MotoGP Schedule Shuffled Again: Three 45 Minute Sessions, And An Hour Qualifying

The Grand Prix Commission - MotoGP's rulemaking body - appear to have too little to do. A meeting last week announced yet another shakeup of the weekend schedule for each MotoGP event, which will see three sessions of free practice, of 45 minutes each, and an hour of qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

The announcement is the latest in a series of changes to the organization of practice, coming just over a month after the previous change. In the meeting of December 9th, 2010, the GP commission announced a return to the four-practice schedule, then agreeing that the MotoGP class would have four sessions of an hour, two sessions on Friday and two on Saturday, including qualifying in the afternoon. That has now been amended to three free practice sessions of 45 minutes (two on Friday and one on Saturday morning), with an hour of qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

The return to four sessions, tested at Aragon last year, then reinstated for the last two Grand Prix of 2010 at Estoril and Valencia, was widely welcomed, as it gave the teams more time to make setup changes between the sessions, the one complaint being that there was little time to make changes during the session, 45 minutes being too short. That situation appeared to have been rectified by the changes in December, but now a new compromise has been agreed, with free practice at 45 minutes and an hour of qualifying. The hour of qualifying means that the teams will have enough time to test setup changes, and still have time for the riders to try to set a fast qualifying time. The situation has been complicated by the engine allocation limits; Dorna was worried that riders would spend more time in the pits saving the mileage on their engines during the hour-long sessions, making for poor TV.

The MotoGP class is not the only class to have their schedule changed. The 125cc class was also due to have two 45 minute sessions on Friday and Saturday morning, with two 30 minute sessions in the afternoons. The 125s will now have four sessions of 40 minutes; with just one bike per rider, a crash during the afternoon qualifying session would have made it almost impossible to score a decent grid position. The extra ten minutes should allow more time for the riders to get back to the pits for a second chance.

Below is the official FIM press release, announcing the changes:

FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
2011 Event schedule

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM), Hervé Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of M. Paul Butler (Secretary of the meeting), in an electronic meeting held on 14 January, unanimously decided to introduce the following modifications to the Event schedule:

Wednesday: Arrival and setting up of Teams

Thursday: Arrival and setting up of Teams
10:00 - 17:00 Technical and Sporting Checks and other formalities 

09:15-09:55 40 min. 125cc Free Practice 1
10:10-10:55 45 min. MotoGP Free Practice 1
11:10-11:55 45 min. Moto2 Free Practice 1
13:15-13:55 40 min. 125cc Free Practice 2
14:10-14:55 45 min. MotoGP Free Practice 2
15:10-15:55 45 min. Moto2 Free Practice 2
09:15-09:55 40 min. 125cc Free Practice 3
10:10-10:55 45 min. MotoGP Free Practice 3
11:10-11:55 45 min. Moto2 Free Practice 3
13:00-13:40 40 min. 125cc Qualifying Practice
13:55-14:55 60 min. MotoGP Qualifying Practice
15:10-15:55 45 min. Moto2 Qualifying Practice
08:40-09:00 20 min. 125cc Warm Up
09:10-09:30 20 min. Moto2 Warm Up
09:40-10:00 20 min. MotoGP Warm Up
11:00   125cc Race
12:15   Moto2 Race
14:00   MotoGP Race

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...they're right up front in their declaration that their reasoning is because of poor levels of television excitement? Because the teams have the bikes in the pits making changes necessary for racing?

First off, this is perhaps one of the most blatant signs of disregard for the good of the riders I've ever seen. I mean they're just so frank and forthright about their motives: It might bore the viewers if the bikes are being set up in the pits. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I do not believe I'm the only one that finds it interesting and exciting to see what they are doing in the pits.

Ultimately, though, I'm not the most important thing here (nor are the fans in this context). The teams need time to get greater safety and speed from a proper setup. Being denied that chance because of (Nielsen/TV) ratings...

Just when I thought that my scorn and contempt levels for the rulers of the sport could not possibly get any higher...

The people who watch the practices are obviously not watching it for the racing, but for the love of all the work that goes into Sunday.

Besides that, what TV program actually runs for 45min? (well actually, an "hour" long program is usually 40min of content, 20min of ads) The ads are STILL going to cut into the practice content, so what are they going to show for the other 15min?

More needless fiddling from the powers that be all in the (baseless) spirit of pinching after pennies. I can't think of ANY motogp fan who would like to see 45min practices over the 1hr long show. What a disappointment, Dorna.

I agree fans would rather see hour long sessions, unless that meant only one Friday practice. As for 3-45min sessions (and 1 hour QP) I really doubt this will cause any issues with TV, though.

For starters, there are very few networks that cover practice--though many cover QP and the race which are 1 hour. Most people watching practice are those with subscriptions so the length of the session isn't relevant. Second, Spain and Italy TV might cover it but their ratings would warrent it given the interest in those countries. I'm sure they can just fill the time with interviews, etc and still have excellent ratings.

So, penny pinching aside, this isn't really a big deal when it comes to television programming and I'm sure Dorna is aware of it.

...that, regardless of TV schedule, IT IS NOT (ULTIMATELY) ABOUT THE VIEWING AUDIENCE.

It is about the teams having the time to try more solutions.

It is about affording greater SAFETY through testing more hypotheses for the solutions to a bike's setup.

It is also about greater SPEED that comes through those solutions.

Those two elements give every chance for the competitors to 1) put on a better show, and to 2) live longer lives.

True, not many places televise all the practices. I, myself, would rather watch an hour-long practice EVEN IF there were only one or two bikes out on the track at a time. Regardless of whether or not each rider is my favorite, they're all heroic figures, risking their lives doing something I would love to do. But really, practices aren't there for the amusement of others. They're there to make the bikes that show up for the race as thoroughly well-thought-out and as personalized as possible for the NEEDS (not "wants") of the men who are going to put their very lives at stake by riding these machines. Yes, it makes the racing better when there's better setup, but to trivialize the REAL reason practices were lengthened (to give more setup time) with this IDIOCY about ratings...

Maybe if they ACTUALLY CARED about ratings, they'd do something-ANYTHING-to actually give the fans what they want: racing that isn't decided by Microsoft, but by the "TV-ratings-generators" that are twisting the throttle. Seriously, now, is it going to take another death or two, along with another precipitous drop in ratings, before this sport takes its participants (AND its viewing audience) a little more seriously?

You guys are confusing two different issues. The reason the riders won't go out for the whole hour is because of the engine limits not because the teams will be working on set up. So, the GPC isn't cutting into practice time at the expense of riders, they are cutting out time that wouldn't be used anyway.

--------------------------------------------- - MotoGP Data & Statistics

As I say below, the teams know how many laps they can realistically and safely run for each practice (while maintaining the proper number of kilometers/miles on each engine) session before the season has started, regardless of session time.

More clock time gives more thought/wrench/hypothesis time, but not more laps, because that would only happen if someone is ignorant of an engine's lifespan. And we all know that nobody is ignorant to the lifespan requirements.

ALL the time would be used.

But longer practices don't necessarily equate to better racing. In fact, I'd say history (800cc mainly) has shown just the opposite. Lack of setup time, say when sessions were rained out, have usually led to a better overall race. We get watch the greatest riders in the world with imperfect setups having to ride around issues to stay up front. I suppose one could make a point that it's not *AS* safe, but it would be difficult to say it's not safe at all. Besides, when the lights go out I'll bet more than a few riders aren't content with setups--EVEN WHEN we had four 60 minute sessions.

Any way, we're way off the point. I don't disagree at all that setup time is for the riders and teams, and NOT for the fans. The fans are free to watch practice but it's not about putting on a show at that point.

MESSAGE TO DORNA: 45 min practice seessions kept me at home ie turned me into a non attender at the track - YOU'VE DONE IT AGAIN.

.. (as if any was needed ! ) that the inmates are running the asylum.

Crimson Tide has nailed it again.

I too, have utter contempt, especially for Poncharal as a team owner, for sanctioning this f##***g farce. This is where the riders association need to make a UNITED stand and tell these Dorna f'wits that they want the hour practice sessions, no compromise.

Dorna's total lack of understanding and professionalism is probably a contributing factor to the dearth of big money sponsors ( e.g. , Yamaha ) The granting of TV rights to certain national broadcasters is an insult to the sport, a fact that will not have been overlooked to potential multinational sponsors. Maybe it is time for a breakaway series to be given some consideration again ?

This is not all about Dorna not wanting empty tracks. This is also (very much) about the factories wanting to save money by keeping mileage down. It's easy to point the finger of blame at Dorna, but Dorna often takes the flak that should be hitting the factories and the MSMA. should not be a problem at all for each team to calculate how many laps they can feasibly do on each engine for each practice.

The hour-long practice gives more wrench time, if not necessarily laps run. The number of laps should be (and I'm sure must be) budgeted before the practice session (or even SEASON, I would think) starts, regardless of the length of the session.

The factories can build a motor that can do any number of laps needed - if they wanted to try to get through the whole season on a single motor that is completely possible from an engineering perspective. However, the more laps you put on a the motor the more you have to detune it. As it stands, I believe they are trying to find a balance between enough practice time and motors that can still be called race motors.

--------------------------------------------- - MotoGP Data & Statistics

Thankyou David.

A selfish motive - I like to move around the track somewhat even though top favs aren't going to be out for the entire session - an hr is better.
There's nothing written in the sky that says bikes have to be out the whole session - they aren't, same as F1. Aus F1 last yr was irratating (to me) that Schumacher was in the pits for 40 mins during practice, but he did return.

An hr means one is more engaged through the day - playing marbles at the racetrack isn't very stimulating ! (considering one pays to be there).

For me its an inverse relationship - the shorter the practice time the less likely I am to move my butt a long distance (and hence the gate takings go down).

Perhaps 'they' want paying punters to turn up on Sunday only !

WOOOOOOOOPS tooooo late a night. I meant the shorter the practice time, the more likely I am not to go.

I agree with a lot of words here.

I do watch a lot of the practices on and I could care less if they are 45 or 60 minute sessions but if I was a rider I think I would prefer 60 minutes. If nothing else it eases up the need to run agressive out laps while warming up the tires a bit, making crashes like Rossi's last year a bit less likely. If I was a wrench I would definitely prefer the longer session. It isn't all about riders.

It would seem safety is better served by longer sessions, and intuitively it would seem that the more practice time available the closer every team would be to the optimal setting. However experience has shown that some of the best and closest racing has occurred when there was little or no relevant practice for a weekend.

Now if I was Gavin, Ian, or Nick, I guess I would want the shorter sessions.

A distraction which became a lack of concentration. Nothing to do with anything else.

I agree it is Dorna and T.V that is the primary driver of this. Not the factories. Be it 60 mins or 45 mins they're still going to run the same number of laps. There is no other rationale to change the length of practice times other than T.V. I also love to see the fettling going on in the pits and would love to see much more! And finally yes it's just the die hard 3 day fans who get ripped off.

I'd be interested to know whether this is classed a technical change to the rules, where the MSMA has it's veto, or comes under Sporting, where it doesn't.

the teams ability to make extensive set-up changes when they are up the creek, sans paddles, and also to analyze and fine tune an existing fast set-up to maybe save tires, ease rider stress, improve mapping, etc .

Time is the racers most valuable asset, it's free and can save money ( and lives ! )

Just...why? I dont understand the constant tinkering. To what end the benefit of 15 mins less. To save money on tires? Fuel? Engine life? Really? If an additional 15 minute of practice time is going to bankrupt a team one has to question if they can afford to go racing at the highest level in the first place. If a team is concerned about the mileage on a particular engine, then simple. Dont run it. The throttle turns both ways. Why penalize the entire paddock and the global fan community for the sake of one or two theoretical poor teams?