Opinion: Honda's Specious Argument Over The Spec ECU

The battle which has been raging rather politely between Honda and Dorna over the introduction of spec electronics continues to simmer on. The issue was once again discussed at Motegi, with still no resolution in sight. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto reiterated Honda's opposition to the introduction of a spec ECU in an interview with the Japanese journalist Yoko Togashi, which was published on GPOne.com.

The reasons for introducing a spec ECU - or more accurately, a spec electronics package, including ECU, sensors, wiring harness and data logger - are twofold: the first issue is to cut the costs of electronics in the sport, an area where spending is rampant and where gains can always be found by throwing more money and more engineers at a problem. The second issue is to improve the spectacle; racing in the modern era has become dull, with the electronics and the Bridgestone tires contributing to produce races where it is unusual for there to be more than one pass for the win.

While Nakamoto did not comment on improving the show via electronics - it could be argued that radically changing the tires would have a greater impact on the spectacle than merely introducing a restricted spec electronics system - he did repeat the claim he has made in the past that merely adopting a spec ECU would not help to cut costs, claiming that if anything, it would actually increase costs.

The analogy he used to describe the change was as follows: "Using different ECU is like switching to Macintosh while you are using Microsoft adapted computers for many years. You have to change everything." At first glance, that seems to be a reasonable argument: switching ECUs would indeed mean that all of the software Honda has developed for their own ECU would have to be transformed into a form which they could use on the new ECU, the unit to be supplied by Magneti Marelli. Nakamoto bases his claim on his experience in Formula One, where Honda spent a lot of money adapting their electronics package when that series implemented a spec ECU.

In reality, though, the appearance of reasonableness is deceptive. Both the analogy and the parallels with Honda's experience in F1 are specious, as the comparison being made is with a situation which will not exist in MotoGP. In F1, there was considerable room for the teams to use their own software, meaning that there were still plenty of gains to be made. What is proposed in MotoGP is much, much more restrictive, a system almost identical to that which exists in Moto3 (a class which Honda is very happy with), where the factories and teams will have no ability to modify the software, but will only be able to work on engine mapping.

The analogy is not like going from a Macintosh to a Windows computer, where you are forced to rewrite your software to run on the new system. The analogy is like going from a special computer program you wrote yourself just for the Macintosh computer to using a program someone else has written for you on a Windows computer. For the software specialists among you, an even better analogy might be that it is like switching from a web browser you wrote yourself for X on Linux, using a custom toolkit developed specifically for the task, to using Internet Explorer on Windows. Or Safari on the iPhone.

MotoGP's director of technology Corrado Cecchinelli explained the basic principle behind a spec ECU to me at Mugello. "If the single ECU is accepted, it will be the same hardware and same software for everybody. The same software means that in our idea, it will be like in Moto3 now, people will have a sort of calibration or tuning tool and they will be able to make the track tuning of all the parameters but they will not be able to write their own software." The parallels with Formula One were not valid, Cecchinelli said. "Here the system will be very closed."

What the factories will be able to do with the electronics is produce maps, modified and optimized for each particular track. That, as Nakamoto rightly points out, will cost manpower and money to do. The additional costs will be small, however, and they will only be necessary in the short term. With the ability of the teams to write their own algorithms eliminated, the gains available from employing a vast army of programmers no longer be available. The logic of a spec ECU is that the marginal return on each extra dollar, euro or yen spent on electronics falls rapidly beyond a low initial point. In other words, you may gain two tenths by spending, say, $100,000, but the next $100,000 will only gain you a couple of hundredths, and the next $100,000 after that a few thousandths. Right now, that relationship is much, much closer to being linear.

Reducing marginal returns through a spec electronics system means that there is a limit to how much a factory can spend. Engines will be put on dynos to figure out torque maps and throttle response curves, data will be poured over and refined, looking to perfect the balance between throttle response and power output. But that is exactly the job which the engineers in Moto2 are doing, and there is not a single Moto2 team spending the kind of cash which MotoGP's factories are, despite the fact that relatively, they have more to gain. After all, the Moto2 bikes are horsepower-capped, making throttle response even more crucial. MotoGP engine design will still be free, meaning that gains can be made in the design of the top end and exhausts.

Nakamoto's real argument is over the role of racing as a platform for research and development. There is a very real and very valid basis for making that argument, however it is not one that has any meaning to Dorna or any of the powers that be in racing. Dorna's job is to create a product they can sell to fans and TV audiences, as a way to spend a pleasant Sunday afternoon. The job of the factories is to weigh up whether they can use that opportunity and leverage it to help develop technology that may end up in their road bikes.

At the moment, that relationship is reversed. The factories have made the rules for the past ten years, introducing so many of the rules which the fans hate: the fuel limits, the introduction of the 800s, the engine allocation limits. MotoGP at the moment is a rolling laboratory, in which the factories can pitch their engineering talent and latest technologies against one another, leaving Dorna to find a way to market the resulting product. That has turned out to be an almost impossible task, given the dullness of the racing it has produced. MotoGP has gone from a spectacular event thrilling for a mass audience to a niche product fascinating only to geeks. There are many positive aspects of being a niche product, as this author can attest, but it never generates significant revenue. If MotoGP is to survive, it has to reach a mass market. In its current form, it is failing to do so.

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That last paragraph is brilliant and sums up everything I feel about the sport in its current state.

MotoGp will not exist without fans, not on the teli, and not in person at the track. When are the fans going to be up ahead of the factories and their agendas?

I'll take a series of 100% CRT's if it produces better racing.

BrickTop, for the most part I agree with you & with the points made in the article. That series you'd happily take over the current MotoGP format is called World Superbikes [or BSB, or Moto2 - depending on your preferences]

Good to have the issues reviewed and summarized all in one place. Carmelo Ezpeleta's stated goals are to reduce costs and improve the show. The spec electronics package contributes to both objectives. Let's put the racing back to the riders more than we have now. And let's eliminate the rampant spending by a few on electronics, thus narrowing the spending/performance gap between the "haves" and the "have nots."

The big difference is that in Moto3 there is also a 12K Euro claiming rule on engines. I think we can all agree that there is zero chance of Dorna/MSMA agreeing to the same kind of thing for the factory teams. So...

Taking your computer analogy to the next level, perhaps you remember the Intel FOOF bug? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentium_F00F_bug

Basically it was a problem in the Intel Pentium CPU hardware where doing something considered normal had the unintended result of locking up the computer. Intel sold millions of these chips before the bug was discovered and replacing them was expensive. Turns out, you didn't have to replace the CPU, you just altered your software (or the compiler which built the software) to avoid the bug and disaster was adverted.

ECU's are sorta like the same thing... after spending a lot of dollars developing a MotoGP engine, you realize it's not what you were hoping for and so you update the software in the ECU to work around those issues rather then redesigning the engine because that's cheaper. And with the engine allocation limit it's even more important to get it right the first time. Yes, you can do a certain things with mapping, but Yamaha for example uses fuel on de-acceleration to help stabilize the bike and make it easier to ride on corner entry. That's not something I'd expect a spec-ECU to allow. I'm sure Honda and Ducati have other tricks of their own.

So the end result is that the factories will just shift the money they had budgeted from software developers writing ECU software to guys designing & building engines, gearboxes, clutches, etc. Changing the design of an engine is a lot more expensive & time consuming then changing how your software works.

End result is costs go up, because if one factory ends up with a better solution, all the other factories then have to throw a lot more money to catch up because they can't just alter their ECU software to come up with a "fix". We've already seen this happen when Honda came out with their new seamless gearbox- Ducati felt the need to respond.

Honestly, I'm not smart enough to come up with a solution, but the law of unintended consequences (or as economists refer to it as "The Cobra Effect") is IMHO pretty clear.

That said, I'm all for improving the spectacle and a spec ECU I think would improve that, but as you suggested, the real key here is the tires.

Can't argue that spending on motor development might go up, but if it was such a major factor in the argument that spec ECU doesn't actually reduce costs, then why didn't Nakamoto mention it in the GPone interview sited by David?

Nakamoto's response to spec ECU and its effect on costs was weak at best: "Excel sheet will not work unless you put some numbers and fill the column. These works will take a lot of time and manpower."

Really? He's boiling it down to filling out XLS entries and complaining that will take too much time and money?

That is an incredibly weak response if he's actually trying to convince anyone to oppose Spec ECU.

Honda wants to control its own destiny... fair enough, custom ECU is one of their advantages against all the non-factory teams, which pretty much leaves Yamaha factory since Ducati is a joke at the moment. I wouldn't expect Honda to respond any other way.

Nice read mate!
If DORNA want it to be the fastest sport they need to realize that there can't be a lot of fastest.
They are lucky enough to have 2 almost equal factories that are spending hilarious budgets and they are willing to continue.
Nobody can ask so easily the factories to abandon their investment and in the same time blame them for the luck of spectacle.
Faster everybody (including fans) asked, faster it is.
So Honda & Yamaha did very well where all the others failed.

There is not Honda against everybody its Honda and Yamaha against DORNA.

DORNA is just saying thank you that kind sport is no more profitable enough and we must switch to something else that will not include your area of superiority (electronics mainly) so other factories can play the game.
But any wining company would do anything on their power to save their investment, only losers (in a way of speaking) want to change. Am I wrong?
So in my eyes it is not Honda alone and definitely it is not Honda who is the evil.

The battle is between Honda & Dorna. Yamaha and Ducati have nothing to do with it. They already use Magneti Marelli electronics. Only Honda has its own brand. In an earlier article, at the beginning of the spec ECU discussion it was even stated that the spec ECU developed by MM would be rather similar to Yamaha's. Everybody is always complaining about the lack of excitement, boring races, etc... but when the championship holder wants to do something about it everybody starts bashing them. If DORNA was the greatest evil motorsport has ever known I don't think Bridgepoint would hand them the 2nd largest racing series also. It's history that Honda always wants to get it their way. They had their way for 5 years when MSMA had a big hand in the technical regulations and look what happened, they turned the most exciting Motorsport in the world into a computer battle. For me BSB is the best example of what "going back a bit" can do for the sport. MotoGP has to be prototype, no arguing about that, but not at any cost.

I'd like to see proof of that statement because everywhere I look on the web only 1 name comes up: Honda.

Everyone I have spoken to inside and outside the paddock says that the switch to 800cc was Honda's idea. This is the first I have ever heard of it being Yamaha's idea.

First I like to notice that it is not Magneti Marelli as you mean it.
It is not the hardware that makes the difference, it is the software and the prove of that is that the Ducs are far behind in that area.
Spec ECU will not be as similar as you think even if the 'box' still says MM.
Notice: Its the software that costs.

Yamaha is a wining team and their M1 is the most complete bike in the grid (personal opinion). Cals and Dovis results are yelling that M1 is a great bike as it is.
Therefore Yamaha has already a winer bike and personally I know no companies that wants to give away their benefits to switch to unknown paths.
Yamahas diplomacy should not confuse us. As we speak I can not believe that they want any changes even if they know that some changes must come on.

I don't know who says DORNA is the greatest evil but I definitely never said that if the conversation is about motogp.
On the other hand if we speak SBK I blame them (not only them) for trying to turn SBK to sth like STOCK with a fake excuse of decrease costs.

Thanks for clarifying (read, cutting through the BS) of Nakamoto-san and his flawed analogy.

If Honda leaves and BMW joins within 1-2 years with a full prototype then it will be worth it to me.

BMW is probably already preparing to enter MotoGP as they've signalled by leaving WSB to the Italian branch.

Reduce costs enough and maybe someone like KTM may think about it, far shot I know, but maybe.

Suzuki doesn't care for Spec ECU, but they're not in MotoGP anyway, and as Ezpeleta has already said, his response to Suzuki is written on his middle finger.

Ezpeleta on BMW coming to MotoGP:

2011 assessment of BMW and MotoGP:

Look back at the history of KTM in any racing, they always portray themselves as jumping "all in" then they back out at the last minute. I actually remember reading a fan mail sent into one of the motorcycle magazines maybe last year or so that addressed this same issue about how KTM was in one of the race series, then dropped out and the fan mail basically went over every time it has happened prior. Remember KTM and The Long Way Round?

Sam, How can you talk about "full prototype" in an article that is all about the end of the last little bit of prototype left in MotoGP.

A spec ECU will, just like the spec tyre did, kill off any chance for innovation. For example: Honda run a more 'screamer' style of firing order on their bikes. Yamaha and Ducati run a 'big bang' for want of a better term, style. Once electronics are mandated by a control ECU then one style or the other will become faster because of the better mechanical traction it provides. We saw this with the spec tyre and Ducati having to lose their 'prototype' frame design and build a aluminium perimeter frame just like the Japs because that is what the spec tyre works with.

I am having this debate elsewhere, but Davids article highlights the problem with MotoGP. MotoGP is talking itself down. Dorna and all the Journo's like David keep telling every one who will listen how bad the show is. They keep talking about costs and rampant bike/electronic development killing the show. Then they tell us that the 'prototypeness' of the bike doesn't matter. Well if it doesn't matter stop talking about it. The show is no good because the central character in MotoGP for the past decade is not winning. So what do they do? Do dodgy back room deals to get the central character back on a bike he can win with. Instead of promoting all the other characters in the show and building fan loyalty and interest in more than just one character.

MotoGP does not have a cost problem. MotoGP has a revenue problem that was born out of a failure to promote the sport and ALL of its characters in the rush to revolve everything around just one character. The fact that Yamaha required Rossi back in order to secure a title sponsor is at the heart of the problem. Nothing will fix MotoGP, especially dumbing down the bikes, until Dorna realises that Rossi is not MotoGP and that they have 20 odd riders on the grid that need to have their profiles sold to the world so that revenues can start flowing back onto the whole grid rather than just Rossi.

Cutting costs never fixes any business in the long term. It just kicks the can a bit further down the road. MotoGP needs to increase revenue now and the first step is to stop talking itself down.

Yes, I admit I'm using prototype in the MotoGP sense of the term... that is... not CRT, where none of the engine or chassis began life as production based. That is being pretty generous with the term.

I see where you're coming from... my fantasy motorcycling series I think about before I drift off to sleep at night (my wife would laugh if she read this) would be a completely open true prototype series, with no limits on cylinders, bore, stroke, displacement, turbo, fairings can cover wheels, tire suppliers, 2stroke, 4stroke, methanol, ethanol, electric, natural gas, and yes, ECU as teams saw fit... anything, absolutely anything would be allowed as long as it has two wheels in-line.

Only problem is that people would show up to see the bikes, and if one or two consistently win, credit goes to the bike, where riders become the commidity. That may attract a set of die-hard motorheads like me, but not many else. Whoever built the winning bike gets credit and coverage for a season, until the next smart team gets it right and dominates, probably by copying a lot of the design characteristics of their paddock mates (eg featherbed frame). Over time the bikes will just start to look like each other, to a point that at some point rules are set in order to establish miminum performace requirements (min lap times to qualify), and you leave the most innovative, yet least successful teams in the back.

So here we are today, twinspar (which has been around alot longer that BS spec), inverted forks, same supplier of brakes and suspension to nearly all the teams, max 4 cylinders, no turbo, no fairings, etc. etc.

It's a natural progression as the sport and an industry matures that there will be a core set of design principles that provide the greatest advantages on the track evolve and cause the teams' designs to converge.

The kicker is that mechanical parts are much easier to spy and reverse engineer from simple photos armed with an archive of experience making parts for decades in the business. People can tell what kind of firing order a bike has by listening to the exhaust.

ECU, on the other hand, remains, by nature, hidden from view. The bits that make it go are tucked away in small transistors, integrated chips, FPGAs, and last but not least the software that runs it all. It's Honda's secret special sauce that no one can get.

You may say fair play... but at the end of the day too much proprietary well-guarded technology tranlates into dynasties. Dynasties means the same two guys running at the front every race.

But I'm gathering that for many enthusiasts (purists) this is just fine, show be damned.

On your second though about building characters... based on what seems like you lean on the technofile side of the equation... you propose promoting characters in a sense to just promote the sport and grow fan bases.

Well assuming you meant more TV coverage of rider further back in the pack that show talent and are improving, I'm all for it. Not sure how the sponsors on the winning bikes would feel about it, but I like a good fight even if it is for 4-5.

But let's not kid ourselves, Rossi is a legend first, a character second. In his prime he could ride circles around the other guys unfortunate to have been on the same grid with him. The brilliance of his legend is he proved it wasn't the bike when he switched and won the WC in the very first year he was on it. Yes they were both factory rides on well developed rides, but he was always faster than his teammates up until 2010.

It's no surprise he pretty much single-handedly re-launched MotoGP into the stratosphere after a boring set of Doohan dominance, it just so happens it was also at a time when the world economy when to crap. Rossi too may have fallen victim to the same perception, but again, multiple WC on different bikes, he takes risks.

So coming around back to your point about costs vs. revenues... it's just known that bike development costs have been far out-pacing ability to grow revenue. And what if Dorna focuses on increasing fan-base? What's the end game then? Sponsors and other money-rollers getting more control in the sport, more say in how it should be run, who should be riding (whether they deserve it or not -- e.g. Karel Abraham), what tracks are selected, etc.

Every decision take will have some pros and cons... me? I'll gladly take Spec ECU and spec tire if it means teams have a lower revenues goal in order to be competitive... to get their guy on the bike the best possible advantage to be up front.

I'm a fan of the riders first, the bike second... I want the fastest guys racing each other in one series on bikes that are faster than any other series. And I don't want 1-2 teams holding the keys to the only bikes that will have the only realistic shot of winning.

That's all.

How is this about Rossi? I think some fans have target fixation.

This has nothing to do with any particular rider. The sport has become too expensive. Aprilia gone, Kawasaki gone, Suzuki gone. David reported that Honda's budget was 50 million for the year.
That is big money. In a worldwide recession where bike mfr's aren't selling bikes like they used to that is huge money.

Notice how every CRT bike has a sponsor but Yamaha doesn't? That is because it just doesn't cost them as much to sponsor as a prototype. Maybe if the bike prices come down the sponsorship price will as well. And if the bike prices come down, the battling and passing will increase due to a more level playing field that a select few cant buy like they have been.

I don't need any journalist to tell me how the sport suffers. The previous liter rules, before electronics went crazy, worked. You had satellite bikes winning races. The last time that happened was 6 years ago when Elias won. A fantastic race and one where the rider you mentioned got beat. Back then the races were exciting. Riders were crossed up entering and exiting corners, tires smoked, and the battles were outstanding. Riders had much more control of the bikes. And David is right in his article. It was before the 800's, before engine rules, fuel rules, and massive traction control.

The sooner the sport returns to that the better. I say anyone that wants all these costs to go on unchecked should start footing the bill. Anyone that thinks that is reality in a recession and runaway costs, open up your checkbook and pay for it yourself. TV viewers and track attendance are down and it's not because Rossi isn't winning. Figures are down because the battles are few and far between and the races are amazingly predictable. I remember there being a count of races in the 800 era since a win was decided on the last lap. David would know I bet. It went on and on for more than a season.

Can anyone produce a simple cost / income sheet?

In other words someone most know where the main costs are. How much broadly goes to the riders, on teams, on bikes, on development etc. Likewise where does all of the revenue go? To help fund the factories to be involved? Line pockets? Without that do we know we are picking on the right target?

Whilst there are only 4 bikes x 3 factories there is an issue. Whilst the bikes turn out 250+hp and the tyres have to be that good to deal with that sort of power there will only be a few who can ride near 100% for a whole race.

A spec ECU and reducing RPM might cut costs but it will not improve the racing at all. Going from 800cc to 1000cc shows how little top speed makes - reducing the rev limit might bring the speeds back to those of the 800s and the racing was little different.

The series has to decide if it is the pinnacle of bike development and the best riders or close racing for the punters / advertisers.

We have short memories - during those fantastic 500cc 2 stroke times there periods when the was not much "racing". In the 5 years Doohan won the championship he won 62% of the races. In 97 he came crashed once, 2nd twice and won every other race. The crash was competing against himself when nearly 20 seconds in front in Australia.

At the moment there are 3 riders who can win (soon to be two in the short term).

There were many quite boring races in his era. That crash of his, as well as the crash where Criville t-boned him, were the highlights of several seasons of racing. The australia crash was the one where he slid for ages, battling to save it by pushing it back upright with his knee, right? Amazing effort that!

Interestingly, part of the reason why the racing got boring in the Doohan era (other than due him being in another league) was because Honda had managed to get a technological advantage, despite the relative simplicity of 2-strokes. E.g. they developed water-injection into the exhausts for the NSR500, which allowed them to dynamically tune the time taken for an exhaust pressure pulse to go down the pipe and reflect and get back to the engine ports, critical to engine performance on 2-strokes where exhaust ports remain exposed during charge intake. Basically, this effectively gave the NSR500 variable length pipes, according to RPM, and so a wider, smoother powerband than other 2-strokes. I don't know if any other manufacturers managed to develop such a system - hadn't heard of any. Also, I don't know at what stage, if ever, it became available on non-factory bikes. This possibly explains why Mick was able to run the screamer engine configuration again toward the end.

The '96, '97 and '98 seasons were dominated by HRC to a ridiculous degree as a result. The top 4 or 5 championship places all NSR500 riders. Just a few wins by non-NSR500s in those seasons, literally a handful - and none in '97.

Addendum: actually, I'm being a little harsh to the level of racing then. Even if got a little boring to watch Doohan win and win and win, often by at least a few seconds, there was still at least usually plenty of action behind him, including for the remaining podium places. Today, it seems to be hard for the TV producers to find good battles /anywhere/ in the field.

It'll never happen but I'd love to see the electronics go to an open source system. I'm not going to go on a diatribe about it, but why not?

Even Microsoft is embracing open source and have made significant contributions to Linux.

Maybe there could be something like the possibility to claim the software of an ECU.
All ECUs come with spec software before each race, but teams are allowed to flash their own.
After the race, the ECUs will all be collected, and if the software differs from the pre-flashed version, it's made available to the other teams. This way teams can still develop their own electronic strategies, but have to give them away, so they have to weight if it makes sense to them.
But that's probably much too complicated and nobody would do it.
Just go BSB and give control back to the riders I say!

You've identified the wrong argument as specious, imo. HRC contend that costs will not go down if a spec ECU is adopted. HRC also contend that they will have to learn to program in a different digital environment. Both are correct, imo. HRC claims that production electronics will suffer if they are not allowed to develop electronics for production-irrelevant engines. This is the specious argument.

I highly doubt that a spec ECU will make costs go down. The manufacturers will have large upfront costs, and MM would basically have to design a bulletproof system with very little wiggle room for the manufacturers. Furthermore, if fuel stays at 21L, costs will explode when the spec ECU is introduced. Instead of paying a few men to fiddle with code and sensors until they find a breakthrough, the manufacturers will be dumping tens of millions into new prototype engines, optimized for the new spec electronics. I think that one engine configuration will have an absolute advantage, and everyone will eventually move that direction. After years of stalemate, costs will explode again when the manufacturers begin searching for new engine configs that provide a competitive advantage.

As you have mentioned on several occasions, Dorna will push for 24L to accompany the spec ECU. Altering the fuel limit is the source of cost-cutting. After an initial redesign, the manufacturers could conceivably ditch all of their overpriced technologies (if necessary) from adaptive fuel-computers to pneumatic valves. They can also sell or lease cheaper MotoGP engines to private teams for modification, like the 500cc era.

The second specious argument in this instance, imo, is that Dorna want the spec-ECU to control costs. Dorna are either using the spec-ECU as a battering ram to achieve some other end or they are genuinely interested in controlling the attitude of MotoGP machines when they are ridden on the limit. The spec ECU could not possibly control costs, unless MotoGP moved to F1 engine regulations as well, stipulating everything from valve angle to deck height.

Nice piece. And no one, I think, will argue with the idea that MotoGP needs to grow. Whether it can, in the current TV-driven entertainment environment, grow into a sport with true mass appeal is debatable, the trend in all forms of entertainment is toward targeting more niche audiences. For 25 years, Monday Night Football was a staple of prime time broadcast television here in the U.S. It's now broadcast on cable.

A few thoughts:
- The cost increase in imposing a spec ECU/software package will be in trying to get around those limitations and figure out another way to get the same effect. That is what the F1 teams said happened to them; the eventual reduction in costs was years down the line.
- The more I read about Dorna doing electrical engineering work and then telling the teams this is the ECU/software you must run, the more it scares me. It's called the ECU for a reason - it controls the engine and what happens when the rider turns the throttle. That would be up to Dorna and its subcontractors. Yipes! It's easy to say that the software geeks control that now, but the fact is that the rider has to make that stuff work. I've yet to run into a team that simply sets up TC, wheelie, braking, etc. to a set of pre-determined parameters and then tells the riders that they all have to use that. Every team I know deeply personalizes those setups, just like suspension. Can you imagine Dorna telling teams what springs they must use in the forks?
- Better to just ban TC, wheelie, engine braking, etc. altogether. At least at that point it's the rider/engineer controlling the bike, not a marketing company. Really, I think it's that idea that upsets Honda and Yamaha so.
- But that creates another problem very quickly. Right now, a stock BMW S1000RR with a pipe, Power Commander and race gas can make 190 horses at the rear wheel. And as Spies said at Laguna, once you get over 220, it really doesn't matter. So you'd quickly run into a situation where the MotoGP bikes and the WSBK machines once again make nearly the exact same horsepower. What's the differentiation then? Why bother making a prototype when at the end of the day it's barely any faster than and technologically nearly identical to a SuperStock machine? (Actually, that wouldn't be true; there will be very few club-level SuperStock classes that would require you to trade in your stock ECU for a spec unit.)

If close, exciting racing was all that was needed to create a mass market, any one of dozens of club-level 600 classes would do the trick just fine. Or WSBK would have over the past quarter-century. I think it's something more than just that.

My thoughts.

The spec electronics will be made by Magneti-Marelli, who are already a significant player in automotive electronics - a dominating one in racing automotive electronics. Many teams will already be using the Magneti-Marelli hardware (e.g. Yamaha). The Dorna proposal is that all teams will use that hardware, and the Magneti-Marelli software. The teams will be free to change the maps, just not the software itself - as the article explained.

The difference is that it will no longer be the teams or the factories writing the software that controls what happens when the rider turns the throttle. It will be Magneti Marelli writing code with performance parameters dicated by Dorna - a marketing company. So it is very, very accurate to say that spec electronics with any level of TC, wheelie control, etc., literally means bikes controlled by Dorna.

Understand that Magneti Marelli doesn't write a, say, Jerez YZR-M1 traction control map, hand it to the team and they run it as is. Every time that rider gets off the bike, the team is tweaking the TC, engine braking, wheelie control and other settings to make the rider more comfortable and faster.

Spec-ing the ECU software means that some riders, teams and bikes would be better able to adapt to whatever settings Dorna dicates and some won't - exactly as some riders, teams, bikes, frame materials, engine configurations, etc. - are better able to adapt to the spec Bridgestones.

My first prediction for the spec ECU era is the end of engine configuration diversity. One engine configuration will work best - and everyone will have to use it or settle for racing for second.

A team manager at the BSB level told me that the electronics actually allowed a greater diversity of design freedom, because you could use the ECU and other technology to make a variety of configurations work.

Engine configuration diversity? Right now it's a 4 cylinder... or a 4 cylinder. V or inline, your choice. That's already a casualty of previous rules. Remember when the 990s had 3,4, and 5 cylinder entries? That's been long gone, since the 800 era started.

Personally I suspect a compromise will be reached, where Honda can keep their special electronics but they have to stay at 21L of fuel (or even reduce that to 20L so they have to re-write again) but if you use the spec ECU you get 24L (or 26L) of fuel to compensate for the "stock" electronics. Although everyone may be under-valuing what Magneti Marelli will bring to the table. This is, after all, what they do.

Did anyone notice Honda's top brass being quoted last week in Autosport saying openly they would seriously consider a return to F1 as long as the rules on electronics were amenable to allow open development - I took that to be part of the "game" involving Motor GP - i.e. if we can't do what we want in bikes we'll take our racing budget elsewhere.

he believes teams would be allowed to use the spec ECU as a platform onto which, within limits, they could add their own functionality. And that Honda would walk away from MotoGP if they couldn't do so. That may not be what Dorna want but I suspect their contract with manufacturers (which Nakamoto refers to in the excellent GPOne article) is open to interpretation.

but perhaps Moto2 is nearer because its basically non-homologated parts. Is a 'big' Moto2 so bad? It's the top spectator series for me (even over WSB and BSB most days) due to the close racing and amount of overtakes. (It wouldn't be standard engines either).

WSB will be 'simplified' too I expect - that has its affordability/competitiveness problems too it seems, so doing away with some of the higher cost aspects would be a good thing. e.g. Aprilia using 39 engines in a season - how can any normal race team compete with that?

The whole world championship series is getting a reality check, and that's a good thing as far as I am concerned. (I won't insist on Harley engines though!)
The whole tech spec issue is so complicated that someone will always find advantage from somewhere - that's why I prefer flexible rules over 'freeze everything for 5 years' because the likes of Honda can always throw big bucks at the task and that's anti-competitive in a reality-checked world.

I think you are pretty much obviating this point.

You say Honda is happy with Moto2, but that's only because there is also Motogp. You keep talking about fans and close racing, but there are plenty of series with closer racing that generate way less attention than Motogp, and that includes Moto3 and Moto2.
What has always made Top GP racing special is not just the riders, nor close racing, it's knowing that those are the fastest things on 2 wheels mankind can build. As such they are raced by the fastest riders, together making what prototype racing is all about. People watching Bolt crushing another world record don't care about close racing, they just want to watch the best of the best running, no strings attached.

Nobody questioned the likeability of motogp when doohan was winning every race easily, nor during the Valentino era. Fact is in recent years we've had the most open championships in a long time.
The whole thing is about making cheap racing, and I can't see what benefits are manufacturers supposed to get from it, nor bike buyers like myself. motogp racing is supposed to be where engineers push to the very limits of imagination without budget restraints, that is what has always been and should always be.

Maybe Dorna will make more money otherwise, maybe some manufacturers will get cheaper marketing return of investment, but the motorcycling world as a whole will end up losing with Dorna's money obsession. We sure cannot count on military budget to push motorcycling tech, and now manufacturers will have to put all the money on their own, since motogp will became a parade of empty shells with corporate colours. At least right now some of that cost is shared by motorcycle fans such ad myself.

David, if I understand you correctly, because of the dull racing factories are now to blame and the for the revenue too?

Instead of giving us your opinion which is based (and obviously biased) on other people's interviews, you could try to explain to us what Mr. Nakamoto meant by this:

"As I said, that won’t be the case, because they will not enforce single ECU from 2014. Dorna must discuss about technical rules with MSMA before a decision is made. We have a five year contract with Dorna(2012-2016) and it has detailed clauses. With this contract, Dorna cannot do anything unless we agree."

If I'm a hired gun for Dorna, then I have to say the pay is appalling. Think I might quit.

As you rightly point out, this piece was my opinion. as you appear to have completely missed, this opinion is not based solely on the GPOne interview. This opinion is based on the extensive talks I have had with various people in and out of the paddock. I added the word "Opinion" to the story, to make it perfectly clear that it is my own opinion, and a distillation of what I have learned. I could be wrong. Opinions are of necessity biased, that is why they are called opinions. My opinion is no more biased than yours.

To answer your question about Nakamoto's statement, without being privy to the precise details of the contracts, it is impossible to know whether he is correct or not. I have contacts in Malaysia and Australia who will be trying to find out more in the next few weeks, and it is my main priority for Valencia, the next race I will attend.

Is how some contributors can be so rude in their disagreement with your opinion pieces. I'm not trying to cause offence to spdzlla, as he is along from the worst, but its starting to irritate me.

I wonder if the words used would be used without the screen of anonminity. People are so much more polite face to face. The Internet brings out the hidden frustrations in some, a bit like road rage.

We all have the right to respectfully disagree, and in fact I think its health, but I cant see why it needs to be derogatory rant.

I am not opposed to a spec electronics package being introduced, I think at this point it's a solution everyone can live with. The necessary evil.

However I couldn't disagree more with the last paragraph. Motorcycle racing has always been dull and will always be a niche.
It doesn't matter what era you show people footage of, how many great passes or fights for the lead, if they don't have an affinity with motorcycles or racing they will not be interested. All they want to see is people falling off or Rossi doing something unrelated.

Nothing Dorna can do will change that. Dorna who has never shown to be anywhere capable of promoting MotoGP well. All they can do and have done is ride on the back of the succes of the class clown. In my country, which hosts the oldest MotoGP race on the calendar, the races aren't even shown on tv unless you have an expensive subscription to a sports channel. Which I cannot afford as a student. By the way I've only met one other student at my whole university who tries to watch every race. The other young people just aren't interested at all.

My dad, who was a camera operator at Assen in the 90s, says there used to be a lot more people at the races. But most of them didn't care about the racing. They were only there for the cheap beer and the party. Now the beer costs a fortune at the track and the house rules are so strict most of those people don't even make it to the track anymore. There are still more than enough fans to make the sport relevant since about 90,000 people still turn up, but most of them don't watch any other race.

This is also where Dorna fails. Sure, they have a Facebook page and you can pay to watch the races online but that's not enough. If the racing is dull, get people interested in other ways. There are plenty of people with an active interest in engineering and technology and I think we can all agree the current MotoGP bikes are pure tech-porn. But people don't know that, all they see is tiny men riding around in circles. And that's only one example.

An interesting article about a subject causing great debate. However and I make no apologies about another comparison with F1, what about the tyres?

The years that Bridgestone supplied F1 were by and large boring due in some part to the ultra safe tyres they supplied. They were too scared about the negative publicity that they felt would accrue with tyres that degraded quickly or even worse, punctured easily.

However, cue the arrival in F1 of Pirelli, a company prepared to take risks and as a result have livened up the show. OK, the teams have got used to the tyres and I understand that for 2013, Pirelli plan to make even more aggressive compounds and constructions to bring back more uncertainty over tyre wear.

Admittedly a simpler closed ECU will be needed to stop the electronics nullifying the unpredictability of the tyre but surely its a cheaper way of enhancing the racing.

Nice. I am always happy to face the difficulty of navigating through so many interesting opinions and perspectives. I don't much care if the MotoGP bikes make 260 or 200 hp. I only care that they give me thrills, close racing, a nice 4 hours with friends, full of adrenaline, excitement and excuses for verbally fighting to prove who is the best --rider or bike.
It use to be like that. Not any more though and it has been a downward spiral for many years. When U see riders like the 4 Aliens and the 8 supporting musketeers so overcome, neutralized, flattened by "digitalia", you get depressed. After all, MotoGP is Entertainment, Recreation and partly --but not wholly-- Technological Exhibition. Nowadays Racing looks close to being a documentary about lab people playing, smartly perhaps, with their gadgets on endless test-benches. But sitting for hours in lab chairs, bent over experiment paraphernalia -although important- can hardly be accused of producing spectacular pictures or entertaining action. Has it finally become a nerd game? Is killing the spectacle of MotoGP, the ultimate nerd's revenge? Looks so --the most thrilling mechanical sport castrated by electron power. Are then Lightsabers really invincible? If so, MotoGP will end being watched in company or university labs or amphitheatres, not on track. And should no more be called Racing.
I really appreciate the importance of electronics' development and how they supplement my everyday riding on the road, but this lab-room ambience is not what I expect from MotoGP racing.
So I agree with Bricktop. Full speed ahead for CRTs says I, if the racing will expand. As for this much-used word 'prototype', it would suffice to read back to the early decades of racing. To remember how the Honorable Sōichirō approached his goals, what kind of 'tools' he used to fascinate and capture the imagination of millions of fans, to create even more new ones. It was always production based. (Japan Wars is a beautiful book). And now Honda wants out…

The factories (Honda in particular) have always stated the bike is more important than the rider. Is it any wonder that with control of the technical rules they have pushed to make their assertion the reality?

As Dennis Noyes has stated, "MSMA is just another way to spell Honda". Under the auspices of R&D work, Honda has attempted to push the direction of MotoGP in a direction that works to their advantage - lots of money and lots of engineers to throw at the problem. 800cc (Honda's idea) was pushed through under the guise of safety - speeds were too high! Reducing capacity will fix this - except it didn't. Lap times continued to drop as corner speeds increased. Top speeds decreased slightly, but how many professional racers crash while straight up and down? The real goal was to create a set of rules where HP no longer comes relatively cheaply - the manufacturer with the most money and nerds has an advantage. Incidentally creating very peaky engines that need extensive electronics, which also require money and nerds. Add to that the 21L fuel limit and the 6 engine allocation and money and nerds become astronomically important.

Now I don't begrudge the factories the ability to use MotoGP as a testing/proving ground for new technology. Far from it. What I dislike is how the rules were twisted to try and give one or two manufacturers an advantage. There is absolutely no reason Honda could not have carried out their R&D work without having those specs written into the rules. They could have decided to use an 800cc engine and only 21L of fuel while everyone else used 1000cc and 24L, all in the name of R&D, and maybe they would have still won, and they would have been able to take back to their board that they used less CCs and less fuel than their competitors and were still able to win, proving that their theories are in fact an advancement over the original formula. But instead of going that route, they decided to try and railroad everyone into a formula they custom designed to give them the advantage. So as much as Honda wants to say they are there for the R&D opportunities, for years they have been manipuliating the rules so they have a better chance of winning. The MSMA has created a very narrow definition of what a winning bike can be through the technical rules they have put in place. Now Dorna has to dig out of it.

As someone has already pointed out, Ducati was forced to change thier design because of the spec tire rule. How much money have they dumped into that process?

To think that the same thing will not happen when a spec ECU is introduced is ignorant, at best. Does Dorna think that Yamaha, Honda or Ducati will not take the money they were spending on software techs and shift it over to another department within the race team?

I don't have the answers, but increasing the amount of items that are mandatory spec is not one of them.

We can use Moto 3 and Moto 2 as examples all day long, but IMO HRC would much rather have a title in Moto GP than Moto 3, and are going to spend the money to do it, one way or another.

I am also curious as to why Honda gets the brunt of the attack on the 800CC change. In order for that rule to go through (from what I have read) ALL manufacturers had to agree. So why the Honda hate?

Not just the MFGRs but Dorna and the FIM agreed also.

The people with the most money usually are the first ones to be villified.

The funny part is that Yamaha, who likely spend as much as Honda and agree with Honda on all points gets off scott free. Yet Honda will put as many bikes on the grid as customers are available but Yamaha refuses to make more than 4. Yamaha is also against Dorna's spec ECU plans (they are against spec software which is the important part) yet we hear nothing about them 'destroying' the sport.


"Yet Honda will put as many bikes on the grid as customers are available "

Honda currently has 4 as well, and if I'm not mistaken, all factories are limited to 4 prototypes on the grid

In past years they have supplied as many as 7 bikes, as have Ducati. Yamaha? Only 4. Ever. Dorna say they want to increase grid numbers but then limit the amount of machines a manufacturer can supply. Another example of saying one thing (we want bigger grids) then doing the opposite (limiting machines).


Firstly, Yamaha spend about 75% of what Honda spend.

Secondly, Honda won't put any number of bikes on the grid. They said ahead of the 2011 season the maximum number they could support was 5, and that would have been a stretch. All those bikes need specialist engineers to maintain them and produce the parts to keep them running. They are so specialized that these cannot be produced on a production line. Even producing 6 bikes, in the years that they did, was a stretch sometimes.

Thirdly, the reason that Honda gets the flak is because they run the MSMA. Or at least they used to be able to when there were more Japanese factories on the grid. With just Honda and Yamaha set against Ducati in the MSMA, they are finding it more and more difficult to run the show. This is a good thing.

And I agree with you on limiting the number of factory prototypes. Unnecessary and foolish, but even without the rule (which has not been adopted yet) there would still only be 4 Hondas on the grid next year. Unless Dorna radically increased the team subsidy they pay to cover the costs. 

Dorna have increased displacement and increased fuel capacity. They also fought to re-introduce production-derived machinery, which was only banned after Zerbi signed an exclusivity contract with IMS.

The proposed 4-prototype-limit comes on the heels of the CRT rules. Surely, you have the requisite mental faculties to determine the combined effect of the CRT rules and the prototype limit.

If your brain is too tiny to interpret the rules changes in theory, you can always count the number of bikes on the grid.

Motegi 2012 - 22 bikes
Motegi 2011 - 19 bikes
Motegi 2010 - 16 bikes

Jerez 2012 - 21 bikes
Jerez 2011 - 17 bikes
Jerez 2010 - 17 bikes

I'm shocked that you cannot find legitimate reasons to criticize Dorna. Lack of critical substance leads others to believe that Dorna is a faultless organization. This is surely the opposite of your intended message.

4 to 6 more bikes on the grid, some of which are slower than the fast moto2 bikes and finish over 1-2 minutes back, is supposed to be success in increasing grid numbers? They might as well stage moto2 behind the motogp grid to have a big shot for the cameras and call it a done deal.

Any team that could afford a prototype ride (yes, not many) has been eliminated by the 4 bike rule. Scott Redding was in with a chance at a seat but there was only one seat but several riders, none of which wanted CRT rides. Instead of having the chance to drum up interest for a factory prototype the first step is now to find out if the sponsor of the team that has control of the only seat left is interested in your nationality.


Scott Redding did not get a ride in MotoGP because a) Ducati took too long making a decision about the Ducati junior team, and b) because Honda preferred Bautista at Gresini over Redding. Gossips in the paddock suggest that Honda vetoed Redding because Dorna wanted Redding, all part of the tussle over the rules.

Ducati could draw things out because they knew riders want a prototype ride, even one of theirs, over a CRT. When seats are scarce the riders have no leverage, which is what is happening. More seats mean that potential Ducati riders have possible other seats so Ducati has to make a timely decision and both Honda and Dorna can get their way with both riders getting seats.


A CRT is not "slower than the fast moto2 bikes and finish over 1-2 minutes back" b/c CRT does not define a certain lap time or level of performance relative to Moto2. CRT is a team defined by a new rulebook, which has reintroduced production-derived equipment to the MotoGP paddock for the first time since 2003.

Furthermore, CRT bikes are in their inaugural season, and no company, Fortune 500 manufacturer or otherwise, can fully develop a machine in its inaugural season. As time passes, and as the onerous restrictions (12 engines and claiming rules) are eased or eliminated, the CRT bikes will get faster. The electronics from MM will help as well.

The potential of CRT is obvious to anyone who isn't playing dumb, and as long as MotoGP doesn't explicitly outlaw prototypes, no one should be whining about CRT. If the D16RR were 81mm bore, the private teams would be starting with an engine which has titanium internals, magnesium engine casing, and desmo valves. Unfortunately, the D16RR is 86mm bore. Creating CRT-legal engines will require time and investment since none of the current SBK production engines make the grade.

>>b/c CRT does not define a certain lap time or level of performance relative to Moto2

Wherever did you get that from? What I said was that at some tracks the faster Moto2 bikes have qualified faster than the slower CRT bikes.

>>which has reintroduced production-derived equipment to the MotoGP paddock for the first time since 2003

The only mention of 'production' in the GP rules is specifying that production derived chassis, swingarm,and bodywork cannot be used. There is no mention of CRT and production engine parts anywhere.

>>and as the onerous restrictions (12 engines and claiming rules) are eased or eliminated, the CRT bikes will get faster.

And the prototypes will get faster as they are more developed too. Hitting a moving target is difficult. Just ask Ducati.

>>The electronics from MM will help as well.

I don't think the ART bikes (you know, the only ones that are doing decently) will be using the MM ECU next year as the Aprilia ECU is pretty good and they have a lot of data with it and the V4 engine. Going to MM would make them start from scratch.

>>The potential of CRT is obvious to anyone who isn't playing dumb

Its far below that of the factory prototypes.

>>If the D16RR were 81mm bore

It isn't.

>>Creating CRT-legal engines

The CRT is a team designation not an engine classification. As David has said here before, if a RC213V was sold outright and maintained by the team it would be considered a CRT entry. And who besides the 3 manufacturers already participating will be making prototype engines? Suzuki already said they are not interested in a spec ECU. KTM? Their V4 GP engine project didn't make it far, and that was in the 990/minimal electronics era. Aprilia? They are happy enough winning at WSBK and beating the rest of the CRTs in GP. Kawasaki? Who? BMW is the only one with enough resources to do it (thought it may take a while) but why would they is the question. They just spend 3 years losing in WSB and am sure they would not want to do that again in GPs and pay a lot more for the priveledge. And is all this effort just to exchange Honda for BMW as the big factory? Ilmor? Once bitten, twice shy. Cosworth? They couldn't do any better getting more power out of the CBR1000 than Ten Kate did.

And if someone did come up with a prototype engine that produces more power it would be more expensive than a WSB derived unit and if they used more than 12 the costs increase even more. So much for $1M CRT bikes. The bottom line is it costs to make fast bikes and that's what GP racing is about.


I always thought you were playing dumb, but your recent posts have indicated that you aren't playing. You are allegedly building a Moto2 bike, yet you do not understand the fundamental differences between prototype, production, and production-derived machinery?! You don't understand how WSBK and MotoGP administrate these concepts?!

Two different manufacturers could build the exact same engine. One of those engines could be prototype b/c the manufacturer refuses to sell it or make the technology public. The other engine could be production b/c it is sold by the manufacturer to the general public. That's why an RC213V is eligible for CRT if it is sold to the general public. If it is sold to the general public, it is a production machine. You don't see production defined in the CRT rulebook b/c the only definition of production that matters for MotoGP is found in the WSBK rules and WSBK homologation papers.

That's it. That is the difference between prototype and production racing. The implications of the rules are extraordinarily complex, but the garbage you whine about is just the superfluous marketing and cost containment initiatives used to create distinct racing products to be sold to the general public and manufacturers. Those superfluous marketing initiatives mean nothing. If you compare and contrast 2012 lap times for the factory prototypes and the CRTs, you are almost completely missing the point.

Reread this and you'll see that CRT status has nothing to do with production, prototype, sales to the general public, etc.


>>The simple matter is that status as a Claiming Rule Team has nothing to do with the equipment, and everything to do with the team and its intentions. It is the team that is being evaluated, and it is on the basis of the team's personnel and background that CRT status will be awarded.

>>If you compare and contrast 2012 lap times for the factory prototypes and the CRTs, you are almost completely missing the point.

What was the point I missed? That the CRTs are significantly slower and unlikey to close the gap?


You contend that Dorna are stupid for limiting the number of prototypes while trying to increase the size of the grid. I remind you of the CRT rules, and I show you the rising grid numbers.

You say that CRT has nothing to do with production b/c you don't see it written in the rulebook. I see that every CRT bike on the grid is powered by a production engine.

You are obviously struggling to make sense of the world around you so I'll say it again: you're missing the point and you need to get a clue.

You're flailing wildly to find a reason to hate CRTs. The only thing you have is bad lap times and bad aesthetics, which as a racing fan (supposedly), you know those things will change over time.

When you say something worthwhile, one of us will let you know.

Enough, ladies. You both make good points, and neither of you will ever cede an inch to the other. There is not too much point in this discussion going on much longer, though I enjoy both your posts very much.

I see my replies quoting the rulebooks and you just keep flinging insults. If that's the extent of your argument I understand why you don't post any facts: your position is not based on any.

I have no problem with CRTs riding around at the back of the pack. In fact, there was no need to change the rules to accommodate them as we have been told many times that production equipment has been used thoughout GP history. I'd love to get a grid position and would likely be wobbling around back there with them.

What I do have a problem with is when Dorna says that they see CRT as the future of the sport. That does not have eny precedent in GP history.


There isn't a 10 star button so I had to write this. I could not agree more Chris. Limiting the number of bikes allowed when you're trying to increase grid sizes is insane.

Great article, "un de mes préférés"

Just a remark, why forbid the diffusion of the first lap of Marquez on board ... it was on youtube, then not ... this is the kind of videos that can BRING fans.

If only motogp fans watch motogp videos, how can the system expend, how can you bring sponsors ? Why is there not a big "Red Bull" team in motogp ?

If the purists' response to the money issue is that it is not a cost issue, but a revenue issue, then how can you raise revenue?

Well the only real way for a team to raise revenue is to charge more for sponsorship and add more sponsors.

How can you pick up more sponsors and charge more? When you've increased viewership and attendance.

How do you increase viewership and attendance?

I guess that's all it boils down to isn't it? Dorna's vision is to reduce costs and simultaneously tighten up the racing, whatever you think of their methods, it's actually a plan to address both cost and revenue.

It's based on the theory that new fans are more interested in closer more exciting racing than what ECU a bike is running. My thinking is that this assumption is correct.

Getting rid of spec rules and constraints is not a plan to increase viewership/attendance. It's a stance taken in argument for the spirit of the series and the sport.

If any purist out there can come up with a plan that would increase viewership and attendance while diminishing the technical rules in a convincing way, I'm sure we'd all love to hear it, especially since getting rid of spec rules can only lead to higher costs of operation.

I cannot wrap my head around the idea that enforcing a spec ECU that is limited to a set # of inputs and only permits mapping changes can lead to an increase in development costs over a completely unrestricted electronics . That just doesn't make any sense to me.

Dorna needs to get off its arse and promote all the riders equally and show no favouritism to any riders. Dorna needs to start talking about all the good stuff such as the quality of rider, the difficulty of piloting these bikes, the awesome skill on display, the technical aspects that make these bikes push the laws of physics. When the news is good, when the narrative is positive, when the governance has integrity the sponsors will feel confident in investing in MotoGP.

Instead we have Dorna talking the sport down. We have Dorna fighting out in the open against the main participants. We have rules being changed to suit individual riders over others. We have riders getting away with multiple on track infringements without penalty because of who they are. We have riders who wear the #1 walking away from the sport in their prime due to being disrespected and Dorna did nothing to try and keep him there.

To summarise Dorna's behaviour into 3 words: LACK OF INTEGRITY

No business will invest money into a sport where the governance lacks integrity.

Things can only be too expensive if there is no way for them to be paid for. Fix the integrity which will increase the revenue and there will be no need to reduce costs.

The reason BMW don't enter MotoGP is not because it costs too much. The reason they won't enter is because they can't get anyone to pay for it.

where the governance lacks integrity."

The time has come, especially with the Dorna's plan to disembowel WSB, for ALL teams to unite and give Bridgepoint an ultimatum.

Get rid of Dorna's existing management structure en total, and install some competent people, or suffer the chance of a mass rebellion and the loss of your shareholders capital.

Imagine a situation at a GP when all classes do one lap and pull in. It would create publicity.............

If you want to make an omelette, you have to break a few eggs.

The trouble with that proposal is that for the most part, the teams are fairly happy with the way Dorna runs the sport.

"It's the economy, stupid".
Now I'm not directing the stupid part to any reader, commenter, fan, or participant in or around MotoGP but that is the ENTIRE issue and any discussion or viewpoint that deviates from that oppressive fact these days in and out of racing is akin to waltzing with angels on the head of a pin. Costs MUST come down. It's not an option. That said, after following this subject lately and seeing where the state of play is why don't they just settle on what both Dorna and Honda demand. There's no saying that the unstoppable force (more economical racing) and the immovable object (Honda) need to collide. That immovable object can stand it's ground (open electronics) while the unstoppable force (bringing cost/performance ratio to earth) can go where it needs to. How about Dorna lets Honda & whomever else use whatever electronics they bring but eliminate the fuel restrictions and impose the 15,500 rev limit? That way Honda can pursue whatever electronic management R&D they feel like within the MotoGP championship but the law of diminishing returns will be emphatically brought to bear as far as advantages attributed to the Matrix magic inside their black boxes. The rev limits combined with the existing engine configuration rules will cap horsepower & need for blue sky materials science inside the engines while the relaxation or elimination of fuel limits will cap the race by software algorithm advantage. Honda and the other factories will of course still dominate as their machines will be the most refined, adaptable, and exquisite weapons in the hands of the most talented riders and best equipped and organized teams. They will retain the edge instead of simply having essentially three categories on track at the same time finishing week in and week out along those delineations with very little variation regardless of who rides what.

Raising fuel limits/rev limit might bring satellites closer to the front, CRT would benefit from rev limit only... But still worthy of an attempt plus they can try out the mm spec ecu see how it goes for them.

No spec ecu, lowered ecu computing complexity... Makes sense

Honda doesn't want spec ECU because they would look CRT'ish until they got it right. Its that simple. Same goes with the other factories, whether they admit or not.

I laugh at people worrying about if the MM kit would not allow to calibrate this or that parameter until they go blue when the reality is the the MM kit is designed by none other than the people that design most of the current units, so they better know how many sensors and ports they need to have, and I read somewhere that the spec kit will be top of the shelf, so they must have combined all or most of the features that the factories require in their kits. so they sure know more or less what is needed. Honda must be spending gazzillions of yens in electrifying their bikes and they sure don't to go "back" to a less exotic kit, because then they will have just what everybody else have, a chassis, and engine and two wheels....god forbid they go racing with a real, practical motorcycle!

If it were for me, I sure endorse the spec ECU, same for everyone is no advantage.

It will be almost impossible to reduce the amount of money Honda and Yamaha spend on MotoGP. The idea is to lower the cost of producing a competative bike for the CRT's and other manufacturers. The perfect set of rules would let Honda and Yamaha to spend their vast amounts of money, but achieve only a very, very small advantage.

Bikesportnews is reporting that the Swan Yamaha team - BSB champs in 2011 - are facing a reduction to a one-bike squad next season. Financial cracks are starting to show even in a national series with a spec ECU - it's not just relatively close racing at the front that makes a series financially stable.

Speaking of which, a number of people have noted the elephant in the room - the fact that Doohan and Rossi dominated the series for years and no one complained that GP racing was financially in trouble.

What has changed?


GP racing's owner is a financial venture capital firm, deeply in debt, that has to not only service that debt, but increase revenues from its investment in MotoGP and WSBK even further to attract and retain new investors. And it has to do so in the middle of a worldwide economic downturn.

How much of this "must grow the sport ... increase the spectacle" chatter is driven by BP's simple need to suck more money OUT of the sport and deliver it to investors who don't care whether they're invested in MotoGP or Uncle Doogie's Hog Mud Rasslin' World Series?

Tobacco company sponsorship is the reason there was plenty of money available during the Doohan and Rossi domination eras.

True. But that money was used to directly support teams that still are racing - Rothmans Honda, Marlboro Yamaha. Right now, swap Ducati for Lucky Strike Suzuki, and it's the same number of top-level factory teams competing as it was 20 years ago.

The push here isn't to bring more sponsorship into the sport - that doesn't directly enrich Bridgepoint. Nor is it really to make racing more "affordable" - that only indirectly concerns Bridgepoint.

The push today is for greater sanctioning fees, TV fees, etc., that directly enrich BP. Payment to the teams is a variable dependent on how little BP/Dorna feels they can get away with paying.

How much Dorna can charge for sactioning, promotion, and TV fees is directly related to viewership/attendance.

How much teams can charge sponsors and the ease with which they can obtain sponsors is directly related to viewership/attendance.

Dorna's (Bridgepoints) and the teams' financial objectives are aligned.

This still begs the question: Why was viewership/attendance not a crisis when Doohan/Honda was winning 65 percent of the races or when Rossi/Honda was winning 11 races a season?

This is the crux of the matter (pardon the pun, David):

Dorna/BP cannot afford to simply have the sport continue as it is. They need to INCREASE viewership/attendance and hope it translates into greater revenues.

Everyone else can live on what they have now. They do not need to INCREASE the popularity of the sport.

Bigger grids would be nice. But we've seen smaller ones in the sport's history.

Doesn't the fact that the only people truly panicking about the state of MotoGP are the venture capitalists who are up to their eyeballs in debt over this - I must say - ill-advised investment - say anything about this to you?

Yes there's no doubting that Bridgepoint have their profit motives. I don't know about the debt they're carrying, but I couldn't find anything with a simple Google search on Bridgepoint Capital and debt, but more than half of their investors are from pensions (57.3%), which pretty much always invest in safe, low-risk bets. Infront Sports and Dorna are 2 of 55 companies they own. Infront Motor Sports is a sliver of Infront Sports.

From the invester base it points to an owners that want solid long-term predictable growth, not high-risk short-term pump-and-dump day traders.

As far as MotoGP and money goes, and I'm not the first to say it, the cost of running a team including the lease prices, number of team members required to service and setup the bike, specialists (e.g. ECU software developers), and everything else including transportation (think worldwide fuel prices) has outpaced teams' abilities to pay the bill.

So Dorna's bosses and the team owners are all on the same page: reduce costs, grow revenue, grow sponsorship.

By the way... slightly more than half of Bridgepoint's capital comes from the US/Canada. As North America's official representative, my commandment as majority-shareholder representative is to implement spec ECU as soon as possible, and offer whatever is necessary to get Suzuki, BMW and Kawasaki back into MotoGP.


Vote noted! LOL ...

Interesting question. A website known as unquote.com, a European private equity research firm, reported that Dorna/MotoGP cost Bridgepoint more than 550 million Euros to purchase originally.

Its revenues - not profits, but revenues - were about 190 million Euros in 2011, according to the link you provided.

Dorna did a refinance in April 2011 to raise another 420 million Euros "to extend the debt of Dorna," unquote.com reports. Isn't that about the time we started hearing about CRT machines?

Granted, I'm a guy who has trouble with the whole balancing the checkbook thing. But it's clear that Bridgepoint/Dorna is into MotoGP for hundreds of millions of Euros of borrowed money. And really, all it has to sell are TV rights and sanctioning fees.

I'm sure some other BP properties are in better shape and some are in worse shape. But it was interesting to read bikesportnews.com's description of how BP operates: "The old target was to double their money by increasing profits and selling the property within three to seven years of ownership. In recent years that has become much more difficult as valuations have declined, although it has to be said that sports rights have remained buoyant."

Kind of makes you wonder if, with all this "increased spectacle" chatter, Dorna/BP are trying to put a coat of paint on MotoGP so it can sell it off. Seven years are just about up. It's not like the old days when a company could just ride out the lean years. It's the world of venture capital and Ezpleta is the principal of a firm that owes someone a s**tload of money.

Thanks for the link to BP's annual report. There is nothing like going to the source document.



Duly noted... Bridgesport has leveraged Dorna a lot, the first link did say part of it was to pay out dividends to investors, but like you I'm not a finance guy, I don't know how usual it is for equity firms to do that sort of thing. Too bad Bridgesport is private and doesn't have to reveal as much... regardless, it is a little bit unnerving to think that Bridgesport may wrap up and sell Dorna/Infront once they've raised their profile enough.

Being from the States, it reminds me of our Rep Candidate Mitt Romney and his old firm Bain Capital.

They fixed up some firms to make them profitable and sustainable, but others they took on just to leverage the heck out of them then squeeze the rest out through bankruptcy and selling off assets. I never understood how borrowing heavily against a company then taking it to bankruptcy makes money (since the creditors have to get paid), but I guess that's why I'm not worth 1/4 billion dollars.

I don't know... Dorna just needs owners that love the sport first and business second.

Anyway, thanks for the links.

Could not agree more with you:

"Dorna just needs owners that love the sport first and business second ..."

MotoGP would be so much better off ...

One last little bit of Dorna trivia: The company ran British Superbike for five years, and the Brits had little nice to say about Dorna when they left except for warnings about the location of doorknob strikes as they left ...

Lets look at this a different way. What really is prototype about MotoGP anymore?
Tires = control
Wheels = no difference
Frame = Ducati change means they're all the same
ECU's = Honda only difference
The only places where there are difference is in engine design and position. This my friends is not a prototype class any longer. Lets change tires and let them do what they want with their own ECU's. Stop the insanity of trying to reinvent the wheel with rules to create a better series and just take technology away.

Anyone thinking that MotoGP racing can be as razor-close as Moto2 or Moto3 is being a bit unrealistic. MotoGP bikes are bigger, heavier, faster and more dangerous. Last race I saw a Moto3 rider fall off, end up in the path of another bike and get biffed in the head by that other bike. At MotoGP speeds it might have killed him.

So there's a safety limit to how close spec ECUs, spec tyres etc can actually make the racing. Purely from the standpoints of safety and physics, the riders in MotoGP will never be able to mix it up in quite the same way as those in the lightweight classes.

I know this has been touched on by a number of posters previously in relation to mutiiple subjects but it keeps coming up for me.

Surely, the only way to make the playing field more level without removing all interest is to make performance more accessible and that's clearly what Dorna are aiming at. But....making everyone build the same bike though over-restrictive rules can not ultimately deliver that goal without establishing an unnaturally-contrived environment. Ducati's hero-to-zero experience corresponding with the spec tyre introduction would seem to point to that, the CS27 factor notwithstanding.

I mention the spec tyre deliberately because, as many have already pointed out, the restriction on ways race performance can now be achieved seems like a great example of an unintended consequence of trying to level the field through removal of commercial advantage.

Given that spec racing is already covered in other classes maybe a less tightly restricted technical spec, within a few key constraints, is what's really required to give everyone the opportunity to maximise on their ideas and/or strengths. By key constraints I mean the 'big' stuff like 1000cc, max engine allocation, max tyre allocation, 2 wheels :-) and the safety details (tail lights etc.). I see a spec ECU as part of that too. Everything else could be open to choice, including tyres and to some extent fuel.

The 'levelling' element of the rules is then more restricted to the machine control interface and the teams would be free to innovate design solutions and build what they think works best for them. They would also be more free to tune as required by their own machine and not someone else's boiler-plate idea of a bike.

Incidently I can't really see the CRT concept working well unless those teams are allowed more (not less) freedom to work around the performance gap with identical-format factory machines they currently stand no chance of closing. Without it the logical conclusion would seem to be a superstock-equivalent class for production racers.

I admit that I'm not an engineer and the idea presented is pretty high-level and not new, but I do understand that in other environments over-restrictive rules simply create captive markets with artificial commercial pressure. Innovation is stifled and everything becomes more 'rare' and therefore more expensive, be it diamonds, software developers or other resources that will ultimately translate to on-track performance. Money always talks unless you open up opportunities for innovation to change the game.

It really means slowing down the fast guys. This is the premier class of roadracing. For riders and manufacturers who cannot 'access' the top level of performance there are lesser classes of racing that they can participate in.

You are correct in how rule restrictions actually act to create more performance gaps as the path to top performance is limited. How do you then justify adding a spec ECU to your less tightly restricted technical spec?


Accessible performance to me could mean production racers with mandatory kit parts or new parts available to all customers, and no factory teams.

Let the factories compete with each other with their technologies with the largest number of riders possible. Fast guys will still be fast. Slower guys will still have a chance.

A series with 4 motorcycles on a grid of ~22 actually capable of winning a championship (nevermind a single race as is the case this year) isn't premier, it's pathetic.

Accessible performance is not euphemism for slowing down fast people. Accessible performance is the essence of competition.

If the rules were 24L with 81mm 4-cylinders or 24L with a rev limit, the number of competitors would rise. Horsepower would be sufficiently easy to produce, and HRC would have lots of competition. HRC would have to achieve a level of manufacturing/design precision and obtain a level of riding skill that exceeds anything they have achieved in this era. By manipulating the rulebook to make the sport more difficult, they actually make the sport easier in the long run b/c the competition begins to wane.

The phenomenon is easy to understand. If they raised the basketball goal by 1 foot, basketball players would not get better, they would merely get taller. The lack of tall people in society might eventually erode the skill of the players. If Honda make horsepower needlessly difficult to obtain, the competitors do not become more skilled, they simply become richer. The relative scarcity of mega-corps erodes competition in the long run. How awesome is HRC going to be if they have no one to beat? How much would those uncontested titles be worth?

HRC have rightly determined that the era of power density is dead, and the era of fuel-economy is upon us. Unfortunately, they have yet to realize that 21L MotoGP is not a good way to ring in the era of fuel-efficiency. They had a chance to create something that didn't suck. They blew it.

>>Accessible performance is the essence of competition.

I must have missed that notice.

>>If the rules were 24L with 81mm 4-cylinders or 24L with a rev limit, the number of competitors would rise.

That's all it takes? No spec ECU? No spec tires? Then the next rule package needs only 1 modification and we're good to go. So giving the factory bikes 3l more is going to slow them down? You have got to be kidding me. A RC213V with 24l would lap the CRTs twice! Full power every corner exit and big top speeds! Wheeeeee!

>>The phenomenon is easy to understand. If they raised the basketball goal by 1 foot, basketball players would not get better, they would merely get taller. The lack of tall people in society might eventually erode the skill of the players.

Except......all of the top basketball players are not the tallest ones. The tallest ones are usually single use players that are very mobility-challenged. Its the compromise of height, mobility, and spacial acuity that make a great basketball player, similar to the complicated compromise that makes the best motorcycle/rider combination.

>HRC have rightly determined that the era of power density is dead, and the era of fuel-economy is upon us. Unfortunately, they have yet to realize that 21L MotoGP is not a good way to ring in the era of fuel-efficiency.

So the era of fuel efficiency is upon us but by implimenting fuel efficiency regulations Honda blew it?


More fuel will not slow down the factory prototypes. I didn't indicate that it would nor did I say that slowing down the factory bikes was the goal. Both points were fabrications of your own imagination. Your overactive imagination seems to be the source of your angst.

I don't particularly want a spec-ECU or spec-tires, but I don't imagine that either of those changes are aimed at slowing down factory machines relative to CRTs or other entrants. Spec tires were about controlling cornering speeds and reducing tire costs to the teams. The spec-ECU is not about making the racing more equal b/c it will make riding the bikes more difficult, which will increase the disparity between the riders, like the 500cc era. It is at best an attempt to make MotoGP look cool, and at worst a poorly-conceived (imo) cost-cutting strategy. It may also be a kickback to IRTA who are sick of having their satellite bikes electronically detuned by the factories.

I also never claimed that the tallest basketball players were the best. I claimed that raising the goal would increase the average height of players, which decreases the size of the talent pool from which players can be drawn. As a result, skill levels could decrease though the sport is 'harder'. The same phenomenon exists in MotoGP regarding money. The more expensive it is to compete, the fewer competitors MotoGP will have (all else held constant).

.. to achieve competitive performance is what we're after. That's what I meant by accessible performance.

At the moment a Bridgestone-friendly design and constant software development is the only game in town and its already come down to tiny increments of advantage, which is why the game is so expensive.

A spec ECU will in effect limit the degree to which the computer can control the bike for the rider. In that way the field is levelled somewhat and we get back to good riders on well-sorted well-designed bike taking the spoils (with a bit of time and luck...).

(P.S. .... so long as the other variables are freed-up a bit... tyres in particular).

That's what Dorna seems to want to do to me.

What came first - the racing bike or the prototype?

Honda seem to want a fight because their dominance is at threat from the series owner. Dorna and Bridgepoint have paid for this series (and WSB). Anyone else with the wherewithal could have stumped up the cash. But they didn't. The MSMA (and it seems pretty clear that's effectively Honda) have messed the thing up. If I was Dorna, I too would be asking them to accept that it wasn't working as intended and let me have a go - they do own it after all.....

As for 'just' marketing it and the sponsors will 'just' pile the cash in (and staying with the theme) - ostrich's lay the biggest toughest eggs but have a reputation for thinking that light at the end of the tunnel is time to stick their head in the sand.......

A rider strike? Oh yes, that would please me sooooo much. I prefer the type of unions that talk to management - not do their best to wreck the business when times are tough.

I would prefer a game of Russian roulette on the start /finish line. Last man standing gets a factory ride for 2 years. That would solve the 'more bums than seats' problem and bring a whole new audience. Bigger on Facebook and live TV than jumping off a balloon. Cheaper too.

(Apologies to the riders - I don't mean it really, but you guys always have to deal with the crap handed to you by everybody else.)

Carburetors and simple old style electronic ignition. No computers, except data loggers.

I'm only half kidding.

Even though it would be great to have more riders on bikes that could win and rules which allowed the return of the "Garage Genius", I will still watch every lap I can with the current set up.

1. These bikes are extraordinary. The awesome acceleration, the sound, the braking, its wonderfull.
2. The young men on them are astoundingly brave, able to get carbon fibre brakes glowing?!!

I go to the Island every year, I'm no teenager and yet I get almost frantic with excitement when I hear the engines start for FP1, my long suffering wife has to 'calm me down' as they roll out of the pit for their first lap.

My only regret, is that it's Casey's last year. Gorge has been so generous in his comments about Stoner, during an interview prior to Motegi, he commented that Casey was the most talented rider he'd ever seen and that he felt it was a great loss, as he likes to race the best. I will be in the Bass strait stand to watch Casey for the last time 'backing it in' from turn 3 to 4, when he does it for the last time on Sunday afternoon, I know I will have a little private sob at our loss.

My wife asked if I'd watch Casey next year driving super cars and I said ""No, its the bikes that are interesting, Casey is my current favorite, next year I will be wearing my Yamaha cap with Gorge's number 1 on it".

I will never hate this sport, as I love Motogp. Its the bravest fastest thing you can do on this planet, outside of being a soldier or similar.

Thanks to everyone who has posted on this topic. I have to say that I have rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to engage in such a reasoned, intelligent, deeply analytical yet impassioned discussion with others about the sport we all care about so much. This is what the words "discussion" and "debate" are supposed to describe. David, you attract an amazing fan base with this site.