The testing limits imposed as a cost-cutting measure in MotoGP have finally been lifted. At the meeting of the Grand Prix Commission in Valencia, MotoGP's rule-making body dropped the rules limiting testing to non-contracted riders outside of MotoGP's official tests, and allowed contracted riders (e.g. any rider currently racing in MotoGP) to ride the bikes at private tests. The GPC accepted the argument put forward by Ducati that testing is already limited by the number of tires available, and that restricting testing to test riders did little to cut costs, as the factory riders were being paid anyway.
That argument was not shared by all the members of the MSMA, though. When asked by MotoMatters.com at Valencia about lifting the test ban, HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto said that the measure would favor European manufacturers who have their bikes, crew and riders already close to the track. For the Japanese manufacturers, they would either have to fly their team personnel and riders to Japan, or their bikes, equipment and Japanese engineers to Europe if they wish to test at European tracks. Lifting the test ban would not cut costs for Honda, Nakamoto said.
The testing details have yet to be completely finalized, however. The next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, in December, will settle details such as the total amount of tires to be allowed for testing (currently 240 per season per manufacturer, with suggestions that this could be increased to 280, though how those tires are distributed between factory and satellite teams could be an issue), and whether testing will be limited to a single, designated test track for the season.
Other rule changes were also adopted during the meeting. One small change with big safety implications is the imposition of compulsory brake lever protectors, as used by a number of teams in all classes, including the Marc VDS Racing team in Moto2 (see picture posted on their Twitter page) and LCR Honda in MotoGP, provided by their sponsor Rizoma. The move had previously been opposed because of fears the brake protectors could in some cases make the situation worse. In some forms of off-road racing, the larger bar and lever protectors have been known to fold completely in high-impact crashes, trapping fingers between the bars and the bent protectors and causing worse injury than they may have protected. But the introduction of bar-end style protectors has allayed such fears, and should provide protection against the sort of crash seen three years' ago in the 250 race at Mugello, when Marco Simoncelli veered across the track in front of Hector Barbera, clipping Barbera's brake lever and sending him flying over the handlebars at over 250 km/h.
Two other changes have been made impacting the Claiming Rule Teams. First, the engine sealing regulations had to be changed, to allow teams using engines without a cassette-style gearbox to change gear ratios on a sealed engine. This is meant especially to help teams using engines from production bikes, most of which do not have the ability to change the gears without splitting the gearbox.
A restriction was also placed on the different types of carbon brake disks allowed. From now on, carbon brake disks will be limited to 320mm diameter, and teams will have a limit of just two different masses which they can use, different masses being typically required at circuits such as Mugello and Sepang which have a lot of heavy braking at high speeds, and tight, twisty tracks like Valencia. CRT bikes will not be subject to those restrictions for 2012, in part because the bikes are so completely new, and finding the ideal brake size and mass will need a good deal of experimentation. From 2013, the CRT entries will also be subject to the same restrictions.
The last significant change was to increase the minimum weight for the Moto2 class from 135kg to 140kg. A proposal for a combined rider and bike weight, as there is in 125s and will be in Moto3, was rejected. Raising the minimum weight to 140kg should make it less expensive to race in Moto2, with less money required to get the bike to meet the minimum weight. And adding 5kg to the bike will also diminish to an extent the advantage that lighter riders have in Moto2: more weight means that more strength is required to handle the bike, and the percentage difference in total weight between lighter and heavier riders has been reduced.
There is, however, also some opposition to heavier bikes. Some members of the paddock contend that the heavier, more powerful bikes make the racing more dangerous, as the bikes are more difficult and physically demanding to control, and the increased energy mean that any impact between bikes and fallen riders will be significantly greater. Some have also said that the heavier Moto2 and MotoGP machines may have been a contributing factor in the deaths of Shoya Tomizawa and Marco Simoncelli.
Below is the press release from the FIM containing full details of the rule changes:
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Executive Director, Sport), Hervé Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Javier Alonso (Dorna) and M. Paul Butler (Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 05 November in Valence (Spain), unanimously decided the following (Changes in bold):
WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
18.104.22.168 MotoGP Class
It was agreed that with effect from 2012 private testing of MotoGP class machines may be carried out by any rider, subject to a limit on the total number of tyres being supplied by the official MotoGP tyre supplier. Final details will be confirmed at the next GPC meeting in December.
It was also agreed that manufacturers may use any rider for the completion of their 2011 testing programme during November 2011.
7.) As an exception to Aricle 2.3.7. 6), it will be possible to break the seals if all the following conditions apply:
a) the machine is entered by a CRT team,
b) for the sole purpose of changing the gearbox and/or primary ratios, on an engine design where seals need to be removed for internal gearbox access,
c) under supervision of the Technical Director and staff, at a time and place determined by the Technical Director.
The following are the revised minimum weights permitted:
- Moto3: motorcycle & rider 148kg
- Moto2: motorcycle 140kg
- MotoGP up to 800cc motorcycle 150kg
- 801 - 1000cc motorcycle 153kg
In the MotoGP class, carbon brake discs must be of one size for outside diameter of 320mm and only 2 standard choices of disc mass are permitted.
As an exception for the 2012 season only, machines entered by a CRT team are allowed to use carbon brake discs of other sizes.
In all classes, the proportion of ceramic composite materials in brake discs must not exceed 2% by mass.
Ceramic materials are defined as inorganic, non metallic solids (e.g. Al2O3, SiC, B4C, Ti5Si3, SiO2, Si3N4).
Motorcycles must be equipped with brake lever protection, intended to protect the handlebar brake lever(s) from being accidentally activated in case of collision with another machine. Acceptable protection includes the fairing extending sufficiently to cover the brake lever, as viewed from the front.
Such devices must be strong enough to function effectively and designed so that there is no risk for the rider to be injured or trapped by it, and it must not be considered a dangerous fitting (at the sole discretion of the Technical Director).
In case the brake lever protection is attached to any part of the braking system (eg. brake master cylinder), then the brake system manufacturer must officially confirm in writing to the Technical Director that the device does not interfere with the proper brake operation.