Two Races Per Engine From Indy Onwards
The proposals on the table aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP are pretty well known now, and have been discussed here several times. It looks increasingly likely that practice and testing will be reduced this year, with more drastic measures, including engines having to last for at least two races and only allowing the riders to have one bike instead of two.
But it looks like the MSMA feels the situation is more desparate than at first thought. Motorcycle News is reporting that the regulations enforcing extended engine life will be introduced ahead of schedule, as early as the Indianapolis Grand Prix at the end of August. Other measures MCN is reporting to be adopted include the dropping of the Friday morning free practice session, the reduction of the other sessions to 45 minutes instead of an hour, and the dropping of most of the post-race tests in Europe.
One question mark hanging over the introduction of the extended engine life is the penalty for breaking it. Two suggestions had been put forward to deal with this: having points deducted or being put to the back of the grid. MCN does not report what punishment has been decided on, but both are problematic. Manufacturers seem unlikely to accept a points reduction, but being put to the back of the grid encourages gaming the system. If the power advantage is great enough for an engine lasting one race, then it might be worth taking the penalty and gambling on being able to fight your way forward through the field. Also, with only 17 bikes on the grid, if all of the factory bikes break the rule, then the rider who qualified fastest would find himself back on the 3rd row, instead of the back row.
And although extended engine life will allow savings on maintenance, something that will benefit the satellite teams, there will be a lot of pressure on racing departments inside the manufacturers to squeeze the same amount of horsepower out of an engine with greater reliability, which will inevitably involve an increase in R&D spending. The question of whether this will be more or less than the amount saved on maintenance remains unanswered.
One thing is clear, though. Big changes are coming to MotoGP. And with such big changes on hand, these measures have to succeed in actually cutting costs. If they don't then the next step - and the future of MotoGP - are anyone's guess.