Seven MotoGP races are to be shortened for the 2018 season onwards. The MotoGP races at Austin, Le Mans, Barcelona, Brno, and Misano are all to be cut by a single lap, the race at Jerez is to lose two laps, and the season finale at Valencia is to be reduced by a whole three laps.
The reason for the reduction in length is to bring the races into line with the remainder of the calendar, and create a consistent time schedule. Previously, the MotoGP regulations specified a minimum and maximum length for races (between 95km and 130km), but for 2018, the specification of distance has been dropped. Race distance for all events is now to be determined by the Permanent Bureau, consisting of the FIM and Dorna.
The old race distances caused a large variation in race duration. Races could last anywhere between 40 and 45 minutes, making scheduling for TV problematic. It also meant that if there were delays at the start, or if races were wet, they could overrun the allotted TV slot, causing major headaches for broadcasters. It meant that audiences were never sure whether they would get to see the Parc Fermé interviews or podium ceremonies.
By shortening the seven longest races, the schedule has been tightened up significantly. All of the races bar Austria and Barcelona are between 40 and 42 minutes in length. Only Barcelona is likely to be significantly longer, at nearly 43 minutes, though the reinstatement of Turn 12 made possible during the resurfacing of the circuit should make the lap shorter than it has been for the past two years, since the tragic death of Luis Salom.
The biggest change comes at Valencia. By cutting the race by 3 laps, reducing it from 30 to 27 laps, the race duration should be cut by over four and a half minutes. That is a crucial change at the last race of the season, especially given that the title has been decided at Valencia twice in the last three years.
Reducing race distance will not have an enormous impact on fuel consumption. The one race to be reduced which was relatively critical for fuel consumption was Misano, and taking a lap away should ease the problem there.
The change will also be important in the coming years. From 2019, Grand Prix racing will add a fourth class, in the Moto-e electric bike racing series. That race - a 20-minute sprint race - will also have to be fit into an already busy schedule. Cutting back on race length will assist in scheduling for that series as well.
The table below shows the effect of shortening races on race duration, and the amount of time possibly saved. Though times are shown to three decimal places, these are approximations, and likely to be out by several seconds.
* The layout of Barcelona has been changed again for this year, with the reinstatement of Turn 12. Race time will vary from this.
Race length calculation based on the average lap time of the fastest race time recorded at a circuit. This is an approximation, giving a rough idea of how much shorter a race will be, rather than an exact prediction. Race length will vary by track condition and weather conditions