Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Rossi: ‘we’ve stopped thinking about performance’Does MotoGP need a combined bike/rider weight limit?

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.


Does MotoGP need a combined bike/rider weight limit?

Some say current technical regulations are unfair for bigger riders like Petrucci and Rossi, so is it time to even things up a bit? Michelin and Ducati think so

Some years ago I thought MotoGP needed a combined rider/machine minimum weight. After all, I reasoned, if Formula 1 (where the car weighs around nine times more than the driver) has a combined limit, surely it would make sense in MotoGP (where the bike is a bit more than twice the weight of the rider).

So I talked with several MotoGP engineers and technical director (now race director) Mike Webb. They were all convinced this wasn’t the way to go. They said it’s swings and roundabouts, especially in the case of soon-to-retire Dani Pedrosa whose advantages on the swings (the straights) are easily outweighed by his disadvantages on the roundabouts (the corners).

Fair enough. The engineers know a hundred times more than me about the science of bike racing, so I forgot all about it. Moto2 and Moto3 both have combined minimum weights, but they have a fraction of a MotoGP bike’s horsepower, so they are very different cases.

But now the subject is back on the agenda, because in recent years everything has been done to equalise the performance of all the bikes on the MotoGP grid: same-for all basic engine specs (four cylinders, 81mm bore), same-for-all tyres, same-for-all electronics and so on.

Which is why it’s more difficult than ever for engineers to adapt bikes to suit riders who aren’t of average build and it’s more difficult than ever for those riders to ride the bikes, especially with the current Michelin tyres.

It might be coincidence, but statistics seem to bear this out: the average weight of the back half of the MotoGP grid is 71.4kg, against an average 68.5kg for the current top 10 and an average 66kg for the podium finishers at the last 10 races. Imagine what it’s like being Pedrosa (160cm/51kg), Danilo Petrucci (above, 181cm/78kg) or Scott Redding (185cm/78kg). And can it be mere coincidence that the giant of the grid, Redding, is to lose his ride at the same time as MotoGP’s teeniest rider Pedrosa (160cm/51kg)?

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

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Total votes: 9
Total votes: 22

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Comments

They talk about this helping the smallest and the bigest riders. I can see how it helps the biggest (your competion carries ballast) but a guy like Pedrosa would have to carry about 20kgs (to bring him to Petrucci weight).  How does that help him? - he could already do that if it was somehow a good idea.

Total votes: 7

Maybe weight added in the right places on his bike will help him get the correct heat he needs into his tryes ?
And yes, why haven't they already tried it ?
Or have they ? 

Total votes: 5

Power to weight is one of the main issues for riders and a WSBK-type solution of reducing revs for the fastest might help the slower riders keep up. Perhaps alllowing the bigger riders a few more revs would help too (along with an extra engine to allow for the stress perhaps). That might also help retain the factories stated need for engine and electronics R&D. They could also reduce the engine allocation for lighter riders.

Tyres will remain the big issue though and, the fact is, factory money/resources will always keep those bikes out front, as they should be. Ducati's path back from the wilderness and KTM's struggles show it's not easy. Allowing more tyre choice may well disadvantage the less well-off, but it doesn't have to be overnight-specials or nothing. By allowing factories to procure a multi-race package of tires (allowing mid-season tweaks) that suit their bikes it might also help the slower teams and bigger riders who could be provided with that option too. By giving the non-factory teams, or non-top-10, a free choice over tyres the supplier will have to produce a wider range but not a significantly greater number of tyres. The inevitable wrong choices will also spice things up.

MotoGP is still the most exciting motorsport for me, but I am losing interest as the processional F1-like races are starting to take hold and, much as I also watch  a bit of cycle racing, it isn't what drags me to the TV or a circuit. I enjoy the Moto2 and 3 races but with the latter I sometimes skip the middle half and watch the last 5 laps. When that happens to MGP I will give up.

There is, obviously, no easy solution. However, Dorna has done a good job in MGP and is working on WSBK (which I have lost interest in, apart from watching what Chaz Davies is up to, due to the lack of effective racing). A period of dominance is good for any team/rider, but 4 years or more of runaway success is a bit much for me. They need to change as the bikes and technology do and keep us entertained. Michelin are a great company too, and their products are top flight. Together, the organisers, teams, and suppliers have a vested interest in collaborating and sorting these and the other problems out. Happy manufacturers are important. Happy fans are more so. They (or, at least, me) will not wait, or come, if they take much longer to address the issues and take action.

In an era of specialisation, finely honed solutions, and <0.1% being the difference between winning and losing, a one-size fits all solution cannot be good enough for the premier motorcycle sport.

Total votes: 1