MotoGP Rules Primer: Open vs Factory, The Short Version

With Ducati having elected to switch to racing as an Open entry in the MotoGP class, it is time for a quick refresher course on the rules. Below is a primer on the key differences between racing as an Open entry and racing as a Factory Option entry, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Rules

Factory Option: Factory Option bikes have 20 liters of fuel, and 5 engines to last the season. No engine development is allowed, the engine specifications being frozen before the first race in Qatar. Factories have to supply template engines with specifications of all parts at the race, those parts must remain unchanged. Development is frozen on parts not accessible when engine is sealed. In short, this means engine internals, crankshaft, crankcases, cams, valves, pistons, conrods, etc. Gearboxes can still be modified. Engine specifications must be identical within teams. This means that engines for Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez must be identical, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi's engines must be identical, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro's engines must be identical.

Testing is also limited for Factory Option teams. They can take part in all official tests (the three one-day tests after Jerez, Barcelona and Brno) and on five days at a nominated circuit. 

Factory Option teams must use the spec Magneti Marelli ECU and datalogger, but can develop their own software and use their own sensor package.

Open: Open class bikes can use 24 liters of fuel, and can use 12 engines throughout the season. There are no restrictions on engine development, each of the 12 engines can be completely different, and engines can be different between teammates.

Testing is limited only by the tire allowance (120 tires per season per contracted rider). Riders can test when and where they want, although not on a circuit where a race is to be held within 15 days.

Open teams must use the spec Magneti Marelli ECU package, including datalogger, sensor package and software.

Open teams have an extra option tire, of softer compound.

The Pros and Cons

Why would you choose to stay with the Factory Option? For the manufacturers, one major way they justify their participation in MotoGP is the returns on research and development. Having just 5 engines for the season offers a chance to learn about engine durability. 20 liters of fuel means that they have to pursue combustion efficiency and throttle response on very lean mixture. And the freedom to develop their own software means that manufacturers can learn about vehicle dynamics and controlling motorcycles under all sorts of different circumstances.

Why would you choose to go Open? More fuel, a softer tire, but most of all, more testing and the freedom to develop the engine during the year. In Ducati's case, they fear they need to modify the engine to improve bike balance and behavior. They may need to change the location or dimensions of engine components, add weight to the crankshaft, relocate engine or gearbox shafts, change the engine attitude (rotating it forwards or backwards). They can't do that under the engine development freeze, but they can as an Open entry. And under the Open rules, they can test those changes with Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow.

Tires: The softer tire available to the Open teams offers a clear performance advantage, but only in the early stages of the race. The less complex championship software is not as effective as managing tire wear as the software produced by Yamaha and Honda, which means that tire performance will drop more towards the end of the race. HRC and Yamaha use data collected during practice to enter into their predictive algorithms, which modifies the traction control settings based on predicted tire wear for each lap. The same software can also modify its own behavior based on feedback from sensors, adding or subtracting traction control if tire wear is more or less than expected.

Fuel: Having 20% more fuel is an advantage for the Open teams over the duration of the race. But in the early laps, carrying around 3kg extra weight will make stopping the bike a little harder, until the fuel burns off. The Factory Option teams will struggle with throttle response, especially at tracks such as Motegi and Misano which are heavy on fuel. The Open bikes will not have an issue with fuel, giving better throttle response all throughout the race.

Add any questions you have in the comments below, and I shall add the answers here.


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Thanks for the clear explanation. No questions from my side, just a note that since Ducati have "updated" the Magneti Marelli software with bits of their proprietary software there are essentially no disadvantages for them in going "Open". They concede nothing and judging by the progress they seem to have made in Sepang 1 and 2 (even as factory options) I'm sure they must be aiming at podiums by the end of the year (perhaps even earlier, although that's a long shot) at Misano or Motegi where you rightly say factories will struggle with fuels. Well, at least Yamahas will.

Not sure how this will pan out. But note that there are no fuel limits in practice and qualifying. So the fuel benefit for the Open class is lost. However Open will have the softer rear available which might take them closer to a "Qualifier" tyre. I think this will mean that the Factory bikes should out-qualify the Open class. So following this theory, first open class bike might struggle to be higher than 9th so 3rd or 4th row. Which means 3 to 5 seconds back in traffic at the end of the first lap. To make the fuel benefit work, they'll then need to over haul and pass all the Factory bikes. Good spectacle for us but a big ask. The trick for A Espagaro, Crutchlow and Dovizioso then is to hang it all out in qualifying even more than usual. The closer they can get to the aliens after the first lap, the more chance they have of over hauling them.

Thats an odd thing to say. Factory bikes will practice with the fuel use strategies in place necessary to finish the race. Turning up the fuel in practice & qualifying means that the factory rider will front up to race with a bike different than what was ridden in practice. Its obvious why thats a bad idea. On the other hand the open bikes will have a definite advantage in qualifying as they will have fuel burn programming for 24 litres but will qualify, like all teams, with way less than a full tank.

or both. The 2013 qualifying change means that all three practice sessions are effectively qualifying because you've got to try and get yourself into QP2. And then there's QP1 and QP2. Which means that a lap or two in each practice session as well as QP needs to be full fat, full fuel, low fuel load and soft tyres. So yes, you need to configure the bike for long runs, but also for short run qualifying. So this makes life harder for the Factory riders and teams because they have to be fast in two very different regimes. But then that's what they get paid for.

Huh? I get there is no benefit from extra fuel for qualifying but the soft tyre will be a benefit so expect to see AE up the grid on the starts. Maybe the Ducs too but the rest will be biz as usual.

For example, factories could choose to only use 20L even with the 24L allotment. Similarly, they could probably use the MM software... they would be smart to do so now given the inevitable ECU unification. They don't have to use the soft tire either.

If Ducati really develops something competitive, I don't think losing Honda would be a big deal. And the unified structure in the future would enable more entries to come in and compete at a much lower price. Dorna may have actually played this whole thing out pretty smartly.

... interesting to watch throughout this season and into next now that Ducati has jumped into the Open class, giving the sub-category much more, let's call it "legitimacy". IF Ducati starts to compete with, or even surpass the Factory bikes, will Yamaha and Honda protest? Let's be honest here; Ducati will essentially be able to continually test and adapt race by race if they so desire AND they've got a highly capable man steering the ship, so don't rule it out.

With this news that Magneti Marelli could essentially take a factory's own software and implement it into the spec box, could Yamaha be tempted to consider Open next year? Maybe, but I just can't see Honda playing along.

Don't you think that this "class" looks more like a prototype class than anything else? Or a R&D lab?

It seems Honda's big complaint when it comes to Dorna possibly enforcing spec software along with the MM ECU, is the argument that they need the software development portion to train young engineers and justify their participation in racing. But the fact that Ducati has developed their own software for MM, and given it to MM to be released to all open teams begs the question - what is stopping Honda from still developing their software and just releasing it to all teams. Sure they don't get to keep it to themselves and use it to specifically beat other teams, but they still get the engineer training they want, and it becomes a benefit to the entire sport, making everyone more competitive/equal on the electronics front. Perhaps current open rules somehow deny factories the ability to test their software on the bike after a switch to Open has been made? If that's the case, Dorna would simply need to make a minor adjustment to the rules that says during official tests, they can use whatever software they want, so long as come race day, they are using spec software. Just an idea.

- Mike

I would expect the Open bikes to Qualify a little better due to the soft tire, then maybe be slower in the beginning of the race due to the extra fuel (how much more will they need anyway?) then be able to catch back up a bit at the end as the Factory option bikes run low on fuel and maybe have to conserve more as the Open bikes can stay a steadier pace. Just a guess.

We don't know how the 20L is going to affect the Factory Option boys, and we don't know how the new tire construction is going to affect things.

People are saying that, because Ducati is now Open, they won't (or can't) go to the test at Phillip Island. Does that mean that they will go to Qatar for the test? If it does, they will have tree full days of testing to work on setup for the race. Good for them, I really like this Open bikes (I'm also one of the very few people who liked the CRTs, Aprilia I miss you).
I don't remember anyone predicting that Ducati would/could simply give Magnetti Marelli their Software if they went Open. Shame on all of us.

Ups, commented on the wrong post. Can I somehow move this comment to "Ducati Announce They Will Be Racing As Open Class Entries In MotoGP In 2014"?

I wonder how long it will be before the computer programmers will be getting paid more than the riders since they will have more of an affect with their skill than the rider does?

There should only be two rules for MotoGP, 1000cc's and NO ON BOARD SENSORS (hence, no traction/wheelie/launch/etc. control).

Long live the guy with the talented right wrist!

(Sorry - rant over)

Like racing has never been about the company that could build an engine that was more powerful or more reliable, or the better suspension tuner, or the better tire company, or the better chassis designer, or ...

The whole idea of the rider/driver being the most important factor is, and always has been, a myth.

p.s. According to ESPN, in F1, the top engineers typically earn more than the drivers:

The top engineers are paid more than most of the drivers. Adrian Newey, for example, is believed to get around $10 million annually from Red Bull Racing, making him the team's highest paid employee ahead of both of its drivers.

Wow, did you ever just prove my point.

All the things you list have to do with increasing the speed/power of the machine. The traction/launch/wheelie control is all about limiting it. Don't you get it?

How long will it be before we just race drones?

Go ride a MotoGP bike (or even a humble AMA Superbike) with all the electronic rider aids turned off. Then get them set up properly and turn them on. See if they increase your speed.

There's a reason racers and factories use them.

They make the bike and rider go faster.

Yet again you miss my point. I have no doubt they can go faster with these limiting factors. What I am saying is that we can never know who is the most skilled and brave man - only who has the best programmer on staff.

I don't care who is the best electronic wiz, I already know it's Bill Gates.

I get your point entirely. It's pure fantasy. You'll never know who is most skilled in any series other than a "pull the key out of a hat" randomly-assigned-bikes series. Every racing machine, car, plane, bike or boat, is built by a team of people who, individually and collectively, are better or worse than their counterparts on another team. Shit, last year Crutchlow thought the guy who designed the motherlovin' gas tank on a M1 handicapped his riding potential. And I think whichever poor SOB who has to ride a leftover CRT is probably the bravest one out there.

Hey, if you really want to see racing with 1000cc or even larger bikes with no rules and no electronics, you can go watch the F-USA races in the U.S.

Enjoy your trip back to 1991.

You are finally getting close to understanding. You are right about gas tanks, engines, tires, brakes,etc, etc, etc. What I object to is software limiting power by some techno geek rather than the rider doing it.

Why do you think all the riders want to be on a Honda or Yamaha? How often does a non factory bike win a race? How many great riders have never won a race because they didn't have a chance against a bike that alters the traction control for each corner of the track. How many times are the MotoGP races turn out to be a follow the leader procession?

If you haven't figured it out by now I doubt you will. Excuse me now while I slip back into my 1991 race mode. It's pretty good in there.

C Ya :-)

Nuance is lost on some fans. When the machines have superfluous performance (more than the tires can handle, let's say), the rider becomes more important, hence the obsession with rider aids by the engineers. People have forgotten that the machines were once designed according to the specifications demanded by the rider, not according to the engineering simulations. Doohan has spoken extensively about the subject. Outlining many Honda technologies he refused, and revealing that he specifically warned Criville against using the new Honda engine in 2000 because it wasn't in balanced with the tires. A story corroborated by KRJR, who said that tire changes caused Suzuki to fall behind in 2001.

The devil is in the details. Some people pay attention, some people don't.

I can see where yamaha full factory Open at, already by seeing how fast Aleix is with a non Factory ride. And I can see Cal and Dovi as Duckati's test rider too.

Can't wait for Motegi. Where the factories are starved for fuel we could see Ducati win. A Ducati win, under open rules, at Honda's circuit, would be like my birthday :)

I love seeing Honda getting a taste of their own. You aren't running this series anymore.

What is going to end up happening in the Open class is completely contrary to the intent. Ducati is going to come in and spend a bundle!!!! Instead of it spending on the electronics and limited other things like Honda and Yamaha are doing, it will be on engines and the bike and those other things.

If you want to compete against them, you'll have to spend a fortune! Ultimately, I'm not sure this is what Dorna wanted....

I am excited about the prospect of more bikes at the front!!! :)

The most expensive technical aspect of MotoGP today is electronics. The Open bikes will fix just that. They can go ahead and spend a fortune in algorithms if they want, to get them to the track they'll have to give them to the rest for free.

The last couple of years, the whole idea was cost cutting.
-Limit number of tyres used, and who manufacturers them
-Limit testing
-Limit fuel (MSMA)
-Limit engine rebuilds (its cheap insurance to replace components in a race engine as per a schedule, than seal them and hope they last through a season before they are terminally internally destroyed or severly worn)

Now Ducati comes along, "we don't like the path we paved (MSMA)..." If i were a Team owner running a CRT bike last year, and now called Open class bike, such as Paul Bird Motorsport or Aspar, I would be livid that Ducati can now play their game, and be the fourth bike in the parc ferme, and out spend everyone else who faithfully took up Dorna's challenge via CRT. I know where we are going is Dorna's end game ousting the factory control from the series, but it seems to be burning people/teams along the way.

Ducati dont have to sell their bike to a team, as originally required for CRT, dont have to lease it like the Yamaha M1 to Forward Racing, are providing their own software to Magneti Marelli to become the new Spec, but they have years of developing it unlike CRT teams who have had to deal with lower spec software last year and now have to deal with a new system that may offer no improvement to them, is probably going to be more complex and cost money to work out. People are calling it a stroke of genius, but there are no disadvantages to Ducati, only advantage.

Don't forget to highlight a main advantage for Open class, they are now free from Bore and Stoke freeze that is active on all manufactures through end of 2014 since beginning of 2012. Ducati can now make a screaming motor and burn all the fuel they want. How do you say eat my dust in Italian?

Are there any other restrictions than 1000cc and 81mm bore in that area for the factory class?
These things go hand in hand, you know. A 81mm maximum bore will effectively limit the stroke on the upper end, but not on the lower end. You are free to experiment with shorter strokes all you want, but you'll end up with a smaller capacity engine. The only way to increase the stroke (above 48.5mm) is to decrease bore, but that is also allowed.

I guess for me the real competition between the brands will be in the "open" class.
i.e. Yamaha (Aleix Espargaro) v Honda (Hayden) v Ducati (Dovi & Co.)
Who has the best MotoGP bike of the future.

I just can't seem to understand why Honda/MSMA needed the rule system to begin with. I understand that the claim is to validate racing costs but cant one still work towards those goals without having a limiting rule structure in place. It seems to me that all the rule structure does is remove competitors with lesser budgets. That seems like an underhanded way to eliminate your competition. Am I missing something?

You're not missing anything. Honda could have very well carried out their R&D program without building their goals into the rules. But if they did that they might not win. Which belies the fact that they're there for R&D purposes, which is of course just a smokescreen for those that hold the purse strings in Honda to get racing on the budget. They could have been running 20L for years now, or 3 engines a season, or anything, but they want everyone to have to do the same thing so they can prove they're the best engineering company in motorcycling, which of course really means they simply have the most money.

If Honda feels like the only area of motorcycling that they can develop further is the electronics then really they're not trying very hard. There has to be something else they can use to justify R&D to the penny pinchers with. Look at all that money they spent of that wonderful transmission.

After reading the comments in this thread and the Ducati going open thread, all I can say is - wow. The amount of Honda hate and total misunderstanding of how professional racing works is just staggering.

It's like some people think that factories go racing just for funsies, that riders would be doing this for free, that manufacturers don't mind losing and would happily build bikes that other teams could beat, that 10 years ago there wasn't a MotoGP season where one guy won 9 of the 16 races, and that the machines and teams just sort of miraculously wink into existence when the gates open at the track on Friday morning.

When you're the best, and you repeatedly fail to show leadership and competence, you get twice as much criticism and scorn.

HRC can either deliver with compelling technical regulations that are both challenging and fun to watch or they can bugger off. We're not spending our hard-earned money for the privilege of laying offerings at the altar of HRC.

HRC, Honda Racing CORPORATION are among the best at what they do, Win. Its not for them to show leadership for the series, that is what the FIM and Dorna are meant to be for. HRC are just competitors who in recent times have had the ability to sway rules into their favour, as ANY competitor will do if they are serious about their sport / profession, and spending the money they can.

You're mad if you think Honda, Yamaha or anyone else are participating for any other reason than to win. And if your not winning, your working damn hard at it, anyway you can (Ducati).

If HRC's responsibility is to follow the lead of the FIM and Dorna, they are quite terrible at that as well. Dorna and IRTA have been pushing for a rev-limit and simplified spec-ECU for years, only to deal with threats of withdrawal from HRC. Similarly, HRC discarded other pragmatic regulations, proposed after Kato's death, to pursue fuel capacity limits.

It's becoming obvious that HRC is a single-faceted monolith. They build the best bikes on earth, but they don't know how to take them racing. HRC expect us to bring them gifts, anyway. The company of "dreams" is full of bean-counters and myopic engineers, whose personalities are so dry, they couldn't have a interesting dream if they dropped acid.

Not so sure, some of HRC's designs have been out there, as if thought up on acid. Oval pistons, upside-down fuel tank/exhaust relationship, heck V5 990. It takes outside of the box thinking when faced by competition rules. (not all ideas are successful mind.)

Question for you David down at the bottom. First...20 liters of fuel for the Factory Yamaha AND the harder tire choice, AND:

Watch the Factory Yamaha riders pull out their hair (yes, even Smith) while trying to pass the likes of A. Espargaro in the early stages of a race. AE41 will have qualified strong with the softer tire but will have a heavy fuel load. In the braking zone right through to the apex AE41 will be wallowing around in front of them eating up the race line. Then from the apex through the drive out GRRRR they power out the exit. And off into the sunset goes the Factory Hondas just ahead. Worse than last year, a perfect storm for Factory Yamahas.

My take - if it weren't for the fact that Lorenzo is going to either be on an Open Yamaha or a Factory Honda for 2015 I would feel really bad for him. A.Espargaro is looking to get himself a nice spread of hams too, maybe Lorenzo's old bike?

Re a few of the comments above, the most important factor involved in motorcycle racing remains the rider despite all the electronics we have now. With Open rules it will be more so, and I think this is good. The pendulum swung past the sweet spot when electronics went turn-by-turn, and I am thankful for their return with the championship ECU. Sentiment celebrating the waning of Honda's stranglehold on regulations are very understandable.

Not to be too much a geek, but let's remember the mistake made after WWI when we pounded Germany to hard and didn't leave them a graceful re-entry into the community of nations, leaving them fertile for the horrible crap that became WWII. Dramatic example of course, but no need to twist the knife in Honda. They are doing what they ought to do, looking out for #1. Regretful that Dorna, and even the other manufacturers, enabled it to become what it did. Adjustment made, what they did was expected, now time to move Forward. I am curious as heck as to what they are going to do with stage 2 of motor development for the Open Honda, can't be too hard to fiddle with that top end and they are just the factory to do it.

Gigi seems like JUST the person to be radically changing the Ducati corse course and adapt to all that is in flux given what he helped pull off at Aprilia. How bloody exciting is this?! The championship software has a bunch of room for development AND has started out much better than I had even hoped. And the Open Yamaha w AE41...holy kashmoli this is a great off season. Can anyone remember a more interesting one? This beats 2001-2002.

Folks are excited! Me too. I am not feeling at all confused which is nice, thanks especially to this site. Cheers!

David, a question I have for you is hard for me to articulate. Can you please parse out what Ducati gave MM and Dorna's tech staff in terms of software, how this is changing what all the Open teams are getting, and how different this is from what the Open software was like previously? What developments were in the pipeline separate from this? Just what is going on with the software development and how much feedback and collaboration is going on from the teams back and forth with MM? Who is doing what? Is the seamless gearbox going to be possible with what we currently project developing for the championship software? What other less obvious but substantial things might be on or around the chopping block?

Ducati was first in with BS. They are now first in with Dorna. Just because they were able to have bespoke tyres and now to port their algorithms to the championship ECU does not mean that things will not change later.
Dorna are allowing Ducati to try and become competitive.
Dorna can control the ECU spec later and limit the content to suit the need for competition.
HRC (Nakamoto) must be wondering how to make a face-conserving move to Dorna and get some control over their destiny.
Imagine being told that 'Ducati's' software is all that you can use.
It will be like factory engines - send it in at season's start and if Dorna accepts it it will be passed to everyone.
I'm all for it - fuel efficiency and safety R&D should be passed to us all.

It's a critical year for Ducati, and who else knows how to promote better than a company who's business depends on it. It's also very important to keep sponsors who are not involved in motorcycles in the sport, as this brings money flow into the series from outside. Factories racing is just circulating money within the industry.. A quick measure of the financial Heath of racing team is the number of sponsors they have which don't have anything to do with racing. Loosing one of them hurts more than others.

We needed something to shake up the order in GP. We needed something to shake up Honda's hold over the MSMA and the rule set. We needed something to end or curtail these enormous electronic wizardry costs. If I remember David's writing correctly, Honda is up something like 60-70 million per season now with Yamaha the #2 at something like 40 million. This makes satellite bikes expensive, makes attracting sponsors difficult because of the price tag to come into the show. The biggest cost in racing is electronics. This open deal is the way to go. Bikes should have 24L. Bikes should be able to slide. Bikes should be able to smoke the tires. Engine development should be allowed during the season and 5 engines only? Completely stupid. 12 engines gives you a margin for throwing a rod or if your rider destroys one in practice.

I think the Open rule set is the best thing they have done in the 4 stroke era. I can't wait for everyone to be under this rule set. The racing will be more competitive and there will be more passing. I'm so bored of the processional racing and R&D boo-shit I'm ready to turn the whole sport off. 8 figures per year to gain 2/10th's per lap? In reality it's the way a factory with plenty of money, the most money, can outspend everyone. Honda knows if this is neutered it will be more competitive across MFR's and their big fat seat at the table gets reduced. Tired of their whining, and tired of Nakamoto's comments on the subject.

This sport is for the fans. "We aren't here for this" well Mr. Nakamoto, the rest of us are and there are millions of us across the globe. We are why the sport exists. Without us you don't have a damn thing. When I hear you state, or anyone for that matter, that you are only here for R&D my response is the same. I AM NOT HERE FOR THIS. I don't pay to go to Laguna, or COTA to watch R&D. I go to see riders battle each other. I am not here for this. Deal with 24L, 12 engines, and reduced TC. Even the riders want this. So deal with it or go home. Quit whining about it.

Do Open class bikes have to use the softer tyre?

What happens if the soft open class tyre is unable to survive what was created as a factory prototype?

Are they then effectively limited to just one tyre choice?

Howdy Moto4. Open bikes can use any of the 3 tires avail, Factory just get Med and Hard. Soft now seem like a viable race choice for the CRT bikes often and the Yamaha (and lets assume Ducati) would race it in unusual cricumstance. As things are it is a defacto Qualifier for the non-CRT Opens.

HOWEVER what of the future? Will CRT bikes having a viable tire remain the Bstone development focus for that Soft rear? Will the Medium and Hards be just fine for the Yam and Duc Opens? Bstone has their work cut out!

Brick Top, amen brother.

I wouldn’t go so far to say that Ducati will start winning again in MotoGP but I think we will shortly be getting used to the sight of them sitting on the front row and at least running close to the head of the field for the first few laps.
Considering Dovi was right on the pace of Pedrosa and Vale over one lap at Sepang 2 it stands to reason with the softer Open Option tyre he will be able to qualify faster. Perhaps this tyre might also be a viable race tyre since Bridgestone have made the new 2014 Factory spec tyre harder, could it be that the Open rear is close in specification to the 2013 Factory Option rear tyre?

Whilst the Ducati’s are still constrained to a 81mm bore and 48.5 mm stroke, they will be able to rev them higher in search of more power, since effectively each engine only has to have a lifespan of 42% of the factory units. Perhaps we will soon see Ducati’s dominating the top speed charts again.

Ducatis move to Open Regs opens up a plethora of options for them. Perhaps they could consider spinning the crank in reverse ( a la Yamaha M1) to help combat the persistent understeer which still appears to be the GP14s main weakness. Such a move entails installing a jackshaft which inevitably saps power and increases fuel consumption, but with 20% extra fuel and extra revs to play with this may not be a significant impediment now.

If Ducati start to regularly appear on the podium I think Yamaha will find it very hard to resist the call to adopt the Open Formula in 2015. They appear to be very close to the edge concerning fuel consumption and engine durability was also a concern last year.

The other thing which HRC will not be pleased about, especially given Dovi's apparent speed, is that Ducati now have 'qualifiers'. Should make the show more interesting and put them amongst the leaders for a few laps at least. At least. Crutchlow will love it.