MotoGP In 2017 And Beyond - Towards A Brighter Future?

The MotoGP grid is looking in surprisingly good health in 2015. The series has come a long way in the five years since 2010, when there were just 17 full-time entries on the grid, and Suzuki was teetering on the brink of withdrawal. Dorna's CRT gambit has paid off: the much-maligned production-based bikes may not have been competitive, but they did spur the manufacturers into action to actually supply more competitive machinery to the private teams. The CRT bikes became Open class bikes, and Dorna's pet project of standardized electronics has been adopted into the MotoGP rules. From 2016, there will be one class again (well, sort of, the concessions – engine development, unlimited testing, more engines – for factories without regular podiums are to remain in place), with everyone on the same electronics, the same fuel allowance, and the same tires.

A bigger change is coming for 2017. From the outside, the 2017 grid will be indistinguishable from the one in 2016, but the changes behind the scenes will significant, and be a step towards securing the long-term future of the series. The position of the private teams is to change from 2017, ensuring financial security, a fixed price for competitive machinery, and securing their slots on the grid.

The change encompasses a number of key elements, all of which revolve around the independent teams. The first, and most important, is that the grid size will be fixed at 24 riders, each of whom will receive financial support from Dorna. Those grid slots will be awarded to the existing teams – the IODA team, as a one-rider outfit, are likely to be the squad which loses out – and they are guaranteed to keep those places. No new teams will be admitted to the MotoGP class, unless one of the existing teams pulls out. If a new factory wants to enter MotoGP, they will have to do so through an existing team, as Aprilia did in 2015, rather than through their own structure, as Suzuki did. KTM, who are expected to enter in 2017, and are considering entering as a factory, according to a story on Speedweek, will have to partner with an existing squad. Speedweek mentions the Aspar team; given the financial struggles of the Valencia-based team, that would make a lot of sense, for both parties.

There is also to be a shift in the financing of MotoGP. Currently, Dorna pays money to the factories for participating, as well as paying for freight and supplying free tires to the MotoGP teams. From 2017, Dorna will pay the teams €2 million for each rider they field. The direct factory subsidy is to be dropped, though the factories will still end up with Dorna's money: the money paid to each team is about enough to cover the lease of a bike from each factory. Tires will continue to be available at no cost to the teams, though it will be Michelin supplying them, rather than Bridgestone.

Alongside the change to financing the teams, a price cap has been agreed with the manufacturers. Each MotoGP bike will be available to the independent teams for a maximum price of €2.2 million a season. That price will include two race bikes per rider, all maintenance costs (and a season's supply of engines) and access to upgrades when available. The price does not include crash damage, but this is a common arrangement with manufacturers. The price currently charged by some manufacturers is rumored to be nearly twice that.

The €2.2 million is a maximum price, however, and not necessarily a fixed price. Another measure agreed with the manufacturers is that each factory has agreed to supply at least one independent team with bikes for two riders. This means that teams can choose which manufacturer to go with, providing that manufacturer is willing to supply extra machines. Underperforming factories may be forced to make their bikes available at much less than the €2.2 million price cap. The factories with the best bike on the grids may be able to pick and choose the teams they supply, and may be able to supply more than one independent team should the teams ask for it.

At the root of the change is a simple piece of efficiency. At the moment, bikes from the previous years are destroyed, sent to the crusher, or in very rare cases, auctioned off to wealthy individuals. For Honda, Yamaha and Ducati, they make older versions of their bikes available to the private teams. Honda's satellite bikes are the most up to date – the machines of Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding are only two to three races behind those of the factory riders Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa – while Yamaha's satellite Tech 3 team are using the bikes Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo stepped off at the final race of 2014 in Valencia, and the Pramac Ducati squad have two different flavours of GP14 at their disposal. Suzuki and Aprilia will have to do something similar from 2017, upon request from the independent teams. Suzuki's GSX-RR is already looking very competitive; if the Japanese factory can extract a few more horsepower from the bike next season, while retaining its sweet-handling nature, their bikes will also be in demand in 2017. And unlike in the past, Suzuki will be obliged to supply at least one independent team with bikes, should they be asked to.

This combination – a guaranteed slot on the grid, a cap on the price of equipment, a guarantee of supply from the factories, and a generous subsidy from Dorna – should help keep the grids full and healthy. The subsidy from Dorna is not sufficient to cover the entire costs of a team for a season. For a two-rider team, they are approximately twice the subsidy available, or around €8 million a season. That includes salaries for two riders, a full technical crew to support two riders, race trucks to transport equipment, hospitality units to entertain sponsors and their guests, and staff to work in the hospitality units. But finding €4 million a season is a more achievable goal for private teams, and a sum that can be found from a number of smaller sponsors, without having to rely on a single title sponsor.

Why have the factories agreed to the cost cap? Because in exchange, they have been guaranteed a stable rule set for a five-year period. Between 2017 and 2021, the technical regulations will only change at the behest of the manufacturers, and only when such changes are deemed absolutely necessary. With an engine freeze in place for each season, and development only possible from year to year, this ensures a predictable level of costs for each year. Rule stability is supplying cost predictability. Not all the factories are equally keen, however: it is rumored that Yamaha are a good deal less enthusiastic about the new deal than Honda are, fearing the loss of direct income from Dorna.

Now that agreement has been reached for the MotoGP class in 2017, attention is being turned to the support classes. Teams' association IRTA is keen to get a better deal for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams, in order to build a better championship at all levels. At the moment, IRTA receives a subsidy from Dorna, and uses that subsidy to pay for three tests, plus most of the freight for each year. They have also received money from Dorna to cover unexpected costs: IRTA are currently working on a rebate for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams for Argentina, after costs for the event went through the roof this year as a result of price gouging by local companies offering accommodation, car rental and other services. Those prices saw some people turn to novel and rather extreme measures to cut costs: instead of paying the exorbitant price being asked for fridge rental in offices, for example, some people went out and bought a fridge themselves for less than a third of the price. Buying a fridge and leaving it there was still cheaper than renting one from local companies.

The aim for Moto2 and Moto3 is to provide a predictable subsidy to each team, to allow them budget their seasons better. The subsidies for the support classes will not be as generous as for MotoGP – 24 riders each receiving €2 million makes a grand total of €48 million, well over a fifth of Dorna's annual turnover – but any subsidy will make the series an attractive prospect. A similar system in World Superbikes would make it much easier for the teams, who at the moment have to finance racing out of their own (or rather, their sponsors') pockets. Before that can happen, revenues will have to go up a long way in WSBK.

The final part of the jigsaw is the calendar. Carmelo Ezpeleta has already given a commitment that the calendar will not expand beyond 20 races in a season. That is already a rather high number, one source close to the teams telling me that the teams regard 18 races as the optimum number, and that any expansion of the calendar will have to come at the price of testing. The current schedule is already hard on both riders and team members, who are away from home for a very long time each year. If the season expands to 19 or 20 races, then one or two of the preseason tests would be dropped to compensate. A 19 race calendar would see the Sepang 2 test dropped, teams going from Sepang for one test, to Qatar for the second test, before starting the season a week or so later. A 20 race season would see just a single test at Sepang, before season kicked off at Qatar.

What is certain is that there will be a few changes to the calendar in the next couple of years. In 2016, Austria will be added to the schedule, Red Bull stepping up to finance a race at the circuit it owns in Spielberg, the track formerly known as the A1 Ring. Whether the addition of Austria means an expansion of the calendar, or whether another race will be dropped is far from certain. The ongoing difficulties with Brno – there is a constant battle over finances between the circuit owner Karel Abraham Sr. and local politicians representing the Moravia region – could see the Czech race dropped, and the Austrian round would be a perfect replacement for the Eastern European race.

In 2017, Thailand seems certain to be added to the calendar. The World Superbike series ran surprisingly smoothly at the excellent Chang facility, and Thailand is an absolutely key market for the MotoGP manufacturers. Talks are ongoing trying to get a second race in South America, either in Chile or in Brazil, but political and financial factors have so far thrown up insurmountable obstacles. Indonesia, seen by both the manufacturers and Dorna as the jackpot in terms of overseas races, faces similar problems, and more. At the moment, the country does not have a track capable of hosting a MotoGP race, and rampant and endemic corruption makes putting on an event a costly, difficult and dangerous undertaking. Without support at the very highest levels of politics and policing, a race in Indonesia seems unlikely for the medium term future.

India could be a market which does see a MotoGP race, however. With the former customs issues now resolved, and a change of government, Dorna is looking at sending World Superbikes to the Buddh International Circuit for another shot at staging a race. If that succeeds, MotoGP is sure to follow, given the size and potential of the Indian market for the manufacturers.

The addition of extra races overseas would mean existing races would be under threat. Apart from Brno, Indianapolis is regarded as being in the bed next to the door, despite the event's popularity with fans who attend the race. Two races in the US are not seen by the manufacturers as necessary. The US is a mature market, and potential for expanding sales there is limited. That is very different in a country like Indonesia, Brazil, or India. The four Spanish races will continue for the time being, as all four tracks have contracts with Dorna. But financial issues for the circuits could see at least one Spanish race dropped, with Valencia currently the weakest candidate. In the past, proposals have been made to alternate the race between Valencia and Barcelona. If the Spanish economy continues to pick up, that may not be necessary.

Total votes: 148
Total votes: 108

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Comments

Rule stability sounds good. In my opinion it's the one thing that keeps costs actually down while still allowing development. I also like the assurance to the current teams, most of which stayed loyal through the harder times and deserve recognition for that.

I do wonder about the four factory bike limit per manufacturer, has that been removed? What if for example the Aspar team manages to find a new sponsor and want a factory Honda instead of the customer one?

Also, any news about changes in the technical specification of Moto2? The class has become wholly uninteresting with almost the whole field on a Kalex. Are they going to continue using the boring Honda 600? I know it's cheap, that's why there are more teams applying for a grid spot than there are spots at the start of the year. But to me there's also such a thing as too cheap. Moto3 is to me way more interesting with Honda and KTM fighting it out without costs rising too much.

Lots of questions, sorry about that!

Total votes: 152

All very interesting stuff. Now if they could just go back to the old web site format

Total votes: 166

The motogp site drives me crazy!!! And it makes me feel old. I just assume millennials interpret information better when it's just thrown all over the place in no particular order. Damn kids

Total votes: 194

I absolutely despise the addition of twitter and instagram into the main feed. If I was interested in that, I'd would just be on those sites. I really don't need to see riders taking pictures of themselves, etc.

I think that whole element is tarnishing the sport. Never should an infographic show up on a replay with a "#kneedown" by it... What are we, a bunch of 15 year olds?

Total votes: 137

I agree with others here.

The 2014 site was MUCH better than the current one. That stupid "knee down" replay needs to be gone.

It looks like those that make the decisions about the site think that if something is really good (2014 website) then too much (2015) is even better. It isn't.

Total votes: 138

...who thought the 2015 motogp.com experience wasn't as good as the 2014 motogp.com experience. I was used to the old system. I knew how to get what I wanted. Tuned in for the first race this year and spent extra time trying to get what I wanted.

So what if I'm old. I got what I wanted with the old site. There was no need to change, except to change. Change to improve is how we got away from living in caves. Change just to change is generally just frustrating.

Just ask any of a number of HRC riders who, over the years, won championships on Hondas one year, then next year had to race bikes most engineers' sliderules said should work even better but most riders proved didn't. But I digress.

Total votes: 134

I'm a little surprised that the Honda satellite bikes are only a few races behind their factory counterparts, while the Satellite Yamaha's are from the end of last year. It makes me wonder why the Tech 3 Yamaha's seem to be, at least historically, more competitive than the Honda. Obviously Cal has been turning that around a bit lately, plus he was competitive when on the Tech 3 bike, but it seems before the arrival of the Brit the Satellite Honda's struggled a bit more in the results than the Tech 3 Yamaha's? or am I seeing things?

Total votes: 136

"Historically" speaking Tech 3 Yamaha was not the most competitive sat. team....
Gresini HONDA before switching to the factory Aprilia package was THE best sat. team since the 4-stroke era, even fighting for the championship finishing 2nd to Rossi in '03-'05. Most riders if given a choice would most likely choose a Honda over anything else to race in the premier class. They just build a better overall package imho and this is coming from a Ducati fan (I ride red)

Total votes: 153

I was going to disagree with you, but I've just checked the numbers and, in the premier class, Gresini have an average finishing rate of 5.86th in the championship. They finished second in the championship three consecutive years with Sete and Melandri. When you consider that the last few years they've been struggling with Showa and Nissin parts, while everyone else was using Ohlins and Brembo, they've -historically- done quite well.

Total votes: 150

It will be a shame if Indianapolis is eliminated. Even though the race is inside a stadium, its layout (particularly with the latest mods) is far superior to Austin, which is like a drag strip connected to a go-kart track. And Spain still gets 4 races, with a +20% unemployment rate!?

Total votes: 145

The layout of Indy is better than COTA?

Thanks for the laugh. COTA is one of the most technical and challenging circuits on the calendar. Indy is inside a NASCAR track. COTA is also the best track in the United States.

If Indy is closer to you, great, but you might want to take the rose colored glasses off on this one.

Total votes: 151

COTA is a drag strip connected to a go-kart track, is all that is needed to be said. Too many straights into first gear turns, listen to what the riders say. Tilke F1 tracks do not make for great motorcycle racing. Check your rose colored glasses.

Total votes: 142

Is far more suited to F1 than MotoGP. It has some interesting bits, but the riders aren't liking it very much.

Indy is at least it's equal in layout and has far more atmosphere

Total votes: 160

...races have been pretty darn good. I think there was at least one good Moto2 race in there, too. As for the Austin MotoGP races being processional, well, so were a lot of MotoGP races since Marquez showed up. Thanks a lot. Stupid phenoms.

Total votes: 131

Why have they gone to a fixed (or shall I say maximum) number of bikes, and not something like the 107% rule?

Total votes: 152

8.33% of IRTA's revenue is easy to sell. 107% of Honda/Yamaha performance is not. Furthermore, manufacturers who can achieve 107% are required to buy out an existing team, if the grid is limited to 24 slots.

Total votes: 128

107% usually refers to per-match qualifying time and implies 'who is fast enough to grid up for this race'. How would you compute if a time is fast enough to enter? What if team has not (yet) signed a rider?

I presume Dorna/MotoGP is interested more in having a stable grid of teams for the year, predicating a certain level of competitiveness to begin with. If a team/manufacture/rider is not keeping pace, I'm sure there are other mechanisms (concessions?) which can go into play to re-base.

Total votes: 147

We've lost almost all of the TV coverage in Canada, now we might loose Indy? My wife and I have gone to Indy all but one year and I would miss it greatly.

They seem to be making it awfully hard to be a fan of MotoGP here.

Total votes: 143

I'm from Maine and only missed two of the Indy GPs. I've even driven there! Maybe it's not the riders fav track but from a fans perspective it would be sorely missed. Guess I'd just have to go to Texas.
I've given up on watching on TV. Video Pass from here on.

Total votes: 132

I wish i could get an internet connection that would allow me to get the video pass and not pay a fortune for the amount of data it would need. Here in the sticks of the great white north, we are really limited.

It kills me that i can't watch the Moto3 or Moto2 races at all...good racing there. What am i supposed to do, go to the stick and ball type sports? sheesh

Total votes: 113

I knew 2016 was something to look forward to, but getting all the details and minutia makes it more exciting. The thing about the Pre-CRT rules was even though the grid was dwindling at least all the bikes were relatively competitive. How could motogp be the "premier class" when nearly half the grid is slower than WSBK bikes???

Total votes: 136

.....tell it your plans to stabilize price and competitive environment.

The 2017 plan will go as smoothly as an OPEC meeting. It might stabilize the sport for a New York minute, but GP will eventually be caught flat-footed by an unforeseen change. Bickering will start anew, and Dorna may never get around to developing Indo or other markets.

Stability is achieved by building something that self-corrects, not by building something that never changes. Engineers get it when they're building adaptive u-learning fuel computers and location-sensitive traction control, but ask them to create technical regulations.........

It would be funny, if it weren't so sad.

Total votes: 169

Replace Indy with Laguna please! So sad to see one of the calendars most exciting tracks dropped.

Total votes: 152

It's a bloody terrible site visually, and slow as well. It's slow to the point of unusable on an iPad.

Total votes: 129

Stable rules are good for everybody---stupid new rules that get in the way of fresh blood entering the series are BAD! Trying to model the rules after F1 car racing is dumb---how is this gonna make anything better…?

Total votes: 142

Oh, I would LOVE to see the GPs back at Laguna---I've been to all the earlier events (as in every motorcycle race at Laguna since Cal Rayborn won the first one in 1972!)---I don't see the GPs coming back anytime soon---Laguna still owes Dorna big $$$ from the last ones and the cities and merchants around Monterey actively work to kill any big event by making sure to jack up all expenses for the crowd SKY HIGH---they literally drove the crowds away with STUPID high prices, then they wonder where everybody went? They killed their own cash cow...

Total votes: 158

I have been to Indy and despite it's history it's less than ideal for a Moto GP race. I'd venture to say that Miller and Barber are both better than Laguna (been to all 3 ) from a facility standpoint. The US can't even field any riders I see why we would lose I race. I'll miss Nicky when he's gone, but I'm certain it will be soon as he surely can't be having much fun out of the top ten. I too am skeptical about 5 years of the same rules we couldn't make it 5 races this year without Honda claiming Ducati foul.

Total votes: 128

Miller closes end of this year and was way too remote a location anyway. Barber was deemed too small for GP bikes. Euros I think sometimes forget the vastness of the USA - a GP in Austin isn't going to pull the crowd from Indy or vice versa. One race in the US shuts out a large portion of the country from attending.

Total votes: 137

You are right, the layout of cota is a disaster except for 1st sector. And it also hasn't produced the races which would make one crave to see races on it year after year. Apart from marquez no one seems to like cota. In comparison INDY too has one or two good hard braking points and the rest of the track too is good. After the changes from last year we will see much better races on it.

I would say the facilities that cota has is A1 and the infrastructure too but the layout, it just doesn't impresses. A very odd design and definitely riders too enjoy indy more because it isn't as demanding as cota.

Total votes: 158

At the end of the day is Dorna not owned by a private equity firm? PE firms are nothing but metric driven and few are long term buyers. They look to maximize revenue and profit and get out.
I just wonder if the PE firm will have the stomach for an additional $50M euro per season in the premier class alone to walk off the balance sheet.
If they do, we all need to buckle our seatbelts as our tickets, subscription to videopass, etc., are going to get jacked when race promoters start seeing what their fees are going to look like. Buying a team fleece on the website already is laugh out loud funny. I hate to think what they will want in a few years time.

Total votes: 144

interesting comment, I decided to go checkout the site and look at their clothing lineup. Interesting how the marquez and rossi brands seems to make up 80%+ of what they have on offer. I wonder what Dorna are trying to say :p I guess we know what they are really selling.

Total votes: 125

No mention of Circuit of Wales? That project must be humming along ;)

Total votes: 156