Pete Benson: Crashing Could Be A Problem With The Engine Limits

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 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.

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Kropotkin - good questions. As for the theoretical question, I suspect that Dorna, FIM, or MSMA have thought of that one and some others, but you cannot cover every situation. They will deal with those one-offs as they arise. And I am sure that teams or others will inform them ahead of time if they see a situation that might not be covered that affects them.

I think now that this site is more upscale(Jerve reads it), he prefers to be called David Emmett now. =)

The problem in this sport is that such decisions are made my pencil pushing non riding suits that think they all know it all , you dont !!
For the love of God 6 engines for 18 races , could someone please tell Dorna and FIM to get off the pot , you are messing up the sport that we love , how many articles do we have have to write for you guys to wake up and fix what you manhandling , lord have mercy , maybe we should do like the idea the guys in F1 wanted to do this year , build a new championship and move all the teams for better racing conditions rules ...... It's alright for the People who make the calendar isn't it. They're already in their own lounge via helicopter & 1st class no cost cutting there ........

Keep in mind that in F1 it was the actual constructors and manufacturers that were planning on a breakaway series. The 6 engine limit rule was agreed to by all the MotoGP manufacturers as an implementation to cutting costs.

By all means if this was something the manufacturers agreed to then they will most likely (at least hopefully) build engines that will last 3 race weekends each and with maybe a little bit to spare so that they can use previously raced engines during practice sessions.

That said, I think the 10 point penalty is a little harsh. A scale would be helpful so that the first offense (having to use a new engine above the allocated 6) would incur a 15 grid position penalty, the second infraction to include a 5 point penalty, a third to include a 10 point penalty and so on.

The people wanting this rule were the manufacturers, assembled in the MSMA, not Dorna or the FIM. Neither Dorna nor the FIM were interested in this rule, although if it forces riders to sit out practice, or even worse, skip races so as not to lose 10 points, Dorna will do everything it can to change the MSMA's mind. We got a foretaste of this at Indianapolis with Valentino Rossi sitting out 20 minutes of practice. I strongly suspect that Dorna will soon be bringing pressure to bear on the MSMA to reexamine this rule, to stop it from hurting the show.

Blame should be apportioned where it is due, and in this case, it definitely shouldn't be apportioned to Dorna. This is all the manufacturers' fault.

I think the new rule is retarded

We don't pay good money, for tickets, web subscriptions, cable tv subscriptions for an end of season to end like this! I don't want to see riders down the field coming into the pits to save engine life. Or people riding at 90% to protect their bike.

Motogp should listen to the people that really pay for the sport, the public not MSMA

I see your point. However, it would be fair to say that in the 19 or so years that I've been religiously following GP racing ,the only time that the organisers have seen a cent directly from _me_ is on the three occasions that I've actually attended a track in person. And given that much the same could be said about the dozen or so mates of mine who are as into it as I am, I'd hazard a guess that neither Dorna nor the MSMA are going to care too much about our opinions.

Even the attendance revenue from a Spanish round (100k+ paying punters) is a mere drop in the flood of money that keeps MotoGP bikes on the grid. Most of which comes from the sponsors and tv networks. The fans who attend the tracks actually account for very little of the revenue, in fact most of their ticket cost probably goes to the track owner/operator?

The only way that the fans could have any effect on decisions would be to switch off their tv - poor ratings would see the value of tv rights dropping like a stone, and sponsors rely on those ratings to decide where their money is going so they'd be jumping ship too. So I suppose in a way you are correct!

But will you turn your tv off in protest?

I think we have to wait and see before damning the manufacturers. After all, they are the ones that actually build these engines. Engines which seem to have become extremely reliable in the last decade. Its not very often that we see mechanical DNF's nowadays. I admit, though, that from an outsiders point of view, such as ourselves, it seems a bit much to go from no limit to all of a sudden six engines for eighteen races. It seems more logical to have gone to at least nine engines for eighteen races. But if the people who have the most to lose, i.e. the manufacturers, agreed on the number it must be for a reason. Keep in mind these are very intelligent people that are making these kind of decisions. They wouldn't risk the embarassement of running out of engines to save a few bucks. The Japanese have too much pride to allow that to happen and lose face in their competitor's eyes.
And although we might see rider's staying in their garages to save their engines don't worry about anyone on track not going all out. Miles are miles, whether its at 10,000 rpm or 20,000 rpm, it doesn't matter.

I suspect we'll see the rules changed and relaxed over the year. The reason why we don't see engine failures is because they're changed and totally reworked between sessions and between races.

I'm interested though in how costs for engines are determined. Does a part really cost $25,000 or is it because the design effort costs $24,000 and the materials and workmanship cost $1000? In which case, limiting engines will not make a jot of difference to the overall costs (and in some weird accounting way may make unit costs higher). If the largest single cost is the 50 top level engineers working in Japan or Italy, then making their job harder by now imposing restrictions on engine life isn't going to reduce overall cost. Worse, if someone finds a way to use a new exotic material to recover those lost horses, but that exotic material is 10x the conventional materials cost, where are we now?

We need less rules, not more. As Suppo states in an AMCN article published today, the problem with Motogp is not cost, but revenue. I remember a financial analyst explaining that a company that continually strives to cut costs is ultimately on a trip of diminishing returns and that to succeed you need to invent, create, market and sell. Obviously you do that at the least cost, but there is a balance to be had.

As for audience and track attendances, do not under estimate the importance of track time for the crazy Europeans and those suckers (me) that pay their subscription solely to watch the FP and QP.