When the minutes of the latest meeting of MotoGP's ruling body, the Grand Prix Commission, were unveiled, there was one passage which confused many who read it. The press release included a paragraph on the spec software which is to be adopted for all MotoGP bikes from the start of the 2016 season. The passage read as follows:
It was already announced that Factory teams in the MotoGP class must move to using unified software with effect from 01 July 2015. It has now been confirmed that different teams, using machines from the same Factory, may use different versions of the unified software.
The wording seemed to suggest that from 2016, factory teams would still be allowed to use a different version of the ECU software to that used by satellite and private teams. Given that the point of the spec software - called the Unified Software in the regulations - is to create a level playing field, it seemed odd that such a situation could be allowed to rise.
To get to the bottom of the question, Crash.net's MotoGP correspondent Peter McLaren made a request for further clarification. In the response he was given, it was made clear that the passage quoted would only apply to the latter half of 2015. Based on that response, and on information we have been given throughout the 2014 season, we can draw up a timeline for the transition to MotoGP's unified software:
From 1st January - 30th June 2015:
Factory Option teams: factories will continue to develop their proprietary software for MotoGP's spec Magneti Marelli hardware. Ducati, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia will be free to supply whatever software they like to all of their riders, both factory contracted and satellite.
Open class teams: all Open class entries will continue to use the Open class spec software being developed by Magneti Marelli, under the auspices of MotoGP's Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli. They will all have identical software at their disposal, and be allowed to submit requests for software features through the collaborative website run by Dorna.
1st July 2015 - 8th November 2015:
Ducati, Honda, and Yamaha: development of their proprietary software must cease, with the exception of bug fixes aimed at fixing safety issues. The software versions are effectively frozen. However, each manufacturer may freeze multiple versions of the software for their different teams. In effect, the factory teams (Ducati Factory, Repsol Honda, Movistar Yamaha) may use a more advanced version of their proprietary software than the satellite teams (Tech 3 Yamaha, Pramac Ducati, Marc VDS and LCR Honda). Once the software is frozen, no more updates will be allowed.
For Aprilia and Suzuki: as new manufacturers, they may continue to develop their software for the remainder of the 2015 season, to allow them to try to catch up with the existing manufacturers.
Open class teams: nothing changes. Open class teams will continue to use the spec software, as before.
9th November 2015 onwards (start of the 2016 MotoGP season):
From the start of the 2016 season, all teams, factory, satellite and private, will use the same version of the unified software. Updates to this software will be rolled out to all teams at the same time. All manufacturers will contribute to this software through the collaborative process and website run by Dorna. Manufacturers and teams will submit requests for functionality, which may include algorithms and code snippets. Those requests will be evaluated by Magneti Marelli and Corrado Cecchinelli, then implemented by Magneti Marelli. Once implemented, they will be releases to the teams.
From that point on, all of the teams will have access to the same software. This situation will continue, most likely until 2021 at the earliest, when the next set of rules will be implemented. Those rules are likely to be virtually identical to the rules to be adopted in 2016, with the exception of implementing some form of cap on maximum horsepower, achieved either as a result of a rev limit or intake restrictors.