February 2014

MotoGP Rules Primer: Open vs Factory, The Short Version

With Ducati having elected to switch to racing as an Open entry in the MotoGP class, it is time for a quick refresher course on the rules. Below is a primer on the key differences between racing as an Open entry and racing as a Factory Option entry, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Rules

Factory Option: Factory Option bikes have 20 liters of fuel, and 5 engines to last the season. No engine development is allowed, the engine specifications being frozen before the first race in Qatar. Factories have to supply template engines with specifications of all parts at the race, those parts must remain unchanged. Development is frozen on parts not accessible when engine is sealed. In short, this means engine internals, crankshaft, crankcases, cams, valves, pistons, conrods, etc. Gearboxes can still be modified. Engine specifications must be identical within teams. This means that engines for Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez must be identical, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi's engines must be identical, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro's engines must be identical.

Testing is also limited for Factory Option teams. They can take part in all official tests (the three one-day tests after Jerez, Barcelona and Brno) and on five days at a nominated circuit. 

Factory Option teams must use the spec Magneti Marelli ECU and datalogger, but can develop their own software and use their own sensor package.

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Ducati Announce They Will Be Racing As Open Class Entries In MotoGP In 2014

Ducati have officially confirmed that they will race as Open class entries in the 2014 MotoGP season. Speaking to the media at Sepang, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna announced that all four Ducati machines will be entered under Open regulations. The decision has been the worst-kept secret in the paddock for some time, with rumors emerging earlier this year that the Italian manufacturer would abandon Factory Option status to switch to the freer Open class.

Dall'Igna described the switch as 'the most interesting option for Ducati in the current situation'. Given the nature of Ducati's problems, they were left with virtually no option but to switch to the Open class. The engine freeze in place for Factory Option entries make it impossible to make significant changes to the bike layout, as the engine cases are fixed, right down to the engine mounting points. The freeze limits both engine development and chassis development as a result.

The disadvantage to choosing to go the Open route is that teams are limited to the spec software supplied by Magneti Marelli. Having tested with the software at Sepang with both Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, Ducati found that the disadvantages are far outweighed by the advantages of more testing and engine development. The spec software - referred to inside the paddock as the championship software - is already very sophisticated, despite it being less complex than the software used by the factories.

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2014 MotoGP Sepang 2 Day 3 Final Times: Rossi Tops Timesheets, Pedrosa Level, Lorenzo Improves

Valentino Rossi leaves the second Sepang test as fastest overall, after finding a burst of pace early in the day to crack the two-minute barrier. So happy with his progress in testing this year was the Italian that he told the press afterwards he was already seriously considering a contract for 2015 and 2016, as long as his results during race weekends improve along the same lines as his pace in testing.

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2014 MotoGP Sepang 2 Day 2 Round Up: The Old New Tire, Lorenzo's Lamentations, And Ducati's Open Future (Again)

A cleaner track made for better times at the second MotoGP test at Sepang on Thursday, but conditions remain far from ideal. The track was still greasy, and the added heat made the situation worse. That meant the track remained empty for large parts of the day, the riders waiting for temperatures to come down at the end of the day.

When the riders did go for their fast laps, the usual suspects raised their heads. Aleix Espargaro was quick, Alvaro Bautista was quick, but if anyone was in any doubt about where the real power lies on the MotoGP grid, Dani Pedrosa quickly disabused them of their misconceptions. The Repsol Honda man posted two scorching laps, faster than anyone else was capable of riding. At nearly three tenths of a second, the gap was convincing. When Dani Pedrosa decides to exert his authority, the world listens. Especially when his teammate is absent.

Pedrosa spent the day working on the front of the Repsol Honda, and deciding on which of the two chassis to use for the rest of the year. The quicker of the two options was also less forgiving under braking, meaning Pedrosa elected to pursue the slower of the two frames. Sacrificing a little bit of speed for more stability and less effort to ride seemed like a suitable trade off.

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2014 MotoGP Sepang 2 Day 2 Final Times: Pedrosa Exerts His Authority

Dani Pedrosa put in a blistering lap at the end of the session to lead the second day of testing for the MotoGP class at Sepang. On a track which was much improved from Wednesday, Pedrosa - still suffering from jet lag and physically weakened - put himself nearly three tenths clear of the field.

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2014 MotoGP Sepang 2 Day 1 Round Up: The Tire Pendulum Swings Against Yamaha, And Ducati's Open Future

If the first Sepang test threw up a few surprises, the first day of the second test turned into a bit a shocker. Anyone putting money on Alvaro Bautista, Aleix Espargaro and his brother Pol being the top 3 at the end of the first day would very, very rich indeed. Though all three had good reason to be further up front – Bautista has a new rear shock from Showa which is a big step forward, Aleix has been fast throughout, and Pol has the new seamless gearbox from Yamaha – their speed should not be seen as presaging a revolution in MotoGP. A dirty track, and several riders not chasing times gave the trio a chance to shine, which they seized with both hands.

Things did not look promising at the start of the day. The track was in poor condition, still dirty after a recent Ferrari test. The Kuala Lumpur region has had no rain for months now, which usually helps to clean the track in between tests. The situation was so bad that the circuit offered to spray the track clean with water, an offer which turned out not to be necessary. Having 23 bikes circulating helped sweep the track fairly well as the day progressed. By Thursday, the track should be in much better shape.

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Marquez To Miss The Phillip Island Test, Will Next Ride At Qatar

Marc Marquez will not ride at the Phillip Island test, scheduled for next week, and will only return to riding at the first race of the season at Qatar. After meeting with Dr Xavier Mir in Barcelona today, Marquez was told it would be better to rest and recuperate as fully as possible before attempting to ride a MotoGP bike again.

The decision to wait until the race at Qatar also settles a potential argument over testing at Phillip Island and Qatar. HRC had been contemplating sending Marquez to test with the satellite and Open class riders at Qatar, rather than the factory riders at Phillip Island, where they are testing tires for Bridgestone. Honda asked Race Direction for permission to allow Marquez to test at Qatar, but Yamaha and Ducati lodged an objection.

The split between factory and non-factory testing had been agreed at the end of last year, to give Bridgestone a chance to test tires, but Yamaha and Ducati feared that Marquez would gain an unfair advantage if he was allowed to test at Qatar just a week ahead of the season opener. If Marquez was to test at Qatar, Yamaha said, then Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi would test at Qatar as well, abandoning the tire test.

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