With Christmas nearly upon us, MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission, met to adjust a few rules for the 2022 season and beyond. Among a host of confirmations and minor adjustments, there were one or two small but significant changes, tightening up important parts of the rules for MotoGP.
First the minor matters. The changes in age limits were confirmed, ahead of the shift to having a minimum age of 18 across all three grand prix classes in 2023, and the qualification limit was tightened from 107% to 105%. Given how much more competitive all three classes are, and how tight the fields are, this will have very little effect, though it will put higher demands on substitute riders.
To give an idea of just how much 105% is, the average lap time for the vast majority of circuits is between 1'30 and 1'50, so the average lap is around 1'40, or 100 seconds. So the qualification limit has been cut from 7 seconds behind the fastest rider to 5 seconds behind the fastest rider. It has been a very long time since anyone fell foul of the 107% rule, and had the rule been 105% for qualifying, the last victim it would have claimed would have been replacement rider Christophe Ponsson, who substituted for the injured Tito Rabat at Misano back in 2018.
There are new rules on brakes, which point to the increasing importance of braking in grand prix motorcycle racing. In MotoGP, the largest available disc size has been increased from 340mm to 355mm. That means there will now be three permitted sizes of front brake discs: 320, 340, and 355mm.
The larger maximum disc size is clearly a response to the braking issues bikes have shown at circuits like the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. The memory of Maverick Viñales' horrendous crash at Turn 1 in Austria in 2020 is still fresh in many minds. Brembo's new calipers went some way to addressing that, but as riders demand more of braking, more energy needs to be dissipated, and the only solution is to use larger discs and more carbon.
This underlines just how important braking has become in motorcycle racing. In the pursuit of performance, braking and corner entry are the points where real gains are being made. The 800 years taught factories a lot about acceleration, and how to control it with electronics, and the introduction of aerodynamics and ride height devices have taken the place of electronics in assisting acceleration. The focus of most MotoGP manufacturers is now on corner entry, and improved chassis dynamics is putting more stress on Michelin's front tire, and allowing the riders to brake harder. Braking comes from friction, and the energy generated by that friction needs to be absorbed and dissipated, if brake fluids and braking materials are to remain within their operating temperature ranges.
It's not just MotoGP either: the rules have now also been changed to allow cooling ducts to be added to the Moto2 machines. There, too, corner entry is a battle ground, and brake calipers and discs need cooling.
In addition to the brakes, there is a general tightening of the rules, as the GPC attempt to close loopholes. From 2022, factories will have to included 3D CAD drawings or samples of their aero packages to the Technical Director. Previously, detailed drawings or samples were sufficient. 3D CAD drawings contain far more information beyond just the dimensions of the aerodynamic wings and protuberances. That should allow Dorna's technical staff to assess whether or not materials will deflect under wind pressure, for example, an issue which was at one time prevalent in F1.
Ride-height devices are another innovation where the scrutineers needed to catch up. The GPC also approved a new process for evaluating whether a ride-height device is legal or not. As more and more manufacturers have ride-height devices which operate automatically on corner exit, there have been questions raised over what exactly is legal and what is not. The new procedure is aimed at cracking down on attempts to circumvent the ban on devices which do not operate using only the changing attitude of the bike as a trigger.
There is also an intriguing entry in the Moto3 regulations. From 2022, the wiring loom, fuel pump assembly, and pressure regulator have been designated as a performance part. This means they must be homologated by the Technical Director, and made available to all teams once approved. Though we cannot know for certain, this may be connected to the remarkable speed of the Leopard Hondas. There were many question marks over where their superior speed came from, over both the KTMs and the other Honda Moto3 machines. This change could point to where Leopard had found an advantage.
Perhaps the most significant part of the rule changes announced by the GPC concerns the changes to the way in which injury is assessed. Once again engendered by Marc Marquez, perhaps, the assessment of riders returning from injury will be far stricter. Though the details were not included in the press release, it explicitly named head injuries, concussion, abdominal and chest injuries, and fractures and breaks of a more complex character than just simple breaks.
Directly related to this, the GPC has decided that the helmets of riders who are taken to the medical center following a crash will also be more thoroughly examined, while any rider assessed with concussion or another head injury will have their helmets sent to the FIM laboratory at the University of Zaragoza for further study.
Both of these changes are aimed both at understanding how injuries affect riders, and how protective equipment affects the injuries received. There have been several recent instances of riders coming back from injury more quickly than some thought was sensible, with questions over a rider's ability to control a MotoGP machine. The fitness tests seem to be arbitrary and too easy to pass.
By making the medical assessments harsher and more thorough, this takes some of the decision away from the riders and the teams, and puts more emphasis on the medical side. This should make it harder for riders to just grit their teeth through a quick fitness test and handle a brief flash of pain, which is an unrealistic way of assessing how an injured rider will hold up over a 45 minute race.
No more alternative facts
Finally, the GPC introduced a new type of official, called a Judge of Facts. The idea is to hand the assessment of certain infringements such as jump starts and exceeding track limits to these Judges of Facts, and make their judgment final and put it beyond appeal. The job of the Judge of Fact is to assess the evidence from the high-speed cameras and track limit sensors to judge whether an infraction has occurred, and impose a penalty where needed. Teams and riders will not be able to appeal their judgments. That may not put an end to the complaining, but it will put the result of any decision beyond question.
The press release containing the minutes of the Grand Prix Commission appears below:
FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decisions of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA), Lin Jarvis (Yamaha – MSMA) and Paolo Ciabatti (Ducati – MSMA) in electronic meetings held during November and December 2021, made the following decisions:
Qualification for the Race
In all classes the rider must achieve a time at least equal to 105% of the time recorded by the fastest rider in the same session in any of the FP or QP sessions. (Previously 107%).
The Commission ratified the previously announced changes to minimum ages for participation. Licences for riders are issued only when the minimum age has been attained as below:
- Moto3: 16 years (18 years in 2023)
- Moto2: 16 years (18 years in 2023)
- MotoGP: 18 years
In the Moto3 class, an exemption applies to the winner of the FIM Moto3 Junior World Championship or the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup to compete in the Moto3 class of the FIM World Championship Grand Prix as a contracted, wild card or substitute/replacement rider even if the rider has not reached the minimum age for the class (however a minimum age of 15 years in 2022, 16 years in 2023, then 17 years in 2024 will apply). In order to ensure a smooth transition, an exception will be granted to the riders who started in the 2022 Moto3 World Championship at the age of 16 so that they can continue with the 2023 Moto3 World Championship. For Moto2 and Moto3 substitute or wild card riders in 2022, the minimum age is 17 years.
A procedure for checking machines equipped with passive ride height systems was approved.
Previously teams were required to deliver to the Technical Director, at the first event of the season, samples or detailed drawings of their aero body parts. For 2022 machines teams will now be required to provide samples or full 3D CAD models of these parts. Homologated aero body parts from 2021 machines, still used in 2022, will continue to be checked as per current procedures.
Following a request from Brembo, supported by MSMA, the following regulations will now apply to brake dimensions and packages.
Carbon brake discs must be one of the permitted sizes for outside diameter, which are: 320mm, 340mm and 355mm.
At certain circuits, for safety reasons, the use of 340mm or 355mm carbon brake discs is mandatory for the race, if declared Dry by the Race Director.
The circuits currently listed for mandatory minimum size 340mm brake discs are: Motegi (Japan), Spielberg (Austria) and Buriram (Thailand).
At these circuits either 340mm or 355mm discs may be used.
There are no restrictions on brakes disc sizes in a race declared Wet.
To reflect these changes there will now be two alternative brake packages defined in the regulations which must be supplied at a maximum cost of €80,000.
||Option 1 (Current)
||Option 2 (New)
||3 left + 3 right
||2 left + 2 right
It will be permitted to add ducts to the front fender for the sole purpose of cooling the brake system and discs. All ducts must be pre-approved before being used on track and the decision of the Technical Director will be final.
The following items will now be designated as Performance Parts and must be homologated:
Complete motorcycle wiring loom (including wiring connections to airbox, dashboard, throttle body, handlebar switch panel and kill switch).
Complete fuel pump assembly from fuel pump to throttle body (including all connectors and hoses).
Riders Safety Equipment
The only purpose of any part of the rider’s race suit, boots and gloves should be to ensure that the rider is protected in an incident. Therefore, any part of the equipment that is deemed to be purely for the purpose of aiding rider’s aero effect is not permitted. The decision of the Technical Director will be final when determining what constitutes aero only.
Medical Fitness to Race
The Commission approved a number of new regulations concerning the medical assessment conducted to permit return to competition.
Specifically, there are new requirements on evidence that must be considered when reviewing recovery from head injury and concussion, abdominal/thoracic injury and musculoskeletal injuries, (such as fractures requiring surgery, compound or complex fractures).
In case of doubt, the CMO, the MotoGP Medical Director and the FIM Medical Officer can request further opinion on the reports and evidence provided to determine the status of the rider (fit or unfit).
The helmets of all riders taken to the medical centre for assessment following a crash must be retained by the medical personnel or CMO for control by the Technical Director or Technical Stewards before being returned to the rider or the team manager.
In cases of head injury including concussion or loss of consciousness, unless a specific provision of a national law advises otherwise, the helmet must be forwarded to the FIM Laboratory at the University of Zaragoza for expert examination and non-destructive analysis.
The helmet manufacturer will be notified of the exact tests and has the right to approve or refuse. They will be able to attend the analysis carried out in this laboratory. After inspection, the helmet can be returned to the rider, team, or manufacturer.
A new position was approved for those persons involved in the assessment of regulation infractions, for example, jump starts, track limits, etc. Such persons will henceforth be referred to as Judges of Facts. No appeal may be lodged against a decision of the Judges of Facts on matters within their competence.
It was confirmed that information on protests and appeals plus Decisions of the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel taken during track activities (practice and races), may be communicated on monitors as well as on official notice boards. Such communications on public screens are considered valid notification.
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed on: