Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Open season on the factory teams is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Open season on the factory teams

No doubt who was the star of last week’s Sepang tests, even if Marc Márquez did stun his rivals with a ridiculously fast race simulation on the final day.

Márquez’s ominous speed on Honda’s latest RC213V wasn’t entirely unexpected, whereas the pace of Aleix Espargaró on his Open-spec Yamaha M1 had a few jaws dropping up and down pitlane. The young Spaniard’s best lap was less than half a second slower than Márquez and within a couple of tenths of factory Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.

Espargaró’s speed suggests that the best Open-class bikes will have a chance of fighting for podiums this year, especially at thirstier tracks where their 20 per cent extra fuel may give them a real advantage over factory bikes. It also confirms that Dorna’s control software – mandatory on Open bikes – is working pretty damn well.

Before Sepang the Open bikes already had the 2014 rules written largely in their favour – all part of Dorna’s sensible plan to narrow the gap between factory teams and privateers to create bigger battles near the front of the pack. As well as four more litres of fuel, they also get to thrash their way through more than twice as many engines as do the factory machines and they can go testing whenever they like, unlike factory riders.

So you’d think that the Open bikes (the Openers?) already had enough going for them. Not quite, in Dorna’s opinion. After the tests Bridgestone confirmed that the Openers will be blessed with softer-spec rear slicks for 2014, as were the slower CRT machines last season. Softer, more grippy rubber was a major part of Espargaró’s ability to embarrass the factory Ducatis during 2013 aboard his Aprilia CRT bike and it may help him do the same to a few of the aliens this year.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Must be quietly pleased. If their 2013 bike, without seamless gears and latest updates, can be so close they have nothing to fear of the Open rules.
The big question is whether they will help FTR to replicate their chassis to maintain the handling of the factory frame. If not, and the bike performs below expectations, then it will make FTR look less expert than Yamaha....which might suit them.
Poncheral may be exerting some influence there too!
Both Yamaha and Herve can be expected to want their #1 satellite team to be ahead of the rest of the non-factory bikes.
The shock might be Tech 3 going Open and running the factory frame, whilst Aleix is hobbled with FTR development.
I would like to see both Pol and Aleix on comparable machines as that would provide the strongest indicator of potential between Factory and Open, and the best top-level motorsport sibling rivalry since the Schumacher's.

... whilst it is great for forward racing.... the open yamaha aleix is riding is another bike that may be taking points off Yamaha factory team in the championship. They're going to have their work cut out trying to beat HRC as it is, if testing is anything to go by - fuel limit, chatter problems, and HRC seem to have their shit well and truly sorted this time around.

It’s a bit presumptuous to assume that FTR designs and fabrication are inferior to those that come out of factory workshops.

FTR design and make parts for a lot more customers than they are allowed to talk about and know what they are doing.

The areas where factories always win is testing resources to refine products and electronics development; both are highly influential when it comes to on track success.

I would like to offer a loose analogy:

I recently bought a very small company, custom order guitar amplifier. It is hand built, sturdy, beautiful, and sonically devastating. I love it.

Definitely had the option to purchase a big factory option, your Marshall-Fender thing, which is still good and quality, but this one had more sonic intricacies and blah blah. ..

What I'm saying is it's definitely not out of the realm of possibility for a small company to produce quality and high performance equipment that rivals/surpasses factory made. Whether it translates to motorsports, well that I'm not putting any bets on.

That's my $0.02 anyway.

A Marshall amp would beat your custom amp by a good 5-10 seconds around Valencia! Unless of course your custom amp goes up to 11...

I was not presuming anything. I was talking about outcomes, not saying they couldn't do it. The frame has a question mark over it, not FTR's experience or capabilities.
There are also rumours that they had a hand in Ducati's MGP frame(s). That doesn't mean they 'failed' - it's about producing what they were asked to produce within the constraints they were given to work within.
You have assumed that I was being critical - I wasn't. I was making a comment, or six.
Perhaps you know more than I do - but I certainly wouldn't assume that the Yamaha is an easy frame to replicate just by copying a few shapes and dimensions.
Ask Aston Martin about their throttle pedals. And Honda (they may not say much, though).

A mighty impressive time from Espargaro but I'll reserve judgement about "openers" until I see a full race.
In WSB Sykes was amazing in one lap a couple of years ago, but it took them a while to get one lap speed into fast race pace. I cannot see Espargaro finishing consistently in front of Satellite machines (maybe of his brother since he is a rookie). There will some pretty furious team owners if he does.

For now my reservations are due to:
24 Liters of fuel = extra weight.
Softer tyres = degrade faster.
Lots of power = more tyre degradation.
Basic electronics = more tyre degradation.
24 Liters of fuel = 'smoother power' (maybe good for tyres?).

I expect a lot of sliding at the end of the race, not translated into going forward fast, but I would really like to be proven wrong.
Lots of things for Ducati to consider. Nobody is making an all important question "What if Ducati goes open and cannot beat the other factories?"

I want as much as the next bloke to see Espargaro mixing it up with whomever near the top and/or satellites, but I must agree that the tyre situation is going to be very interesting for these open bikes. We've seen Espargaro lead a race, have second row starts, etc, on his former CRT machine, but when it comes to race distance, it's just so difficult to preserve reasonable edge grip.

I would like to see some data of Aleix on soft open tyres vs. full motogp options. With the yamaha he's on now, I would think it possible to run the full spec tyres. The FTR chassis, well that might change things. . .

I agree 100%. Espargaro is riding fantastic, but that's one lap. Sykes is a perfect example. Race distance is another matter entirely.

Its very encouraging I'm sure, but he ran up front last year for a few laps; the one place that stands out in my mind was at Sachsenring. Would Yamaha really provide such a weapon that Forward is regularly beating Tech 3? Or Gresini? Its a nice thought, but........

Mat makes two key points:

Clearly, the current argument over rules is simply an attempt by Dorna to up its control over the series and hobble Honda, based on this religious-like belief that if Honda were slowed down, the racing would be cheaper and closer and miraculously other manufacturers would jump into the game and millions of new fans would spontaneously wink into existence.

That is a massive leap of faith with no basis in reality.

Secondly, Honda is the company - the only company - that stepped up when Dorna begged the manufacturers to build a production racer. Honda actually did what Dorna asked.

I actually don't buy into the paradigm that MotoGP somehow is engaged in this titanic struggle between Honda and Dorna. Look at Espleto's comments on; he said that the public statements of each side are simply setting out their desires, and that once they sit down and talk, they'll find a solution that both find acceptable - just like they did with the implementation of the "spec" Magneti Marelli ECU this year.

p.s. Did anyone see Shuhei's comments about the cost of the MM ECU? He described it as larger than the Honda-developed one, less capable and 50 percent more expensive. Again, how is this nonsense helping anyone?

>> Did anyone see Shuhei's comments about the cost of the MM ECU? He described it as larger than the Honda-developed one, less capable and 50 percent more expensive.

Minor quibble, he was talking about the cost of the datalogging software. However, given that the Magneti Marelli software is a commercial product sold to companies on the open market, and HRC uses software developed in house for HRC, and for which no market valuation exists, we have to take Nakamoto-san's word for the cost.

Dorna's gamble is that other manufacturers will be able to afford to compete. Right now, even Yamaha is struggling to compete with Honda, and if Philip Morris pulls the plug, then Ducati will be completely incapable. Nobody can compete with Honda's budget.

As for Ezpeleta playing down the conflict, Nakamoto made his case very clear: impose spec software, and we leave MotoGP. It will be interesting to see what the other factories do, whether they switch to the Open class or not. If HRC is only competing against themselves, then they may decide to switch of their own accord.

"Spec software" is an interesting phrase, like "non-profit" corporation.

If by "spec," Dorna means MM boxes and software within which TC, engine braking, wheelie control, etc., can be optimized by the factories, I can see Honda staying in the game. I mean, they stayed in after the ban on GPS locator technology.

If by "spec" Dorna means completely sealed software with no rider aids, I suspect Honda would be out. What would be the point? My CBR500R has an ABS option. By 2017, almost every street motorcycle will have rider aids.

But I suspect that no one means completely sealed software. Not even BSB has completely sealed software - there's a fair amount of tweaking that goes on. Although "traction control" is banned, you can do programming that makes it easier to keep the power in check.

My crystal ball says that when the factory teams and Dorna reach an agreement on a new set of rules for 2017, it will revolve around a definition of "spec" electronics that splits the baby between what the factories want and what Dorna would want.

As mentioned, isn't that exactly what happened this year with the new "spec" box?

Just for the record, Nakamoto's comments, as per

“Years ago, racing engine designers just concentrated to make a big [powerful] engine. Now the engineer has to keep performance whilst making a long life engine. We found some interesting technology and technical material from this. This is quite useful for the future.

“We will find more with the change from 21 to 20 litres of race fuel for this year. With 24 litres [the Open class limit] we cannot find anything. But 20 litres, five engines and software [development] are all important areas for the motorcycles of the future.”

“It's like changing from a Mac to Windows computer. We change from Honda ECU to Magneti Marelli. The total cost is huge. We also had to buy the data analysis system from Magneti Marelli. The cost is unbelievable.

“Last year's Honda [ECU] was smaller, cheaper, more capacity! The Magneti Marelli hardware is 50 percent more expensive than Honda's one. So expensive. Hardware, data analysis, software. Unbelievable.”

From what I've heard the Dorna software has a fixed number of sensor inputs, maps and relationships between maps and you are limited to changing the values in the cells in each map. Things like wheelie control are one setting, not per gear or per corner. The factories are writing mini dynamics simulations that are essentially constantly remapping outputs as per the simulation results to give optimum performance. They want the ability to plug in new sensors as needed for detailed input to these simulations.

Its like the difference between being able to customize the setup of your word processing program through preferences and changing toolbars and being able to write and compile your own. The MM (and most advanced ECUs) are really just processing boxes with a few engine specific and lots of generic inputs and outputs. Its why Honda didn't make that much of a stink for having to use the MM stuff. It may not have been as good as theirs but was not limiting them.

The thing I like least is the idea of control software giving Dorna the ability to 'equalize' performance through software updates throughout the season. Its a runaway? Let's do an update! Think 2012 mid-season tire change x10. And the only way to equalize things between the fast guys and the slow guys is to dumb down the software to slow down the fast guys while hoping that those changes don't also slow down the slow guys! After all, if the slow guys could go faster they would.


My sources inside IRTA and Dorna say that the spec software will be more or less what it is today, a functionally limited package, in which teams will be allowed to optimize parameters, but not alter algorithms. Of course the factories will still get the best out of the electronics, just as the best teams get the best out of the Honda spec ECU in Moto2, as they can spend the most money optimizing the available parameters.

The impression I get is that they are prepared to let Honda leave if they want to. It would be a major blow to the series, 'like losing a limb' was the phrase used. But losing a limb is survivable, a turnaround from the situation back in 2011, when Honda leaving would have killed the series. My sources say that they will not move on the spec software, but although my sources are very close to the negotiations, they are not Carmelo Ezpeleta. It will be Ezpeleta who makes the final deal. Will he blink? Hard to say.

>> What would be the point? My CBR500R has an ABS option. 

ABS: always a bad example to choose, given that it has always been banned in MotoGP...

Ah, but ABS on my humble commuter is exactly the example I wanted to use. Why would any factory want to build racebikes for a series where the pit bikes are more sophisticated than the race bikes? I mean, we already have a series here in the U.S. where there's no traction control, no wheelie control, no electronic rider aids. Please, please tell me this is not the future of GP racing:


A CBR600RR also has ABS, and a fairly decent electronics package. Does that make the CBR600RR more technically interesting than a Moto2 bike?

Actually, to me and I speak only for myself, they're not too far off in level of interest in the machine. Substitute the Kawasaki ZX-6R with a stock TC package, and you're about dead-even, since I could probably build a stock-displacement ZX-6R that is faster than a Moto2 machine.

Again, ABS is a metaphor; it's a rider aid that's available on every motorcycle produced in the next few years. As rider aids spread to the less expensive bikes, and if GP racing bans more and more rider aids, the difference between racing and street technology - and the thought processes - widens. Makes it less appealing to factories to build racebikes. It's not a binary thing, but a spectrum of level of interest. It's not just that factories have to be able to afford to go racing; they have to want to go racing. And from what I've been reading, the thought process seems to be that you have to keep Honda and Yamaha from winning, so other people maybe can be lured in. Meh.

To save costs, years ago, F1 tried going to a 1.5-liter naturally aspirated formula. It failed after five short years - sports cars were outrunning the F1 cars. But what makes me think of this is that I remember years ago reading an author's description of the first turbo F1 era and comparing his emotional reaction to walking up to the two cars.

When you walked up to a 1.5-liter car, he said, you felt, I could get into this thing and give it a go. I might not win, I might not qualify, but I can drive it.

When you walked up to a turbo, with more than a thousand horsepower, the hair on the back of your neck stood up and you felt, in your gut, no way, no how, am I worthy of getting into this thing.

I want my GP bikes to humble me.

And controlled directly by the throttle, not interpreted and translated into a torque map. Not humbling enough for you?

I know it sounds crazy, but ... not really. I can already have one of those built down the street (and I mean that literally).

Besides, no one would actually build such a GP bike. It would offer no performance advantage. A few years back, at Laguna, Spies opined that even with Ducati factory electronics, anything over 220 horses was a waste and didn't translate into faster lap times anywhere.

Keep the tires that we have now, and remove all the electronic rider aids, and you'd in effect cap horsepower at about 205-210. Anything above that would be useless. And then you'd see lap times plateau, if not slow, and while the 'racing" might - might - be better, you might see bikes from other series go faster.

You really don't want to be in the position where you are trying to market a GP series with bikes that are the second-fastest in the world. See the interview with the Triumph guy on the rrw website today.

I bought the 2007 CBR600RR specifically to NOT have the ABS they put on afterwards. When I am braking on the track I want to feel it and do it myself. Same reason I don't care for condoms particularly ;)
Let's be specific: turn by turn and gear by gear wheelie and traction control are going to no longer be allowed via a rule change. These are not going to be on road bikes. Who wants them on race bikes either?
"Slowing down Honda" on the track is a goal of Dorna?

That was an interesting interview for sure (find it here). The most interesting line? 

RW: Why does Triumph go racing?
Greg Heichelbeck: “It's our story. It's who we are. It's what made us. It's one of the things that defined us."
At the heart of it, that's why factories go racing. R&D is nice, and it's useful, but it's not the main motivation. There are much more cost effective ways to do R&D. Factories go racing for the same reason the rest of us idiots are in the paddock: the passion for it pushes us into acts of madness.

And such wonderful madness it is! What I took from the interview was the last bit - that it's all of it. You have to not just race, but be successful at it, for the branding and marketing to be successful.

For factories, that means building machines that they feel will beat the other guys, or at least not be perceived as "not as good." I think that's why Triumph goes racing with a 675 triple and not an inline four 600; with the right rules, they can have an advantage over the inline fours, or at least avoid a direct comparison.

There is nothing technically interesting about a Moto2 bike. It has a mildly warmed over production engine, production electronics and a frame and swingarm largely similar to a production CBR. Why would you consider them technically interesting? Fabulous craftsmanship, yes, but nothing being done there that has not been done 10 years ago in production-based race series all over the world.


Here's a thought as to why most of us here (including myself) have a soft spot in our hearts for the 500cc two-strokes. It's not that they had no TC or anything like that. It's that they were the absolute best bikes the manufacturers could make. They were getting every pony they could from them, innovating new ways to get that power to the ground, and there was nothing like them available to the street rider. You walked up to one and you knew you were looking at something deeply special. It was like the difference between your street sedan and an F1 car - and you could never have one.

I'll throw out one other idea. If you really do eliminate all rider aids, you make excessive horsepower useless. So everyone can all of a sudden make competitive horsepower, especially if you allow more fuel. Lee's Cycle Service in San Diego can put 0.020-over pistons, a slip-on and an exhaust cam on a 2012 ZX-10R and with a Power Commander make 205 at the rear wheel. That's close to the limit of useable power for a bike with absolutely no rider aids - and stone simple to do.

So a ban on rider aids also becomes a de facto ban on engine development, especially if the fuel capacity is increased. Suddenly you're racing late 1990s bikes, basically.

And again, you've got to ask - why would a manufacturer build such a racebike?

There is absolutely some merit to that argument. I think the problem I and many other people have is that the current advances being made are completely invisible. The dynamic vehicle modeling going on is fascinating, from an intellectual point of view, but almost completely invisible. The only way you can detect the changes is by watching what the bike is NOT doing: less wheelie, even more carefully controlled slides, even more controlled braking. A GP bike spends more of its time in a straight line that physics says it has any right to do.

As an intellectual exercise, it's fascinating. As a visceral experience, it's bland. The tracking and planning systems behind major logistics companies or supermarkets are an absolute marvel of engineering, but they are completely invisible to most people waiting for the UPS truck, or standing at the checkout with a lettuce and a carton of orange juice. Astounding for engineers (a friend of mine help build some of UPS' systems, so the insight was fascinating), but invisible to the general public.

I think the biggest problem is that the current level of technology is not comprehensible to the lay public (nor has it ever been, I would add). In previous eras, the limit of traction was visible. What electronics do is push that boundary so far that it becomes invisible again. And for the record, I wish we were racing two strokes again.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the value of visibly exceeding the limit of traction, and the cost that comes along with creating GP machines that do so. I hear what you are saying. I'm not convinced the payoff is worth the price.

But you are right that visible difference has its merits. One of the things that BSB did right as it tried to cut the price of its Superbikes was to allow the visibly cool stuff to remain. You walk up to a BSB-spec bike, and it's bristling with cool-looking stuff. There's absolutely no reason for a modern Superbike class at any level to allow non-stock rims, but I think we do it simply because it's an easy, obvious, visible difference between street and race bikes.

I think we agree that a GP bike should be something that the public perceives - on a visceral level - as special. The trick is doing it in a way that creates an economically viable race series. I love the idea of two-strokes, too, but it doesn't make economic sense.

>> I think we agree that a GP bike should be something that the public perceives - on a visceral level - as special. The trick is doing it in a way that creates an economically viable race series. 

Completely agree. This, incidentally, is one of the biggest problems facing electric motorcycles. The raw, overpowering noise is one thing which most impresses fans (and even cynical old folks like myself) when heard live. That's one strike against electrics.

Perhaps the core of our disagreement is that we have different ideas about what the public perceives as special. I totally agree that the bikes have to look special. But just how special they are under the hood is a different matter. For 99% of fans, a MootoGP bike of any description is sufficiently outside of their everyday motorcycling experience that it is de facto special. The purists and experts - a few of whom haunt these quarters - are in the rare situation of actually being able to tell the difference, and lose interest because the bikes aren't as special as they could be in theory. The question is, should MotoGP chase the 1% or the 99%? I would argue they should chase the 99%, whilst doing all they can to avoid betraying the confidence of the 1%, which means retaining the purity of the competition aspect.

In riding 4 strokes and 2 strokes I for sure enjoy the 4 strokes more, torque is very useable and joyful. The 2 strokes seem "fiddly" and I am often not quite in the gear I want when I need it.
David and Morbidelli, your love of those bikes is a fetish! :)
Really though, for me what is perceived as special is the way a bike feels in riding it, the rider in being awesme for their artistry and skill, and most importantly that the racing seems special. Neat stuff going on. Interesting. Multiple lines and strategies. Lots of bikes, variation, many teams, multiple manufacturers taking varying tacts. The word interesting rings true for me more than special. The whole dang dealio is very special!

My psychiatrist says it's not a fetish. It's just an area of interest.


To David's points:

I think you might underestimate the average MotoGP fan. Most of them ride, have purchased a bike because of its technology (or lack thereof) and are far more aware of the technology involved than the average motorsport fan. The general public isn't watching MotoGP, and won't. Trying to appeal to them is like trying to tempt a vegetarian with a steak; no matter how good it is, they aren't interested. And here in the U.S., when we went through the "de-specialization" of the Superbike class, the fans bitched endlessly (and still do) that the bikes are merely "streetbikes."

I think MotoGP fans would see a Moto1 class as a major step backwards - bikes that are 20 years behind what they rode to the track. And they WOULD see them as such. I can admire one of Scott Russell's old ZX-7 racebikes. But I'm not going to pay today to watch a "GP" race with them.

And I'm really not exaggerating here. Think it through:

Remove the fuel limits, remove all electronics, and anyone can build a MotoGP bike. No one is chasing horsepower in this scenario; they've got way more than enough. And other than that, what gets developed? Brakes? Stupid-powerful already. Chassis? A tweak here, a tweak there - that's all we've done for 20 years. Tires? Spec. We can't even plug in the active Ohlins shock that you can buy for $1695 for your ZX-10R.

As Cosman put it, you might see incredible craftmanship. But you don't have anything that a factory would be interested in creating. They did it in the late 1990s. And this fact keeps getting glossed over; no factory, none of them, will be interested in creating bikes for pure entertainment racing. They come to learn, they come to win, and they market their prowess.

So now your series is specialty chassis producers with tuned proddie engines. From a purely machinery point of view, OK. The difference now is that FTR and Suter are trying to sell these machines to teams that are relying purely on outside sponsorship to keep them afloat. No one is doing that anywhere near the front of the grid. This is a HUGE economic gamble.

It is manufacturer money that keeps GP racing alive. Honda and Yamaha spend upward of $50 million each per year to go GP racing. That's money on mechanics, travel, advertising, transportation, development, riders, etc. Not to mention the fact that having those big companies on board gives the series the credibility that Dorna needs to sell TV rights.

The factories leave, and who is going to pay Lorenzo's salary? How do you get the machines to Malaysia? Who is going to pay the sanctioning fee to bring in a series that is Suter vs. Speed-Up? How the hell do you sell TV rights to a race series that's being led by a PBR?

The ripple effect of even one factory leaving the series is likely to cause trauma in areas that we're not even mentioning. But these are some of the big ones.

I understand that people want to see more exciting physical motions coming from the bikes, or might want to see closer racing. I really get that. But the suggestions that I've seen to make that happen really carry the risk of destroying the sport as we know it. Look through racing history, and you've seen it happen.

>> I think you might underestimate the average MotoGP fan.

I think you are confusing the words 'US' and 'average'. The average MotoGP fan in Spain is a 50-year-old guy, a 35-year-old mother, a 16-year-old boy. I remember vividly going into a cafe in a small village in Spain to buy a coffee, and MotoGP was on the TV. The only other person in the cafe was the teenage girl waiting tables. She told me exactly who had qualified where (it was for the Oz GP back in 2007), and how everyone was doing. In the US, where 100,000 people watch the broadcast, fans are mainly specialist enthusiasts. In the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, the sport has a much broader base. Fans want the riders to be on the best bikes in the world. They have only a vague sense of the actual levels of technology, but that doesn't matter.

To put it another way, you are not an average MotoGP fan. I have never heard a MotoGP fan say 'Wow! Did you see the way the anti-wheelie cut in on Marquez' Honda?!?'

>>It is manufacturer money that keeps GP racing alive. Honda and Yamaha spend upward of $50 million each per year to go GP racing.

Yamaha a little more than that, Honda nearly twice that. Dorna pays 10% of that amount directly to the factories, and another 10% indirectly. Who pays for the travel today? Dorna does, they pay all transport costs for the series. The sale of TV rights and the sanctioning fees is what pays for the logistic costs and a subsidies for teams and factories.

It is not the factories that keep GP racing alive, it is the teams. When the factories want to go racing, they come to the existing teams and have them run their racing operation. Look at Suzuki. Davide Brivio is running the racing team, the track side team is full of Europeans, former members of other teams. The factories send bikes and a few engineers to run them, but the teams run the racing.

And you're right, factories are the only people who can afford to pay Jorge Lorenzo 10 million euros a year to race. But if the factories leave, Jorge Lorenzo isn't suddenly going to switch careers to keep earning his 10 million euros a year. The problem is, Jorge Lorenzo can't do anything nearly as well as he can race a motorcycle. He will race for whatever he is paid. He will still be (one of) the best paid motorcycle racers in the world, but his salary will be 1 million a year, not 10 million. To understand why this is, I suggest you listen to the Planet Money podcast on why LeBron James is underpaid, and why that's a good thing.

>> How the hell do you sell TV rights to a race series that's being led by a PBR?

If Valentino Rossi is on a PBR, and Valentino Rossi is leading the series, they will have no problem selling the rights. Maybe they won't get 20 million a year in Spain, but will have to settle for 15 million. The series will still be viable. Fans watch to see riders. The Marquez / Rossi / Lorenzo / Pedrosa flags vastly outnumber any of the manufacturers' flags. Ducati is the only manufacturer to draw sizable visible support at circuits, and quite frankly, I think I have seen more fans of either of the Espargaro brothers at a circuit than I have seen fans wearing either Yamaha or Honda shirts.

There are clearly two kinds of MotoGP fans: fans of the bikes, and fans of the racing. US fans are, by and large, fans of the bikes, and fans of the technology. Fans outside the US are largely fans of the riders. The reception the riders get in Indonesia and South East Asia when they visit is testament to that. You believe that the end of factory involvement would kill MotoGP. I think it would damage MotoGP, but MotoGP would survive.

I also think that factories are less likely to pull out than you insist. I think factories overstate the importance of R&D. As the Triumph CEO in the RRW article you mentioned said, "racing is who we are." Factories go racing because they love to go racing. R&D is one of the arguments they use to justify their participation to their boards. But both the board and the race department understand it is just an excuse. They go racing because racing is who they are.

I will admit to not being average.


Even though it may be the teams who actually run the operation, who pays for them? How much sponsor money is the Suzuki team bringing in right now? If Dorna sees the revenue from TV rights sales slashed, how does it afford to subsidize the teams? (And as an investor-driven operation, Dorna would have to convince its investors that losing money in the short-term would ultimately pay off with more profits in the future. I suspect defibrilators would be in short supply at the next shareholders meeting.)

I think a better view would be, compared to what Honda, Yamaha or Ducati spend to go racing, what percentage is actually offset by sponsors? Because without factory spending, that's the budget you're going to have, plus whatever Dorna kicks in. (And you're going to have to pay for bikes and development.) I understand that GP stars are pop culture icons in other parts of the world; but that's because GP racing is pop culture. Lose the big companies behind it that spend the money, I wonder how its footprint on the cultural landscape would shrink.

While a factory may want to go racing, it has options. For the purposes of this discussion, it's not whether Honda or Triumph go racing, it's whether you get someone to go GP racing. Triumph deliberately doesn't go Superbike or GP racing; it sticks with production classes and land speed record attempts. That is all it needs to do to keep its image intact. They'll never go GP racing; they don't need to. Honda has plenty of options as to where to get its racing and development fix. Thankfully, they and Yamaha have invested heavily in this sport and gotten it to where it is today.

I want to see GP racing prosper. I don't want to see anyone get their salary cut 90 percent for the sake of seeing a few wheelies. I can see those up on Glendora Mountain Road any weekend morning I choose.

I can fully understand the model for GP racing that you've outlined.

We will have to disagree as to whether it's better than what we've got.

You are focusing on a couple of trees instead of the forest.

>>The average MotoGP fan in Spain is a 50-year-old guy, a 35-year-old mother, a 16-year-old boy.

So at least 2 out of 3 Spanish fans are into the bikes too. Don't tell me a long time male GP fan is not aware of the differences in technology between GP and CRT and superbike equipment. And imagine that a teenager does not drool at having access to a factory race bike. The one his hero riders on. The one he is saving buy to a 125cc replica of. Not something made by several different companies, most of which he does not know of and all of which he will likely never purchase anything from. The same goes for any fan in any country. And if your posts about umbrella girls are any indication then you should feel that the mother should be able to drool over not just the hot young rider but also know the technical info (STEM is for girls too!) about his bike!

>>I have never heard a MotoGP fan say 'Wow! Did you see the way the anti-wheelie cut in on Marquez' Honda?!?'

Not as such but the thought is always there. Go back and watch a few 90s 500 races. The wheelie pulling actually looks a little silly to me now. Back then it was exciting because it was cutting edge and amazing that the bikes could wheelie at any speed! But times have moved on and any decent stock sportbike can do the same right out of the dealership. Now it just looks dated. And its not like only having one wheelie control setting is going to make bikes start popping big horn monos, they'll just be a little slower, but visually very similar.

>>It is not the factories that keep GP racing alive, it is the teams.

The factories create the underlying structure that everything else fills out. All those people Suzuki go to are paid by Suzuki. Part of the reason they go to those outside racing professionals is that for some reason Suzuki feel they bring something to the table that their internal R&D departments don't. The sponsors sign up partially because they are being associated with a well known manufacturing company. Its all a careful structure built around the stability of factory involvement. Eliminate that top link and what happens to the rest? The AMA is a perfect example here. Its not a mystery why they are having problems getting a television contract: no big manufacturer presence, no big contracts. Hell, they can't even get racetrack contracts. Yamaha is the only manufacturer paying any attention to the AMA and as a result they win just about everything. Now in GPs at least Honda and Yamaha split about 50-50. Who wants to see Honda bail and Yamaha call it in for a few years until they split too?

>>Who pays for the travel today? Dorna does, they pay all transport costs for the series.

Its called paying for the operation of its business, nothing special. And nothing is free to the teams either. Money paid to them by Dorna should not be characterized as a subsidy but as a salary. Dorna makes money off of their effort and pays them for it.

>>The reception the riders get in Indonesia and South East Asia when they visit is testament to that.

Why are the riders even in those places? They are doing marketing events for the manufacturers who are making everything from 50cc and up to be replica GP looking bikes. The riders are part of a huge PR machine funded by the factory. Rossi on a PBM will have none of that. And he'll retire from GPs in 2 years regardless of what kind of bike he is riding. And isn't where the series is now a result of sitting on its ass and riding the success of one charismatic champion? The last thing GPs need is a solution that depends on the popularity of one rider.

>>There are clearly two kinds of MotoGP fans: fans of the bikes, and fans of the racing.

Don't be so binary. Everything that we think of as GP racing involves heavy factory support. Its been that way for 30+ years. All champions are associated with a particular marque. Their wins and the machines they won on are inseparable. Its an unspoken fact as fundamental and invisible as gravity. To think you can remove their influence and presence and yet the riders will still retain the same air of otherworldliness in terms of performance is a long shot.

>>But both the board and the race department understand it is just an excuse.

I think that idea is well past it's due date. These days with a years long financial crisis and multinational corporations answering to boards and the market there is no longer the ability to spend $70M+ yearly without having some justification.

>>They go racing because racing is who they are.

Maybe a distinction should be made between 'racing' and 'competition'. They used to be interchangeable. Now racing is being redefined as entertainment and I don't think the factories are unaware of this fact. They don't want to entertain, they want to compete and win. As we all know there is a difference.


Third thing - re "remove all electronics" are you referring to some of the off hand comments folks post here and elsewhere, or to the actual current rule changes taking place? Or just conjecture? (My tone you can't hear here is convivial btw). Would you be in favor of unlimited electronics on the bikes? If this is a straw man sort of thing I will bow back out and return to pondering the Suzuki and Panigale vs Aprillia and Kawi WSBK shift relative to the engine detune and fewer engines dealio and geek out on my own. Which is a dab related btw eh? And I really don't see the fuel restrictions--> "special" technology on MotoGP bikes as of nearly any value. No, I am not an engineer, but yes I can appreciate technical aspects as they relate to developing better bikes for racing.
I live in America but have never felt very American. More akin to a Canadian perhaps. Me and a bunch of retired racers get together to eat/drink and be merry and watch primarily MotoGP, also WSBK/WSS, Moto2 and BSB. Each of us tends towards being focused on different areas/aspects of it much like the cross section of readers here. Our passion is strong for it. NONE of us is inclined towards the level/degree of electronics (turn by turn etc) nor fuel limits or engine limits. Every sport does this, don't they? Wood bats only in baseball. No "double wall trampoline" drivers in golf. So on. Cheating perhaps. Especially if only a few people get such boosts. Or if it makes any average Joe do well if they have them. Or if it makes the "game" uninteresting. I don't think we are "specialists" or unusual except for and appreciation of what the riders are doing given our experience on bikes w mortal skills and balls. I wear my MM93 repsol shirt to our get togethers, and talk up my CBR600RR as a wonderful bike that I lick before putting away for the night. I am passionate about riders and bikes both I suppose. My friend Darren still races a Triumph 675 and he is super sensible...he likes what works for him and is faster than I will ever be. Brad? He is a fan of a manufacturer - Kawasaki. Others of us seem interested primarily in a good fight w tons of passing moves and never seem to care about the rest of it. We are all of us though saying that fuel limits are (expletive) a bad idea, engine limits are an ok idea but should be much more (12?), and that electronics have gone too far and should be backed off a bit from where they are now. Isn't this where most everyone is generally aside from a certain minority?

I cannot take anyone serious if you are saying that a piece of your equipment is so expensive that it is unbelievable, in the meanwhile you have developed a torque sensor of 60K, a seamless gearbox of 250K, you make four stroke engines that rev 19K and the list goes on and on.
But hey that MM electronic shit is making the whole picture suddenly very expensive, cut this b......t !!

Couple things: Morbidelli I agree w you 100% on an important point you made, and it was my first gut reaction to Matt's article. It is important that we shift away from the ("dramatic news") Dorna against Honda and instead focus on the Dorna and everyone (w/ Honda resisting as is perfectly expected) in a transition towards a direction for the future of the sport. We have started the transition, and Honda needn't necessarily lose here or be boxed in a corner. Yes David, Nakamoto said they would "leave" but HRC have said a lot of things over the years and it is expected they would be leveraging their might against the current rule changes. As rule changes become well underway we shall see how it rolls out, they will shift their focus internally. The beauty of this year's further tightening of the fuel and engine limits is that it exemplifies how goofy these rules are, and there is a natural change of tide against them.
Motomann good point that rule changes are good for Yamaha. I disagree though that Yamaha Open doing well relative to Yamaha Satellite Factory bikes and Factory bikes is not something they will allow. Holding a longer view than the immediate shows that the fuel and engine limit rules (ie THE PAST as ending now) are not in favor of the Factory bikes performance and is hindering racing, and that removing them (NOW AND THE FUTURE) is doing well for Yamaha. And, they have a test bed for development for the new rules. Like Ducati will, and everyone else. Over the medium run Honda will be letting go of their precious seamless transmission etc and developing a stunning Open bike.
@Gunbalina I agree w you on the short term negative for Open Yamaha (and essentially ALL the Opens) re tire wear over race distance. Again, in just after the immediate term, watch for Bridgestone's development of new tire constructions and the critical aspect of this for the whole series. This broadened tire construction and compounds needs to WORK for the Open bikes, and may suit the Ducati well too particularly if/when they get on board NOW with an Open bike. See the synergistic effects there? Business as usual isn't any more. And slightly longer term awareness held...that is why no one is asking the question of what if Ducati goes Open and can't beat the factories, they won't and we all know it. For the short term. What they will do is clearly get a leg up right away in development, and more comes into play as they do so.
@Morbidelli re your Q "What good is the spec MM ECU doing" I partially agree with you on the "magically making millions more fans." For sure, it won't do that. However, the more teams and riders from more areas of the World involved the more audience and potential fans there are. More of Asia seems to be coming into the picture now. India, S America, etc. The "Honda and sometimes Yamaha Cup" with mostly Spanish and Italian riders isn't increasing our fan base. Re your other points I think most would agree, and we have an experiment going now with a spec ECU and decreased fuel/engine restrictions that ought to indicate, WILL bring more manufacturers in, make racing cheaper and closer, and a whole lot more fun for me to watch. I don't think it is about "slowing Honda" as much as uncorking restrictions for everyone else. The spec MM ECU is doing a ton of good simplifying an area of development that hindered most players in the game (just ask Suzuki, Aprilia and Kawasaki). It also takes away a "sky is the limit" game on expanding computer control of a bike (turn by turn wheelie and spin control? Ick!) and returns it to the right hand of the rider (hooray!). Importantly wee should be seeing a return to more constancy in the rules that allows smaller teams and manufacturers to get in the game at all.
Humbly submitted, you are all friends of mine in love of the sport.

>>Yamaha Open doing well relative to Yamaha Satellite Factory bikes and Factory bikes shows that the fuel and engine limit rules (ie THE PAST as ending now) are not in favor of the Factory bikes performance and is hindering racing

No, it shows that if you put a fast rider and a soft tire on a factory GP bike it can do one fast lap. That's the elephant in the room, performance is currently dictated by the tires. Give a Factory bike an Open tire and the gap would open back up. This is not an apples to apples comparison of fuel/software changes. The first race will be interesting. The factory bikes were doing lots of long runs and simulations with lap times varying by tenths. AE's fast lap was nearly .6 quicker than his next fast lap. Add in tire wear and he'll be fighting for 9th place.

>>Again, in just after the immediate term, watch for Bridgestone's development of new tire constructions and the critical aspect of this for the whole series. This broadened tire construction and compounds needs to WORK for the Open bikes, and may suit the Ducati well too particularly if/when they get on board NOW with an Open bike.

Again, its the tires. This is the first time a CRT tire has been used on a bike with a real GP engine. Its likely similar to a Q tire. And its already apparent that it will not last half distance at AE's pace. Maybe it will last at all the other Open bikes' pace, but not AE's. And will BS design tires for AE's anomalous results or for the lower HP FTR, RCV1000R and ART bikes? And if they do design a tire for his results in order to last it will be harder and give him less benefit, again opening up the gap. If they could make softer tires last at that power level they already would!

>>The spec MM ECU is doing a ton of good simplifying an area of development that hindered most players in the game (just ask Suzuki, Aprilia and Kawasaki).

Huh? Suzuki would be competing this year if they were allowed to use their Mitsubishi ECU. They are going through a lot of expense to adapt to the spec MM hardware. Just today they said 'So the idea of Suzuki is to develop technology and its own software. The bike now is running to the 2014 Factory class rules'. Spec software does not seem to be in their future. Aprilia had a great electronics system developed in WSBK but this year they have to spend money developing the bike around the spec MM hardware and Dorna software. So the spec ECU has only cost each of them time and money. Kawasaki who?


>> Huh? Suzuki would be competing this year if they were allowed to use their Mitsubishi ECU. 

While it does not negate the rest of your point, Suzuki would not be competing this year, whatever the rules. The bike needs a lot of work, regardless of the spec ECU. They are still testing fairly significant hardware changes, as well as software. No doubt being able to use their own Mitsubishi ECU would make a return in 2015 easier, though. However, given Suzuki's record in MotoGP - they have only done well under unusual circumstances, either when it has been wet, or in the first year after the switch to 800cc - their choice of ECU is unlikely to have a significant effect on their results.

If Suzuki can't find an engineer capable of porting their software to a new platform in a couple of weeks, they should get a new HR manager.

It's a smokescreen excuse for the fact their bike is way off the pace, because of the extreme difficulty of building a bike competitive under the Honda rules.

Here's another point of view: given that even the new "Super Honda" Moto3 is way off the pace of the KTM's and at least one Mahindra/Suter, it might be that their basic engine building skills are not so hot... and that without loading the formula heavily in favour of fuel economy and durability, they simply wouldn't be competitive. Wouldn't it be fun to find out?

When I spoke w Hopkins and KR Jr about their experience on the Suzuki MotoGP bike the one thing the both independently mentioned was the electronics being very unpredictable and rider-unfriendly. I tend to believe them, and remember a bunch of cringing watching them crash out (once even taking the both of them out together) as a result.
"Horses mouth"