Radical Changes To Be Ratified At Sepang Test Next Week

The MotoGP season resumes in earnest next week, when most of the riders will take to the track at the first official test of 2009 at Sepang in Malaysia. But while the fans will be concentrating on the action on track, carefully scrutinizing the times set to see how they can expect their favorite riders to fare, behind the scenes, according to GPOne.com, the manufacturers will be meeting to ratify a list of changes aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP in the next couple of years.

The main thrust of the changes is aimed at extending engine life, in the hope of reducing the maintenance costs for the highly-strung engines, which continue to spiral out of control. The changes will have two prongs: A reduction in track mileage on race weekends and testing; and a minimum engine life imposed by regulation.

First, the proposed changes as reported by GPOne.com:


  • Practice sessions will be shortened by 15 minutes each, from 60 to 45 minutes. In effect, the riders will lose an entire 60 minute session;
  • Warm up will be cut to just 10 minutes, instead of the current 25, and the practice start would be scrapped;
  • A maximum of 9 engines per season, with penalties being imposed on engine failures, either by way of points, or by way of lost starting places;
  • An end to post-race tests, scrapping the 5 days of testing already planned;
  • Winter testing restricted to just 8 days, and the start of the winter test ban to be brought forward to November 11th, the day immediately following the Valencia tests. The ban would end on January 20th, as has always been the case.


  • One Grand Prix to be dropped - so the MotoGP season would be just 17 races rather than 18 (and as rumors persist that the Balatonring in Hungary will not be finished in time for the first race there in mid-September, this could happen in 2010);
  • One bike per rider, a move which Carmelo Ezpeleta believes would allow the manufacturers to field 24 bikes, the spare bikes being made available for more riders to enter the class;
  • Steel brake disks, which in combination with a single bike per rider would make it possible to retain the flag-to-flag rule, an important precondition for TV broadcasters, who don't like rescheduling their TV slots just because the weather has caused a race to be delayed;
  • A two-day Grand Prix weekend. Friday practice for the MotoGP class would be scrapped; in its stead would come an open paddock - a popular event at World Superbike weekends - on Friday morning, followed by practice for the 125cc and Moto2 classes in the afternoon. MotoGP would have only a single practice session on Saturday morning, followed by qualifying in the afternoon;
  • Engines to last three races, with a penalty to be imposed for breaching this rule. The penalty is still under discussion, but could be either being put back on the grid, or having a time penalty added to the race time;
  • Engine leasing at affordable prices - forcing the manufacturers to make engines available at a fixed cost, as is set to happen for the 125cc class in 2010;
  • Bikes designed to be competitive for two seasons, to allow satellite teams to spread the cost of leasing bikes out over two seasons instead of one.

Almost all of the proposals have been leaked or otherwise given a public airing before, but what is most surprising is the haste with which all this is being done. And though we have gone over the ground on this issue a number of times already, we shall examine these proposals again in more detail later today, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses - and sadly, there are many more weaknesses than strengths - point by point.


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Why not just go all the way...  out F1 Max & Bernie at their own game?

Here are my recommendations for furthering this line of thinking in 2011:

  • Ban all practice and qualifying; it can be done virtually.  The sanctioning body will develop a standardized video simulation which will allow riders to earn their starting positions without those pesky needs for a racetrack, fans in attendance, good weather, and a pit crew.  The sanctioning body is a television broadcaster, after all, so this will make it easier to attract a global viewing audience and reduce the expensive burdens of thinly-attended venues.
  • Since riders will now be completely unfamiliar with their single bike every week, the field will be populated with specification bikes issued by lottery...  or maybe qualifying position (still deciding that).  This will eliminate the extremely high costs of competent mechanics, engineers, parts supplies, and the suspect behaviors of manufacturers and team owners.
  • Manufacturers will still be encouraged to participate in the sport, but the bikes must be submitted to the sanctioning body for approval and certification. 
  • Sponsors will be encouraged to "mix and match" their liveries with the manufacturers, before the machines are assigned to their riders each race "weekend".
  • Grooved tires suitable for rain racing will be mandatory if there is even the slightest threat of precipitation, so that the television schedules will not be compromised.

As you all can tell, the key "problem" in the escalating costs of MotoGP is the riders' use of their equipment.  With that cut down to the absolute minimum, expenses should stabilize and "the show" will return to its proper prominence.

With a complete ban on testing testing Honda could buy the championship by building a 3/4 scale RC212V, and a couple of 3/4 scale tracks for Dani. Let the other Honda riders copy his setup data (a la Hayden) and the team and constructors titles are in the bag!

It amazes me every time how some people can use virtually every MotoGP topic and make it either Dani's fault or use it as an occasion to pick on him. What a great job to use his height as the running gag for everything. Very creative.

Getting put to the back of the grid won't be much of a penalty when there's only 8 bikes left. Maybe they'll be on a 1x1 grid by then, so you'd be on the 8th row.

As for reducing costs, I say they should just have a televised Wii Golf tournament with the bikes on stands in the background.

Rusty, you've certainly gotten the big picture in focus, how could one argue?

But to be tediously serious for a moment: One bike per rider could create a situation where either: a) top competitors could miss out on racing because of a practice off (even Rossi has 'em!) - and a crash on a c/f frame machine virtually mandates a frame swap because c/f damage-tolerance is low and fault determination is almost impossible. At a minimum, there has to be a 'rider-swap' potential within teams if the championship is to be meaningful over the season.. and methinks this will result in simply having one 'assembled' bike plus a complete 100% range of spare parts in cartons, plus possibly a larger team of mechanics to provide full-rebuild capability overnight.

Testing is a circus - why nominated tracks and days? At least allow teams the flexibility to choose their time and place, under a simple limit on total track hours expended.

Use of non-production parts: I understand there are legal complications between MotoGp and WSBK - but if a manufacturer believes it can win against non-production equipment using production parts, it should be allowed to use them. If say Ducati can't build a GP10 that can beat an R1 - stiff. We are talking inadequate numbers of seats for bums and the possibility of a grid clogged with 'improved' WSBK bikes is eliminated by the 107% qualifying rule. Of course, all the manufacturers could decide to go 'production-based' - but it won't happen for all the reasons Dr. K has discussed earlier.

Finaly - much as in part it distresses me that one factor in the endless story has been removed by the one-tyre manufacturer rule, a freeze on tyre development (given that all seem to agree the current BS offerings are pretty damn good) should be seriously considered for say 2 years.

There was a proven formula in the past that used a cheap, simple format ideally suited to motorcycle racing - the two stroke engine.

Motogp should have look at the past before they looked ahead, and that be F1 they went from 3.5ltr engines to 3ltr and it only cost more to run and slowed the show for a few weeks until they worked out how to spend more money and go faster.
They all say the main cost is the engines, But Honda them selves said there V5 could do a whole season on one crank and 2000km before top end rebuild.

Smaller engines mean more revs and greater engine wear, they could go back to 990cc and limit rev's to 16000rpm and they could use the same engine all year.

Or they could just have 12 gp's ayear and that would save them millions and they could test a bit more, Super bikes do two races a weekend and more practice and even have super pole and are only 2 seconds off the pace and cost much less ( except Ducati SBK).

Since racing has begun, I do not expect that my comments will be viewed may many. I too would rather focus on where the rubber meets the asphalt, but when I read the following, it got my mind thinking (and hopefully yours too).

"But there was a lighter side to all the gloom; the news from all the teams that their mechanics will no longer be traveling business class on all the many long-haul flights. This has become the norm for MotoGP teams, causing some resentment among mechanics from the lesser classes (and us perennially penurious journalists) stuck down at the back of the plane.

That's over. For the foreseeable future, even Rossi's renowned crew will be at the back with the rest of us."

- Michael Scott, page 72 of the 25 February 2009 issue of Cycle News (volume XLVI issue #7)

Question - is this a mandate from Dorna, an unspoken agreement among the teams, or just common sense?

Comment - Being at a company that is trying to slash costs wherever possible, I understand the above change. This appears to me to be common sense. Personally, I think it would make sense to pay coach fare for team members' travel, and then let each individual upgrade using cash or frequent flyer miles on their own. Actually, I can think of some flights these people might take where it would be BETTER to fly business class; a better flight probably means more productive people after landing.

Question - we have read all about the official cost cutting rule changes that have gone into effect for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. These issues have been discussed extensively here and elsewhere. But I wonder what other cost cutting measures teams, riders, mechanics, etcetera are taking? Does anyone know of other things - non-technical - that teams are doing to save money?

 The cost cutting measures instituted by the teams (including the economy flights) have all come down from management, and the FIM and Dorna have nothing to do with it. Yamaha have cut their budget by 20%, which is completely unrelated to any of the proposed rule changes, and all about the falling sales of motorcycles. The truth is, companies spend what they feel they can afford on racing. At the moment, that's much less than two years ago, and that has nothing to do with the rules, it has to do with the perceived marketing value of motorcycle racing, and the size of the available budgets, as dictated by company finances.