Regulation Refresher: A FAQ For The Rule Changes For The 2013 MotoGP Season

With the 2013 MotoGP season just a few hours away, it's time for a quick recap on the rule changes which come into effect this year. Though the technical rule changes are minor - slightly more significant changes are to be made for 2014, but that is a story for another day - the change to qualifying is significant, and will have a real impact on all of the practice session, albeit indirectly.

So here's what has changed for 2013:

Fewer Engines

The engine allocation for the MotoGP prototypes has been dropped from six engines per rider per season to five engines. The request for the reduction came from the factories themselves, in pursuit of further engineering challenges applicable to production bikes.

The reduction in engine allocation is unlikely to have a drastic effect. In his championship year in 2011, Casey Stoner only used five engines all season, and in 2012, Jorge Lorenzo managed relatively comfortably after losing a brand new engine at Assen in a first-corner crash. Even the penalty imposed on Valentino Rossi for taking an extra engine in 2011 was down to his desire to use a different frame, one for which his original engines did not have the necessary mounting points.

Yet there are a few signs of concern. There were rumors of reliability issues in the Yamaha garages at the Sepang tests, as the Japanese factory tried to balance performance with reliability. It is better to blow up engines during testing than during a race weekend, of course, and the problems could well have helped pinpoint issues which guarantee engine longevity with one fewer engine.

More Weight

The minimum weight for the MotoGP bikes has been increased once again, from 157kg to 160kg, as was originally planned for the 2012 season.

The addition of three more kilograms is unlikely to make much difference for most of the factories. Honda spent most of the first Sepang test sorting out where to put the extra weight, while Yamaha was already fairly happy with where they had to put the extra weight. Ducati had struggled with the previous limits, and switching to 160kg means they will make the weight easily, and save some money into the bargain.

Qualifying - Radical Shake Up, But Similar Outcomes?

The biggest change to MotoGP this year comes in qualifying. The last big change to the rules came in 2005, when the original two one-hour qualifying sessions were dropped, and replaced with a free practice session and a single QP to set the grid.

From this season, qualifying for MotoGP becomes a three-stage affair, in effect. The original hour of qualifying is replaced with an extra half hour of free practice, and two fifteen minute qualifying session, split between the faster and slower halves of the grid. Here's how it works:

Though all three free practice sessions are still just that, free practice, at the end of FP3, the riders will be ranked by their best time set in any of the three sessions. The ten riders with the fastest times will automatically qualify for QP2. The remainder will take part in QP1, where the top two will go through to QP2, while places thirteen and beyond are distributed among the remaining riders.

Other than the two fastest riders in QP1, the difference in times between QP1 and QP2 will not be taken into account. No matter how fast the time set by the third fastest rider in QP1, he will start from 13th spot, no matter how fast the rider in 12th was.  In theory - and given the weather which MotoGP has had over the past couple of years, most likely in practice too - if it rains just before QP2 starts, then all of the riders in QP1 could end up being faster than all of the riders in QP2, yet still start behind the men who had qualified for QP2.

The two riders who qualify for QP2 via the second-chance mechanism of taking first and second in QP1 start QP2 with the slates wiped clean. If their QP1 times were faster than the fastest time set in QP2, then that is tough luck, only their QP2 time will be used to assess their grid position.

What at first seems complicated is really just formalizing the previous reality of qualifying under a set of rules. The first half of qualifying was always more about working on set up than anything else, and so spinning that off into a thirty-minute FP4 session makes sense. Splitting the remaining half hour into two fifteen-minute qualifying sessions means that both groups of riders face a far less busy track when trying to set their flying laps, and there will be much less of the dangerous tail-hanging which has blighted some sessions in recent years. Having two sessions means that the slower riders and the faster riders will get more exposure, with each group getting the director's undivided attention for fifteen minutes.

The new system will only apply to the MotoGP class. The Moto2 and Moto3 classes retain the existing system of a single QP session to determine the order of the grid.

Penalty Points System

A system of penalty points starts this year, formalizing the system of warnings which had previously been applied. In 2013, Race Direction has the option of imposing penalty points on any rider who breaks the rules or endangers another rider. They can impose between 1 and 10 points for each infringement, and points are added up during the season. Once the rider in question has amassed 4 points, they will start the next race from the back of the grid. Once they reach 7 points, they will start from pit lane. Should they collect 10 points in total, they will be issued a single-race ban.

Once riders reach a total of 10 or more points, and have served their race ban, they will have their points reset to zero. Points are only valid for the current season: any points amassed during the 2013 season are dropped after the final Valencia round. Everyone starts a new season with a clean slate.

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I thought the top 2 qualifiers in QP1 would get to move on to QP2 to duke it out with the rest of the second qualifying session for a better grid spot. You've made no mention of that bit. Was that plan scrapped and I've missed the news?

Fixed it in the text. I was writing most of this from memory, with only a cursory glance at the rules, and had forgotten about the top two from QP1 getting a second chance. I checked the rules again, and have amended the text to reflect the actual situation. My apologies for not checking better, and assuming I knew what I was talking about.

2 Factory Hondas, 2 Factory Yamahas, 2 Factory Ducatis, 2 Satellite Hondas, 2 Satellite Yamahas, 2 Satellite Ducatis.

All other things being equal, that should be the makeup of your top 12.

10 of them straight into Q2 from FP and 2 of them via Q1.

So, baring crashes and other extraordinary circumstances, Q2 is essentially qualifying for the non-CRT bikes.

A rider working up the penalty scale scale from zero to four, then to seven and finally to ten would seem to me to be a habitual offender. Why should they see their scorecard reset after sitting out a race? Curious to see if MM amasses any of these while collecting championship points or if Dorna will turn a blind eye towards him again.

Couple others I've been curious about. What are your thoughts on limited gearing and the eliminating use of GPS performance enhancment data (MotoGPs version of PEDs).

For gearing the total number of gear ratios used throughout the season are limited and they must all be chosen prior to the first race. The numbers are 24 ratios (pairs of gears) inside the box and 4 on the final drive outside. With 6 speeds, this could be 4 unique sets of gearbox ratios, and another 4 sets of sprockets.

Could it be salt in the wound for those who lacked the budget to come test at Austin? The track is a mix of long straights and tight twisty bits, could be a bit of guessing game for the rest. Other motorsports have gone down this road before, in the name of saving cost, and it only led to a more expensive arms race in computer simulators to figure this kind of stuff out.

For GPS, the irony is that without it the bikes won't get "lost" anymore, unlike the rest of us. Its true that everything seems to be the opposite of what you'd initiall expect with bikes. : ) Other than that, the bikes won't be able to "learn" the traction levels from turn to turn or overcourse of race, rider needs to do that again. Sure with a bit more work for the computer guys will reopptimise their Algorithims for tourqe delivery / wheelie control. Could lead to some head bobbing in the meantime as the software finds itself hunting more than in past.

All ABS systems are banned in all GP classes.

6) Anti-lock Brake Systems (ABS) are not permitted. Braking
inputs must be powered and controlled solely by the rider’s
manual inputs. Conventional hydraulic hand/foot controls such
as master/slave cylinders for brake systems are allowed (refer
also to Art. Control Systems) but no increase or control of
brake pressure by electronic or mechanical systems apart from
the rider’s direct manual inputs are allowed. Specifically, brake
systems designed to prevent the wheel from locking when the
rider applies the brake are forbidden.

Was there any team in any class using/looking at this technology anyway?

It just makes these bikes more dangerous when they crash. The top class has gone from 130 kg to 160 kg, that's a veru significant increase in mass. Even for the four-strokes, they've gone from, what, 153 kg to 160 kg? Still more than a trivial increase.

Does that make them unsafe ?

Getting below 160kgs apparently requires extensive use of unobtainium. No problem if you are Honda, but everyone else finds it difficult and expensive.

They use unobtanium anyway b/c they want to maximize ballast weight so they can position it exactly where they want it. Same thing in F1. The top constructors build cars approximately 100kg below the minimum weight, and then the place the ballast as low and as central as possible.

Increasing the minimum weight has more to do with controlling the trap speeds, cornering speeds, and braking distances.

Minimum weight in the 990cc era was 145kg. Most of the bikes were reportedly over the minimum weight, but the manufacturers should not have any problems dipping below 160kg.

Nobody is questioning the ability to reduce the minimum weight, or the application of exotic materials to change weight distribution, but rather, the cost of doing so.

For any given optimal weight distribution, the more you reduce the total minimum weight, the more the use of exotic materials and design is required, the higher is the total cost, the less that already strained budgets have to spend in other areas of development and management.

The minimum weight limit was introduced by Dorna as a cost control measure, not to control performance parameters.

Honda and Yamaha actually voted against it, but Ducati abstained, thereby allowing Dorna to over-rule the MSMA, and ensure that their CRT baby remained within target budgets.

This murky process been discussed by David in the past:

I'm familiar with David's work, but I think you may have misunderstood how costs were cut by the Honda vs. Ducati showdown. Check out Jr's response.

The cost cutting aspect of the 157kg and 160kg rules were predicated on reducing the penalty associated with Ducati's engine design. The effectiveness of the weight rules are specific to this situation, and they only work if Ducati voluntarily agree to avoid an engine redesign.

I wonder how much of the weight increase since the 990 era is due to bigger, stiffer tyres?
Both the tyres themselves, plus the additional chassis stiffness to control them.
Otherwise, presumably the high pressure fuel systems add a bit: I have to assume a 10 bar pump and regulator weighs more than a standard 3 bar version.

They designed their engine to be part of the frame, and therefore with much heavier and stronger engine cases. When they abandoned the frame-less concept they still kept the same heavy engine. Because of this they were unable to meet the minimum weight and felt to be in a disadvantage and lobbied for increased weight in the class. That's the short version.

Ducati's options were to either spend money redesigning their bike to be lighter, or abstain from the MSMA vote and allow Dorna to increase the min weight limit, which they wanted to impose for CRT budget constraint reasons.

Allowing the weight increase was the easier & cheaper for Ducati.

Over-powered, fat bikes are more in line with factory marketing agendas than light, usable ones. Also, CRT's would be strongly disadvantaged by a lower weight limit.

The unobtanium/cost issue is just lazy group-think: the cost of building a MotoGP bike is in the design, the electronics, and making the engines durable, not the raw materials. There is no pressure to innovate with materials and pretty much everyone is using the same brakes/wheels/suspension packages anyway.

Out of interest, 160kg of gold is worth about 6.4 million €, so about twice the cost of an RCV213...

They could programme the system to apply the brakes at the optimum point - possibly why the GPS component has been banned too (I hadn't seen that comment anywhere else). Next stop would have been drones! Hopefully the next ban will be carbon brakes. No relevance beyond MGP as far as I can tell (what's the point of a 'prototype' technology if not to be useful elsewhere?). Detracts from the racing.
Teams will use anything they can afford to gain a margin. A ban on ABS is a good thing and yet it hasn't stopped it becoming a really useful street technology.
HRC/other factories probably still use the lightest possible metal/material where they can and put the mass where its useful - crank etc. Reducing inertia and friction will be a big reliability factor in many engine components, I should imagine, and this is one area that can pay dividends in production if they can make it cheap/develop it enough.
Shame they didn't ban seamless transmission too - huge expense for what seems like no more than a talent contest. Impressive, but will it make a difference to real life riding/driving? F1 must have got there first too.
OK, whinge over. Wait for the racing to commence.

ban on ABS not a new a rule as others, this one came in when their was talk of all new production bikes in EU requiring ABS after 2016 or somthing like that... WSBK, World Endurance, local club racing, etc have been using and developing this stuff. Their are other example of electronics which are banned in GP but not WSBK. Try electric control suspension damping as another example.

The so called prototype class is actually the most restricive. So you have nothing to worry about if your concern is not enough bans on the things youve never heard about making their way onto bikes.

FIM-live has all the rules, meeting notes, open and on their website. Theyre worth a look and while you go through them think about what could be made. The kind of bike that comes out of the motogp rule book is very predictable, others offer more room to play. In some you could make a 200 mph segway if you saw fit, ie no requirement for single track but just two wheels. Whats your definition of a motorcycle?