Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Moving MotoGP’s goal posts 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.

Moving MotoGP’s goal posts

And here come the players, out of the tunnel and into the stadium; just 15 minutes to go before the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, and the noise and the tension in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium are almost unbearable…

Wait, hang on a moment. There’s something very strange going on at the end of the pitch to my left. There’s a group of FIFA officials and they’re digging up the goalposts! I can’t believe it: they’re moving the goalposts! And there’s more FIFA people doing the same thing at the other end of the pitch, moving those goalposts five metres to the right…

It wouldn’t happen, would it?

But it has happened in MotoGP. Just two days (!) before the first race of 2014, new technical rules were approved in reaction to Ducati’s decision to take the Open option. If Dorna had been even daring to think they were even beginning to win their war with the Japanese factories, their red-faced Factory 2 retreat must’ve been something of a shock. And then a few days later, their counter-attack: that MotoGP will become a control software series in 2016, a year ahead of the scheduled change.

Anyway, enough of that fiasco, what about the racing?

It’s surely going to be all about Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo again. If they keep at it long enough, their rivalry may just turn out to be era-defining, like Roberts versus Spencer, Rainey versus Schwantz and Rossi versus Biaggi.

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

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And would be grateful if someone could explain it to me. So everyone is running the spec ecu this season. But Honda and Yamaha have only 5 sealed engines and 20 litres of fuel because they are running their own software program's on the spec ecu. But now Ducati have this Open status, because they correctly applied for it, given the rules as they were at the time, no argument there, but here's the bit that I can't get my head around. With the latest goalpost shift, as you so aptly put it Mat, they now get to retain open class advantages but retain the right to use their own software! Am I missing something here? Apart from the fact that the Duc factory has developed a dud bike, all of their own doing, what is the difference in the rules being applied between the 3 factories?

My reading of Open is as in Open-Software...

Ducati contributed their software to the "project" and so can make immediate use of it, but the trade off is that all other open teams now also have access to it. Currently other teams are choosing not to use it, because the complexity is too much too soon, but they will be running it in background mode, so you can bet they will be closely studying the data-logs to build their understanding of it.

I believe that Yamaha and Honda were asked if they wanted to contribute their software, but (surprise, surprise) declined the offer. However, if forced to go open in 2016, some move to get their software requirements into the open package would seem inevitable.

If Honda and Yamaha thought Ducati has an advantage then they could have gone open too! Instead, the rules are changed 2 days before the first race. It would be nice to have everyone following the same rules. One class.

With the Forward Yahmaha entry. It just so happens they are not a Manufacture (capital M) so have no other strings that can be pulled on them. Ducati are a Maanufacture part of Manufaacture association and therefore can be singled out. The concept of software is teams can help develop the spec software as long as they foot the bill for the development cost and not Dorna. Ducati did just that, "paid" for developing the next update by offering what they had openly. Now what I'm lost in is whether the penalties apply to other open teams who choose to run the latest version of software or only those considers Manufactures (again capital M). My reading would say the latter any thoughts?

So the difference is that Ducati will be using Magneti Marelli 2014 spec software which has been tailored to their own requirements and not their own custom designed and built software to run the spec ECU as Yamaha and Honda have elected to do.

Can anyone confirm I've got this right now? Is that what the difference is?

Ducati is no longer in the open class at all. They are in the factory class, allowing them to use their own software. Since they don't have a dry race win last year, they have some extra perks in the form of almost-open-rules. These perks gets reduced with success, though.

"The correct question is why Yamaha’s Open-spec M1 is so fast. It’s fast because it’s not what an Open bike is supposed to be."

It's not about what it's supposed to be - it's about the bike being legal according to the regulations. The Open-spec M1 is. So HRC were napping when the rulebook was being written and they didn't bother to read it properly afterwards - not very professional as was the team Márques stunt in the Aussie GP.

That lets the super rich cheat the rest of us by using tax havens.

Laws and rules are actually never meant to be about the letter of the law, rather they are meant to frame how we feel they should be implemented. Reductionists like you make us all paupers by allowing those who game the system to steal the winnings.

You want rules but you don't know what justice is.

And how are you going to enforce and control how you or anyone else feels the rules should be implemented? That sounds rather subjective to me and the MotoGP example perfectly illustrates how different persons/teams can have very different interpretations of the same rule. If a regulation doesn't achieve enforcing the intended goal then the core problem is the lack of quality of the regulation.

And thanks for being the first person in my life to call me a reductionist! If you really think ethics are a major concern in business and professional sports then allow me to call you naive.

Nice set of straw men there.

I didn't say ethics hold sway, I said attitudes like yours allow them not to. They should be though, or at the very least egregious cheats should not be rewarded the way they are.

Your entire point was that the letter of the law was more important than the spirit, that's a reductionist view point by its very definition.

Yes the process re rule changes this off season was (expletive). So much was in flux so fast in response to Dorna's initial Open rules (Yamaha offers Tech 3's old bikes as Opens...BOOM! I LOVE THIS! Then Ducati at the last moment go Open, BRILLIANT GIGI!).
Dorna hopped around and it was ungraceful to say the least. They did at least move quickly, and no longer at gunpoint by Honda/MSMA.
Good stuff about the outcome:
No Factory 2 designation is a wee clearer and removes an * next to Ducati
It may be closer to precedent set by # engines and Suzuki
2016 is now go-time on 'the new normal' and we have only 2 transition seasons
Talk of Honda leaving? Nah
Ducati won't be using the softs for a race, that benefit is 'disappearing itself'
It isn't each rider that is subject to changes from wins (confusion!) but mnfrs
Opens are left alone and not caught up in splash damage from Ducati
JUST FOR 2 SEASONS Ducati have a leg up on development at a time when they are reinventing with Gigification (PERFECT!) and our two horse race may be becoming a three horse race...AND once those barriers are down it can be 4...or 5 horse race?
We have successfully moved, QUICKLY, away from anemic fuel limits and restrictive # of engines per season (DISGUSTING), and backed off rider aiding electronics from the NASA level (Zzzzz).
Whew! We made it. It is ON season, ready for different talk, LET'S RACE MOTORCYCLES!

It was almost genius by Dorna, but by allowing Ducati to submit own software at the 11th hour they blew it.. Honda and probably Yamaha were never going to be ok with Ducati just being handed 24 litres and better tyres almost with almost zero penalty. I suspect the extra litres negates the need for a portion of the code..and no doubt the portion missing.. Ducati just doing what they always do trying to get the rules to make up for their lack of engineering prowess.. However if the new rules suddenly make the duke as competitive as the yam and Honda without having to complete th engineering hard yards, then something is wrong with the rules. Can some journo please ask Bridgestone how they can so easily make a much better tyre for bike £1m bikes than they can for £30m bikes. It makes a mockery of the whole, 'prototype/pinnacle' class thing. It clearly is not, the tyres are someway off the best available..