MotoGP Bikes To Go To 5 Engines Per Season From 2013, Rev Limit Draws Closer

As talks continue between Dorna and the MSMA over the future of MotoGP from 2013 onwards, some proposals are already looking solid for the future. On Saturday, Carmelo Ezpeleta told members of the Spanish press that Dorna and the factories had agreed further limits on the number of engines allowed for each rider during the season. As part of the cost-cutting proposals, from 2013, the number of engines is to be reduced from 6 per rider to 5.

The engine limits have been popular with the factories, as it has allowed a significant reduction in costs - at least, once the initial cost of developing a longer-lasting engine had been defrayed. So the proposal was readily agreed between the two parties. How this will affect the Claiming Rule Teams is as yet unknown, but as this is the first year of the CRT rules, Dorna and the teams will want to see how the season plays out before making any changes.

Pressure is also building to apply a rev limit from 2013, and the limit looks likely to be set low. Sources in the MotoGP paddock suggest that Dorna is looking at a figure of around 15,000 RPM, although the limit could be set as low as 14,500. While the MSMA is violently opposed to the imposition of a spec ECU, they might be able to accept a rev limit in exchange for being allowed to keep the electronics. The rev limit would also serve as a de facto limit on top speed, a concern which has been raised by many people inside the paddock, not least Jorge Lorenzo, who told the media on Friday that the thought of hitting 360 km/h at Mugello scared him. The very reason for switching from the 990s to the 800s was because the top speeds the bigger bikes were reaching was starting to cause safety problems. Reducing capacity did little to help safety - corner speed increased, and with it, the speed at which riders crashed - and so a rev limit is a way of limiting top speed without repeating the mistakes of the past.

Honda and Yamaha are believed to be in favor of a limit closer to 16,000 RPM, as engines require either pneumatic valves or exotic alloys in valve springs to operate safely, and both of those technologies are expensive and keep potential competitors out. Ducati would prefer not to have a rev limit at all, as they feel that their desmodromic system gives them a major advantage, which increases with engine speed. However, if Ducati is to lose its perceived advantage, then they are likely to prefer a lower limit rather than a higher one, as that would mean that both Honda and Yamaha would also lose theirs. A rev limit of 14,500 RPM would offer a much more level playing field than one set at, say, 16,000 RPM.

Dorna is believed to prefer a limit of around 14,500 RPM because of the CRT machines. As most of the current production engines rev to between 14,000 and 14,500 in race trim, that would allow more variety in engine choice to the CRT bikes, without forcing the teams to spend money chasing performance through more revs. The factory machines would still have the advantage, but the CRT machines would at least have a good chance of competing with the satellite machines.

The final limit could potentially be reached in two steps, rather than at one go. With the factories just having spent millions on developing new engines for the 1000cc class, they will be reluctant to immediately spend more money on developing an entirely new engine once again. Fortunately, merely imposing a rev limit would not necessarily require an engine redesign, as the existing bore-limited 1000cc bikes already provide masses more torque lower down the rev scale. But a stepped rev limit - with one reduction in 2013, and another in 2014 - would give the factories more of a lead time to look at producing new engines. But even if the limit is introduced at once, the existing bikes would almost certainly be competitive.

Unlike the engine limit, which has already been accepted, the rev limit joins a number of other proposals which are still under discussion between the MSMA and Dorna. At Jerez, the factories had presented their counterproposals to the ideas put forward by Dorna during the Sepang tests, and at Qatar, there will be another meeting to discuss Dorna's response to the MSMA's proposals. Now that the MSMA no longer holds a monopoly over the technical regulations, changes to the technical rules are now subject to an awful lot of haggling, with both the MSMA and Dorna sacrificing former sacred cows to keep the series running and affordable. The atmosphere at the talks is described as amicable, but that does not belie the hardness of the bargaining going on.

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5 engines wow! That will play into Honda's hands quite well. They've been by far the best at reliability and engine mgmt. Preziosi is going to have his hands full.

They vehemently disagree with the spec ECU big surprise there. Anything they are that opposed to means its a good idea to me.

As long as they have the black box under 100% control, they will always have the option of spending or outspending their rivals. The tyres are in check, engine size, fuel, but the black box remains wide open. It's the main piece keeping the smaller mfr's from joining the series and the other Japanese factories from rejoining.

I wonder which mfr suggested going to 5 engines.
Good show Honda.

The rpm value of the rev limit is critical. At 16,000rpm, the sport is still a fuel-limited contest and the MSMA can exploit a significant performance advantage over everything on the track. At 14,500rpm the sport is closer to a rev-limited entertainment product.

Dorna might claim that 14,500rpm is about bringing more SBK engines into the fray, but the Yamaha, Aprilia, and BMW are the only engines that can hit 14,500rpm. Those are the only engines worth using right now. To be sure, the lower rev limit will help the teams using Kawasaki and Honda engines, but the real benefactors are Aprilia and everyone within the GPC who want to make MotoGP a rev-limited contest. For all we know, Suzuki might be part of the club who want rev-limits to control MotoGP.

Ducati are in the toughest spot. They don't want a rev limit at all, but if MotoGP must have a rev limit, they will follow Dorna. If they don't have to worry about engine power and fuel-efficiency, they can throw more money at the chassis, right? Precarious strategy b/c a rev-limited formula might actually require them to ditch the L4 desmo engine as midfield competitors also gain pace. The current 21L formula only compels them to reconfigure the entire bike. I also wonder if Ducati are flirting with the possibility of running a twin. If the rev limit is 14,500rpm, it might be possible, but I have no idea how Duc would reach reliability requirements.

Interesting developments, but overall, I'd say these negotiations are really bad for the sport. The 21L rule has already killed MotoGP. Keeping it seems absolutely absurd. Replacing the 21L rule (or reducing its impact on the competition) with a 14,500rpm supersuperbikes sounds equally absurd. If I didn't know any better, I'd think these guys were having a contest to determine who has the smallest brain, riddled with the most indecent neuroses.

Question: If engine limits saved so much money, why is it impossible for CRTs or Suzuki in the past to meet the 6 engine allowance? Clearly for Suzuki and the new CRTs the cheaper solution was/is throwing more engines at the problem than engineering more durable solutions. Why should this be any different for the factories? I find it nearly impossible to believe that the R&D that goes into making an engine that will last nearly four race weekends is somehow cheaper than the manufacture of a half dozen engines that are already designed. (I would be interested in hearing thecosman's take on this. With your engine, how much time was spent on the design of your engine parts relative to time spent on the machine and the $ on materials? Which would you think would be more valuable?)

I'm really wondering if all of these new rules are akin to a sit com episode where the main character keeps lying to cover up the last lie until it snowballs into a huge catastrophe. Maybe all of these rules are necessary to clean up the wreckage left behind due to the last set of disastrous rules. Maybe there would be more entries, more excitement, and more variation on track if Dorna just punted and completely turned the formula upside down.

I might get a lot of flack for this, but hear me out:

What if the (MotoGP fans' public enemy #1) 21L fuel rule is actually key to a much more exciting series? Maybe the fuel limit rule would be great if it wasn't for the other mountain of stupid rules piled on top of it. Maybe it's the solution to getting rid of all of these other stupid and counterproductive (from the standpoint of the spectacle) rules. I mean, what is a motorcycle, really, except a complex mechanical means of turning a given amount of fuel into a given amount of forward motion? With that in mind, imagine how awesome it would be if the rule book looked something like this:

Rule 1.) Two wheels.
Rule 2.) Maximum 21L of fuel on board.
Rule 3.) Maximum vehicle length of X.
Rule 4.) Maximum vehicle width of Y.
Rule 5.) Must be human-piloted.
Rule 6.) There is no Rule 6.)

How cool would that be? Honda and Yamaha could spend to their heart's delight, but that still might not stop a garage outfit from figuring out some cool solution to the puzzle that gets their rider around the track faster (hydraulic KERS? Novel front end? Diesel hybrid?). Ducati, for instance, could probably build a pretty awesome MotoGP machine with a punched out twin in a monocoque chassis, meaning they would possibly finally be able to be competitive without having to abandon their corporate identity. And tell me who in their right mind doesn't want to see Honda's V-5 back on a race track!? I'd tune in on race weekend just for the possibility of getting a peek at that engine in the garage!

You could never get around the paradigm of the deepest pockets being able to afford the best riders, but even if the racing WAS processional, at least we wouldn't be watching a dozen and a half near-clone bikes parading around the track.

How much does it really cost to build an engine? Not to develop one, but to build it?
Because every time the number of engines is decreased, there is a saving from building fewer motors, and a loss from developing motors that last longer. Which possibly also cost more to build, since they may require more exotic materials which require special machining techniques.

If the MSMA is keen on it, I suspect it's more about preserving an advantage than trimming costs.

Although the economy is crawling out of the hole slowly... cost-cutting is the excuse being used to bring the racing closer! Carmelo's priority is to attract more sponsorship money and attention to MotoGP. He is getting closer to WSB with each meeting regarding the new regulations. Soon the only difference between MotoGP and WSB will be FACTORY (prototype) INVOLVEMENT! BMW and Aprilia will enter MotoGP as factory teams after 2013. Aprilia are already working on the new RSV4 engine. By the time Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati (if they stay) develop their new engines for 2014... Aprilia's new engine will be very competitive especially with their electronic packages! Hopefully Suzuki and Kawasaki will return as well since they have a couple years to develop their machines too. Carmelo is very clever by spoon-feeding the factories even if it takes 2+ years to have his Dream come true!

As BrickTop says, if the factories are dead set against ECU restrictions, then that is what Ezpeleta should be pushing through. Complex electronics is what differentiates the haves and have-nots in MotoGP. If we were to have a generic, 'crippled' ECU and a 14,500 rpm rev limit then all of a sudden the factories would be tantalisingly within reach of the CRT teams. Not close, but not as far out of sight as they are now.

Which is of course why the factories are so vehemently against any ECU restrictions. The factories have been calling the shots for too long. They may bluster and threaten to leave, but Ezpeleta should call their bluff.