MotoGP Silly Season 2013 Starts Early - Yamaha Keen To Hang On To Lorenzo

With all the debate and discussion over the changes coming to MotoGP for 2012 - 1000cc machines, the appearance of the Claiming Rule Team machines, arguments over exactly what the Aprilia bike is, and the ongoing talks over the imposition of a rev limit and spec ECU for 2013, it is easy to overlook the fact that it is not just the bikes which are changing. All four of MotoGP's so-called Aliens are out of contract at the end of next season, as well as just about every other rider on the MotoGP grid. With the last five years utterly dominated by the Fantastic Four - Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner winning all but four races in 5 season - the key for any factory to securing a MotoGP title has been having at least one Alien on its books.

That lesson has not been lost on Yamaha. The Japanese factory secured five of the last eight championships with either Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo at the helm. With Rossi moved on, and Lorenzo not yet 25 years old, Yamaha has tied its long term future to the success of the 2010 World Champion. So much so that according to Matt Birt of MCN, Yamaha is already looking to extend their contract with Lorenzo once the current one runs out at the end of 2012. Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told MCN that keeping Lorenzo was "key" and that he wished to open contract negotiations early. Jarvis also said that it was "very, very important" to secure the services of either Lorenzo or 2011 World Champion Casey Stoner.

With Stoner looking set to stay with Honda for the foreseeable future, that leaves Lorenzo as Yamaha's favorite option. One item of interest in the MCN story is Jarvis avoiding any mention of either Dani Pedrosa or Valentino Rossi. Despite his strong performance, Pedrosa's propensity for injury dogs his reputation; his speed is not in question, but injury has prevented him from getting anywhere near securing a title, despite the fact that the injuries he suffered were through no fault of his own. Rossi's name is perhaps more conspicuous by its absence, especially given the success the legendary Italian has brought to Yamaha. But Rossi's departure from Yamaha almost certainly left scars which will need time to heal, and with Rossi's age starting to become, if not a factor, then at least a relevant consideration, Yamaha may prefer to look to the future with younger riders, rather than to the past with a proven older one.

But the Yamaha situation will be the very start of it, and the rule and policy changes coming in 2013 could make the upcoming silly season negotiations even more interesting than they would have been otherwise. Carmelo Ezpeleta has reiterated his determination not to provide financial support to teams that lease factory prototypes from 2013 onwards, and this shuts out the normal path to a factory ride.

To take Marc Marquez as an example: the Spaniard is heavily tipped to be able to match the pace of the Fantastic Four, and both Honda and Yamaha are believed to be chasing the young Spaniard. Previously, Marquez would have followed the path taken by Andrea Dovizioso and Ben Spies, joining a satellite team for their rookie year, before moving up to a factory team the following season. But with no financial support from Dorna, private teams such as Tech 3, Gresini and LCR can no longer afford the exorbitant lease prices demanded by the factories.

This leaves both the factories and riders such as Marquez in a quandary. As the so-called Rookie Rule prevents a new rider in the MotoGP class from joining a factory team in their first year, neither Yamaha, Honda nor Ducati have anywhere to put Marquez should they be able to secure his services. The only way that Yamaha could be sure of moving Marquez up into the factory team in his second year is by placing him with Tech 3 in his rookie year, and providing a factory prototype at virtually no cost. An alternative for Marquez could be for his sponsors to step up and pay the lease on a factory prototype, but the power has now shifted towards the riders. With just 6 factory prototypes likely to be on the grid from 2013, riding a CRT machine is much less of a risk, especially if Ezpeleta pushes through rules imposing a rev limit and a spec ECU. The playing field could be evened quite a bit in 2013.

The complications of the Claiming Rule Teams and Carmelo Ezpeleta's reluctance to subsidize the factories through exorbitant lease prices could make for a very interesting silly season in MotoGP for 2013. Added to that, there is the question of whether Dani Pedrosa and Ben Spies will be retained by their current employers - Andrea Dovizioso has made his intention clear of taking a factory ride with Yamaha for 2013 - and who could be drafted in to take their place. With the loss of the satellite teams, the factories could push for the Rookie Rule to be repealed, though with Dorna and IRTA in their current mood, such a move would meet with massive resistance. The rule has, after all, served its purpose very well, allowing satellite teams to sign big-name riders and benefit from the surge of publicity such riders generate, and the satellite teams will have more of a say in the direction of MotoGP from 2012, while the factories are forced to take a back seat.

If the silly season which played out ahead of 2011, the last time all four Aliens were out of contract, is anything to go by, the 2013 Silly Season looks like being a genuine media frenzy. The fact that speculation is starting after just the very first test at the end of the 2011 season just goes to underline this. Even if Yamaha succeed in their aim of signing Jorge Lorenzo to a further contract extension early in the year, the complications could be endless. It's about to get very, very interesting.

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I'm going to be boring and place a bet on all 6 riders remaining where they are. I think the Ducati will be better throughout 2011 which will encourge Rossi to stay. Hayden is a loyal #2 in the ducati camp.
Stoner and Pedrosa are part of the furniture at Honda, which leaves Lorenzo and Spies remaining at Yamaha.

I think that #2 in each of the factory teams is living on borrowed time.

Pedrosa, Spies and Hayden all either need to produce something special or start looking for a new home.

Hayden has done everything asked of him. He's kept up with Rossi, and has generally done a good job of picking up the maximum available points.

In fact it's not really an issue of a factory subsidizing a satellite team, it's just the end of Dorna subsidizing the factories via the satellite team leases.

The cost of building a MotoGP bike is probably $200k or so. The rest is development, and is exactly the same whether they build one bike or twelve... so in fact they are asking the teams to participate in the R&D and that money is coming partly from Dorna.

It might even be reasonable if the factories weren't justifying the fuel-limit and other closed-shop rules in terms of relevance to production: if building high-performance lean-burn engines is really a critical R&D issue for the industry, then it should be coming from core R&D budget... not something which needs to be recouped from client teams.

So the answer is easy: if Honda et al can't afford to give the bikes to the teams at reasonable cost... build cheaper bikes. If HRC believe a standard ECU will increase costs, let them propose a lower cost alternative rule-set: I'm sure Ezpeleta et al would be interested.

I'd say the $200k figure is off by at least a factor of 5. I'm building a engine that is not anywhere near as exotic as a factory motogp engine and if I wanted to use exotic parts/materials/coatings that are accessible to me could easily spend $50k on the engine alone. Ohlins likely charges $30-40k for a set of those forks. Maybe $200k for purely material costs is accurate, then add another $1M for processing it into final parts.

Also, don't forget, a lease of a factory bike is for a bike and 6 engines and also 2-3 full time technicians at each race. I understand how $3-4M leases are not for every team but don't think it is at all an unreasonable amount for a bike and support package capable of winning the highest level motorcycle world championship there is. This class is supposed to be the best of the best. The elite. The price of victory should not be cheap.

If Dorna had their thinking caps on they would have Honda, Yamaha and every other manufacturer doing what Aprilia is, building a production GP racer around modified production engines. Embrace factory design and testing resources, don't ban them. Sort of a hybrid between the customer 500s that used to be available and the CRT concept. If your team is big and financially sound you'll be able to afford a top level rider and factory bike. If not you can afford a mid-level rider and a production GP racer. The backmarker teams have already implicitly agreed to this arrangement but with overpriced and artificially restricted bikes so their situation will not change but teams with the resources will run and win with a bike that truly deserves to be a GP champion.


Hi Chris,
I guess it depends where you start the costing. Looking at your own project, it seems a big proportion of the time is spent building tooling of one sort or another, and that when you come to knocking out part 2,3,4 etc it's quicker and easier. I'd imagine that is even more the case for HRC... I suspect they have a few decent CNC machines in the shop. At one extreme you could include the depreciation on them, at the other you could say "well, they needed them even to build the first bike to their standards".

The Ohlins SBK fork you can buy for about €12k... and that is probably the most expensive individual component. I think you should be able to put together everything other than the engine for the same price as buying a Moto2, maybe a bit more for the brakes. FTR were asking 60K € at one stage, I think. Throw in a few extra sets of wheels and brake rotors and you should still have 100k € left for the engine. You could get another gauge from the list prices for an Aprilia RSA125 frame and swingarm: about 17k €. Sure, a motogp frame will use a bit more material, but the material cost of 2m² of 7020 is about 300€... barely even a factor.

Ok, I've swapped to Euro to cheat... and you need 6 engines, not one :)
and there are technicians etc too... but answer this: why should the marginal cost of Honda building a bike be greater than the all in, IP, service and upgrades and support-included price of a Suter BMW?

It shouldn't be cheap, but it shouldn't be expensive just for the sake of being expensive.

However I agree absolutely with your comments about the need for production GP racers. I think that might be exactly what Dorna is trying to move towards by insisting that CRT bikes must be bought, not leased.

Bike racing is just not big enough to support these expensive bikes.

>>Looking at your own project, it seems a big proportion of the time
>>is spent building tooling of one sort or another, and that when you
>>come to knocking out part 2,3,4 etc it's quicker and easier.


The first one is costing a lot more than $50k, its the 3-5 that can cost that much. Even discounting machine depreciation it costs money to have a CNC operator in a low volume situation like this. Fixtures, programming, etc. There is no way of avoiding high amounts of labor in race machines like a factory GP bike.

>>I think you should be able to put together everything other than the engine for
>>the same price as buying a Moto2

Isn't the Suter motogp machine about 1M whatevers? A lot more than their Moto2 bike. And didn't RDP on a close to WSB bike go much faster than the Suters? Yes, he is a better rider than the other CRT times but it proves the Aprilia can go halfway decently on the Bridgestones while we're all hoping Colin will step up CRT times a big notch and quantify the rider factor/bike factor and that the Aspar machines are well developed from the start. Both big hopes. I just hope they don't go crazy with equalization efforts when the non-factory CRTs end up being much slower.

>>The Ohlins SBK fork you can buy for about €12k

Aren't the superbike forks 2 year old GP forks? And for some reason I don't think Carlos' forks were the 12k € click to add to cart variety.

>>but answer this: why should the marginal cost of Honda building a bike be
>>greater than the all in, IP, service and upgrades and support-included price
>>of a Suter BMW?

Because its faster? More and higher technology product and support? Most of all: capability of providing premier class world championship plaque?

Cost is all in the details. The engine has lots of details. The resulting prices from Dorna's attempt to have the factories provide engine leases show where they feel the money is: the engine. Just for one example the steel in the gears is of a much higher quality (read: very expensive) than the ones in a Suter BMW. It requires more expensive processing and has more expensive heat and surface treatments. Transmission gears, water pump gears, camdrive gears, there's lots of steel gears in an engine. That cost multiplication at every stage goes for every part and material in the engine. Multilayer PVD coatings, DLC, plasma ion diffusion, I'm sure a GP crank and valvetrain uses them all. A GP engine is smaller and more powerful than a production engine. It costs more. That is not an unreasonable relation. A smaller more powerful engine can make a better racebike. Also not an unreasonable relation.

>>It shouldn't be cheap, but it shouldn't be expensive just for the sake
>>of being expensive.

As you say, that can be avoided by providing less expensive options by working with the factory instead of at odds with them. I think Aprilia will be able to develop a one-off frame for their engine that is faster than Suter's for a BMW. I think the same could be said for Honda or Yamaha or BMW. It is not a disparagement of the aftermarket frame builders, it is an acknowledgement of the vast resources that a production facility endows a company with. Years ago aftermarket frame builders provided an improved product than the production equivalent but at this point the tides may have turned. At least until a frame builder comes up with a new advantage. Hmmmm, wonder what that can be.

And yes, I think the concept of leasing machines is a decent contributor to the current grid size problem. If they have to introduce separate specifications part of the requirements for CRT status should include team ownership of their bikes. These bikes need to grow in population, during the entire 4 stroke era the only GP bikes that existed were current racers and maybe a championship bike in a living room somewhere. It has been a singular failure of the classification change. Once the year is over they disappear, never to be seen again. Or to used cheaply by a b-spec team. And we wonder why the b-spec teams are having such problems.

Happy Holidays to all,


If they have to introduce separate specifications part of the requirements for CRT status should include team ownership of their bikes.

That seems to be what Borsoi is saying is the unwritten rule... he was keen to say that the team will own the Aprilia and "do whatever they like with it".

For the rest, I'll back down on the engine costs... although I have to wonder if many of the coating technologies aren't also lurking inside some WSBK motors. For the frames though... in the end, it's some fancy pressing equipment, a few hundred € of aluminium, a jig and a tig. Multiply by 10 if you want to go nuts and machine more of it out of billet. It's the same process for an RSA125 (€12k retail for the frame, €4k5 for the swingarm), a wsbk swingarm (FTR prices: same as RSA125), moto2 or CRT or MotoGP.

>>That seems to be what Borsoi is saying is the unwritten rule... he
>>was keen to say that the team will own the Aprilia and "do
>>whatever they like with it".

I dislike unwritten rules and rolling rulebooks. Its an opaque and reactive approach to something that by nature should be transparent and proactive. Leasing immediately because an issue because it was mentioned several times in reports of Aspar's bike. Leasing was reported consistently from several sources so I can only imagine what happened is that Dorna called Aspar and said you either buy them outright or you don't get a penny in assistance from us. I am happy bikes will be team owned but wish this obvious issue would have been addressed in the official rulebook. As many including yourself have pointed out leasing is detrimental to the health of the satellite teams and therefore the sport itself. If they extensively revising the rules shouldn't this issue be thought about?

Its like the engine case issue with Moto2. The FIM WSB rulebook requires case protectors to prevent oil/water spillage but the FIM GP rulebook indirectly prohibited fitting them because of the sealed engine rules. All someone had to do was think about this for a minute or so and come to the obvious conclusion that Geo Engineering provide the engines to the teams already fitted with case protectors.

I guess I am being a bit grumpy but it seems that leadership across the board is obsessed with pissing on fires of their own creation instead if making a fireproof building. As this isn't the forum to air those issues, I'll sign off here.

Happy New Year to all following the gregorian calendar and may 2012 bring a great year of injury-free racing.

And a running bike.


The new rules for 2013 will make things more interesting but I hope there's better racing instead of off-track drama overshadowing the reason we tune in. With the CRTs developing their bikes on-the-fly next year, they may only become upgraded copies of WSB machines with a Spec-ECU! The war/debate between MotoGP and WSB will resurface.

Has more than proven his worth, I think. His dominant display at Assen was a nice boost to his credentials. Could have been two wins had he taken a better line off that last corner in Valencia (a bit more motor wouldn't have hurt either). He has shown his potential. Though most who really know the young Texan, know his strength will be shown in the 1000's. There is a lot of people saying the new bikes are going to be a lot like the 800's cause of electronics, but it seems it could easily be dialed down to almost no intervention (ahem, Stoner). It seems what they will really need is wheelie control, if that first test is anything to go by. Add to that the fact that Yamaha can't hide their delight at how good the new M1 is out of the box, and we could have an interesting combination indeed.

I believe people are speculating on 2013 way too early. Let's see how 2012 pans out first. Like I've said before, I believe the CRT's will cause quite a few eyebrows to raise once all is said and done next season...

I'm all for the CRTs if they can provide close racing and a little on track excitement. We all know the 800s have been boring and just a few races to raise an eyebrow at. I really liked the 500s, I would have like to see an 800cc stroke against a 1000cc 4 stroke.

I'd like to see the aliens and all MotoGP riders on CRT bikes. The factories can stlll do their R&D on the products they sell which will only sell more bikes ultimately I think.

Hmmm, I like the FUSA back in the day, run what you brung. All bikes would be prototypes and the smaller teams and private teams could compete against the factory teams. It could be great. We all know, its not about power but the power you can get to the ground and use. That may prove to be really expensive for all. In the end, CRT is the way to go if not a full spec bike like moto2 but with all factories and teams building to a certain power/rev limit/weight set of rules.

He he... Rich Oliver on a TZ250, R1 engines in R7 chassis, an occasional appearance by a YZR500... wish I could have seen some of that :)

Far too anarchic for the FIM, unfortunately :(

in the 90s, I was at the FUSA race in Seattle, WA, the SIR track, where Rich Oliver and Robbie Peterson were racing the YZR500s. I met Kenny Roberts Sr. and stubbled over my words. My RV was used as a media HQ along with Rob Muzzy Kawasaki. Rob was there with Scott Russell, Gary Medley (?) was working on Scott's bike. The Haden brothers (Nicky and Tommy) were there too racing on Saturday riding a 125cc 2 stroke. One of them crashed in the "bust stop" during practice and cracked their frame. I remember directing them where to go to get the frame welded.

It was an awesome weekend!!!

Or the Australian Swann series in the mid 80s - amazing memories and lineups, F1 bikes, superbikes, 500s and TZ750s (though I experienced it through magazines as I didn't see a race, living on the wrong side of Aust).
This discussion pushed me to You tube where there is footage of the 85 series in particular, good viewing.
Gardner having his first races on Spencer's wild NSR in 85, Austalian legend Mal Campbell on a FWS one year and a NS another, McElnea, Peterson an others on RGs, McGee on a YZR, Dowson on a TZ750 plus oddities such as (another Australian legend) Phillis' GSXR750 engined GSXR400. Grids with the front row 9 wide.

You quote Lin Jarvis naming Jorge and Casey as being desired.
Although Casey has long spoken of his desire to ride in "Mick Doohan's team", he's doing that and has one Honda title. Mission accomplished.
But.......what are the chances of him being tempted to go to Yamaha and take a title with a third manufacturer????
Like I said, just wondering.

Poor Dani......but even with his injuries, and despite his prodigious talent, has he really been able to extract that last poofteenth of a percent out of the bike????
As others better qualified than I have said, the arrival of Stoner has forced the other Honda riders to lift their game. Is he still marketable, or would team bosses choose to go for a younger rider, even though he's only mid twenties himself?

Once Lorenzo and Yamaha have settled their next 2 year deal,which I'm sure they will even before the Sepang test,the rest will fall into place like dominoes.
Stoner will stay with Honda,of that their is little doubt. For how long he stays in GP is another matter. I say that because Casey always gives the impression that he could wake up one morning and decide he enjoys life on the farm more than the frenetic world of MotoGP. 1 year contract for Dani ?
That leaves Ducati currently without an 'alien'. Big money for Spies and Dovi to race in red in 2013 ? They are the closest thing and have youth to boot. Rossi back to Yamaha for 5 million Euros vs Lorenzo's 10 mil. Wouldn't that be a scream ? No doubt he would sponsor himself with a Honda before going that route.
No matter what,the big names will probably know where they will be in 2013, probably before the lights switch on in Qatar.
The winter testing is going to see much activity between teams and rider managers. Thats for sure.

Don't rule out that spec ECU which will limit revs and eliminate some of the rider aids. I think this means perhaps wc and very limited tc, at least that is what Ezpeleta has hinted at this year, curtailing all these electronic rider aids. After all, electronics and their development is the most important contributor to the increase in costs in MotoGP. I was in the motorhome area this year where all the teams had their tents or offices and from my civilian view there where almost as many laptop jockeys as there were mechanics in the garages. They would set at tables with each other and do the Neo thing. It looked ridiculous.

If Carmelo gets his way and the electronic development gets curtailed then it's a win-win IMO. Bike prices will drop, as will budgets. If he is successful in bringing the cost of a MotoGp bike down via CRT, then you could theoretically see Suzuki and Kawasaki return, as well as Aprilia, and possibly a BMW entry. Lower costs meaning the smaller factories with smaller budgets can enter the challenge and really have a go instead of getting beat by Honda and Yamaha dollars. Think about it. That is 7 manufacturers possibly with maybe another one, KTM, at least theoretically possible. If the standard 2 factory bikes and 2 sat bikes were to play out, that is 28-30 bikes on the grid. Imagine silly season and 20+ decent bikes. Yeah, I know this a very optimistic view but this is what Carmelo is after. The factories, namely Honda, have driven the price up so much that this is the only solution for the future. Optimistic view but wouldn't it be grand to see 5 or more factories fielding lower cost prototypes on the grid? More opportunity for young riders, more opportunity for sponsors, especially with lower cost machines. Only then will you see the sponsor money start opening up and companies like Pepsi returning.

The problem is the cost of the machines and thus the cost of operating one and thus the sponsorship cost. Once all these costs come down, you'd see an easier life for the sat teams and for the sport in general. Dumbing down the bikes is the only solution. They'll still have 200+HP, still be exciting, and if the sliding and passing return it will be good for tv viewers, fans, the riders, everyone. What it won't be good for is the larger factories because they'll no longer be able to dictate the sport by the amount of cash they flood in.

Level the field Carmelo, so factories like Aprilia, BMW, and KTM can enter. I for one commend his efforts. I am sick of the factories running this sport as they are running it into the ground with smaller factories exiting as well as the inability to find sponsors. The power in this sport needs to be in the FIM and Dorna, not the MSMA. 10 years ago Formula 1 couldn't compete with MotoGP in terms of passing and excitement. Through the banishment of TC and standardization, somewhat, or the rule set they got their sport going again. Kudos for Dorna trying to do the same. I am sick and bloody tired of the MSMA.

Impose a strict limit of tc and rider aids via a standard ECU and let the sliding and the spectacle return. If the factories want to blow money out the arse then let them write the hefty checks to Alpinestars, Dainese, kushitani, Arai, Shoei, AGV for protective rider clothing and airbag development. The 800's have been shite to watch no matter who is winning with only 1-2 races per year exciting enough to even keep the tv on.

They've pretty much been passless up until this year. This year even with DRS and KERS the passing has been down to Pirelli being directed to make tires that don't last with a decent gap between compounds. In F1 teams are required to use both compounds during the race which creates situations where there are drivers with differing compounds and lap times driving at the same time. That is what causes the passing in F1.

Stoner's been spot on with a lot of his comments on why racing is not so close, one is the machines and riders have been optimized to the nth degree so small differences have a big effect. Another is our rose colored memories of yesteryear. Every race isn't a barnstormer but there have been some.

My opinion is that the more that controls are put in to place to force racing to be close the worse racing will get. Its a combination of unintended consequences and trying to squeeze water in your hand. The harder you try to hold it the more that escapes between your fingers. Simple and consistent rules with a clear rulebook usually work best. Convoluted rulebooks to level the playing field always just end up making a field with lumps all over the place.


Removing rider aids should make the bikes harder to ride, no?

When in the history of motorsport has increasing the difficulty of mastering the vehicle produced closer racing? Moto2 racing is close because the motors are gutless and they don't need TC. In MotoGP, Stoner is running almost without TC... and you think taking it away from those trailing 1s/lap behind will suddenly have them bashing fairing with him?

Chris has it right: F1 got interesting when the tyre rules mixed together cars with different strategies via the tyre compounds. If you want races which don't all go the same way, you need to have bikes that have different strengths... not all 4 cylinder, 81mm bore, 160kg clones with tyres that terrify half the riders and never go off to slow down the fast ones.

You have close racing when riders with similar Talent/Machinery rate come to the same race. So the more riders the greater the likelihood of close racing, Electronics are very expensive, to limit them makes things cheaper and brings more teams to the track.

Agree GrahamB29. Four riders won all but four of the races in the 800 era. Was that because they had better electronics? Of course not! It was because they were head and shoulders above the rest of the field in riding talent. Reducing the electronics will only increase the advantage of the aliens.

When Stoner beat his Honda team mates at Phillip Island by 2.2 seconds was that electronics? No, it was superior rider skill, Stoner's ability to power slide the bike like no-one else, as Bridgestone told us. If it was electronics, all the factory Honda's would have had a program copying Stoner.

When Lorenzo won at Misano by 7.299 seconds, was that electronics? No, it was a superb display of precision riding by a brilliant rider.

There are numerous similar examples.

The question of close racing and bigger fields are two entirely separate issues. A standard ECM might reduce costs and thus bring in more teams, but it will not produce closer racing, as F1 discovered a few years ago. F1 found solutions in 2011, (softer tires/more pitstops, KERS, DRS) but these solutions are not available to MotoGP. And do we really want fields of equally talented average riders in order to get close racing? Not me, I want to see the best of the best, Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and if they run away from the rest so be it, that simply reflects awesome talent. The same as I want to see Usain Bolt destroy a field of the world's best sprinters.

I do think CRT is a step in the right direction for the long term health of MotoGP (but please, please change the name). It is not healthy to be largely dependent on two big manufacturers. Independent teams have been the backbone of F1 for years, and they have built up such a store of chassis and aerodynamics knowledge that big manufacturers like Toyota and Honda were unable to match them.

But CRT is no guarantee of close racing. Exceptional talent will dominate. Do we really want to resort to handicap systems like WTCC to dumb down the field? I hope not.

And to those complaining about electronics and the banks of computers, that's increasingly the world we live in, and it will become more so, not less. And surely we want MotoGP to still be the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. It's a matter of finding the right balance between advanced technology and rider skill, and that is not easy to do. Electronics will only disappear if there is a universal collapse of civilization, and in that event there will be no MotoGP anyway. We will all go back to racing electronics-free horse drawn chariots around the Colosseum. Close racing will be guaranteed.

In F1 there wasn't any passing because of the aerodynamics first and foremost. You couldn't follow another car closely to set up a pass because you lose a lot of grip as you get in the dirty air. Also the standard ECU wasn't introduced to make the racing closer, but because they wanted to improve the spectacle by making the cars be more lively and hard to drive.

The difference is that in MotoGP the ECU is much more important, because of the fuel limit and because perfect throttle control is much more important for a good lap. The fantastic four are clearly the best riders in the field but they wouldn't have dominated the way that they did if they didn't have those electronic gadgets in their disposal. The satellite bikes just can't eek out the same amount of power from their 21L of fuel.

Very very true, also it's a little extreme saying that spec ECU didn't help and that it is all down to the tyres. Back in the early 2000's when electronic aids were at their all time high in F1, there were 2 tyre manufacturers, pit strategies where paramount and the racing was unquestionably boring. So if the racing is more fun this days is not down to one simple factor but several, and if you look at the F1 of the last 20 years you'll see that as electronics became more important the racing got worse.

if you look at the F1 of the last 20 years you'll see that as electronics became more important the racing got worse.

There is a nice little book called "How to lie with statistics". One of its points is that there is a strong correlation between the salary of the Bishop of Boston and US sales of rum.

That is not sufficient to conclude that the bishop is spending all his salary on booze...

Many Easters ago during a west country motorcycling break in Bath I walked past an open air sermon outside the cathedral being performed by the Bishop of Bath and Wells. I could swear I saw him licking his lips whilst eyeing up the wee bairn close by. That was BlackAdder-esque confirmation enough for me.

Perhaps the problem is trying to find a statistical proposition in a comment that has the words "boring" and "fun" in it. But since you've already scold me for a misbehavior I didn't intent to commit I guess I should have one for free. And here it is:

in F1, tyres went to single manufacturer in 2007 and SPEC ECU was introduce in 2008.

The standard deviation of the points scored by the top 18 drivers was:

2006: 40,35
2007 (1 tyre): 40,57
2008 (ECU): 31,81

So I would say (merely to amuse my self) that standard ECU made the top guys make less points and the bottom guys make more points.

In my opinion something that people that use the word "aliens" when discussing electronics in MotoGP don't understand is that racing doesn't happen only at the front and that a race long battle for 7th is far more satisfying than a race long procession for 1st.
While that is only my opinion I do think that it is somehow supported by the fact that races have bigger audiences than qualifying sessions.

So in fact, a question for the world (or the selected part of it reading this site):
Is closeness measured by points, or by seconds? It's conceptually possible that every race could be very close and end in the same order, or that each race is strung out with big gaps, no overtaking... and a different winner each time.

Which would the cognescenti prefer be scripted?

Close racing and unpredictability of the result are two different factors that affect the excitement of races. Certainly close racing alone produces more excitement than unpredictability but predictable close races means very tight processions. Any way, your point is very valid but calculating the standard deviation of the points took me 5 minutes while the standard deviation of the time gaps would take me slightly more (I suspect).

There is no evidence at all that your data on F1 shows any correlation with the introduction of the standard ECU. Basic stats and logics theory will tell you that. There are so many factors affecting the outcomes in F1. F1 has rule modification almost every year. Teams are constantly modifying their cars, with varying degrees of success. Teams change their drivers, and so it goes on. Take for example the spread of points in F1 in 2011 compared to 2010. In 2010 five drivers fought for the championship almost to the last race. In 2011 Vettel virtually had it wrapped up by mid season with a huge points lead. Does this mean that the Pirelli tires and DRS were failures in 2011? Of course not. It was other factors that led to the big points gap at the front, like a young star maturing into a brilliant complete driver, in the best car, and a team mate whose style didn't suit the Pirellis. In any case, the issue in F1 was not the spread of points, but the difficulty of overtaking. Most people will agree that the racing in F1 was a lot better in 2011 than 2010, even if the points spread says otherwise.

In MotoGP the issue is more about sometimes processional racing at the front. In F1 a gap of two seconds is nothing, and can often be easily made up. In MotoGP two seconds is significant, and in this era is very difficult to make up, at least when we are discussing the sheer consistency of the aliens at their best.

Also I have to say that for me a battle for seventh place is nowhere near as interesting as what is going on up front. It is what is going on at the front that really matters. History and people primarily remember the winners, both races and championships: no-one much cares who finished second.

Well I guess getting one for free from Graham doesn't mean getting it for free from every one else. So I guess since I said it I have to defend it. The fact that many factors CAN affect the show doesn't mean that they ALL DO or that the one I selected DOESN'T, so: what factor could have produce the lower standard deviation between 2007 and 2008 (not between to generic season but between those two) that makes the ECU insignificant?. Do you have any example of a racing venue that became more exiting with the introduction of electronics? Can yo say that 2011 was more exiting solely because of the tyres? in other words; Can you support the idea that a season with the exact same variables as they where in 2011 but with TC would have been just as exiting?
If the thing that matters is what happen at the front; How come a season with a massively dominant driver is consider one of the most exiting of the 21st century F1?
Another thing that people that always demand absolute scientific thoroughness (on this site) seem to forget is that the so called aliens did not race against the stars of other eras so, saying that they are better than them has no scientific ground devoided of personal opinion or perception.

Javi you are looking at the wrong stat. Close points doesn't mean good racing. They may have all run around nose to tail all season. What F1 wanted to do was to increase overtaking. The consensus in F1 was that every measure had failed, including the standard ECU, until 2011, when DRS was introduced, along with faster degrading Pirelli tires.

The point about 2011 is that there was a lot overtaking among the leading cars (apart from Vettel), not the midfield or backrunners.

I don't recall people saying that the aliens were better than the stars from other eras in terms of ability. The difference in all sports today is the level of professionalism, and the advancement in scientific knowledge regarding peak human performance. Stoner explains it very well in his interview. A combination of extremely consistent tires, electronics, and finely tuned athletes leads to a high degree of consistency in lap times, and fewer errors, so it becomes very difficult to hunt down any of the aliens once they establish a gap. Rossi made a similar comment about Stoner after 2007. He said that once Stoner got away at the front it was very difficult to catch him, so that he (Rossi) could no longer afford bad starts or bad first laps. This is very different to the early part of Rossi's career, or most of Doohan's career, when those two could be mid pack after the first lap and still come through to win. Nowadays that almost never happens in a dry race. This is one of Ben Spies biggest problems. He tends to make ordinary starts, so he is out of the competition for the win before the end of the first lap. The point is, it is not just electronics, it is not something that a standard ECU will fix, as F1 has already proven.

My point wasn't that standard ECU made F1 great, it was that it made it better. Back in 2007 i'd still watch F1 races every now and then and they were better in 2008 than on 2007 (of course that's only my appreciation). As I said there is no one factor that makes races boring but several, and electronics are not a minor one. It would be rather dumb to say that no TC would mean more overtaking in F1 because overtaking wasn't there before electronics.
A race with very few overtaking is boring a race where you can tell the finishing order at lap 3 in terrible and a race were you can tell the finishing order before QP in painful. close points at the end of the season means that racers did not finish every race in the same order. Not as good as overtaking but better than nothing.
If being more professional means making less mistakes than being more professional means being a better rider because a rider that makes fewer mistakes has less chances to crash or be overtaken while overshooting a corner (more so if he can ride at the front).
Electronic aids are not meant to make faster bikes they are meant to make safer bikes, bikes that don't crash when a road rider makes a mistake. Therefor it is the very essence of electronic aids to reduce the likelihood of errors. So, if the difference between today and the past is that racers, machines and tyres make very consistent combinations, then unlimited use of a technology designed to reduce the effect of rider errors has to make matters worse (in regards to the show).
The last race Rossi won was form 11th to 1st and it was last year (yes I do know there was no Casey and no Dany) So even today it is possible to do so. We should be asking how to make it more probable.
As for my statement about battle for 7th we could talk about it a lot (which I would enjoy very much) but in the end is a matter of personal opinion and both views are perfectly reasonable. I think we can both agree on "race long battle for 3rd being better than race long procession for 1st."

Electronics are probably a factor in processional races, I wouldn't dispute that. The problem is that where high performance engines are involved electronics rule the world. Safety is only one part of the picture. Electronics certainly do increase bike performance significantly. Electronics also improve fuel efficiency. The levels of performance being achieved, both power per liter, power/torque spread, and fuel efficiency, was unthinkable just a few years ago. Note Stoner's comment, that current MotoGP bikes would be unrideable without electronics.

Rossi's win at Sepang was the exception rather than the rule. Pedrosa and Stoner out, Lorenzo riding for points.

I have watched every F1 and MotoGP race since the mid 1980's. I have followed all the controversies in both series. I can tell you that the standard ECU made no difference to racing in F1 and the F1 world agrees with me. This was a surprise to me as it was to a lot of people, because I fundamentally oppose the use of traction control in motor racing as being non-sporting.

The problem for F1 and MotoGP is similar. Do they want to continue to be technologically the pinnacle of motorsport? I'd say yes they do, as long as the technology is not limiting the ability of riders to make a difference in a sporting contest. MotoGP needs the best riders in the world on the fastest road racing machines on earth. Otherwise who cares? MotoGP has a problem promoting itself anyway. I have spent a lot of time in parts of Asia where motorbikes are the main form of transport, but despite this F1 visibly has a far bigger following than MotoGP, even in the poorer parts of Asia. This has always been a surprise to me. MotoGP needs to be very careful that it doesn't dumb down the show in search of closer racing to the point that it loses what makes it special. It is prototype racing after all, and in my view it needs to stay that way.

What is the goal?
Your point about Asia is interesting. My suspicion is that F1 is about dreams: dreaming that you are king of the world, driving the fastest car faster than anyone else and pulling all the chicks. It's the standard adolescent male fantasy that keeps us alive until we crash the wheel chair on the down ramp from the old-folks home.

Motorcycles are just a cheaper alternative... and that alone is bad in cultures where wealth is sexy of itself.

So... MotoGP will never have as much money as F1. It can't compete with that fantasy. Bikes will always be, relatively speaking a niche market for people who not only ride bikes, but prefer to ride than drive. That comes from a long cultural involvement with motorcycling, not a few video clips. It will probably sell much better in South America than East & SE Asia.

Ok, suppose that's true. The amount of money available is finite. The capacity to absorb money is not, but there is an effect of reducing returns: do €5M bikes pull twice the spectator interest as €2.5M bikes? Would it not be better to work out what is an accessible and feasible market, then work on pleasing that... rather than seeking to continually expand in the illusion of competing with F1?

The discussion started with the question of whether a standard ECU would produce better racing in MotoGP, and my view was that it hadn't really helped in F1 so I doubt it will help much in MotoGP. But clearly there has to be an increasing disconnect between advancements in electronics and motor racing. Very soon driverless cars, or at least cars with auto pilot, will be commercially available. I for one have no interest in watching driverless cars racing. I am quite happy to concede that electronics need to be controlled or even wound back in MotoGP. I don't see a problem with electronics that control the engines, as long as the electronics have limited impact on rider inputs. We want the machines to be challenging to the point that only the very best riders can get the best out of them. That was certainly true of the 500s.

As to the goal of MotoGP, that is a tough one. MotoGP can never compete with F1. F1 is much more than just a sporting event. We see governments all over the world falling over themselves to hold F1 events. F1 is big business, big money, politics, political intrigue, glitz and glamour. F1 has Monaco, Singapore and soon New York, events where big business, sports stars, music stars, film stars and politics meet. MotoGP will never have a Monaco. That's just reality.

MotoGP is a more purely sporting event, but it is a niche market. I watch motorcycle racing like I watch kart racing or drag racing, as a purely sporting event that has limited general appeal in most markets. Motorcycle racing is surely the most visually elegant form of motorsport, but that doesn't translate into mass appeal.

I think CRT is a step in the right direction, as long as it maintains its focus as prototype racing. I would like to see WSBK step back towards its roots as production based racing. In fact I am highly doubtful that MotoGP and WSBK can or should continue as two separate world series. I am not convinced that it is economically sustainable, especially if there is a sustained world economic downturn in the near future.

The fact that electronics are non-sporting is actually the main reason I don't like them but since most fans of high-performance racing don't see it that way I don't usually bring it up. I think F1 was better with StdECU but nobody notice because F1 was overtake-starved, of course since I dislike electronics so much I realize that I was probably seeing things that weren't there.
I think that the reason why the bikes can't be ridden without electronics is that they were developed around the electronics, no point developing a high-performance human-friendly power delivery if the computer is the one who controls the power. And I think that the only reason you need to take the power delivery to those regions is the arbitrary set of rules you've decided not the engineering limits (basically 800cc engines).
There are many technologies involved in riding that you could take to the maximum expression in races but I don't see any one complaining that comfort level or the head lamps on a road bike are far better than on the racing bikes. They are bikes for racing and if racing is a human sport then reducing the human factor is (to me) like fitting softer springs that make going over bumps on the track more comfortable.
Sepang was certainly the exception and not the rule but I feel that it doesn't need to be.

By race wins the dominant rider of the 800cc era is Stoner and one of his consistent complaints about the factory engineers through the years from Honda (990) to Ducati and back to Honda (800) were that they didn't want to listen to him when he wanted to turn down all the TC settings.

Nicky's comments after seeing Casey's data was that he uses less TC than anyone. I think Casey would have been more dominant if everyone had a less sophisticated or limited electronics system. Yamaha's was always top notch so they have the most to lose. It took Honda 4 years to develop a full in-house TC system that Pedrosa could use effectively and now is really good only for them to hire a #1 rider that doesn't really need it. Ducati would benefit the most from a limited ECU because as Rossi said, the power, it is quite abrupt.


The debate about electronics and traction control in MotoGP today is EXACTLY the same as it was in F1. Aerodynamics in F1 was a separate issue. The anti-electronics side of the F1 debate claimed that traction control and other electronic aids made driving too easy, too mistake-free, and therefore led to processional racing. The standard ECU was introduced as a means, among other things, of enforcing the ban on traction control. Banning traction control was supposed to produce more driver errors and therefore closer racing and more overtaking. The fact is that it made no discernible difference to the racing in F1, because the best drivers still rarely made mistakes. This is why DRS was introduced this year, as a means of producing an artificial slip streaming effect. Also Pirelli agreed to produce a tire that would degrade more than the Bridgestones did.

I don't agree at all that the ECU is more important in MotoGP than F1. F1 has more systems to manage than a MotoGP bike. Nor do I agree that throttle control is more important for a good lap in MotoGP. For safety yes, because F1 cars will most often harmlessly spin with too much throttle, not high side like a bike. But for ultimate lap times no. And fuel consumption is still extremely important in F1 because carrying more fuel mean slower lap times and higher tire degradation. Witness the number of drivers this year who stopped on the slow down lap because their cars did not having enough fuel left for scrutineering checks at the end of the race.

I think the result of banning traction control and introducing a standard ECU will have about the same effect on the top guys in MotoGP as it did in F1 i.e. no effect whatever. The top guys have all had non alien team mates (Edwards, Capirossi, Melandri, Hayden, Dovizioso, Spies) on the same bike, same electronics, yet still they dominated. As a matter of fact I am all for reducing or banning traction control because it just feels wrong to limit or control the abilities of the riders in a sporting event by artificial means. But the problem of sometimes processional racing is more complex than just electronics, as Stoner explained very well in his interview posted elsewhere on this site.

Limiting the electronics takes away one of the biggest avenues for technological progress. Bringing prices down is very important to the survival of the sport but it's unfortunate to lose so much development potential.

Congrats on that award David and 2012 beckons and back to topic.
I surely hope no Ace GP racer stumblebums himself into an MX crash,gets snakebit or sharktank hit.
This is going to be a tortuously long 'off season'. I assauged it somewhat after the family get togethers today and reran Qatar Moto 2 and GP.
Bradl's Valencia LCR 1000 test and his Qatar M2 dominant display impressed me.
He's going to upset some applecarts next year. His game and grit toward season's end fending off Marquez,or at least limiting damage, was equally impressive.
The GP race was great. Pedrosa threw the works at Stoner. Lorenzo was sublime as ever. Valient effort by Vale. Spies exemplified exactly why Yamaha signed him. Lorenzo is a 'must sign quick' for Yamaha.
Spies? If I were in the Yamaha camp I would lock him down the same day as Lorenzo.
Dovi's move is accepted,given circumstance within HRC Repsol, but he ain't a good politician. Too loyal and too honest. Yamaha are hardly going to give him a factory nod ahead of Spies or Crutchlow for that matter no matter what.
Well,if Dovi wins the season opener in Qatar,the tables turn,but no betting man is going down that road.
My Christmas gut feel is that Ben Spies is going to be a major factor for title 2012 1000.
As always I will get the money down before the season opener while the odds are stacked against underdogs.