxes then why are we allowing it?

They say that change only happens when the pain of staying as you are is worse than the pain of changing. Well, for all you guys who walk around the cell phone store with a woody, the reality is that for most of us the tipping point has been reached, and I sincerely hope Dorna has the wherewithall in the trouser department to stare down Honda and co.

One of the most interesting things about marketing is the market.

BMW having dropped the HP4 on the world (and its baby brother years ago) has changed the market's expectations.

If you haven't realised this you're probably an engineer of some sort thinking that some other solution will logically present and save the day.

If you can't see why the ECU programming and other power and ride management is the next big revolution in consumer bikes then I'm not sure you can see far enough ahead to drive a car, let alone ride a bike.

But that's clearly not your only vision restriction:

"I fail to see why there is so much whining over rules and restrictions on machinery. "

Let me help you here... it's mainly because one of these:

1. Dorna has zero track record of making good decisions in the rules and regulations department
2. ECU's are not the real problem
3. There's no indication restrictions on ECU's will achieve the stated goals
4. There are easier solutions to make the racing more interesting
5. There's too many nonsensical rules already
6. ECU's are the main innovation area for consumer bikes in the near future
7. All of the above... and more

That's right. Number 7 is the correct answer.

As to your fair play comment, well, let's come back to the market on that one.

If sports are marketing and marketing is about markets, then what the market is capable of is fair. Honda is capable and desirous of spending more money than others.

You're trying to suggest that it's unfair that if they spend more they win more?

That's the anti-thesis of the market in which Honda is both earning the money to spend on racing and then spending it on racing to reap the rewards of racing by virtue of their ability to make this cycle work for them.

I'm not saying it's unfair if Honda spend more that they win more, I'm saying if they price the game out of the reach of everyone else that the game is going to soon be over. It's a very simple and inescapable truth.

As for your market expectations, another simple truth is that recreational riders do not choose bikes by the spec sheet. How else do you explain the S1000R, clearly the best current superbike, languishing in 5th place down here in the Superbike sales charts? For that matter, the most advanced Japanese bike, the ZX10R is faring even worse in 6th place. Best we don't even mention the Aprilia RSV4 eh?


So I sincerely hope you aren't working in a marketing postion because your next big thing simply isn't that attractive to the folks reaching into their pockets. Electronics up the wazoo may make for great race bikes but most of us aren't racers, we actually want to do wheelies, we want to feel the rear tyre start to move around, we believe (completely erroneously) that we are better than ABS, we want to light blue touch paper and stand well back when launching from the lights. This is what is called fun, we enjoy the challenge, and that is why most of us ride. Electronics? No problem. Electronic intervention? Big problem.

And "revolution"? Really? Halo bikes account for a miniscule proportion of the world market so a lil' perspective may be in order.....unless you think a CBR250R (which outsold the CBR1000RR down here over 3:1) requires launch control, traction control, anti-wheelie, back-torque limiting, electronic suspension, ride by wire, etc etc?

And you'd advocate some F1 gimickry with loopy self destructing tyres over putting the power back in the right hand of the rider and maybe just maybe getting the wheels out of line or more than an inch off the deck? Sorry, we'll have to agree to disagree on that one.

...being drawn erroneously to cover great distances, but that's not the issue at hand.

You're attempting to describe marketing's eventualities from an objective point of view with your own (very small) market sampling as subjective evidence, which is kind of like pretending economics is a science and money is real.

It just doesn't work like that.

Money, as we know it, is a faith based initiative that's holding in its current form, for now. Economics (as it's largely taught and "practised") is a well built house of cards that's designed to support the fictional constructs of monies as we know them, and lending in particular.

"I'm saying if they price the game out of the reach of everyone else that the game is going to soon be over. It's a very simple and inescapable truth."

Can you think of any circumstances in world tiered sports where this has ever actually happened? Do you honestly believe that this is even a vague possibility?

Are Honda, in your eyes, absolutely hell bent on so utterly dominating MotoGP that they will deliberately or accidentally destroy it?

Do you also think there's no sentient humans in the company that might perceive of how this might happen and prevent it if they thought it a bad thing? Or do you believe they really do want MotoGP to become HondaGP?

I don't see how this "inescapable truth" is even remotely possible, plausible or even something an entity like Honda would deliberately or belligerently permit to occur. It's a simply preposterous position you're taking...

... that this cataclysmic force of Honda money is going to evaporate MotoGP before Dorna's attempts to take the shine and prestige away achieve significant depreciating and diminishment of it.

And all your subsequent comments and anecdotes stem from a seemingly equal desire to live in a fantasy world where developments from research, distributed into the market place, somehow don't change markets.

If that were true we'd still be buying horses.

And some would be riding donkeys (cue the reference to the CBR 250 right here)

Unlimited displacement, no restrictions, two wheeled single track vehicles.

The only restrictions are the nonnegotiable laws of physics.

Of course it should immediately be obvious that MotoGP or the 500cc World Championship before it, have never been prototype racing.

That was simply an image promoted in recent history when factories were cool and it was convent for both to pitch it as such. Now it's very much the opposite, so that image is being withdrawn, with the eventual outcome more like it was before, of racing teams not racing factories.

And it does not bear much resemblance to the dictionary definition.

Unlimited displacement is in itself a rule as it automatically excludes anything that does not have a displacement, such as electric or fuel cells. If you also mean unlimited energy then I disagree. I don't believe in no rules, just a few well placed and worded ones.

In the context of motorcycle racing for most of its history the distinction between prototype and production has never really mattered because nobody cared if you wanted to run a production motorcycle in a prototype class as you would not be competitive. In fact at times a decent part of the back of the grid was composed of modified production bikes or parts of them. It is only natural that when a motorcycle manufacturer (or rarely a very smart individual) made a motorcycle primarily as a race vehicle it would be much faster than one designed to meet government safety standards. The distinction has only become an issue in the recent past when companies started to pay many millions of dollars to the FIM for the right to broadcast races with the label 'FIM X World Championship'. To protect the value of those rights they need to stake a claim on their territory. The claim of one series based on rules written by the FIM was that if a bike design or any significant part of it, to Peter Clifford's dismay, was not of an 'original design' then it can not be used in GP racing. The best summary of the only time the distinction actually mattered is here:


You can hardly argue with the statement “engines manufactured in thousands of units in pressure die-cast moulds are not engines obtained by an original design”.

Now that the same company owns the broadcast rights of both series the distinction again becomes meaningless because a company is not going to litigate against itself, hence the legally uneventful arrival of the CRT bikes. So as before, arguing about what exactly is a prototype and what is not is a potentially fun yet meaningless exercise.

The question is then what is the difference between Grand Prix and Superbike racing? According to the FIM, Superbike is based on FIM homologated machines within its rules and that Grand Prix racing is everything else, within its rules. FIM homologation means production of thousands of units so as shorthand Superbikes were 'production racing' and GPs were 'prototype racing'. Pretty much every bike that races in GPs in recent history has not been made in sufficient volumes to pass the FIM homologation requirements so that prevents GP bikes in Superbike events. Since the GP bikes were much faster than the Superbikes so there was no reason to run a Superbike in a GP event, so the flow was closed both ways. Also, customer bikes were much more readily available than they currently are so filling the GP grid was easy and talking about what was legal to participate never came up.

So to me the question we are really discussing when we ask 'what is a prototype?' is 'what are the rules for Grand Prix racing?' I think a few rules are better than a lot.


That crash.net link says that the FIM rule writer made the following statement that swayed the judges in making a part invalid for Grand Prix racing: engines manufactured in thousands of units in pressure die-cast moulds are not engines obtained by an original design.

It was not until after the post that I remember meeting with Mike Webb in 2009 before the Moto2 Honda spec engine rule was officially announced and naively attempting to lobby for keeping the open engine regulations. He said they were basically between the spec Honda or making a rule requiring that the crankcases are made of die cast aluminum.

Boy how times change.


The "rumours" about Ducati joining the 12 engines per season and more gas per race side of the equation is a very interesting thing.

And Suzuki's latest video makes a very pointed reference to the ECU's impact on their efforts.