Kevin Cameron Explains The Politics Behind MotoGP On Cycle World

The debate on the future of MotoGP continues in full force. On the one side of the argument, those who believe that the factories' freedom to develop electronics should not be constrained, and on the other side, those who say that technology has to be reined in to control costs, and increase the spectacle. On one side of the argument stand the manufacturers, led by Honda; on the other side stand the teams, with Dorna at the helm.

Or at least, that's the way it seems from the outside. The reality behind the politics of MotoGP is far more labyrinthine than it appears. The impending decision of Ducati to switch to being an Open class entry (officially, to be taken only after tests at Sepang, but well-informed sources suggest the decision has been all but taken) has cracked the lid on some of the politics, offering a glimpse of the power structures which underly the rule-making process. With Ducati poised to break ranks with the other manufacturers, the MotoGP series could be set to take an entirely different direction.

Yesterday, leading US magazine Cycle World published one of the best analyses of the situation I have read for years. Veteran technical journalist and eminence grise in the world of motorcycle racing Kevin Cameron lays out with incisive clarity how the current status quo came about, and how Ducati's decision to go Open could upset the delicate balance of power. For anyone interested in why MotoGP is the way it is today, it should be compulsory reading.

The article also links nicely with another piece on the German-language website Speedweek. There, Gunther Wiesinger takes a wider view of the subject, and talks to Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal about Yamaha's view of the Open class. If Yamaha were also to abandon their opposition to limits on electronics, then that would leave Honda standing alone, with a decision to make on their future participation.

With the first MotoGP test of the year due to start next week at Sepang, the new Open class will be a prime topic of conversation. In the run up to the test, we wil be publishing a number of articles explaining the rule changes, and what impact they will have. I will then be flying to Sepang to cover the test in person. 

The debate on the future of MotoGP continues in full force. On the one side of the argument, those who believe that the factories' freedom to develop electronics should not be constrained, and on the other side, those who say that technology has to be reined in to control costs, and increase the spectacle. On one side of the argument stand the manufacturers, led by Honda; on the other side stand the teams, with Dorna at the helm.Or at least, that's the way it seems from the outside. The reality behind the politics of MotoGP is far more labyrinthine than it appears. The impending decision of Ducati to switch to being an Open class entry (officially, to be taken only after tests at Sepang, but well-informed sources suggest the decision has been all but taken) has cracked the lid on some of the politics, offering a glimpse of the power structures which underly the rule-making process. With Ducati poised to break ranks with the other manufacturers, the MotoGP series could be set to take an entirely different direction.Yesterday, leading US magazine Cycle World published one of the best analyses of the situation I have read for years. Veteran technical journalist and eminence grise in the world of motorcycle racing Kevin Cameron lays out with incisive clarity how the current status quo came about, and how Ducati's decision to go Open could upset the delicate balance of power. For anyone interested in why MotoGP is the way it is today, it should be compulsory reading.

Comments

Proof

Is there any confirmation yet that Ducati has actually switched to the Open category? The only thing I know is that they denied it strongly.

Total votes: 34

Decision date

Ducati have until 28 February to make a decision. Ducati haven't 'denied it strongly'. A spokesperson told Bikesportnews "Currently there are no further plans regarding the Open option."

Confirmation will probably come ahead of the second Sepang test. 

Total votes: 23

Less Ducati engineers

I'm speculating that internal struggles with its engineers is preventing Ducati of announcing its intentions to enter as "Open Class" in 2014. Using spec ECU could mean that many engineers will lose their positions or could be transferred to another part of the company, away from any support to the MotoGP team.

GD looks like he's pushing hard to enter as open class, IMO. The Sepang tests could be the prove the engineers need to show that the spec ECU is not worth trying.

Total votes: 25

Happens all the time

Engineers being shifted around in a company happens all the time in industry. Decisions like these are not special because its a MotoGP team. Just like in any industry, the best plan moving forward is just that, the best plan, and the decision will probably not be based much on keeping electronics engineers on the project just for their sake. They'll find a way to shift things around.

Total votes: 24

Great article by K Cameron.

Great article by K Cameron. Begs the question, would MotoGP be better off if they did the right thing even if Honda pulled out. I personally think they would be.

Of course the best thing would be if any/all manufacturers would just do the right thing for the sport rather than their own self interest.

Total votes: 36

I'm with you

make the rule, call Honda's bluff, and if they leave, well, part of me thinks we'd have less costly and closer racing. I can't believe that Honda would leave GP. Where would they go? WSBK? Not likely. Not only that but with new(ish) manufacturers eying a return or debut I bet if Honda did the unthinkable they would still find a way to fill the grid.
I've always looked at Honda as the bad guys. Obviously, they are just trying to be the best, but nothing made me happier than when Stoner won the 800cc season on a Duc, just to pour a little salt in Honda's wounds. I'm less cynical now but part of me still likes to see Honda get beaten!

Total votes: 42

We'd get closer and cheaper

We'd get closer and cheaper racing if we gave them all 125cc scooters too.

Part of me hopes Honda calls their bluff as well and pulls out. I'd love to see the current management of GP get squashed and replaced by people with actual vision and forward thinking. It's been going backwards for years.

Total votes: 47

and we'll have a grid

full of only Honda's at this rate! Ducati is struggling and the second best (or best depending on who you ask) bike, Yamaha, have been having sponsorship troubles for years now. With Honda continuing to bulldoze everyone else into expensive rules that only benefit them, they'll be the only ones left that can afford to! Let em pull out and make room for Suzuki, Kawasaki and Aprilia.

Total votes: 37

Honda...

... weren't bluffing when they left F1 (different circumstances, but still).

And if Yamaha don't have Honda to actually race, do they stay as a pure marketing exercise? I'm not sure they do.

Total votes: 25

The catch is ...

The catch is the spec ECU and software. We won't know until well into the season how good it is or can be. I suspect it will mean that an Open bike won't be able to qualify higher than about 6th even with and Alien on it and even with a Yamaha that isn't dumbed down. It is just possible that the 24L and less need for longevity will mean it will be faster over race distance, but that won't make any difference if it's already 5-10s back from the leader after a couple of laps. So in the end, even if Ducati go to Open regs, it won't actually get them any higher up the finishing order than last year.

The one thing it will do is allow Ducati to experiment with more engine-frame configurations. So I want them to rotate the cylinders back to duplicate Honda's crankshaft position/weight distribution. And then to go back to the CF airbox, non-frame. I reckon the Rossi-Burgess experiment with an ally frame was a blind alley when the real problem is the engine length. But what do I know, I'm just an internet commentator!

Total votes: 27

And it could be worse than that.

What if the spec ECU/software is an unworkable piece of sh*t?

Total votes: 25

Spec ECU

From all I've heard, the spec ECU isn't too bad, it's perfectly workable. It's nowhere near the sophistication of the factory stuff - last summer, it didn't have different ignition timing per gear, it didn't have the ability to manage Aprilia's exhaust valve, and a few other things - but the number of complaints were reducing all the time. What started as full-scale carping had turned into mutters by the end of the season. It's a good job the Magneti Marelli people have had a year to develop this stuff on the CRT bikes.

Total votes: 34

ECU with maps removable on the fly

According to you Dorna will be stripping functionality from the ECU until some sort of level playing field between factories and privateers is discovered so does it really matter how advanced the current version of the spec software is?

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 29

Spec ECU

The more bikes running the Spec ECU will allow more data to be input to the programming, therefore giving it an opportunity to be more developed.

Total votes: 25

The Ducati decision is already made.

Ducati will enter the Desmosedici in the Open Class --that is clear. What is not clear yet, is what is Honda going to ask, in order to agree to the spec ECU.
All the readings point to the eventual acceptance of the Marelli electronics. It is fate, one can say. As Japanese, Honda believes strongly in looking into the future --moreover they have not only the wizards to look in glass spheres but also the ones to shape the future.
So knowing how things will evolve, they must have already formed a strategy. They at least have these expensive programs, the ones judging probabilities and aiding decision making. Nakamoto knows very well to handle them, grown as he is in F1.
Which brings the question again. What is it that Honda is really after, when it threatens withdrawal?
Setting the stakes so high, it should be something basic, but very important. Not just a technical matter.
This could be one interesting topic for you to investigate in the GP Cosmos. But then again, I could be wrong.
And thanks for the two articles. Interesting reading. Successful combination.

Total votes: 33

Pirates

I think that quote, "why join the navy when you can be a pirate," sums up the mentality shift that Ducati should have perfectly. We'll see what happens, but of the two options, pursuing the open option would be the better pit seems. I'd love to see a Ducati blow past a Honda on the straight in Qatar in a couple months if they can really open the bike up like we know it can.

On a less serious side, if all the pirate talk is true and Ducati enrolls as an Open outfit, I hope their livery reflects as such and they become 'the bad guys' in MotoGP.

Total votes: 24

I'm with Blackbeard

The CW article should refute all the dismissive, sneering comments about Ducati's efforts we've seen on this site over the last few years. We should consider ourselves fortunate they chose to participate, and make MotoGP a more exciting and varied spectacle. Their thrilling 2007 championship triumph is a far better result than either Suzuki or Kawasaki ever achieved. On a level playing field that didn't favor gold and doubloons, they could probably sink the Japanese galleons again.
No doubt Ducati made plenty of mistakes, but they were a small company playing in a fixed game against ruthless multinational corporations.

Total votes: 42

ruthless multinational corporations...

I wonder what type of influence Audi will now bring to the table.

Total votes: 21

actually, Ducati created the msma

Throughout the history of the WSBK series, Ducati negotiated a displacement exception for their "iconic" twins. Being a European-owned series, the Japanese had no recourse other than to build their own 1000cc twins. And then Honda won in the VTR's second year. This made clear that the displacement exception favored the twin configuration.
Then the playing field was equalized to 1000cc for everyone, and Suzuki won the series immediately. That didn't last long before Ducati "negotiated" yet another displacement exception to 1200. That's when Japanese manufacturers stopped their factory WSBK efforts.
Having learned the game from Ducati, the MSMA was created to essentially do the same thing in motoGP.
As to their "mistakes" - every Ducati rider complained that the factory wasn't listening to their input - Ducati said it was the rider not the bike. They even sent Melandri to a psychologist. Not to mention what they did to Rossi's "edge". And these guys were Italians! ANY organization that tells their #1 customer for 5 years that "the customer is always wrong" - typically goes out of business. And they very well may have if it were not for Audi.

Total votes: 37

Incorrect. Honda and Edwards

Incorrect. Honda and Edwards won the first year, 2000, lost the 2nd year, then CE rode the most incredible comeback ever in any series and secured a second title on the VTR1000SP in 2002.. He also won the Suzuka 8hr on that bike with Rossi.

Total votes: 31

1000cc

The 1000cc-for-all-era began in 2003. Ducati riders claimed the 2003 and 2004 titles. Suzuki won with Corser in 2005. Ducati won again in 2006. Ducati won 60% of the 1000cc championships before lobbying for 1200cc in 2007 for the 2008 season.

Complaints about Ducati's displacement advantage have little to do with whether or not the rules are fair. The complaint is that the rules cannot be made fair no matter how the SBK Commission tries, and that leads to lobbying, infighting, and corruption.

Total votes: 25

If Ducati's new leading man...

... is as pragmatic as he seems to be, The GP14 will certainly be Open next year. Both for the inevitable rule changes toward "Open" in later years, and because Ducati simply won't have a chance against Honda and Yamaha next year on a level playing field. The MSMA has been allowed to flourish with complete disregard to anything approaching "sporting" for waaay too long. Let Ducati be the first to move way from this silliness so the sport can get on with entertaining the millions that have endured the MotoGP slog for far too many seasons.

Total votes: 34

Go for it.

Really interesting article, which confirms pretty much everything said about HRC and their dominant position in the engineering and politics of the series.
I wonder if Scott Smart knows what he has let himself in for with Dorna. I hope his lawyers helped him negotiate....
Gigi was, seemingly, the architect of Aprilia's 'cheeky' WSB and MGP packages and approach and if he can bring that thinking to Ducati and enact it then I would welcome it. Perhaps Ducati's 2014 will be more invigorating than I expected, and Cal may be fighting closer to P4 than I thought he would.
The electronics will be important still and the factory bikes may still be unbeatable for 2014, but if Ducati could show that unbridled power and all the fuel you like is a strong answer to algorithms the racing could be good - especially at the 'power' circuits.
How realistic would it have been for Gigi to ask for new crankcases and a longer swing arm before Sepang? Does anyone know?

Total votes: 29

Money changes everything

"Honda’s MotoGP chief, Shuhei Nakamoto, stated last season that if a rev limit is imposed, Honda will leave MotoGP."

So what? If they are replaced by competitive entries from Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia, BMW, I don't think anybody is going to miss them.
It's transparently clear from the Cycle World article that Honda wants money to decide the championship, and their power to enforce regulations favorable to themselves has led to processional races, a lack of competitive teams and the farce of a two-tier world championship.
Dorna needs to find the courage to call Honda's bluff - and if it's not a bluff - so be it. Be prepared to wave Honda goodbye - and hopefully be rewarded by a season of hard-fought races between several riders, just as we see in WorldSBK. The riders will find other bikes - and it's these personalities whom the fans follow - not the corporate logos.
The bottom line is that MotoGP is no longer a true championship amongst the riders - it's been reduced to a competition for four factory rides.

Total votes: 45

"If they are replaced by

"If they are replaced by competitive entries from Suzuki, Kawasaki, Aprilia, BMW ... "

There's a saying: If my auntie had balls, she'd be my uncle. If this, if that, if only ... What in the world makes anyone think that if Honda or Yamaha leave, some other factory is going to rush into the void?

The history of GP racing is shot through with companies entering this sport with huge fanfare and leaving shortly afterward.

Right now, BMW is pulling the plug on all of its factory efforts - it just left its World Endurance team high and dry at the last minute. Aprilia is down to one GP team and shut down production for a month last year due to poor sales. Kawasaki had to be dragged into court to put the Hayate on the grid. And Suzuki's efforts in the entire MotoGP era have been half-hearted at best. Ask the riders who rode for them about their salaries - a Tech III satellite ride felt like hitting the lottery in comparison.

Perhaps the one line that everyone seems to have overlooked in Cameron's article - and really the underlying message - is that the freedom of rules, not an ever-restricting noose of regulations, is what allowed the under-financed, underdog Ducati team to beat Honda and Yamaha.

Total votes: 44

Exactly. The tighter the

Exactly. The tighter the rules the less chance for someone to come from left field. It becomes a game of refinement which only money can win.

Imagine years ago when Honda first came GP racing if they had to produce the same bikes as everyone else instead of showing up with gems like the rc166.

Total votes: 28

Ground Control - we have a problem

Apparently you know better than Dorna's new head man - who finds MotoGP's expense problematic, and wishes to curtail costs and increase competition.
Your chosen alias, Mr Morbidelli, should remind you of a golden age when the world championship contenders were household names, the grid boasted a variety of different manufacturers, and the machines had some relevance to the bikes in the showrooms. Nowadays, not so much - who really wants a road bike that revs to 18,000rpm?
I hope you continue to enjoy the procession of privileged princes on their thoroughbreds, followed by a gaggle of serfs on nags. OTOH I prefer the scrappy spectacle of WorldSBK - but that's not the way it should be.

I don't blame Suzuki for their half-hearted efforts. The money required to compete at the front end of MotoGP is ruinous - and the company's marketing department probably found the WorldSBK and AMA championships far more useful for leveraging customers to part with their money.

Question: do you ever ask yourself why the tedium of NASCAR is so well attended?
Answer: variety of marques, competitive entries, close races.

Total votes: 40

Yeah, 'cause I see so many

Yeah, 'cause I see so many privateer bikes winning WSBK races. Come on! Even the satellite teams got factory support. Aprilia's satellite teams got hand-me-down factory engines. The Duc 1098s that could occasionally spring a surprise in the rain came from Ducati's race shop, and still cost a mint, just not as 'minty' as the factory ones. Go ahead and count the number of WSBK races that were won by someone other than a factory-contracted rider in the past six years.

" ... the procession of privileged princes on their thoroughbreds, followed by a gaggle of serfs on nags ..."

... is the definition of racing.

p.s. To understand NASCAR requires an understanding of the American South and its place in the U.S., going back literally decades. It's not like NASCAR just came out of nowhere. It became popular largely for the same reasons that "Duck Dynasty" is popular today - and a lot of that has absolutely nothing to do with the 'racing.'

Total votes: 35

18,000 rpm

Well, I surely want an 18,000-rpm road bike! Preferably with five or six cylinders! So it will use a bit more fuel than a boring restricted Honda NC700, but if I really wanted to save money, I would not choose an expensive hobby like motorcycling.

Total votes: 29

It's a good job the Magneti Marelli people...

"It's a good job the Magneti Marelli people have had a year to develop this stuff on the CRT bikes."

Quite possibly the understatement of the year! (So far, anyway.)

Total votes: 21

and when you combine that

with the 20L of fuel Yamaha and Honda have to use I don't see it a certainty that they will be the only bikes on the podium.

Wondering if Cal and Dovi will join in with the Ducati pirate theme and nail parrots on their shoulders.

Going to be interesting to watch the progress of Ducati if they run open, although it might be hard to work out how much improvement is due to their understanding of the basic electronics they are given versus changes they make to engine/frame.

Total votes: 19

Relax and enjoy

Relax and enjoy - good things are afoot. Black/white in/out won't be how it is w HRC in the top level of motorcycle racing ever. They are and will change the nature of their involvement, it will evolve...and should. Fuel effiency, engine reliability, and electronics are clearly not the only engineering challenges they have. Engineering challenges are not the only thing Motogp involvement holds for them. Honda is a racing involved company.
The are having a wee tantrum, and it isn't nearly as interesting as the return to more fuel, more motors, and less electronic rider aids, more bikes, more teams, more manufacturers, more lines, more race strategies, more bike development avenues, more MORE MORE. Not less.
There are more ingredients in the kitchen, new smells a-cookin', and we are pulling out all the place settings for the table again.
Enjoy! ;)

Total votes: 26

Ground control....

Morbidelli is spot on. Ducati won because of Stoner's ability and the rules freedom to use Bridgestones.

Total votes: 27

Not the whole story

Ducati were competitive before Stoner's arrival. In 2006 Capirossi would likely have won the championship if Gibernau's recklessness hadn't caused him to crash and miss races.
Stoner's contribution was crucial, but the vital component was Ducati's desmodromic valve gear, which had been used on their road bikes for almost 50 years. Suppo said as much.
Subsequently Honda and Yamaha decided to break their own cartel-style rule book, and responded with pneumatic valves - and now we have a full-blown arms race - and a series of processional races.

Total votes: 24

"Ducati were competitive

"Ducati were competitive before Stoner's arrival ... "

... because they worked one-on-one with Bridgestone when everyone else was on Michelins. That's what the Ducati and Bridgestone honchos will tell you in B-stone's book celebrating 100 MotoGP wins. Ducati had the rules freedom to try something different, and B-stone had the freedom to build a tire just for the Duc.

Total votes: 28

Losail memory loss?

Clearly you've forgotten - but I can still hear the amazed gasps from the commentators at the sight of the GP7 Ducati blowing down the Losail straight making the Yamondas look like they were standing still.
That wasn't down to rubber - that was desmodromic valves doing their thing.

Total votes: 30

I remember it well. But I was

I remember it well. But I was referring to your observation that Ducati was competitive pre-Stoner. That was down to open tire development and a tire company that worked with a unique motorcycle to reach competitiveness.

But the desmo thing works, too; a rev limit would have eliminated the desmo's advantage, blocking another avenue for Duc to assault the Japanese.

Total votes: 20

Capirossi went from contender to also ran when he got on the 800

Despite the top speed and rubber, the engine character was too aggressive and the handling too shit. And that's been the problem for Ducati since 2007.

Total votes: 18

The desmodromic advantage?

The desmodromic advantage was eliminated several years ago by the Japanese factories responding with pneumatic valves to a 50 year old road-bike technology. Prior to the Italians' 2007 success they'd agreed to avoid using it due to expense. So much for all the claims about R&D priorities!
It's now apparent that Honda - the factory with the greatest financial resources - hopes to get a lock on the championship by breaking the opposition's budgets with seamless gearboxes, ECUs and fuel restrictions.
As noted previously - when the MotoGP race director has become seriously concerned about expensive technologies damaging competition, there's probably a problem that needs to be fixed.
Or perhaps we've all come to love the pomp and ceremony of the processional races?

Total votes: 11

The Race Director is

The Race Director is concerned about entertainment as a method of maximizing return on investment for current and future investors in the corporation known as Dorna.

Problem is that his "entertainers" are primarily concerned not with entertaining, but with winning.

There, in a nutshell, is your conflict.

None of the factories or riders involved are more interested in "the show" than they are in winning. If they were, they'd all agree to build bikes that were completely the same spec. Nothing in the rules prevents that. And in the history of motorcycle road racing, such an agreement never has been reached. Wonder why?

p.s. Competitors can agree to not develop in certain areas and leave others free for innovation. Happens all the time in racing. Don't see many dustbin fairings nowadays, do ya? And thank god ...

Total votes: 14

You want a 2-wheel America's Cup?

You appear unable or unwilling to grasp that without competitive entertainment, the series will wither away, like the AMA series with its tedious domination by Suzuki. If nobody's watching, the winner's triumphs have no marketing value.
Dorna have many good reasons to be uneasy about their baby's health. If 2014 means the same 3 Spaniards circulating at the front, and the other riders merely playing the part of the chorus, I won't be buying the MotoGP package - nor will I be watching the live TV coverage. I'll record it and FF through the ads while watching with one eye - and there are probably many others like me.
If you think advertisers - who are the life blood of motorsports - aren't aware of these kinds of societal behavior patterns, you haven't been keeping up.

Total votes: 12

MSMA only care about winning?

If winning is the MSMA's only ambition, why does Honda change the rules so often, including times when they have the best bike?

The MSMA members want to win culturally-relevant engineering challenges (fuel efficiency), which lead to new production technology. Unfortunately, the MSMA chooses disingenuous competition, and they complain when the market is not entertained by MotoGP, and when the market stops buying their premium sportbikes. In short, the MSMA refuse to acknowledge that genuine competition and real challenges are almost always entertaining and good for the underlying marketplace.

This psychological affliction is institutionalized by large for-profit corporations, who will always seek the low-hanging (forbidden) fruit of risk-free returns via monopoly, cartel, and trust arrangements. The FIM is responsible for steering the ship, but they are impotent so they pass the responsibility to Dorna. Naturally, Dorna don't have the mettle to make anything good happen because they are a private-equity collective, looking for risk-free returns in the poisoned-chalice of indiscriminate cost-slashing.

The problems perpetuate in virtually all forms of racing because racing has no effective regulatory body. Max Mosley is about the only motorsport regulator who talked publicly about these issues.

Total votes: 8

You answered your own

You answered your own question: "The MSMA members want to win culturally-relevant engineering challenges."

For example, factories could have continued making better and better 500cc two-stroke bikes. But those vehicles were completely irrelevant to the stuff that factories were making to sell to the public and the technologies they were interested in improving. (At least an F1 car still uses a four-stroke engine, just like the road cars made by the F1 engine makers. There's at least some connection.) Racing two-stroke GP bikes was about as relevant to Honda, Kawasaki, or Yamaha as racing interstellar probes or submarines.

But make no mistake: Winning is the goal, the only goal, to the participants. That's the way it should be. Anything else is purely theater, and why would anyone go racing under those circumstances?

And if marketing a "hollow victory" or an "irrelevant championship" is hard ...

... try marketing losing.

In all the years I've been following motorsport, I've yet to see anyone take out an ad on Monday loudly and proudly proclaiming their loss on Sunday.

Seriously, with all the bitching about the MSMA and Honda, two questions:

- If the factories quit making GP machines, who is going to make them?

- If someone does make them, who is going to pay for them? And before someone says "sponsors," show me one form of motorsport where sponsorship pays for design, R&D, and manufacture of racing vehicles.

I'm very, very interested in responses.

Total votes: 7

To your questions

Here are two examples of sponsors directly paying for and engaging in R&D, plus building their own kit when it doesn't exist in usable form directly from manufactures.

http://www.lucasoil.com/pages3-63/ProductRandD

http://www.cycleworld.com/2014/01/21/navigating-the-nhra-pro-stock-motor...

Total votes: 6

Thanks for posting those up;

Thanks for posting those up; I appreciate it, although I don't think they're quite on-point. The Lucas one is oil and coolant development, not a ground-up racing machine build, if I'm not mistaken.

And the V&H one is interesting, because I think it demonstrates exactly what I was talking about - that the factories are involved, even at this relatively low level of motorsport ($750,000 for a top-end redesign is a screaming bargain.)

The V&H motors are badged as Harleys, and the S&S motor is called a Buell. In both cases, the engine builders are factory surrogates, using "badge engineering" to keep the factory name in front of the fans. The factories go along because, as it is clear in from the article, it's good for the factories to have "their" machines winning in front of a lot of fans, and the rule makers will constantly adjust the rules to make sure that they will win:

"NHRA knows it needs Harley fans in ticket lines, so it had to legalize purpose-built racing engines badged as Harleys ..."

NHRA's Pro Stock class is actually V&H vs. S&S machinery. But even the National Hot Rod Association knows that a V&H vs. S&S series would die a quick death due to a lack of interest from the public. So the NHRA is, indeed, beholden to the H-D factory. It would not surprise me if the NHRA actually paid H-D for the privilege of allowing the engine builders to call their products Harleys.

Imagine two scenarios:

- NHRA does not constantly adjust the rules so the "Harley" or the "Buell" will win. How long does H-D allow its name to be used?

- If MotoGP is a niche sport now, what will happen when the "premier" class consists of Ilmor, Harris and Suter machines, and Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, et. al are racing in, promoting and supporting other series?

Interesting links. Thanks.

p.s. OK, one more question: If you tell Dorna that it will have to try to sell TV and sanctioning rights to a series with only Attack, Ilmor and Petronas built-machines, how many blasts from the defibrillator will it take to revive Carmelo?

Total votes: 6

NHRA politics, from a

NHRA politics, from a disgruntled insider. Thanks for that link again; it really is a interesting political debate, focused on money, rules and marketing.

http://www.cycledrag.com/bryce-wants-a-vance-and-hines-v-rod

Total votes: 8

Glad you found it interesting

And to see you dig into it further, its rather telling on several levels. Also I think you'll find the Lucas family and Hector Aranna family stories equally interesting, although for different reasons. They do in fact build and run their own teams out of the same place they work Monday through Friday job at their day jobs for Lucus Oil.

Total votes: 7

Winning

If the MSMA members are only concerned with winning, why is Honda threatening to withdraw?

Total votes: 11

Because Dorna keeps making

Because Dorna keeps making noises about taking away one of the Factory-class advantages and creating "more exciting competition."

This translates into racer-speak as, "they're going to increase the chances that I lose."

Total votes: 10

HRC

HRC increases their own chance of losing everytime the change the rules. Don't worry. You'll get there eventually. I have faith in you. How can a team that only cares about winning make threats to never win again?

Total votes: 13

They're not threatening to

They're not threatening to walk away from winning. Given the past of Honda (and every other factory, team and competition parts manufacturer that is interested in racing), they'll go somewhere else where they think they have a better shot at winning. Why do you think KTM spent huge amounts of money in Moto3? For the same budget, they could have built a CRT machine. But they'd be at the back of a pack, not atop a podium.

Have you seen a list of the places that Honda (just since they're the company at hand) race? They've got factory-backed squads in BSB (well, they did, but bailed after winning the title in 2013), World Superbike and World Endurance motorcycle road racing. They've got teams in World Supersport, AMA Pro Road Racing, the Asia Road Racing Series (popular in the important Asian market), the All Japan JSB1000 Series, the Suzuka 8-Hours ...

And that's just bikes. The company is going back into F1. It builds IndyCar engines, competes in prototype sportscar racing, the list is endless. In other words, Honda has plenty of places to choose from to race and chase wins. It's not MotoGP or nothing.

Yes, every time the rules change, there is a possibility of a shakeup in the order. But race teams and manufacturers see the benefit in mastering the new rules. That is the challenge that they offer to their engineering departments. The goal remains the same; OK, no more two-strokes. How do we dominate the four-stroke era? OK, no more 1000cc bikes. How do we kick ass in 800cc bikes? OK, spec tires. How do we beat everyone, every time, on these new tires? Overcoming new challenges benefits anyone's engineers. And the measure of overcoming those benefits is when you cross the finish line first (which also makes the marketing side pretty happy!)

That is immensely different than the scenario presented in series like the NHRA example linked to by the gentleman above, where if you do master the new rules, you will be penalized, and if you suck, the rule-makers will hobble the people beating you. In other words, you never will be allowed to reap the reward for your hard work. It will be sacrificed at the altar of "the show." What manufacturer will sign up for that? Better to go race elsewhere.

Racing is a combination of engineering challenge, race smarts and corporate interest. When we as fans get lucky, the racing is amazing. But take away the engineering challenge and the marketing benefits, and suddenly that question - who will actually go through the effort, money and time to build racing machines - becomes a very real question. It's hard to not imagine that you'd wind up with spec engines, spec chassis or both (see IndyCar or Moto2).

And yes, Moto2 produces good racing. But if you try to make MotoGP a 1000cc "Moto1" class, with spec engines and no electronics, the racing might - might - be closer, but the same teams will dominate (see Moto2; unless I am mis-reading the results from last year, the top four riders came from the two riders on two teams, exactly as they did in MotoGP.)

And then you've got to try to market a series of bikes made by no one you've ever heard of that are slower than National-level Superbikes and less sophisticated than most of the bikes in the parking lot.

Carmelo would have to increase his supply of nitro pills and carry oxygen ...

Total votes: 9

Just another red herring that tastes like gas

Fuel efficiency is certainly desirable, but I wonder if ultra high-revving performance bikes are the best laboratory to carry out serious research in this area.

Total votes: 8

Kinda, yeah

In addition to things such as reducing weight (both vehicle and engine reciprocating weight), reducing aero drag etc etc, a big focus for fuel efficiency is running ultra lean mixtures, and racing can help there. A big problem when running lean is throttle response which is also important in racing, so learninig how to make a ultra-lean burning engine with throttle response to satisfy a MotoGP racer is somewhere where factories can learn lessons for the street. And of course there's the simple matter of making an engine that's not getting a huge amount of fuel in the cylinders to help keep it cool not melt down into slag and bits of of piston as well.

Total votes: 9

Four strokes

All the things you've mentioned here are exacly the reason why they neer should have left the two strokes, four strokes is way more expensive. With good regulation they had the oppertunity to keep the two strokes also a lot cheaper compared to what the costs were at the end of the two stroke era. It is today no longer about racing but managers talking crap about R&D and fuel management, if you want to use less fuel quit racing!! We should be talking about the best bikes and riders and not about the politic s@#t.

Total votes: 8

Eh?

No disrespect to Nicky Hayden but surely Rossi would have won in 06 if his bike hadn't kept packing up on him. Capirossi might have got second, which I suppose proves there's truth in what you say, but the top spot? Only through Yamaha having a bad year, and even then, only by a small margin at best. 07 was a different story altogether, Ducati took a giant step forward that year and even if VR hadn't again DNF'ed 3 times stoner would have still won by a huge margin (he says through gritted teeth).

Total votes: 16

Again, ask Capirossi

If the 07 bike was a huge step forward. His results certainly don't support that.

Total votes: 22

Can Ducati contribute to the spec ECU?

What if Ducati were to license or give their current ECU source code and algorithms to the people handling the stock ECU and software? Effectively they could both contribute to the general well being of moto GP and also give themselves a huge benefit as well.

Total votes: 22

Comment #27

The 27th comment should always reference Casey Stoner.

So yeah, a return to two strokes, with no electronics, and Casey Stoner coming back would resolve this situation.

Total votes: 26

Comment #46

..be fun to see Stoner back on a 'dumbed down' bike trying to explain what had changed his mind?

Like a lot of fans..he blamed Dorna/Carmelo rather than his paymasters, HRC.

Total votes: 21

Unlikely

Stoner coming back is very unlikely Wosi (we know you miss him), as we all know what he wants for the series and want Dorna want for the series are two different things. One wants less technology and more rider related control and the other wants to promote personalities.
Dorna are in charge of the series so they should be telling the MSMA what the rules will be not the other way around. If Dorna had the guts to call the MSMA's bluff ages ago we wouldnt be in this situation, and more factories such as BMW, Kawasaki & Suzuki would have been more open to racing in Motogp imo.

Total votes: 7

Customer bikes

Why not have all customer bikes without factory teams? Honda could save face and leave MotoGP but still "develop technologies" and the teams that want to race can buy kits from manufacturers or develop their own..anyone one with the money can compete to win, not just the #1 rider of the factory team....just food for thought

Total votes: 17

A reasonable question. In

A reasonable question.

In motorcycle road racing and in other motorsports, factories and other companies have been loathe to lose control over expensively-developed technologies that provide a competitive advantage. Companies participate to win, so they develop winning machines, and knowledge about how such machines are designed, built and operated isn't something you just hand out freely. If you buy a mere Graves Motorsport AMA Supersport bike here in the U.S., you have to sign agreements with Graves not to tell anyone how the bike is set up. Imagine the intensity of the secrecy at the international level.

They also are concerned about whether a customer team is operating the equipment properly; Gresini screw it up, hire the wrong rider, etc., Honda is the one that looks bad, for example.

And the simple fact is that if you lose, you look bad. Having invested in developing a racebike, you have a better chance of success for the company by investing in the team that can run it properly. Or you sell it to the team that either has the most money (since, you know, there's a profit to be made) or has the best chance of making you look good by - surprise - beating everyone else. HRC would never sell a racebike to me to compete in MotoGP. I'd make it look like a complete pile of crap. I probably couldn't change the oil right. And then I'd blame Honda! :)

Know where it works best? Where you've got one racebike or racecar supplier. And they're still uncomfortable with other people "improving" on their designs and equipment. Effective development is expensive, though perhaps not for the reasons you think. If the customer team improvements work, the team gets all the credit. If the "improvements" suck, the factory gets blamed.

It's a really interesting thought, and kind of a cool what-if: A grid of proddie GP racers, all developed by a different team, all distinct and different. But in the execution, there's a lot of risks for a factory or even a component supplier and not a lot of upside.

Total votes: 23

Concern

Did anyone else get concerned when they read that Dorna sacked teh guy that kept all the superbikes competitive when they took over SBK?
Does that not strike anyone else as odd? If that doesnt scream that they dont want a level playing field then i dont know what does. :(
Reminds me of motogp.. ;)

Total votes: 24

Losail memory loss?

Ducati could have run a 2000 hp motor in 2007 but without a good tire and rider there would be zero chance for them to put that power to the ground. Tires play a larger role in racing than I think you are willing to accept.

Total votes: 25

Unholy Trinity

Casey Stoner, desmo valve gear and bespoke tires - I suspect all three were crucial. Lose one - and maybe no banana.

Total votes: 8

Curious

So how does the MSMA stand with Ducati not actively participating in MotoGP rules?
MSMA ; Honda + (Yamaha) = Honda MSMA

Are Ducati to become a member of the IRTA?

Where did/do Aprilia have any say, if at all?

This can only be seen as a triumph for Dorna, what all the fans have been calling for!
More Fuel, More Engines (power), Less Elec-trickery!

Also interesting Kevin Camerons comment in his article about Aprilia in 2013 running one bike on Aprilia ECU, and the other on CRT spec. Was this well known? Espargaro - Aprilia, De Puniet - Spec?

Total votes: 15

Nice article

Interesting background information on Ducati's decision making processes. If Ducati's open class campaign is successful, maybe other manufacturers will use its relaxed homologation rules to develop their way into MotoGP.

Perhaps the most dismaying aspect of MotoGP's fuel-limited formula is that is hasn't followed the traditional paradigm. In the past, the pilots would just coast around the track, feeling out the other teams, before picking up the pace during the later stages when the possibility of fuel shortage had been mitigated. Sounds a bit like MotoGP during the tire war era.

Adaptive fuel-computers have probably allowed the riders to push from the beginning without any fuel conservancy issues. Perhaps this was Ducati's "pirate" treason in 2007. At the opening race of the 800cc season, weren't rumors circulating that Valentino had finished the race with nearly 1L left in the tank? If those rumors were true, maybe the MSMA weren't anticipating the use of adaptive u-learning fuel computers.

Total votes: 16

In the end....

who gives a shit? The Duc is still going to be a steaming pile of dogshit whether they have a stock ECU or not. The problem with the Duc has been handling. They couldn't use all the power they had last year, last thing they need is more hp! It sounds like a good idea, going Open so they can iterate on chassis design faster with the larger allottment of engines, only problem is.....we're talking about Italians here. It'll be good fun though to see Nicky and Colin dicing it up with Cal and Dovi.

Total votes: 20

Funny again.

Honda honda honda honda. the wings on honda must be from chickens.!
honda always moans and moand and moans. low rev, honda quits, spec ecu honda quits, desmo valves honda will call you. remember duc making 19.000 rpm, who said we must lower the revs? yes honda. honda honda honda! the world biggest chicken wings!
I hope and i quess yamaha will take the spec ecu. because i dont hear any moaning from them.....at all.! lets get back suz and kawa, let chicken wings quit gp and let see racing between yamaha suz duc kawa etc! bye bye chicken

Total votes: 28

Let Honda eat cake. You have

Let Honda eat cake.

You have to understand Honda's mentality. They believe it is their series and they also believe they dictate the rules which mostly always seem to go in their favor. (2002 v5 same weight as 4 cylinder, 2007 reduction to 800cc's with their #1 rider being the most diminutive rider on the grid, fuel reduction because they are better at it, engine allocation reduction because they are the best at it).

I'm tired of them dictating their will as law. F them, let them leave and eat cake. I would love to see Ducati go open and get more fuel and beat them. I'm no Ducati fan but I'd be rooting for Dovi and Crtuchlow to serve pu dookie sandwiches.

"We aren't hear for this" - Nakamoto
Sadly Nakamoto, the series exists due to the fans and the fans want to see a level,playing field with exciting racing, passing, burnouts in parc ferme, etc. 2006 was a long time ago.

Total votes: 32

Crap

All of this is nonsense. At any point in history the other manufacturers could have disagreed with Honda and blocked the rules. But they didn't. And they profited, even. From 2004 to at least 2011 Yamaha usually had the best bike on the grid, and even Ducati won a championship. Honda only won 2. The only reason people didn't hate Yamaha for having the best bike is because Rossi was riding it.

It's always easy to hate the number one. Look at Red Bull and Vettel in F1. But it's also weak.

Total votes: 36

Firefly is fly and on fire

Good comment FF.

Total votes: 19

One horse race...

Why not leave Honda to race on its own, it only takes Yamaha to join Ducati and the Open race will be what we all watch, while the four Hondas disappear over the horizon into irrelevance. The MSMA of one can play with their frozen fuel rules and GPS set fuel mixes, it won't be the racing we want. Suzuki and Kawasaki will be wecomed back. And after that will Honda leave? I don't think so, after all the fan base is huge and we love our bikes. They need us more than we need them.

Time for Dorna to grow some balls, the sport is bigger than Honda.

PS: an important factor not stressed here is the Open bikes get softer tyres as well,something that Ducati are struggling with as a factory entry.

Total votes: 23

WSBK tech inspector Steve Whitelock

Hey David,

It would be ace if you could get an interview with former wsbk tech inspector Steve Whitelock. How did he go about facilitating that virtually all the manufacturers had a good chance of winning on any given Sunday? What would he do in MotoGP? and why was he sacked by Dorna when they took over wsbk?

cheers,
Elliot

Total votes: 23

If you want to make things interesting...

...enable learning at both ends, break it open like this.

Want electronics at the rear wheel? Here's your rules:
1. Limited Fuel
2. Limited Engine Development
3. Limited number of Engines
4. Spec Tires
5. No ABS

Don't need electronics at rear wheel? Here's your rules:
1. Unlimited Fuel
2. Unlimited Engine Development
3. Blow up as many engines as you like
4. Spec tires, but SOFTER, STICKIER, pick from a variety
5. ABS

Now you have fun, because there's two completely contrasting approaches on the track, and brilliant riders can play throttle racing against jockeys can riding the trains.

And consumers get race lead development from both ends of the bike... just not on the same bike.

Total votes: 18

Every bike needs electronics,

Every bike needs electronics, it's not that simple. You would have to be way more specific about what to allow or not. And ABS is irrelevant for (at least) dry racing.

Total votes: 17

ABS irrelevant...

...please explain.

Total votes: 16

ABS is great for the street...

ABS for dry racing is not used anywhere that I'm aware. Riders are just better than the system, it interferes with one's sensibility when the the ABS engage and a rider can easily outperform it in the dry.

I'm stressing DRY because there are tests around that prove that even the best can't surpass the system in the wet.

Total votes: 15

motogp bikes dont have abs.

motogp bikes dont have abs.

Total votes: 15

CRT

I may be wrong but CRT seemed pretty predictable too last year, just minor variations on espargaro, iannone, edwards and pirro getting 'podiums'. Ducati going down that route might just mean we see two ducs at the front of this group instead. Hang on though.... wasn't that what we had last year anyway?

I was looking at stats the other day; as an aside, there were more or less as many different winners in the 2006 season alone as there have been over the whole of the last 4 or 5 years.

Total votes: 16

I've been thinking about the

I've been thinking about the frozen fuel thing, and all I can say is - pure genius. Someone took a look at the rulebook and figured out where they could get an advantage.

And you know what? It cost exactly nothing, and anyone could have done it. Honda had the racing smarts to give it a shot, and it paid dividends.

I had the opportunity to be at the shop of a factory National-level team a few weeks ago. They were preparing some bikes for a pre-season test and had some ideas they were going to try.

Now the ideas themselves cost virtually nothing; they were essentially chassis stiffness ideas, and it's dirt-cheap to alter chassis stiffness. Another top-level team I saw recently doing it in the pits one night with an angle grinder for the next day's track activities.

But this team had some ideas and put in the time and effort to build their ideas, paid the team personnel, they rented a track, and they tested.

Spec parts shift the advantage to the teams with the intelligence and experience to figure out how to make the non-spec stuff better. Do we set limits on the intelligence of the crew chief? The years that a suspension guy can work before he's no longer allowed to go into the pits? That's all part of this sport, right?

Maybe some teams win a lot because ...

... drumroll ...

they're just fucking better at racing!

Total votes: 21

Dorna need Honda

for the next couple years, to help a certain new rider reach his full potential. Afterall that is going to be why we watch next year.

Total votes: 18

fuel cheating

Everybody knows if you cool down liquid it's getting denser, it's not just briljant from honda but its simply fooling an cheat the rest ! it's very hypocrite
Specially becorce the are strongly support the fuel reduction for a technology challenge ! If small companies do this i can understand , but for god sake this is honda by far the largest motorcycle company in the world , ,shame one them !!!

Total votes: 11

Stone Cold Hypocrisy

When it suits them Honda pastes a sincere look on the its corporate face and pretends to be interested in fuel efficiency R&D.
When the flag drops, it turns out they're using underhand tactics to increase their fuel allowance, and thereby gain an advantage. Subsequently, all the other teams are obliged to incur the added expense of refrigerated fuel tankers if they want to compete.
I'd be interested to see if anybody can dream up a practical application for this frozen fuel technology in the real world.

Total votes: 11

Racing Does Not Need Factories

as teams.
Manufacturers do bring something to the party, of course. Both riders and techies love to see that factory kit. But it's mainly about budget, not factories/manufacturers per se.
The closer the teams and factories work together the less difference there is, but regional distributor support does not a factory effort make.
There is no doubt either that some of today's tech and kit developed by factories would not exist had factories not engaged directly. However, I suspect that other engine suppliers and the like might have developed (such as Ilmor), and it might have been just as special - like Britten. Most of the other kit is supplied by third parties anyway; its really only the engines and budgets that factories bring.
Petronas and KR all had very competent and unique engineering that was every bit the prototype. It might be argued that all that kept them from surviving and sponsors sponsoring was the difficulty of running up the front with the factories.
KR's threat of returning this year was presumably stifled by funding problems; he clearly thinks winning is possible as long as you have the funds.
Attack have shown that a proper race bike can be constructed by teams; you just cannot beat factories.
Would Repsol channel funds to Aspar if HRC left?
I like to see the factories there, as it more or less guarantees good professional racing; but I'm not worried about a team-led structure either if one or more of them leaves - we have lost Suzuki and Kawasaki after all, and WSB is more about teams than factories too.

Total votes: 11

Cold fuel.

I think that this is an example of how MGP/Dorna doesn't seem think it through and just gets led. Car racing has used chilled fuel for years, so its not 'brilliant' on HRC's part, it was just being professional. Cold fuel will also be more energy dense but I'm not a fuel injection expert, so don't know if that helps cool the intake charge too, or not.
F1's approach makes a lot more sense - the sample is provided at the end of the race and the teams use whatever they like to start with. I would say the only supplementary rule for bikes should be that if you overflow on the formation or warm-up laps you should start from the pit lane after stopping the leak.
I doubt that chilling the fuel is that cheap either - like tyre warmers you could spend £50 ( a box with some chunks of dry-ice CO2) or £15,000+++ on the kit (close-control refrigeration and storage); MGP would almost inevitably use the latter and flying it around will not be cheap.

Total votes: 11

I think Cameron isn't saying

I think Cameron isn't saying that one team is cooling fuel and others aren't. I would be shocked if Yamaha's AMA Daytona SportBike team is cooling its fuel (which it is) and its MotoGP team isn't.

I suspect all the front-running teams all have the same fuel temperature management kit and are cooling their fuel. The brilliance of whoever was doing this was all in their reading of the rules and figuring out a way to get even colder fuel past the (either gullible or inept) tech inspectors.

I mean, the whole thing really smacks of racing urban legend. But if someone did it, good on them. Out-smarting the rules makers is the stuff of racing legend.

Total votes: 7

Carmelo defib

That's true. Yet another plus point...... :)
I hope it wouldn't come to that (HRC or any other factory leaving), I was just making the point that it is not necessarily all doom and gloom if they do.
Most of the sponsorship currently comes from outside the sport, and they are not doing it because they like/support HRC or any other motorcycle brand - it's the exposure for them. Hence Repsol's dominant branding; Monster; Red Bull etc.
If MM93 was riding an Aspar FTR Ilmor I couldn't argue that it is worth the same as an HRC-run bike. However, if I could explain that the bike is actually almost indiscernible from the factory machine by anyone other than a real expert; uses 90+% of the exact same parts; that it will do laps within 1 second of the HRC machine (run two laps with the bike running 1 second slower in one and ask them to say which one it is); that we are likely to be running in the front 3 all year and expect wins/podiums/lots of TV coverage and probably a championship, they are likely to agree a sponsorship package subject to TV contracts. If you take that MOU to the TV Co's and go through a similar spiel about closer racing etc. I suspect they will agree too. The track owners would probably breathe a sigh of relief about their tracks staying safe for a few more years.
These changes are in the offing and, if Carmelo is half the politician I think he is, he will already have spoken to the key stakeholders (incl. his owners), explained the hiccup that was Suzuki and Kawasaki, and pointed out that what happened to Ducati could happen to HRC in the future.
He's possibly more concerned about Rossi/Marquez/Lorenzo and Pedrosa than the factories, but the riders will not leave the series for WSB whilst they can be the premier champs. Perhaps Rossi's view about riders being more important had another angle. If Dorna are dealing with teams rather than factories the dog has control of the tail again.
Every cloud has a silver lining....

Total votes: 9

Even if Honda leaves as a

Even if Honda leaves as a "Factory" they still will take part in the "Open" class. Dorna SHOULD call Honda's bluff. It will actually move MotoGP to a more unified class as opposed the the bifurcated one that we have now. I'm happy to see electronics demoted and hopefully better, closer racing will result.

Total votes: 11

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