Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP shakes up the rules

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


MotoGP shakes up the rules

Two weeks from now MotoGP’s Grand Prix Commission sit downs in Madrid to decide the future of Grand Prix racing.

The December 17 meeting will finally rubber stamp the biggest regulations shake-up since the four-strokes arrived a dozen years ago, which the manufacturers and Dorna have been arguing over for what seems like forever. As always, they hold opposite positions: Dorna want low-cost, TV-friendly entertainment, the factories want an R&D-friendly technology race.

The GPC – made up of one representative each from Dorna, the MSMA, the FIM and teams association IRTA – will decide on plans to reduce performance, increase fuel capacity and essentially freeze electronics R&D.

Fuel capacity probably sounds like the most boring of these subjects but, please bear with me, it isn’t. There’ve been a lot of broken bones and broken bikes due to MotoGP’s ever-shrinking fuel tanks.

Back in the final days of the two-stroke premier class, 500s had 32-litre fuel tanks. Factory MotoGP bikes now get just 20 litres, which means they must consume 25 per cent less fuel than a World Superbike machine if they are to see the chequered flag. Daft, eh? You’d think it would be the other way around: full-on race bikes using more fuel than hopped-up road bikes.

Reducing fuel consumption was initially a (frankly ridiculous) nod to the green movement. Then the manufacturers realised they could learn a lot about lean-burn engines, so they asked for even smaller fuel tanks, to push their engineers even harder.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 17

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Comments

Is it that the compulsion to produce story pieces on a periodic basis which makes writers and gifted ones at that like Matt Oxley take recourse to penning down banalities? The columns from Oxley are concentrating on smaller and smaller aspects of a subject with a promise to demonstrate how that small aspect impacts in a big way in racing and in the construction of motorcycles that are used for racing. But the promise is hardly lived upto, with an explanation about the small aspect being equally small, running into a couple of lines and the rest is all about what everyone has been saying. I am now beginning to wonder if the riders and the factories are suffering more due to rules or is it journalists and writers. Oxley's columns suggest the second but there are others like Michael Scott (I know some of the folks think he is total rubbish, but I politely seek to disagree) and our very own Sir Emmett who seem to suggest otherwise. Thank God for them.

Total votes: 11

The honorific of Sir is never, ever applied to surnames. So "Sir David" or "Sir David Emmett", never "Sir Emmett". :)

Total votes: 10

Agreed. I like Oxley's writing style but every piece is pretty much the same these days. He wants less factory involvement and less technology. Basically, he's stuck in 2002.

Total votes: 11

Interesting article that highlights the struggle within the GPC to find a method for controlling horsepower. 800cc displacement was ineffective and expensive. Fuel capacity restriction is too expensive and slightly dangerous. The 81mm bore limit is not particularly effective, and it reduces design freedom. MSMA are opposed to rev limits and probably no one is interested in air restrictors, since air-restriction is even less relevant than fuel capacity restriction.

Total votes: 9

The fuel limits were pushed by Honda, as they had a big advantage in fuel efficiency due to their automotive expertise. Motorcycle engines have never been about efficiency, as they are mostly recreation vehicles. They may have justified it on "green movement" grounds, but make no mistake; Honda has been influencing the rulebook in their own favor ever since the switch to 4-strokes.

People don't like admitting this, because Honda is a huge supporter of bike racing. I try to look at it objectively: their maniacal passion to win at bike racing has pushed them to bend the rules in their favor. Yes, they are a great manufacturer, but their zeal has cost the consumer massively.

Total votes: 10

...including the switch to 4 strokes itself.

Total votes: 5

Appreciate the consideration that fuel restrictions make for less safety, which is a compelling point. I disagree that Mat is stuck in the pre-800cc era. Another perspective could be that from 2006 through 2012 or so we were all stuck in a HRC decree that was an anomoly.

I nearly lost my mind re fuel limits coming down! I vote 24L for all. Same for engine alotment limits - err on the generous side and give them 18, something fitting about one per round.

The focus here doesn't need to be on Mat, but the upcoming "rubber stamp" meeting. Good for Dorna taking the gavel back from Honda. That is structurally right. Remember "but what if Honda lraves the series?" conversations? Those looked to me then like they do now, drivel getting caught up in Honda's tantrums re relinquishing the gavel. Get your focus off of the rulebook gavel and back to your seat at the table HRC.

THAT is where I am "stuck in 2004" and I am confident and courageous about it. Dorna should be embarrassed. So should Yamaha's top brass. Heck, even Honda should be ashamed if it weren't for the fact that they are behaving just as should be expected in rulebook gavel grabbing. Dorna left the thing sitting unattended. The regretful thing is that it took so long for Dorna to correct the structural problem, and now we have more work to do than was necessary.

I am with Mat on this one when opening up focus from just the electronics particulars to the structural underpinnings.

Now, about those Moto2 chassis...

Total votes: 15

>> Daft, eh? You’d think it would be the other way around: full-on race bikes using more fuel than hopped-up road bikes.

Funny, I thought using less fuel and going faster would be an indication of increased performance. If you counted all the gas that went out the exhaust port of a 2 stroke you'd have nearly enough to run another race.

As far as riders wanting fewer aids, do you think Rossi would even still be racing if there were no electronics? He would likely have had more injuries as riders of past ages have. He feels he is riding the best he ever has in large part because the bikes are being developed (the electronics) to make them easier to ride at the limit. His extended career at the sharp end can be partially attributed to easier to control 4 stroke engines and electronic control. Every rider has the option to turn them down or off but only those that are rare talents can get away with minimal electronic assistance and still be fast.

If you want to watch races with people riding bikes without 'rider aids' there are vintage race organizations in every country. GP has always been about the top riders pushing the limits of technology. If you want to move it in a different direction you will lose the distinction that makes it special.

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

Total votes: 9

Ago, Read, Duke, Lawson, Rainey, Doohan, Gardner and Roberts were all winning races and/or championships in their 30s. They had virtually no electronic rider aids and many of them rode two-strokes.

Yes, I'd expect Rossi to be racing after all of these years without electronic rider aids. Four-stroke engines are sufficient to make the bikes controllable. The electronic rider aids merely make it possible for the manufacturers to increase the specific power output, which often makes the bikes more dangerous to ride. If not for the electronic rider aids, we probably never would have had the fuel rules or the reduced capacity of 800cc, and Rossi would never have flown over the highside when his electronics malfunctioned on an outlap at Mugello.

That's not to say that electronics are bad in all of their applications, but the way motorsports teams use them is not in anyone's best interest. Most of the modern motorsports systems require so much hardware and such sophisticated programming that they will never be useful in the production market.

Total votes: 7

If racing becomes a matter of fuel consumption then why even race?? When you increase the power of any engine without changing its displacement and/or it's RPM ceiling, increasing intake and/or outlet you are increasing the efficiency of this engine. About what you are saying about the loss off gas through the exhaust port of a two stroke, I don't believe that you are thinking that this won't happen with a four stroke.

Total votes: 9