Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Putting the brakes on 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.

Putting the brakes on

Many years ago I asked Wayne Rainey what’s the fastest he had been on a motorcycle. He told me 201mph at Yamaha’s Fukuroi test track. How did that feel? “It felt like it needed another tooth off the rear,” he replied. In other words, the speed itself meant zilch; his only concern was gaining more speed by raising the gearing a fraction. Not even a hint of a buzz or of fear. “It doesn’t matter if you’re doing 150 or 205,” he added. “You don’t feel the sensation.”

On the correct gearing a 2014 YZR-M1 would surpass 220mph at Fukuroi, which is why many MotoGP riders are now asking for top speeds to be reduced. MotoGP bosses agree on this one because they are terrified of the consequences of a 200mph-plus accident.

“We have the first signals that something may happen on the straight, so this is what we must address now, says Dorna’s Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli. “We have to do something.”

Accidents forcing change

That first signal came last year at Mugello when Marc Márquez crashed at 209mph. The World Champion miraculously walked away from the accident, but the next man to fall at such a speed may not be so lucky, especially if more than one motorcycle is involved.

Many riders believe that the weight of the latest MotoGP bikes is also part of the problem. The bikes now weigh 160kg or more, up from 115kg in 1990, following the switch to four-strokes and a series of increases in the minimum weight limit to reduce the need for costly exotic materials. Cecchinelli doesn’t agree with the riders on this one, because the laws of physics say that weight plays only a minor role in dissipating energy while slowing from speed.

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

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Although your statement, more mass = more inertia is correct. The mass is not the PRIMARY concern. The physics/math in the blog is accurate and velocity is indeed the primary factor.

You are also not factoring in that more mass also implies more available braking power (before the wheels lock up).

Well actually, the more mass, more braking power is needed to slow it down, but at the same time the brakes heats up and decreases its performance, thus taking a longer time to stop it.

To keep the weight out of the rider's concerns, newer technologies will need to be incorporated like larger disks, higher pressures, and new materials to dissipate the speed.

I think that it will have to be a combination of two factors, limiting the top speed and keeping the weight down, on the other hand, adding chicanes could help reduce the top speeds, IMO.

Would slow them down and make it all cheaper too. They would need more fuel again though....

Anyone thinking 'less electronics' (what does that even mean?) will suddenly drive everyone to adapt a dirt track approach to corners is sorely mistaken. I don't think much will change and I don't think much needs to change.

I sincerely doubt that. Honda and Yamaha will still be at the front. 'Electronics' will still rule the world of MotoGP. Michelin tires will be almost identical to the current Bridgestones. And Marquez will still win almost every race.

You don't believe me? Look how many people thought either A. Espargaro or Ducati would be kicking Honda's ass with open regulations. People were clamoring over one another to claim Yamaha should switch to Open immediately.

Yet here we are, and all that is completely forgotten.

Cecchinelli’s preferred solution to the speed issue is a rev limit. “We could introduce an rpm limit tomorrow, with no significant cost and have a big effect on top speed which would address a number of other issues, like braking, run-off areas, circuit homologation and so on.

The bore limit was introduced as a way to limit revs, as the stroke more or less decides where the limit is. Sure, you can always shorten the stroke to increase revs, but in the same time you would reduce capacity and thus power.
I think they made the rule that way to make it easy to enforce.

If the bore limit was reduced further, the implicit rev ceiling would effectively also be reduced while keeping the simplicity in enforcing the rule.
However, that might increase cost for the open teams using street bike engines as most (if not all) of them fit within the 81mm limit without needing to modify them. If the bore limit drops too much, it effectively rules out some of the engines or adds cost for using them (extra modifications).
I think any team using the S1000RR engine would fare the worst, as that one is very close to that limit with its 80mm bore.

...not relevant to road bike R&D and is only good for making race bikes faster? Obvious why it used in racing but I am with Mr Oxley on this one.

Get rid of it to simplify the process of setting up the electrics and adding more compromise to the settings and potentially adding to the rider challenge and spectacle.

I am all for changes which are more applicable to the rest of the motorcycling world, and GPS-based electronics are not (large advances to Google Maps data and bike/Google comms notwithstanding).

Obviously, they're not going to go to sport-touring tires, but tires which give up grip for feedback, and if I may daydream for a moment, are less sensitive to temperature and perhaps work more evenly for a variety of chassis... It sounds like a good direction to me, for what that's worth.

“The practical difference you could make by reducing mass would be really small. It would also come at a very high cost because taking five kilos from these bikes would be crazy expensive.”

What??? Didn't it just cost Honda a kings ransom to add 5 kilos to the RCV!!!

I'm starting to think that the clowns are running this circus!

I don't mean to rubbish the entire article which obviously has some valid arguments but I'm calling bullsh*t on that statement.

ps. Very much enjoy your contributions to this fine website Mat.

IIRC, that happened for the 2012 season because of new rules imposed in late 2011. That weight is now integrated as part of the machine, so there's no need for the additional weight.

"And banning position-sensitive engine-braking control, traction control and wheelie control will require engineers to use a ‘track average’, so in general riders will have less electronics assistance, which should create the kind of sideways action we remember from the glorious early days of MotoGP."


Thanks Mat
I read Cecchinelli's statements as a "shot across the bow" to get the ball rolling for the rollout of the rev limit. The tire change is going to go on nonetheless. I love the clarity of Mr C's statements re slide contol over slip control, gem of a quote. I am 100% in favor of the small readjustment by eliminating electronic tracking of bike location on the track - never have been ok w it (btw, gps is already outlawed).

On the particular matter of rev limits I like that this article and discussion places it in a greater dynamic context. I don't think we will have anymore CRT based bikes w production engines for 2016 and so the oversquare engine bore wouldn't impact them. However, a rev limit within the championship ECU is a super simple and easy application. The devil is in the details of where it is placed. I hope it is not super low.

BTW I was one of the outspoken that Yamaha in Open trim would breathe fire and I will cop up to it. Specifically I underestimated what Tech 3 could do w 20L AND overestimated both what Forward could do w development as well as what the championship electronics could do now. I am sticking to my take that the Open rules will be a boon for Yamaha relative to Honda in the mid run. You could see last year that the Yamaha on 21L was anemic and Rossi was running out of fuel after a race with mapping trimming down his power output. How Yamaha has altered that course w another liter lost is beyond my understanding. What seems pretty clear though is that the next stage of championship electronics development will be a VERY big factor in MotoGP and the differences between what now are Factory software driven bikes and the rest will shrink. This does not operate in isolation, this is interrelated with changes in fuel quantities, tires, # of engines per yr, weights, riding style de jour, et al. Saying just about anything re the future of a specific rule change and the future with certainty is as tough now as ever! And interesting as all get out.

Cal's woes at... Austin?... show the danger of the location based mapping.

I was pro TC for a while, but now I am thinking, after all this trouble.... give em 750s, and a spec ECU that just lets em map spark and fuel with some compensation for different cylinders and track temps/humidity. Let each manufacturer get their own tire suppliers and have Dorna/the suppliers figure out the costs. Let em have dual clutch transmissions, variable valve timing etc. Take the electronics out of it and leave the room to play on the mechanical side. It's ridiculous.

It's so easy - just a few simple keystrokes - to repeal the laws of economics. Gotta love it! But don't stop there. A few more keystrokes could return the industry to 2005-level bike sales, and also get big-money sponsorships flowing like the days of tobacco money.

Sorry to post a smart@$$ reply, but flinging out wholesale changes while ignoring the consequences does not bring insight to the discussion.

Nobody is talking about turning back any clocks or going backward in time.

Here are my only points. The electronics are out of control, and the bikes are hitting speeds at which accidents are hard to control/contain. So simplify the electronics and cap the power, and let the innovation come from doing more with less, rather than trying to manage 220 MPH bikes.

Mat wrote a column expressing almost exactly these same sentiments in the wake of Daijiro Kato's death, 10 years ago. Sete Gibernau was quoted as calling the new four-stroke MotoGP bikes fast, heavy and dangerous, I believe. And I recall a comment about the men in blazers being in the back of the paddock at races like Mugello, fingers crossed that nothing would go wrong.

The more things change ...

Significantly narrower rims and tires and the elimination of power-enhancing technologies like pneumatic valves will slow you somewhat. But the fact is that a Moto2 machine makes, what, 125 horses, and at even a power-hungry place like Mugello, the Moto2 machines are three seconds a lap quicker than they were in 2010 and are knocking on the door of the MotoGP grid.

Knocking 40 horses off of a modern MotoGP machine won't mean a thing to their speeds.

Does anyone know (it's probably a trade secret) or have a good idea what the performance benefits of race fuel are? It seems that higher octane and energy values are the key performance enhancers. If they were required to use lower values or even 'street' fuel (say 97 RON max.) that will take the edge off a few motors too.

If you read the rest of the article someone seems to think the laws of Physics don't apply to Motorcycles.
Energy is NOT half the mass times the velocity squared
F=MA or F=MV2 when I was at school

F is force, not energy.

Edit: this is a reply to 'Simple physics' of 8.14.
I wanted to delete it here, but it seems I can't. Sorry.

If I was a rider I would be more concerned about getting caught up in chicanery than being chased by a bike that I had just left.
I would rather almost any solution other than adding chicanes. They are the racing version of urban speed humps - hated by everyone except the people whose only interest is to slow vehicles down.
Except - like those at Mugello (although why they call them 'chicanes' beats me - they are 'S' bends).

Thanks Matt

Personally, I don't see what would be lost from the spectacle by losing a bit of top speed, the races would last a bit longer - fine by me!

The races will never get longer because of television. If the bikes slow down that much, Dorna will cut laps off the race.

Increase the aerodynamic drag and for the same HP you will see a significant decrease in maximum velocity.

Overcoming the aero drag force is to the cube of velocity...

So more frontal area or more drag coefficient, and top speed (max velocity) is reduced...

This aerodynamic effect is less pronounced at lower velocities, so behavior in most corners is minimally effected, but rates of acceleration will decrease as velocity increases, until the propulsive force is expened.

This is more of the same rubbish.
You must use 4 cylinders and they cannot have a bore larger than a touring bike etc ad nauseum.

The bikes come onto the straight at the highest possible speed that the electronics will allow. They accelerate down the straight at the maximum value that the electronics will allow. Any pennies dropping? All of the problems stem from the same source, the electronics. Bin the electronics first then deal with the remaining problems. Is it so difficult to see?

Amen to that, cut the electronic crab and let the right wrist of the driver take over, it is about racing and not a technology war between factorys. Back in the old 500 days the horsepower was about 200 bhp with tyres much worse compared what they are using nowadays and it was the driver with the best feeling with his bike who could make the difference. Also all the b******t about this technology is of use for the common roadbike, don't make me laugh. It is becomming the same problem as with formula one, it depends on how much money you are willing and can spend to overcome your opponent. They never should have left the two strokes in the first place, if they had kept the two strokes it would be much easier to limit costs.

Unless you can figure out how to put 265+ HP to the ground on a modern GP bike without the use of electronics I'm all ears. 265 HP in a car is enough to light up both rear wheels, imagine only one wheel with a much smaller contact patch.

Like any other change, removing all of the electronics will cost money. I think it would cost less to simply impose an RPM limit than it would to arbitrarily ban all electronics. Set an RPM limit, ban location mapping and wheelie control and let the riders go at it. TC will still be allowed but since there is no more location mapping it will need to be set for an overall mapping, which means the safety factor of manhandling a beast of a machine will still be there but still puts the throttle in control of the rider, especially without the assistance of wheelie control.

'Scientific American' magazine ponderings aside, what is already in process is:
A decrease in electronic engine management (specifics look something like no more turn-by-turn/location mapping, and slightly less refined traction control and tire/fuel conservation).

A change in tire characteristics (likely less overall grip)

A rev limit ceiling

A small reduction in minimum bike weight

More fuel allowed

More engines allowed per season

Seems clear enough to me, and incidentally it is just what I would recommend if I were able to contribute. Sure, I would suggest 24L instead of 22.5L, and I bet the RPM limit will come in 1250RPMs under where I'd prefer it, but MotoGP is going places I am happy to see.

Doesn't make for popular or interesting discussions necessarily but I am ok w that too. And now, on to WSBK...

As much as I tried not to I still find myself adding that there is the possibility of a perfect storm arising on the horizon. An auspicious synergy of a certain team, a certain bike, a certain rider, a certain manifestation of Championship electronics and its application with Open rules, and a Michelin tire. Who saw Ducati/Bstone/4 stroke combo coming? There is much reason for joy and curiousity, hope, anticipation, and possibility.

We live in an age of electronic development almost unimaginable even 10 years ago. I sit here writing this on a 4" x 2" device with which I can do all my banking, house selling, emailing, photography, etc and even make the odd phone call. The big black box over in the corner of the room is all but redundant now. Racing machines are no different. In my opinion there's no going back, only forwards. If you remove or ban corner by corner mapping, a smart software designer will just find another solution or advantageous tool.

In any case I don't believe you'd ever be able to force parity of machinery since half the point of motor racing is to see who can build the best machine. Whatever you do, someone will always be prepared to spend more than the next bloke and at this level that means millions, for each fractional gain.

I would just like everything possible done to avoid death and serious injury, but otherwise leave the teams to it.

F1 took some steps backwards in terms of electronics and down force, and they are still going just as fast. Moto GP can do the same.

RE a bunch of reader's posts, I wish I could differentiate my *'s I rate them with between how much I AGREE with what you have said vs how much I LIKE it. Varies a bunch here on this topic.

I agree w Apex and others that it is easy schmeasy to end an electronics escalation w a spec ECU and software. And that it is much better on the balance for the series. Much much better.

RE below crashing at the faster speeds makes a huge difference. My experience was that we could crash ad nauseum to about 125mph and just bang up bikes and bodies. 160mph ended my tenure racing, and 170mph nearly ended a team mate's life at about the same time. There have to be stats on this somewhere.

The problem is that the faster you go, the bigger the runoff areas needs to be ($$), the brakes has to be better, stronger, exotic, which means $$$, also the rider's suits needs to be stronger while being flexible (with airbags), more $$$$$, and if you include the tires, and the barriers to protect the fans, you end up with a lot of $$$$$$$$$$.

Now, electronics plays a major role in safety because it keeps the bike from going out of control, specially the TC with location data, which prevents the wheels from overspinning coming out of a turn.

So far, every single change made in the name of cost reduction and "closing the gap" between bikes has had the totally opposite effect. Costs skyrocket and the back markers lose time to HondaYamaha each season.......

How much further can an object be thrown/vaulted/catapulted down the track with an additional 40 MPH? Some uber nerd can come along and tell us because frankly I'm not that smart. I am smart enough to know that it very well could be the difference between reaching the barrier and not.

I think the more important question is can you visually tell the difference between 180 MPH and 220 MPH? Watch a round of the 990's at Mugello and then watch this years Mugello race. I doubt without the TV telemetry you could tell they are going faster down the front straight.

We have not seen 180mph top speeds at Mugello in a long time.

Mugello top speed records:

2004 212.6 by Barros on a Honda
2009 216.5 by Pedrosa on a Honda
2014 216.75 by Iannone on a Ducati

It would be hard to see a 4mph top speed difference but I think a 40mph difference would be quite noticable.


This is exactly my point. These things have been rocketships for a decade, representing a quantum leap over what the 500cc GP machines were capable of doing. Top speeds at Mugello from 1999/2000/2001 were 193, 195 and 190 mph. Three years later, the bikes are doing 212, and have done so consistently for 10 years. Yet little has been done, and the half-hearted half-steps that have been taken have done little.

And Cecchinelli actually says in public to a journalist that "we have the first signals that something may happen on a straight?" Really? Did this guy just watch his first MotoGP race this season and go, "Holy Crap, these things are fast! And they're only on two wheels!" Someone needs to show him Shinya Nakano's get off at 200 at Mugello - from 2004.

Slowing the vehicles in a straight line will require changes that the audience simply will not accept. So I'll be one of those people with my fingers crossed every time we go to Mugello. Better answer: Move that goddamned wall. I know it's difficult and expensive. Don't care. Yamaha moved a mountain to make Turn One at Laguna MotoGP-worthy. Mugello can do it if it wants to.

The only way you are going to slow things down to maintain 'safe' speeds is firstly to reduce engine capacity or performance in some way. There are a number of ways of doing this; F1 has shown that by being brave and doing the 'right thing' there are all sorts of pitfalls that will upset some people and not others.
The other way, also initiated by F1, and mooted by Dorna/Michelin, is to manipulate the tyre specs so that grip is reduced and corner speeds held back. Bikes have the 'advantage' in this area in that they cannot use down-force to compensate.

Engines will have to be severely limited in capacity/revs/fuel if the technical solutions are to be left open (e.g. turbo-charging). That might be made to work if some WSB-alike engine format/capacity rules were used.

Whatever it is, it will not be simple because 'the world' isn't like that any more.

For me it's the circuits that need to be used as a benchmark. Which ones are capable of meeting the future standards for run-off (in which some current 'dispensations' may not be allowed) and what does that mean to performance limits.

You could then set a power limit, issue control fuel along with the ECU's and they could build what they wish, more or less.

I said a while ago that an easy fix for this is to just drop the tire widths when they switch to Michelin. Narrower tires mean a reduced contact patch, so less grip and you have to take the turns slower. Seriously easy fix when they're already switching tire manufacturers.

Mat suggested reducing grip, but forcing Michelin to produce tires with less grip than the current Bridgestone rubber would be a marketing nightmare and make M very unhappy. This is an easy way to do it without any suggestions that the M tires are inferior to BS tires - all you have to do is point out that the tires are narrower.