Since the announcement of the new engine limits, which permit each rider to use 5 engines for the last 7 races of the season, to be cut to 6 engines for the entire 18-race season next year, we at MotoGPMatters.com have been wondering just how this is going to work out. After quizzing Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Guy Coulon on Thursday, who told us it shouldn't be a problem for them, we put the same questions to Andrea Dovizioso's Repsol Honda crew chief Pete Benson. Here's what he had to say on the subject:
MGPM: I wanted to ask about the engine limits. How's it going so far, it's only been one race, but have you run into any problems?
Pete Benson: No, this year it's absolutely no problem, because you've got 5 engines to the end of the season. We've still got five new engines in our allocation. It's very, very easy at the moment. Next year, basically the engine mileage itself is not a problem, but you crash a bike and damage the engine, that's when it becomes a problem. Because then there's a very good chance we'll get to the end of the year and you'll, say, get to the last race and only have one engine left without taking a penalty. It's not something I'm really in favor of, but they say they [the MSMA] need to do it so they're going to do it.
MGPM: What happens when you crash the Honda engine? Is it susceptible to damage? Does it let gravel in through the airbox?
PB: Well,you know, generally no, but if you fire things into a gravel trap hard enough things are going to break. They've got good filter systems and everything on them, but if you tear all the fairings and everything off them, then there's always that chance, you know? And it's not just that, if you crash a bike hard enough, you can break the crankcase or punch a hole in the end of the cases. It doesn't happen very often, but it can happen.
MGPM: Have they changed the design of anything, for example the engine mounts, or putting something as basic as crash bungs on to cope with that kind of protection?
PB: No, not at this stage, it's just one of those things that you've pretty much just got to live with. You know, you can spend your whole life making something crash-proof, but all it does is upset the performance. So at this stage it's not really a major consideration. Our guys are fortunately not the sort of guys that are going to crash every weekend, so from that point of view it's not really a huge worry.
MGPM: They have a tipover switch now....
PB: They've had it for years, yes, it's in the rules. You have to have it. I think it's been in there since the 500 days. It's just somehow they didn't use to work very well, now they all do.
MGPM: All of a sudden?
PB: Well, yes, it's just a change also, because now all the bikes have gyros and stuff like that for all the control systems. So it's become a lot more refined and a lot more accurate.
MGPM: A theoretical question: Say Dovi or Dani or whoever is leading by 26 points at the last race and during qualifying you blow an engine up. What do you do?
PB: Well if it's the last race and you blow up an engine, you hope you've still got a spare one for the race. But you've always still got one spare bike.
MGPM: But if you're through your engine allocation, then you'd have to take a 10 point penalty, which would give you a 16 point lead, and if you sit the race out, you win.
PB: Yes, well, that's something that the powers that be would have to decide. My opinion is that if you've got a 26 point lead you either just go with one bike and hope it doesn't fail, or, because the last thing you want to do is take a 10 point engine penalty when you're in that sort of situation. But that's all just maths and common sense if that situation arises.
MGPM: The trouble with those sorts of situations is that if it can happen, it will happen at some point. It might not happen soon...
PB: It's going to happen to somebody, whether it happens this year or next is another question.