Just How Many Engines Does Ben Spies Have At Valencia?

Ever since Yamaha announced that Ben Spies would be making a wildcard appearance at the final round of MotoGP at Valencia, message boards across the internet have been abuzz with the question of how many engines the Texan would have for his Yamaha. The rules for the regulars - contracted riders, to use the jargon of the FIM rulebook - state that each rider has 5 engines to last the final 7 races, from Brno onwards. But how did this affect Spies? Would he have all 5 engines for the weekend? Would  he have just 1 engine, as the minimum of  5 divided by 7? How were you supposed to the math to work it out?

To settle the matter, we went straight to the person who should know: Mike Webb, MotoGP's Technical Director and the man charged with enforcing the rules. We chased him down here at Valencia, and asked him what the score was. "There are no rules for wildcards," Webb told us. "So in theory, Spies could have as many engines as he likes." The problem is that the rules make no provision for wildcards, Webb explained. This had been discussed in the Grand Prix Commission when the engine limits were debated, but the MSMA - the manufacturers' organization who put forward the engine limit proposals - didn't think it important enough to cover at the time.

And so the number of engines, and the spec of those engines, that Ben Spies gets will be up to Yamaha to decide. Yamaha Racing Manager Lin Jarvis told us that Spies basically has the Yamaha test team at his disposal, with enough engines to last the weekend. The bikes will be virtually identical to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha satellite machines ridden by Colin Edwards and James Toseland, and therefore the same as the machines he will be riding next season.

With the engine limits due to be discussed this weekend in the Grand Prix Commission, this is one subject that will be settled at a later point. But as Mike Webb pointed out to us, as it's the MSMA who wanted the limits, the MSMA will decide how to handle the situation for wildcards. If the manufacturers decide they want to use a wildcard rider to test engines, then limits will not be placed on the number available. If, on the other hand, they wish to prevent wildcard riders from dominating the proceedings with a fresh engine, they will limit the numbers. We shall have to wait and see what they decide.

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While it may be a slight luxury to not be limited on any given weekend, there are only so many minutes on track each round to try and test them out.

I think the idea of the MSMA keeping wild-cards ungoverned would be good. More wildcards can help fill the grid and maybe give way to some interesting events.

The issue may be less about finding which engine makes the most useable power, and more about the possibility that Spies could run each engine at 100% rather than the 90-95% level of other teams, and just replace them as they let go through each session... saving one for the race. This strategy could potentially see him on the front row or even pole...

No, for under the rules, the engines are assigned to a rider OR HIS REPLACEMENT. In other words, Mika Kallio spent three races chucking Casey Stoner's engines into the gravel while he replaced Stoner in the factory Ducati team. Meanwhile, Michel Fabrizio and Aleix Espargaro worked their way through Kallio's engines at Pramac Ducati. It's all rather complicated, I'm afraid.

Thanks for the clarification. My wife and I still think the whole number of engines rule sucks!!

Your wife and yourself are not alone. However, the rule was requested by the manufacturers, and in this respect, the manufacturers normally get what they want. 

But doesn't the Engine rule just make things more dangerous for the riders in the long run? Bear with me here. By de-tuning the competitors engines they will be forced to maintain ever more speed in the corners so as not to fall victim to the fast guys on the straights. This after all is similar to the logic imparted to bring 800's to the fray to "limit costs and speeds" both of which have gone up! Brilliant!

Remember back to the very first race of the 800cc era when Casey Stoner just ran away from everyone on the straights at Quatar by tens of bike lengths! Rossi trying his hardest to gather him back up in the infield completely unable to even draft Stoner once they hit the straight. Eventually the other makers caught up to the Ducati Speed wise but at what cost? Now you are making them throw away all that power they made up by de-tuning them back to where they were at that first race. This most assuredly will not make for closer racing. The "haves" will excel and the "have not's" will fill the grids. I would imagine that more accidents will result than anything.