Since Mika Kallio crashed Casey Stoner's Ducati GP9 twice at the last race at Brno, one of the things that we at MotoGPMatters.com have been interested in is how the crashes will affect the way the teams view the new rules limiting engine numbers. Now that we are here at Indianapolis, we have an opportunity to ask the people who should know, the crew chiefs and engineers.
The first person we buttonholed was Colin Edwards' Monster Tech 3 Yamaha crew chief Guy Coulon. How has the engine rule worked out so far, we wanted to know. "It's too early to say," Coulon said. "We have only had one race. When we have had three races, then we will know more." Coulon emphasized that he was not particularly worried, and that the work on engine durability was being done at Yamaha, and was not something that the Tech 3 satellite team had much input on.
As for crashes, they were unlikely to be a problem. "Crashes are not a problem for us," he said. During practice, the engines are fitted with a special cutoff, which kills the engine immediately in the event of a crash, and even then, for the Yamaha at least, the design and layout of the air intake means that getting any gravel or dirt in the engine is extremely unlikely. The airbox has an air filter fitted, and the airbox itself is located in such a place that it is very unlikely to be ripped off in the event of a crash.
Crash damage to the engine casings is also unlikely. "It has never been a problem before," Coulon said, and indicated that they had so far not had an engine lost to crash damage. The layout of the inline 4 is so narrow that all of the engine casings fall inside the frame, and are unlikely to sustain damage when taking a tumble through the gravel. This ingenious design makes the use of crash protection unnecessary, the only protection being a strong carbon fiber piece which protects the engine mount, which could conceivably snap off in the event of a crash.
Though Coulon was not concerned about the engine restrictions, during the pre-race press conference, Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi complained about it bitterly. "We are a little bit down on top speed," Rossi said, and Colin Edwards was far more forthright: "The guy that came up with this five engines for seven races, I need to have a talk with him," he said. "I think next year is going to be really difficult, I think, for everybody, six engines for 18 races. That's a hint to everybody out there. We're not in economic slowdown any more, I think we're coming out of it, so let's change that rule quick."