Analyzing MotoGP Engine Usage In 2014 - No More Drama For The Factories

When the rules limiting the number of engines each MotoGP rider is allowed to use were first introduced, their usage was followed hawkishly. After pressure from veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes and myself, and with the assistance of Dorna's incredibly efficient media officer, IRTA and Dorna were persuaded to publish the engine usage charts. These were pored over constantly, searching for clues as to who might be in trouble, who may have to start from pit lane, and who would manage until the end of the season.

How the world has changed since then. Since 2010, the first full year of its application, engine allocations have been cut from six engines a season to just five, but despite that, the manufacturers are getting better and better at building incredible reliability into high horsepower engines. All eight Factory Option Honda and Yamaha riders completed around 9,000 km in 2014, using just 5 engines in the process. In the case of Bradley Smith, he raced for 9416 kilometers using just four engines, an average of 2354 km per engine.

The introduction of the engine reliability rules may have pushed the costs up at first, as factories rushed to modify their engines to suit the new regulations, it has worked well since then to help cut costs. No longer are engines crated up after every race to be flown back to Japan, there to be stripped, measured, tested and rebuilt, then flown back to Europe again ready for the next MotoGP round. Perhaps more importantly, the factories have made real technological progress in the field, Shuhei Nakamoto, Kouichi Tsuji and ex-Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi frequently praising the rule for the advances they have made. It is exactly the kind of technology which will find its way into road going motorcycles, allowing more power to be extracted while retaining reliability. There is good reason to believe that the latest generation of big horsepower road bikes have been made possible thanks to advances in materials and lubrication technology which have made it possible to produce that power without sacrificing reliability.

If the factories already had the issue of reliability well under control in 2013, the added twist of the engine development freeze made interpreting the engine usage charts even more difficult in 2014. Forced to use five identical engines – identical in terms of engine internals and cases – Yamaha and Honda stopped retiring engines when a new, uprated version of that engine was introduced. The factory and satellite riders has five identical engines to play with, and once engine mileage limits were reached, the engines were put at the back of the truck, ready to do duty again should one of the engines currently in use suffer a failure.

For an example, see Pol Espargaro: his #1 engine was shelved after the first three races, having been used in just 17 sessions. When his #2 engine ran out of steam at Aragon after some 49 sessions, #1 was pressed back into service. The doubts over the #1 engine proved to be well-founded, as it lasted just another 11 sessions, before packing up completely. But the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team's careful engine usage strategy paid off: they nearly managed an entire season for both riders with just four engines, Espargaro using #5 only at the final round in Valencia.

If there is a winner in reliability, it is probably Yamaha. The Yamaha YZR-M1 proved incredibly long-winded, Jorge Lorenzo managing to extract fully 63 sessions from his #2 engine. He also squeezed 55 sessions from his #1 engine, only switching to #3 at Assen, the eighth race of the year. Of the 183 total sessions Lorenzo racked up in 2014, his #1 and #2 engines saw action in 118 sessions of them, just under two thirds. Lorenzo's #1 engine last saw action at Misano, #2 at Phillip Island, the sixteenth race of the season. Neither Valentino Rossi nor Jorge Lorenzo had much need for their final engines, their #5 power units being used just 12 and 13 times respectively. The change in engine usage pattern made extrapolating data from the usage charts almost impossible, with engines being withheld and reused for reasons known only to Yamaha engineering staff.

At Honda, the approach appears to have been far more systematic. After roughly 40 sessions each, an engine would be withdrawn, and the next one taken into rotation. That continued until the end of the season, the last engine left with some life to spare. Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa had 27 and 25 sessions on their #5 engine, meaning they faced less strain. Did Honda use that to their advantage, revving the engine a little harder knowing it didn't have to last so long? We do not know, but knowing Honda's engineering genius, they surely would have covered this and many other possible strategies.

Dani Pedrosa's engine usage chart is exemplary for Honda's approach. Pedrosa swapped between #1 and #2 for the first six races, taking engine #3 at Barcelona. #1 and #2 then alternated duty with #3, until #4 was introduced at Brno to take their place. #3 saw action until Aragon, before being replaced by #5, which then paired with #4 to see out the end of the year. Interestingly, it was engine #3 which Pedrosa crashed at Aragon, which then never saw action again. Was it damaged in the crash? Hard to say, it had been used in 40 sessions, the same as #2 and about the normal life of an RC213V engine, if the usage charts are to be believed.

The difference in strategy between the Factory Option bikes (minus Ducati, but more of that later) and the Open class bikes is plainly visible in the engine usage charts. The Factory Option engines are mostly shelved, and only withdrawn from the allocation – that is, the engine seals broken to allow access for inspection or maintenance – when there is a genuine problem. For the Open bikes, engines are withdrawn much more often. Comparing the two Hondas makes the approach clearer: the Factory Option RC213V engines are used, then shelved in case they are needed later, unless they suffer a catastrophic failure.

The Open class RCV1000R engines are withdrawn, with a new engine taking the place of the previous one. Where Marquez, Pedrosa, Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista all used 5 engines for the season, Karel Abraham uses 10 engines, Scott Redding and Nicky Hayden use 11 engines, and Hiroshi Aoyama uses 12, though it was only the fact that he had the brand new RC213V-RS machine, a bike with a completely different engine, at Valencia that made him use 12.

This gives us an insight into where some of the cost savings were achieved. Where the Factory Option riders all had five individual engines available to them, the Open class Hondas had only three. Two of those engines would be in use while the other was withdrawn from the allocation, sent for rebuilding, and then returned. This strategy was occasionally visible to journalists entering garages to talk to Open class Honda riders. It was a common sight to see an RCV1000R engine sitting on a bench ready to be shipped back for a rebuild. A sense of piety prevented us – well, me, certainly – from whipping out my smartphone and taking a picture. We acted as if we had been invited into a nudist camp, trying to act normally and not get caught staring.

That the Open class Forward Yamahas were closer to satellite bikes than the Honda RCV1000R is also evident from the engine usage charts. Both Forward Yamaha riders had more than three engines on the go at the same time, with Colin Edwards (and his successor, Alex De Angelis) having five available at one point. Both sides of the garage used a total of ten all season.

The situation is more interesting over at Ducati, the Italian factory making full use of the concessions they were granted in the last-minute scramble to prevent them from joining the Open class at the start of the 2014 season. That there was little wrong with their underlying reliability was made clear by Yonny Hernandez, the Pramac Ducati rider using a Desmosedici GP13 all year, and going through seven engines all season. It looks like Hernandez could have used fewer engines if he had needed to, but Ducati erred on the side of caution.

The shift in focus by the factory is also clear from the engine usage pattern. Cal Crutchlow's fall from grace is clear, the British rider using just nine engines all season, not being given the upgrades awarded to Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone. The two Italians are given the GP14.2 to use at Aragon, an uprated engine with more power. It also proves a little more fragile, Dovizioso losing the engine after his crash during the difficult conditions of the race. After that,the engine was solid, though the engines did not see enough use to make any real judgment. Dovizioso's GP14.2 engines saw action in 14, 15 and 5 sessions, Iannone's in 23 and 9 sessions.

Andrea Iannone was clearly also being used as a guinea pig. The Italian twice lost engines after just a single session of use, the engines expiring in a puff of blue smoke. The theory among paddock insiders was that Iannone was being used as a test mule, his engine parameters being pushed to see just how much punishment it would take. Despite his #4 and #8 engines having just 1 session on them, #9 having just 3 sessions, #2 barely 4 sessions before being withdrawn, Iannone still made the end of the season comfortable, with two GP14.2 engines and three older engines still availabe for use.

The new rules made interpreting engine usage a more difficult task. The Honda and Yamaha riders riding under Factory Option rules became inscrutable, all engines held back just in case they were needed. But for the Open riders, and for Ducati, it revealed a few interesting patterns. Ducati's usage charts their developmental path, using experience gained to help build a better engine. For the Open bikes, it was clear where the cost savings were being made. In 2015, the pattern will be much the same, the most interesting questions being how much development the GP15 will need, and how the Suzuki and Aprilia will fare. The new rules may have provided some excitement in their early years, but now the factories have the situation under control, there is not much to tell.

Below are the engine usage statistics for each of the MotoGP riders, with session and race totals for each engine. With 2014 having a few wet races, several riders used two engines at the races in Assen, the Sachsenring, and Aragon, meaning the race total is greater than 18.

No. Rider   Team  
26 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 44 4 Shelved  
Engine #2 40 4 Shelved  
Engine #3 40 5 Shelved  
Engine #4 38 4 Active  
Engine #5 25 4 Active  
93 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 39 3 Shelved  
Engine #2 41 5 Shelved  
Engine #3 38 4 Shelved  
Engine #4 44 5 Active  
Engine #5 27 4 Active  
6 Stefan Bradl LCR Honda
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 44 2 Shelved  
Engine #2 31 4 WFA  
Engine #3 38 4 Shelved  
Engine #4 50 6 Active  
Engine #5 34 3 Active  
19 Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 49 5 Shelved  
Engine #2 8 1 WFA  
Engine #3 34 2 WFA  
Engine #4 47 6 Active  
Engine #5 56 7 Active  
46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha Factory Racing
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 38 3 Shelved  
Engine #2 40 6 Shelved  
Engine #3 47 4 Active  
Engine #4 40 2 Active  
Engine #5 12 5 Active  
99 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Factory Racing
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 55 2 Shelved  
Engine #2 63 7 Shelved  
Engine #3 28 6 Active  
Engine #4 26 5 Active  
Engine #5 13 1 Active  
44 Pol Espargaro Tech 3 Yamaha
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 28 3 WFA  
Engine #2 50 5 Shelved  
Engine #3 37 5 Active  
Engine #4 44 8 Active  
Engine #5 7 1 Active  
38 Bradley Smith Tech 3 Yamaha
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 43 6 Shelved  
Engine #2 19 3 Active  
Engine #3 39 6 Active  
Engine #4 39 6 Shelved  
Engine #5 0 0 Unused  
4 Andrea Dovizioso Factory Ducati
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 8 0 WFA  
Engine #2 13 2 WFA  
Engine #3 16 3 WFA  
Engine #4 25 2 Shelved  
Engine #5 24 4 WFA  
Engine #6 14 2 WFA  
Engine #7 9 1 Shelved  
Engine #8 5 1 Shelved  
Engine #9 4 0 WFA GP14.2
Engine #10 14 1 Active GP14.2
Engine #11 15 2 Active GP14.2
Engine #12 5 1 Active GP14.2
35 Cal Crutchlow Factory Ducati
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 25 3 WFA  
Engine #2 12 1 WFA  
Engine #3 30 2 WFA  
Engine #4 7 1 WFA  
Engine #5 26 4 WFA  
Engine #6 26 4 Shelved  
Engine #7 14 0 Shelved  
Engine #8 13 2 Active  
Engine #9 9 2 Active  
Engine #10 0 0 Unused  
Engine #11 0 0 Unused  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
29 Andrea Iannone Pramac Ducati
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 13 1 WFA  
Engine #2 4 0 WFA  
Engine #3 22 2 WFA  
Engine #4 1 0 WFA  
Engine #5 9 2 WFA  
Engine #6 31 3 Shelved  
Engine #7 30 3 Shelved  
Engine #8 1 0 WFA  
Engine #9 3 1 WFA  
Engine #10 19 3 Shelved  
Engine #11 23 1 Active GP14.2
Engine #12 9 2 Active GP14.2
68 Yonny Hernandez Pramac Ducati
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 37 5 Shelved  
Engine #2 14 1 Shelved  
Engine #3 25 4 Shelved  
Engine #4 28 4 Active  
Engine #5 24 2 Shelved  
Engine #6 14 0 Active  
Engine #7 16 3 Active  
Engine #8 0 0 Unused  
Engine #9 0 0 Unused  
Engine #10 0 0 Unused  
Engine #11 0 0 Unused  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
Open bikes
Forward Yamaha
41 Aleix Espargaro Forward Yamaha
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 13 2 WFA  
Engine #2 15 1 WFA  
Engine #3 16 2 WFA  
Engine #4 10 1 WFA  
Engine #5 5 0 WFA  
Engine #6 34 4 WFA  
Engine #7 21 3 WFA  
Engine #8 22 3 WFA  
Engine #9 11 1 Active  
Engine #10 13 1 Active  
Engine #11 0 0 Unused  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
5 Colin Edwards Forward Yamaha
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 12 2 WFA  
Engine #2 22 2 WFA  
Engine #3 5 1 WFA  
Engine #4 10 0 WFA  
Engine #5 6 1 WFA  
Engine #6 9 1 WFA  
Engine #7 44 6 Active  
Engine #8 12 2 Shelved  
Engine #9 27 3 Active  
Engine #10 3 0 Active  
Engine #11 0 0 Unused  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
Open Honda RCV1000R
69 Nicky Hayden Aspar Honda
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 12 0 WFA  
Engine #2 14 2 WFA  
Engine #3 25 3 WFA  
Engine #4 15 2 WFA  
Engine #5 17 2 WFA  
Engine #6 15 3 WFA  
Engine #7 16 1 WFA  
Engine #8 15 1 Active  
Engine #9 13 2 WFA  
Engine #10 17 1 Active  
Engine #11 5 1 Active  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
7 Hiroshi Aoyama Aspar Honda
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 11 0 WFA  
Engine #2 12 2 WFA  
Engine #3 12 2 WFA  
Engine #4 12 0 WFA  
Engine #5 25 4 WFA  
Engine #6 12 2 WFA  
Engine #7 22 0 WFA  
Engine #8 13 2 WFA  
Engine #9 11 2 WFA  
Engine #10 13 1 Active  
Engine #11 14 2 Active  
Engine #12 7 1 Active  
45 Scott Redding Gresini Honda
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 18 3 WFA  
Engine #2 18 1 WFA  
Engine #3 17 2 WFA  
Engine #4 6 1 WFA  
Engine #5 13 2 WFA  
Engine #6 15 3 Active  
Engine #7 16 1 WFA  
Engine #8 10 0 WFA  
Engine #9 21 3 Active  
Engine #10 12 1 Shelved  
Engine #11 15 2 Active  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
17 Karel Abraham Cardion AB
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 17 1 WFA  
Engine #2 15 2 WFA  
Engine #3 19 2 WFA  
Engine #4 18 3 WFA  
Engine #5 16 2 WFA  
Engine #6 14 1 WFA  
Engine #7 19 1 Active  
Engine #8 17 1 Active  
Engine #9 16 2 Active  
Engine #10 8 3 Active  
Engine #11 0 0 Unused  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
Avintia Kawasaki/Ducati
8 Hector Barbera Avintia
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 19 2 WFA  
Engine #2 7 0 WFA  
Engine #3 28 3 WFA  
Engine #4 22 3 WFA  
Engine #5 28 3 Shelved  
Engine #6 19 2 WFA  
Engine #7 15 1 WFA Ducati GP14
Engine #8 19 3 Active Ducati GP14
Engine #9 0 0 Unused  
Engine #10 0 0 Unused  
Engine #11 0 0 Unused  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
63 Mike Di Meglio Avintia
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 13 1 WFA  
Engine #2 25 2 WFA  
Engine #3 14 2 WFA  
Engine #4 26 4 WFA  
Engine #5 8 2 WFA  
Engine #6 22 2 Shelved  
Engine #7 18 1 Active  
Engine #8 18 1 Shelved  
Engine #9 14 3 Active  
Engine #10 0 0 Unused  
Engine #11 0 0 Unused  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
PBM Aprilia
70 Michael Laverty PBM
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 20 2 WFA  
Engine #2 16 1 WFA  
Engine #3 11 2 WFA  
Engine #4 15 2 WFA  
Engine #5 14 2 WFA  
Engine #6 19 2 WFA  
Engine #7 8 2 WFA  
Engine #8 7 1 Shelved  
Engine #9 16 1 Active  
Engine #10 9 0 Shelved  
Engine #11 16 2 Active  
Engine #12 8 2 Active  
23 Broc Parkes PBM
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 17 1 WFA  
Engine #2 16 2 WFA  
Engine #3 19 4 WFA  
Engine #4 4 0 WFA  
Engine #5 16 1 WFA  
Engine #6 18 3 WFA  
Engine #7 11 4 WFA  
Engine #8 9 0 Shelved  
Engine #9 8 0 Active  
Engine #10 24 3 Active  
Engine #11 6 1 Active  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  
Aprilia ART
9 Danilo Petrucci IODA ART
  Sessions Races Status  
Engine #1 6 0 WFA  
Engine #2 1 0 WFA  
Engine #3 21 2 WFA  
Engine #4 31 4 WFA  
Engine #5 33 3 Shelved  
Engine #6 23 3 WFA  
Engine #7 21 1 Shelved  
Engine #8 24 1 Active  
Engine #9 15 3 Active  
Engine #10 0 0 Unused  
Engine #11 0 0 Unused  
Engine #12 0 0 Unused  

WFA = Withdrawn From Allocation - the engine seals have been broken for whatever reason, and the engine has to be resealed before being used again. One it is resealed, it will count as a brand new engine, regardless of what has been changed. A new engine can either be a brand new engine, i.e. a new physical unit, or it can be a reconditioned previous unit, with maintenance checks done and worn parts replaced.

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Ducati is no longer topping the charts in maximum speed but I see some riders insistently praising Ducati's power at straight... why is this?

With latest upgrades in Ducati GP14.2's engine, given it more power, I'd like to know what is the most powerful engine in the paddock and how much better it'd be comparing to the second?

Is the Desmosedici the most powerful? If so, would be their TC efficiency the reason for not topping speed charts consistently any more?


"No longer are engines crated up after every race to be flown back to Japan, there to be stripped, measured, tested, and rebuilt, then flown back to Europe again ready for the next MotoGP round."

There's an obvious answer to this which is to have an engine rebuild facility in Europe. It was Honda's choice to air-freight everything back to Japan.

And that raises the question about rebuilds and how much of the engine is retained. Dorna likes to talk about "Engines" as if 12 engines means you actually have 12 cases, cylinder blocks and so on. In WSB a year or two ago, when Aprilia and Ducati got through huge numbers of engines what that really meant was huge numbers of rebuilds.

Then there's the unforeseen consequences of limited sealed engines of putting more and more on the outside of the seals (like external flywheels) and engineering in clever ways of inspecting the internals.

Yamaha used to operate an engine rebuild truck at (at least the European and maybe all) rounds. It was top secret for a long while but finally appeared, looking not unlike an operating theatre on a narrow boat, in various media.

I've never been quite sure about this. I assume from reading the article, that the engine location is per rider. So for the factory riders it's 5 engines total, not 5 per bike (since everyone has two bikes). Also, does anyone know if the riders have favorite bikes (#1 then #2 bike) that is their "go to" bike at every track, or do they switch from track to track? If they do favor one bike over the other, can the engines be switched between bikes? Sorry if this is fundamental, but I've always been curious and don't know (especially interested from a racers perspective).

Good questions, and I think that maybe it isn't entirely clear from my article above.

The engines are allocated per rider - or more accurately, per grid slot, as any replacement rider uses the original rider's engine allocation. So, in the example above, Alex De Angelis continued to use the same allocation which had been assigned to Colin Edwards when he started the season.

To make it more clear: at the start of the season, Jorge Lorenzo's team will have presented five Yamaha YZR-M1 engines to MotoGP technical director Danny Aldridge for inspection. His team will have verified that all five of those engines were identical (as they must be under the engine development freeze rules), and will have sealed all of those engines. Yamaha then would have crated up engines #3, #4 and #5, and put #1 into one bike, #2 into the other bike. Engines are then removed and swapped as and when they are needed.

As for your second question, riders often have a particular preference for a #1 or a #2 bike, but it varies by manufacturer. At Ducati, almost every rider has a very strong preference for one machine over another, though that is much less so at Honda. Even then, riders like one particular bike, despite the two bikes being identical. The riders prefer that bike at every track, it's not just that they like #1 at, say, Jerez, then #2 at Le Mans.

Why can't they do the same in Moto3? The costs of Moto3 have exploded, it's almost impossible to get into this so called entry-class with a budget under 100.000 a year. That's just partly because of the intitial price of engines, but mainly because the engines need a very expensive (10K) rebuild every 2000 km as critical maximum, so most do even less to make sure they don't blow up.
So Honda is able to run 9000 km. without major rebuilds in a 250HP+ MotoGP bike, while costst in a 50-something hp Moto3 are skyhigh because they can only do 2000!

Is it strange to think this might have to do with the fact there is a real market for Moto3 engines, while in MotoGP most engines are being used by the factory itself, so there's no profit to be made, only costs?

Costs were an issue for the 125s and 250s, but the real issue wasn't the cost of the technology, but the cost of being competitive. Aprilia had a monopoly on the classes, and decided who would get competitive bikes. The prices they charged for those bikes were absolutely exorbitant, and too expensive for most people. It meant that Aprilia basically decided who would win and who wouldn't.

The difference in Moto2 was huge. A competitive bike now costs perhaps 250,000 euros a season, whereas in 250s, an RSA250 cost 1 million euros. What's worse, it was leased, and so you had to hand the bike back at the end. Moto2 bikes are being sold off afterwards, for between 40 and 70K, so teams are also seeing a bit of their investment back.

Moto3 has not turned out as cheap, in part because of the manufacturer war between Honda and KTM. I am not sure whether the price capping system can be effective or not. Certainly, the first attempt left far too many loopholes.

I know David that Aprilia charged rediculous prices for their bikes but if you wanted to win some races and were good friends with some people inside Aprilia ............. The bikes didn't justify the price but if you are left alone in a class with no competition/opposition................ In that way you can look at the current MGP, Honda makes the rules and have ruled out the 2strokes, Dorna don't have the b....lls to stand up to Honda and say feel free to leave if you can't live by our rules, they should make this very clear to all the manufacturers. If they had done this in the old 2stroke days then Aprilia would never been in the position to ask the prices they did back then and maybe, just maybe, we would still be racing with the much cheaper 2strokes ;-)

The comparison between factory an open engines omits to mention the differences in architecture and maintenance. The majority of factory engines use pneumatic valves which means they can have new valve springs every race - Ducati excused here. The spring valve engines cannot replace their valves without resort to their engine allocation - this is surely a huge handicap given that there is currently no rev limit.
Engine performance is amongst the most expensive investments for motogp teams and discourages new teams from entering. That the factories have used 4-5 engines per season is commendable but the technology used is not directly transferable to road bikes.
Surely a better way forward is -
Rev limit of 15,000 or 14,000
Valve spring engine allowance of say 15
Use rev limit to manage fuel allowance and superfluous technology

This should encourage tuning for low and midrange power which would apply in real life and also permit tuned wsbk engines to be competitive too.

First, the reliability of these engines is now nothing short of incredible. I can't wait to buy a new road bike in a few years. I'm going to beat the crap out of it, and I'll expect to be able to do so for decades without consequence!

On an unrelated note, I never fully understood the idea that Ducati wouldn't give Crutchlow updates. I get that he's a traitor and can't be trusted with proprietary information blahblahblah. What I don't get is how Ducati could, essentially, thumb its corporate nose at its team sponsors by giving one of its riders a substandard bike.

How can you keep a straight face when it's time to renew your sponsorship agreements when you purposely torpedoed the success of one of your sponsors' rolling billboards? What value are you giving? A hospitality-suite visit with a rider who rarely cracked the top ten? What value was Ducati giving their sponsors by holding Crutchlow back?