More On The MotoGP Rule Changes - 6 Engines For 2010, Ride-Throughs For Infractions, Tire Sensors Banned

Friday's meeting of the Grand Prix Commission in Geneva had been keenly awaited by fans and followers of MotoGP, primarily because of the expected announcement of the class' return to 1000cc from 2012 onwards. So naturally, after the press release was issued, almost all the press coverage focused on the details of the 1000cc proposal which had been accepted by the Commission, that from 2012 MotoGP bikes will be allowed a maximum capacity of 1000cc, a maximum of 4 cylinders, and a maximum bore of 81mm.

As important as the changes to be made from the 2012 season onwards are, there were just 4 lines in a document comprising some 15 pages (read the entire document for yourself in PDF format here). And amidst those 15 pages are some fairly fascinating details which, although for direct application next season, highlight the direction that MotoGP will be headed in 2012, and how they will deal with some of the issues the series faces.


The bulk of the 15 pages of new rules comprise the details of the engines for the Moto2 class from next season onwards. Although a spec engine had been agreed back in March, it was still not entirely clear just what the teams would be allowed to do to the engines, and how the engines were to be allocated among the teams. The new regulations clarify these points, with the engines for the Moto2 class to be allocated on a random basis by the Technical Director, and provided sealed. The only parts of the engine the teams can touch are the exhaust system, some very minor modifications to the airbox (removal of the top cover or resonance chambers), modification of the fuel maps for the standard ECU and the external Liquid coolant system. Teams are free to design their own radiators, but the standard oil cooler must be used. The teams will be supplied with a standard clutch, which they can maintain (e.g. replace clutch plates) but not modify. The engine supplier will decide how often the engines need to be returned for engine maintenance.

Moto2 also moves to a spec tire, spec fuel and spec oil. The fuel and oil are part of the adoption of a standard engine, but the reason behind the spec tire is the same as it is in MotoGP: to cut costs by eliminating the tire wars, and to level the competition playing field. The Moto2 bikes will have fewer tires than in MotoGP, with 7 fronts and 9 rear tires. Dunlop - the spec tire supplier for the Moto2 class - will provide two specifications for each race, and the teams will have 4 fronts and 5 rears of specification A, and 3 fronts and 4 rears of specification B. The difference between the two specifications is mostly irrelevant, and up to the tire supplier to define. The most logical step is for Dunlop to judge the conditions and define A and B according to what they feel is the best tire for the weather conditions. In addition to the 16 slick tires, the Moto2 bikes will have 3 sets of wet tires, and the possibility of being given a 4th set if every session during the weekend is declared officially wet.

Fewer Tires

There are also changes in tires for the MotoGP class. The number of tires issued to the teams has been dropped, from 20 to 18, comprising of 8 fronts and 10 rears. The 10 rear tires will be supplied in equal numbers of both available specifications (A and B), but the biggest change will be in the allocation of front tires. As in 2009, the riders can vary the number of the two different specifications they can use, selecting either 5+3, 4+4 or 3+5 of the different specifications. But the biggest complaint about the system in 2009 was the fact that tire selection had to be made directly after the previous race. And so, for example the tire selection for Estoril had to be made directly after the San Marino MotoGP round, some 4 weeks earlier.

Under the new system, the teams will be given 3 of each front tire specification for the first day of practice. At the end of the first day of practice, the riders can then select how they want their remaining tires, either 2 of A, 2 of B, or 1 each of A and B. This should assuage the calls for more tires, as at least the selections the teams make will be relevant to the conditions on the weekend. Although not stated in the rules, Bridgestone is expected to bring asymmetric compound tires to a lot more tracks next year, which should provide a more predictable feel. There are no changes to the rules about wet tires. Intermediates will not be reintroduced, but frankly, few riders have called for them, the performance of Bridgestone's wet tires having been quite phenomenal all year.

6 Engines For 18 Races

A more significant change for the MotoGP class comes in the engine limits. As previously agreed, for 2010, each rider will have 6 engines to last the entire season. This limit has been agreed to by the factories despite the protestations of most of the riders, who are all afraid that 6 engines simply won't be enough. The penalty for infringing this rule has been changed, making it worse for the riders but better for the manufacturers. Instead of riders being put to the back of the grid and manufacturers being penalized 25 points in the manufacturers championship, two different penalties will be applied. If the extra engine is taken before the race starts, the rider taking the extra engine will start from pit lane 20 seconds after the rest of the field. If the extra engine is taken during the race (i.e. by switching bikes during a flag-to-flag race), then the rider will be given a ride through penalty. The ride through penalty rules state that riders may not swap bikes during the ride through, so they can't take advantage of the penalty to swap bikes again.

One interesting note - a sure sign that drawing up rules and regulations is the work of human hands - the new regulations read that the ride through penalty will be imposed for violating article 2.3.6. But the introduction of the new engine rules for Moto2 means that the article numbers have been reshuffled, and article 2.3.6 now covers the engine rules for Moto2. This will be fixed, but as the rulebook stands right now, taking an extra engine is not punishable.

Banned Materials

Perhaps the most interesting changes to the regulations concern the banning of materials and technologies. The most significant is the ban on the use of MMC (Metal Matrix Composite) and FRM (Fibre Reinforced Metal). These materials can offer great advantages in terms of weight and physical properties, but can be extraordinarily expensive. They are currently used in high-performance, high-cost areas such as spacecraft and aviation, as well as in some motorsports applications, and the reason for banning these materials is primarily cost. Ilmor experimented with a composite cam cover and some internal baffles made of composites for their X3 MotoGP engine. The banning of their use is probably aimed at the longer term, to prevent the teams chasing revs using lightweight composite materials when MotoGP returns to a 1000cc, bore-limited configuration in 2012. The use of hollow connecting rods has also been banned, with the exception of a narrow oil supply channel for lubricating the small end bearing.

Two other measures are worthy of note. Firstly, tire temperature sensors have been banned, removing one input from traction control system, although the tire temperature is one of the lesser inputs which are used to base traction control on. The other change is the setting of a maximum brake disk size. From 2010, carbon brake disks will be a maximum of 320mm, with that diameter being mandated in 2011, and the choice of two different disk masses. The increasing effectiveness of braking in MotoGP has made overtaking more difficult, and so restricting brake size is an understandable step. The rules have also been changed to ban ceramic disks, which are currently less effective than carbon but which are improving rapidly.

As announced much earlier this year, Constant Variable Transmissions, double clutches (such as used on Honda's new VFR1200), and other automatic gearbox systems are banned, as is variable valve timing and lift systems. The previously announced ban on hydraulic and pneumatic control systems was also introduced, but with an interesting proviso. The ban is to be imposed for all factories currently involved in the sport, but any manufacturer new to the sport in 2010 will be allowed to use the systems for 1 year. This is widely seen as a sop to the FB Corse project, whose three-cylinder engine uses a hydraulically-assisted gearbox. Whether the FB Corse will make an appearance on the grid or not remains to be seen, however.

The use of electronics will be limited, but sadly for most fans, only in the area of suspension. Electronically operated or adjusted suspension has been banned, another measure announced earlier this year. No real measures have been taken to limit the use of traction control systems and other electronic engine controls because of the opposition from the manufacturers. Developing electronic control systems is one of the main reasons the factories are involved in MotoGP, and one of the main R&D benefits which they use to justify their participation in the series. Electronic systems will not be regulated away in the future.

Finally, the minimum weights have been bumped up. Where the 2009 four cylinder bikes had to weigh a minimum of 148kg, in 2010 this must be at least 150kg. This added weight removes the benefits of using some of the more extremely expensive lightweight materials, providing a marginal cost savings.

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A minimum combined rider/machine gross weight. When you have riders with as much as 20 kilos disparity between them at this level it would seem to be an obvious loophole. Instead they have added 2 kilos (Why, I am not sure) to the bike weight. Limiting the Carbon rotors to 320mm doesn't sound like much of a big deal. The fixed bore means that the stroke will be a maximum of ~48.5mm. Will any of them dare go with a shorter stroke (reducing displacement) to gain back RPM or affect fuel mileage or engine life? Logic would dictate not, but you never know. Pneumatic valves will remain but variable valve timing is verbotten. But taken as a whole banning some of the exotic materials is about the only change I see that would actually cut costs! By forcing them to make the engines live longer and burn less fuel you are seemingly just forcing them to go back and come up with even more exotic Engineering?

I hadn't realized that variable valve timing and lift had been banned. I was under the impression that was another advantage with pneumatic valves. With the simple arrangement of displacement, cyl. number and bore limits seeming to be targeted at simplicity, it seems a little counterproductive to force engineers to limit how they can maximize the output given those 'silver bullet' parameters. The same goes with the unconventional transmissions or clutches. If they aren't going to adopt the seemingly sensible mechanical limit like number of gears, why limit mechanically maximizing efficiency of the transmission. It seems to be the way that production bikes are going. I'd imagine that if they can make it cost effective for production, it can be cost effective for racing. I wonder when the first homologated SBK machine will run such a system. Maybe the WSBK arena will become the real showcase for innovators of technology.

And is that tire heat sensor going to make it more or less likely that Stoner will wipe out on the warm up lap?!

I think the rider weight issue will actually play into the hands of heavier riders, if anything (and I doubt it or rider weight contributes much to outcomes at this level). With the higher minimum weight limit, the rider weight makes up a slightly lower contribution to total weight.

They've banned the space age materials, pneumatic valves, variable valve timing, and electronically assisted transmissions. Why enforce bore stroke?

IF the rules changes are actually based upon reasonable technical data, massively oversquare engines are less reliable due to increased piston weight while less oversquare engines are more reliable despite the increased piston velocity.

I'm curious to know when oversquare is beneficial for increasing engine life and when it is harmful to engine life. I suppose if I had that data, I'd have a multi-billion dollar motorcycle company. :-)

If my reasoning is correct, they've settled on 81mm precisely b/c they want production engines to be legitimate platforms for building a GP engine. A BMW engine with 1mm overbore would be at the maximum for GP!

I assume this is to take effect in '12 as well? Regardless, would this not provide an advantage to Ducati, whose Desmodromic valve system already, if I understand correctly, allows higher revs than even the pneumatics?

With regard to Moto2, how long is the contract for the spec engine to be supplied by Honda? Even if, presumably, it were only to be for two years, for practical purposes, should one assume that Moto2 is locked into Honda for the foreseeable future?

Just to be clear, pneumatic valves have NOT been banned. Pneumatic control systems have been banned, but pneumatic valve operation has been explicitly permitted.

Dave What does the Pneumatic control systems do ? and what effect will that have on the motor itself ? Thanks Jake

I believe the rule is directed at transmission control systems and, in particular launch control systems. Transmission control systems just automate shifting (reducing shift time) while launch control automates launching off the line enabling the bike to get the fastest possible start without spinning the rear wheel or wheelie-ing.

The pneumatic control systems the rules are aimed at are basically pneumatically and hydraulically assisted clutch and gear shifts. I am no gearbox expert, but certain types of gearboxes (similar to that found on the new VFR1200) operate using pneumatic power. Double clutches and powered gear shifting allows something along the lines of the paddle shifting the F1 (and some high end sports cars) offer.

Everything I have read states that the VFR1200F gearbox is all electrohydraulic. The ban on pneumatics is certainly just to prevent teams from circumnavigating the hydraulic control systems ban.

Also, although pneumatic valve actuation hasn't been banned, won't it now become superfluous? As I understand it, part of the drive to limit bore size to 81mm was to limit costs by putting max revs back in a range where valve springs will be reliable. At a 48.5mm stroke length, and corresponding smaller valve mass, doesn't the failure point move back to the connecting rods (especially with the new restrictions there) and off of the valve train? Perhaps there is still an advantage to pneumatics in being able to run higher/steeper lift cam profiles for better cylinder filling, but I still don't see many teams running pneumatics anymore.

I have to agree with ElBigonio that it is disappointing that Motorcycle racing rules organizations can't figure out that by eliminating rider weight from the minimum weight requirement they're just creating a sport where being the tiniest man on the grid gives you a huge advantage. People want to see the best riders in the world racing each other, not the smallest... And 2Kg? Really, big deal.

As for the rules that WERE stated, it's a massive face palm across the board. Let's review:

Why mince words? "Up to 81mm"? "Up to four cylinders"? Let's call it what it is: This will be a four cylinder, 81x48.5 series. To do anything else would be suicide. FB Corse's three cylinder? Well that's right out, unless they want to try winning with a ~13,000rpm rev limit (keeping peak piston velocities equivalent).

Banning hydraulic and pneumatic control systems? To what end? Talk about killing a tech that has direct trickle-down implications--hell, there's already a street bike that's using it! And it's not like it's a silver bullet, considering the extra size and rotating mass of such a system would offset some of the advantages.

No more tire temperature sensors? Seriously? Eliminating that $50 sensor is going to make or break a team budget? Again, this is a safety system that I could see immediately having a positive impact on street motorcycles.

Banning ceramic brakes? This is just idiotic. Let's stick with $7,000 carbon-carbon rotors that require so much heat to work that they're worthless on a streetbike, but ban a technology with similar advantages, one third the cost, and work in all weather and temperature. If you're looking for cost-cutting and product development potential, I couldn't think of a more stupid rule.

All in all I think these rules are needlessly complex and, in a lot of cases, counterproductive.

Here's a set of rules I could get behind:

No displacement limit
No cylinder number or size limit
Weight advantages for fewer cylinders
Minimum rider + gear + bike mass of 225Kg for 4+ cylinders
Hard rev limit of 16,500 rpm (I assume this is about what they're shooting for)
Specific modulus limit on engine parts a la F1
Assign a maximum number of engines per season
Brake pads/rotors can be of any material, but cannot be changed for wet races
GPS-based electronics banned. All other electronics systems are just fine.

That's it. Pretty simple, huh? These rules would cut cost in many ways. Teams could get power cheaply through displacement, expensive materials would be eliminated via rev limits and outright bans. The large manufacturers would get a major benefit from these rules as well in the form of increased applicability to their street products. Future customers would benefit as well. By limiting brakes and electronics to only systems that would work on a streetbike (all weather brakes and electronics that don't rely on GPS data from a specific track), yet leaving them open to further development and improvement by not placing arbitrary limits, major manufacturers' products will continue to improve and MotoGP will become a more tangible investment to manufacturers. Also, by keeping the rules simple and inclusive, major new developments such as KERS and hybrids might find their way onto the grid and, more importantly, the showroom floor. Finally, fans would be rewarded as well with a full grid of truly diverse bikes. There would be dozens of solutions to the same problem that teams would be free to consider based off of their budget, creativity, and technical expertise.

Anyway, sorry to ramble on for so long.

Great comments. I believe that is a rules package most of us could get behind. I can't agree on the cumulative weight minimums because I think you create a situation where bigger riders have an unfair advantage given that rider mass is far more useful than ballast weight. In my mind it is trading one vaguely understood advantage for another. Add to that the fact that tiny riders haven't actually been that successful, and I think it begins to look like creating rules to address a problem that isn't clearly a problem.

Further, the other rules you propose should provide plenty of opportunity to create parity between riders of differing weights.

Aside from that though, I think you have nailed the MotoGP rulebook as it should be - in its entirety.

Great list, with good reasons for them. I'd add a few more though:

- internal combustion engines: 24L fuel max, 5 gear ratios max.
- electric bikes: no weight limit or rpm limit.

Unlimited capacity but limited fuel and gears would give you free rein on how you develop power but put an upper limit on how much due to the available fuel, and limiting gears means you have to maintain flexibility in the power delivery.

Removing limits on electric bikes would obviously encourage development.

I agree regarding the bore limit - it locks it in as a 4 cylinder class. What's wrong with setting minimum stroke at 48.5mm instead, or set a max bore/stroke ratio at say 1.67:1? Same numbers for the 4 cylinder engines, but this way we might see some diversity in engine configuration. As it is, the radical engine configuration is a V4 instead of IL4...

Why not set bore and stroke dimensions or why not set a bore-stroke ratio. If the current 800s are below 81mm, they will still satisfy the new rules, won't they?

A 1000cc 81mm 4-cylinder will have the same mean piston speed at 16,000rpm as an 800cc 81mm 4-cylinder will produce at 20,000rpm.

Not saying they won't make new 1000cc engines, but the 800s will probably still be very formidable machines in the new era if a manufacturer can't make the switch or they don't want to stop developing the 800s (Honda).

Fuel and engine reliability rules may decide what happens.