How Lorenzo's Engine Blow Up Could Affect The Championship

In the middle of qualifying practice at the Sachsenring today, we witnessed a spectacle that had not been seen at a MotoGP race for a very long time - since 2007, in fact, and ironically, in almost exactly the same location. As Jorge Lorenzo pinned the throttle on his YZR M1 up the hill onto the front straight, the engine let go in a very major way, spewing smoke, flames, oil and coolant out of the back of the bike and all over the track, right into the braking area. The Fiat Yamaha rider quickly pointed his bike to the side of the track, but unfortunately, not before Ben Spies and Randy de Puniet had crashed on the oil, De Puniet banging his leg nastily on Spies' Monster Tech 3 Yamaha machine.

While most of the attention was on De Puniet's injury, and the spectacular images Lorenzo's Yamaha had produced, belching smoke and flame like some kind of mythical fire serpent, thoughts in the paddock turned to the state of Lorenzo's engines. For this is the second engine that Lorenzo has lost: the Spaniard previous lost an engine during practice at Assen, that machine merely producing a few puffs of smoke, rather than belching great gouts of smoke and oil like the bike in Germany did. With less than eight of the sixteen races gone, Lorenzo has now lost two of the six engines that each rider has to last the season.

Perhaps more worrying is the mileage at which both these engines gave up the ghost. Both the engine at Assen and the one in Germany let go after some 1500 kilometers, which is well short of the target set by Yamaha's head of MotoGP during the annual end-of-year presentation at Valencia in 2009. There, Masao Furusawa explained that they calculated they needed to get 2400 kilometers from each engine, if they were to make it through a full season. He told the assembled press in Valencia that the 2009 version of the long-life engine was already capable of lasting for 2200 kms, albeit with a sharp power drop towards the end of its life. The new engine, Furusawa-san explained, would last the extra couple of hundred kilometers, and would not lose so much power as the miles accumulated.

Lorenzo's experience would seem to contradict Furusawa's assertion. With two engines down after just 1500 km, the new engine design would appear to have a serious flaw. The nature of the failure - "that's a serious drop in power at the end of its life" Dennis Noyes quipped after seeing Lorenzo's engine explode - is the most worrying aspect, suggesting that a critical component is failing at around 1500 km, and causing the entire engine to fail more or less spectacularly.

Yamaha is also hampered by the limited testing available. The next test is in two races time, a one-day affair after the Brno round of MotoGP. Before that, the only option Yamaha has is to run engines on the dyno, to see if they can recreate those failures under test conditions, and try and fix the problem with an altered design. The engines will have to be ready by Brno in mid-August, for track testing on the Monday after the race. If the engines don't produce the power that Lorenzo needs to secure the title - or indeed Rossi requires to mount a title chase - then there are no other options for testing before the end of the year.

And with four engines left for the remaining ten race weekends plus Sunday's race, Lorenzo's prospects of making it to the end of the year without an engine penalty are starting to look bleak. One of Lorenzo's remaining engines already has serious miles on it, and will be heading into the danger zone very soon indeed.

This brings in to play the scenario that many had feared when the engine restrictions were first mooted. The championship leader is likely to lose points over using an extra engine, as the penalty - starting from the pit lane ten seconds after the field has gone - means it is virtually impossible to score major points after taking the engine penalty. Lorenzo's comfortable lead of 52 points suddenly looks a good deal less unassailable - especially given that Dani Pedrosa in second place is absolutely bang on schedule with his engines, Honda seemingly having engine life down to perfection.

There is still a long way to go in the championship, and any number of factors could yet affect the outcome, but it already looks as if engine life is going to be a significant factor. A crash and another blown engine could see Lorenzo's lead disappear altogether. Add to this the fact that an engine blow up like the one that Lorenzo suffered plays havoc with Dorna's TV programming - something which deeply annoys TV broadcasters, who hate overruns with a passion because of the necessary rescheduling - and you have a recipe for disaster. At the end of the year, as teams eke out the last few miles from very tired engines indeed, major oil spills could start to be a common occurrence, with all the disruption that comes with them.

The combination of effects on the championship and wrecked programming schedules could cause Dorna to put pressure on the factories - whose idea this whole engine limit was - to find other ways of saving money, rather than running the risk that the end of the season turns into a game of Russian Roulette with engine mileage. Like death and taxes, the law of unintended consequences is unavoidable, and strikes just when its least convenient.

Jorge Lorenzo's engine usage, prior to the Sachsenring weekend.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that this is the point where just about...oooooh...ALL OF US chime in and say, "WE TOLD YOU SO, YOU BLOODY IDIOTS!"

Great article. Fantastic insight. Maybe this season ISN'T "Done & Dusted" after all...

This still got to play out
Horney has a good lead in the title race but could this come bk and Haunt him and Dorna's Rules.hmmm
Hi btw..

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that Lorenzo is the first to have a really spectacular engine failure. He typically puts in more laps in practice than just about any other rider - Hayden possibly excepted - and usually also hard laps at close to race pace. That has worked very much in his favour to now but if anyone was going to find the limits of engine endurance from use (rather than as a result of crashing) Lorenzo would have been the logical first 'suspect'.

Perhaps extraplolating too much here, but Yamaha's decision to use a test rider on Rossi's bike for engine life and crash-avoidance reasons starts to look very reasonable. Had they been starting to see tell-tales of imminent serious engine life problems? This could make for some most interesting late-season scenario changes, though Lorenzo may have enough in the bank already to be able to circulate for small points while everybody else scraps to grab the big ones in the chase..

You got right to it. Hayden and Lorenzo tend to really put in the miles in practice (though Hayden seems to have cut back a lot this season). The difference though is that Lorenzo is pushing much harder than Hayden.

So, we clearly have one more significant factor impacting practice and thereby the results. Is this what Dorna and the MSMA had in mind? We were pretty aware that the rookies were separated from the pack by limited practice and testing but now we are seeing the leaders affected as well.

Unintended consequences, indeed.

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And this is just the tip of the iceberg of why the engine rules sucks. The very notion that a rider much less the championship leader would lose points or be forced to ride on a de-tuned engine is not giving racing fans the best there is to offer.

I want to see the mechanics and engineers get every bit of horsepower out of the engines and the riders riding them at 110%. Sadly this will not happen with the engine rules in place.

The engine reliability testing is good, but didn't they invent endurance racing for engine life testing? The FIM have an endurance series, they should create a prototype flight for GP bikes so they can run an entire endurance weekend on 1 engine. Who cares if it's only 3 or 4 bikes, that is a more appropriate place to conduct engine life testing.

If they had moved engine reliability testing to FIM Endurance for a few seasons, the manufacturers would have a better idea of what works and what doesn't. The engine life restrictions would reduce costs without interrupting the championship.

The motoGP guys said it was Lorenzo's #2 engine that blew today and that it had close to the 2400 kms on it. He was using that in practice to save the other for the race. I guess it comes down to the most accurate information. Personally, looking at that chart I don't see how they can keep up with it anyway.

To be fair to Gavin and Nick, they have to find that sort of detail out very quickly, and sometimes that means that they get it wrong, especially in situations like this where not even the team is sure. Later, it emerged that the engine only had 1500 kms on it, a fact which Lorenzo acknowledged in the press conference after qualifying. 

The rules actually don't specifically mention that the practises have to be done with the same engines as the race. They say race event and if you look closely at the definitions you'll see that "race event" is distinctly different than a practise throughout the regulations. If I was a team manager I'd be leaning toward 6 race engines and make DORNA prove you had to practise with the same they couldn't do it.

Funny that. I was all set to write a succinct post showing how you are obviously wrong, then reread the regulations at:

and think you have a great point.

they state an 'event' as follows:

1.2.1 The Event shall be deemed to commence at the scheduled time for Technical and Sporting Checks and finish after all the races at the expiry of the deadline for the lodging of a protest and the time at which technical or sporting verifications have been concluded, whichever is the latest.

A clear distinction is made here between an 'event' and a 'race'.

but in the engine durability section they say:

2.3.7 Engine Durability
1.) In the MotoGP class the number of engines available for use by each rider is limited. For the 2010 season a maximum of 6 engines may be used by each permanent contracted rider for all the scheduled races of the season.

They say scheduled races, not events, so reading it from a lawyer's point of view that's 6 engines for 18 races then open season for practice, qualifying and testing.


I don't like the idea of rule bending like that. Evenmore, I dislike that teams have the opportunity to fudge the rules in this fashion. I hope that it won't come to something this ridiculous.

Onto the engine blowout... I realize it is serious business. However, I found it immensely hilarious that Lorenzo had to shoo all the people away from his bike. And point the appropriate spot to spray!

Otherwise, who would have guessed that the guy whom has one the most races this year (in fantastic style, I might add) would be the first through the allocated engines? Not I! =p

for Lorenzo's team, though. There's little point in sending him out on a tired motor for practice - he doesn't exactly need to learn the tracks - and simply circulating at below reasonable race pace won't help fine-tune set-up. Saving the good motor for QP and the race runs the risk of either finding an unexpected problem with set-up too late to get the set-up right or worse, a crash because he hasn't worn into his accustomed race-pace groove ( though to be fair, he looks to be pretty much past his serial crashing days.) Equally sending him out on a late-life engine for QP is likely to have him well back on the grid with more work to do, just as other bikes are getting more competitive - or another blow-up at precisely the wrong time putting him seriously back on the grid.

One wonders whether Suppo's comments about Stoner being 'immediately fast' had a broader meaning than just being competitive from very early in his time at HRC? Stoner's whole practice style is the antithesis of Lorenzo's - for which he has oft been criticized - but perhaps it is becoming a more-valued trait in the current engine-life scenario.

Lorenzo and Stoners practice mileage up until Germany were respectively top and bottom of the table..with JLo pounding out 3102kms to Caseys 2443kms, a diifference of 669kms or about 27%. Stoners frugal mileage plus Hondas legendary reliability, I believe they still have their original two engines intact, should make Suppos signing hot favourite for next year.?

Another thing. With only Stoner confirmed as moving next year so far, will this have an effect on transfers/signings?
Jorge and the rest of them are is not their job to baby motors around if asked, to avoid the calamitous multi pit lane start come seasons end..saying that, what option have they got with only three serious manufacturers?

I think 2400km is more accurate. You can know from the engine allocation charts that both engine #1 and 2 had more than 2200km before they died. For the engine #1, Lorenzo did 16 FP and QP, and 4 WP and 2 race distances. He usually runs 25 laps each for FP and QP, and about 10 laps for WP. The race distance is 118. The track length is about 4.7km. If you sum them up it is 2300km. The engine #2 expired just after he run more than 2200km.

Lorenzo lost engine #2. Just got the latest charts, and that was the one which disappears after QP in Germany. Lorenzo has now taken a 4th engine, and he is due to race on the new one. 

All this cloak and dagger stuff surrounding engine mileage and numbers is totally out of order and very frustrating..they introduced these rules which look like having a big say in the outcome, yet as fans we're expected to accept non disclosure of critical sporting information directly associated with those self same rules?

Why not be transparent and publish accumulated mileages on specific engines? It would add to the show!..they just don't seem to get it!

It looks like Lorenzo put many km on #2 engines before it expired as he always runs many laps in the FP. But, Honda is in far better position than Yamaha. He may have to cut the number of laps in FP toward the end of the season. 47 points is big margin, but the season is not halfway yet, and just one or two DNF can make the championship very tight.
"Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg said the cause of the engine failure was unclear, but did reveal that it wasn't a new engine. "As for the engine, we now have one less from our allocation of six and we need time to understand what happened; luckily it wasn't a new engine, it's been in use a long time but it's never nice when something like this happens," he said."

Sounds like the one in QP was the first one destroyed, according to Zeelenberg.

Also, your post-Assen post didn't say anything about Lorenzo blowing an engine:

1500km doesn't really count as a new motor. More to your point, nothing Zeelenberg says suggests this was the first motor they have wasted. IS there any reason to believe that the disappearance of motor #1 from the charts after Assen doesn't means it is blown?

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I did not mention it after Assen because it did not seem to be a critical factor at the time, and I did not have the time to cover the engine usage in detail. And you are correct, this is the first engine to be destroyed. The other engine has just never been used since. The engine lists are released after warm up before the race, so we won't be able to see the real consequences until Laguna Seca. If Lorenzo is using a fourth engine and has dropped two others, then we will know the extent of the damage to the engine at Assen.

There's a lot of smoke and mirrors about engine usage. Riders say it's not a significant factor for them, only to let slip that it does make a difference moments later. It's clear they've had instructions to avoid answering questions about the engines. I do have an interview with Fabio Sterlacchini, one of the Pramac Ducati engineers, in which he talks about engine strategy. That will be going up on the site during the break. 

Thanks for playing out the possible effects of this in detail, very interesting read!

I agree with everyone else that the engine rule sucks and we will definitely see some teams suffer from it at the end of the year.

However, given the previous "change rules every given day" attitude of TPTB, I honestly hope they won't pull any of that on the engine rule before the end of the season. Yes, it will definitely suck for the teams that get a penalty and it might in fact influence the championship quite a bit in the end, but now that the damage is already done everyone has to deal with the same issue and Dorna/IRTA/whoever should leave it like that and please change the rules again for next season.

This, to me, brings up the safety issue with having a limited number of engines.

When having a limited number of engines, you would probably try to eek out as many miles as possible from each engine before shelving it. As long as the data says it runs ok within certain parameter limits, you'd probably want to run it. This, in my view, increases the risk of the engine to fail in a spectacular manner, like it did yesterday, spewing out oil on the track.

It's just another rule making the riders and teams being even more on the limits of safety, IMHO. Just like the move to 800cc, trading straight-line speed (although they caught up on that later) for corner speed, thus increasing the risk for more dangerous crashes.

Like many race fans I wasn't happy about the limited engine rule. However I have to concede that something had to give, money is not limitless!

So to answer some well intensioned points I would start by saying that all of the teams entering this series know and clearly understand the rules and their consequences.

It would seem that Dani and Dovi are not being hamstrung by any engine restrictions; aparently that they are still on their first two engines each.

Unlimited engines would suggest unlimited budgets - which planet do you guys live on - THERE IS NO MONEY! Only 17 riders are able to get funding to race at the highest level. F1 can get 24 cars on a grid but they move in far more elevated circles (where all the money lives).

To clarify the wording of the rules. The "event" is the whole event - 125s, Moto2s and MotoGP. The 125s, Moto2 and MotoGP are the races at the event. So no fiddling with engines for practice and races then...

Why is an engine designed to last say 2000 km any more at risk of exploding as it nears that limit than an engine designed to last say 300 km is as it reaches it's limit?

The consequence of all this is that the 2010 season is far from over. The championship will be won over the whole season and perhaps Mr Honda's strategy will prove to be more successful than Yamaha's. Watch this space...


Something like displacement? or fuel capacity restriction? or spec electronics? Good changes were impossible b/c the MSMA would allow rules that make the sport less technologically complex. At every available opportunity the MSMA need to make it harder so they can build a fence around the sport and make sure they hold on to the commercial rights money. Fine, that's Dorna's fault, but let's not confuse the political realities of the sport with virtuous cost cutting.

The MSMA redesigned the engines, cooling systems, lubrication systems, electronics, and aero (cooling vents) just to reduce temperatures and improve engine life. They also removed the fuel pressure limit so some (if not all of the teams) have incorporated direct-injection. The glut of spending has done absolutely nothing to improve GP's financial situation. The engine life rules are just a research project for the manufacturers (using non-production relevant materials). I think Dorna were eager to sign off b/c it would close the gap between satellite bikes and factory bikes.

If they had just stroked the engines by 10mm and added 3L of fuel, engine and electronics costs would halt. Pneumatics wouldn't be necessary. Fuel sipping electronics wouldn't be necessary. Direct injection isn't needed. MotoGP would be cheap, simple, and wide open to competition--exactly how the MSMA never want GP to function.

After 5 years of commercial growth and competitive growth, MotoGP has retracted back to the mid 1990s. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, and Cagiva. I wonder who is steering the ship?

It is reprehensible that the Japanese would continue to complicate the racing motorcycle during a time when sales have plummeted due to rising costs and global economic recession.

As much as the MSMA really piss me off, I actually believe this is not entirely their fault. The Flamminis are to blame for this mess b/c they kicked the MSMA out of WSBK so now all of these mass production techniques like engine reliability testing and bore limiting across an entire product line are becoming part of GP instead of WSBK. As one of my family members swears to me, this problem will be solved by the AMA b/c the AMA and the Japanese are getting ready to do an end around on the Flamminis. I don't know whether is is full of clairvoyance or narcotics, but somebody needs to get the Japanese back into the business of production racing so they can stop ruining MotoGP.

Honda produces 14 million IC engines a year. 14 million. You are saying they can't afford to rebuild a motor after a race?

There is money. Lots and lots of money.

What is lacking is good leadership, vision and imagination.

Yes, the 'event' is the whole event, all classes and all track outings as defined in the rules. They clearly define an event and a race and they are not the same thing.

1.2.1 The Event shall be deemed to commence at the scheduled time for Technical and Sporting Checks and finish after all the races at the expiry of the deadline for the lodging of a protest and the time at which technical or sporting verifications have been concluded, whichever is the latest.

Then the engine mileage rule states:

1.) In the MotoGP class the number of engines available for use by each rider is limited. For the 2010 season a maximum of 6 engines may be used by each permanent contracted rider for all the scheduled races of the season.'

The rules state 'scheduled races' not 'scheduled events'.

I know what the intent of the rules was but as written they do not reflect that intent very well.


Whoa. I never even thought about the end of season consequences with lots of high-mileage engine circulating... that could be messy indeed.

So rules are made and seem that it can be changed mid season. The mcn have a story stating Suzuki have been allowed to have extra engines this season. so what does this mean if one of the championship leaders has the same problem as it cant be one rule for one and different rules for others.

I just saw the article as well. Maybe this is why the GPC was unwilling to release engine usage data.

Lots of talk how Lorenzos blow up could effect the championship but no one has suggested it may be in his favor.
Remember the guy is almost 2 race wins ahead of anyone else so to catch him first they got to beat him to do that they have to go fast the faster they go they to run the risk of a engine blow up. so id say lorenzo is sitting pretty as he has the points already.