More Regulatory Madness - This Time, It's Rev Limits

It seems that Ducati's first world championship title has upset the major Japanese manufacturers a very great deal. After Honda got the FIM and MSMA to reduce the capacity to 800cc, they fully expected to be able to dominate the MotoGP class as they had after the previous change, the switch to four-stroke engines in 2002. They had not reckoned on a tiny Italian factory stealing their thunder by gambling on maximum horsepower, and humiliating the big players, and natural heirs to the MotoGP crown.

So it seems like the big players - or more specifically, Honda and Yamaha - have hit upon a quick way to neutralize the threat posed by Borgo Panigale: Autosport is reporting that Honda and Yamaha are pushing for rev limits to be introduced in MotoGP. Under the scheme, engines would have an artificial ceiling set on the maximum number of revs per minute they could spin at. More interestingly, the figure quoted is a maximum of 19,000 rpm. The fact that the Ducati is the only bike to rev above that number cannot be a coincidence: all of the other manufacturers' powerplants stop revving at around 19,000.

For both Honda and Yamaha, any such rule would be a godsend, as Honda is struggling to get its pneumatic valve engine working, and is having to make do with the limits imposed on engine speeds by using conventional steel springs, generally thought to be around the 17-18 thousand rpm mark. The other proponent is Yamaha, who have struggled in the horsepower stakes ever since the inception of the four stroke era in MotoGP, and have had to rely on outstanding handling and the riding genius of Valentino Rossi to remain competitive. With limits on engine speeds, Yamaha would at least be chasing a target which has stopped moving quite so quickly.

Understandably, Ducati oppose the move. They feel, with some justification, that they are being penalized for using the natural advantages of the desmodromic system they have become synonymous with, despite only switching to the system some 50-odd years after its first use. Honda's RC212V project leader, Shinichi Kokubu, cited costs as a reason for imposing rev limits, but Ducati's engineering genius, and the brains behind the GP8 project, Filippo Preziosi dismissed this argument out of hand. "I say since we are able to get this performance with a system that is fitted on a road bike like the Monster 695, the issue of costs doesn't hold water," he told the Gazzetto dello Sport.

Ducati are not alone in their opposition: Kawasaki are also against the limits. As the factory with the smallest budget in MotoGP, any such regulations would hit Kawasaki the hardest.

The proposed rule changes are unlikely to be accepted, as they would most likely require a unanimous vote of the MSMA, which comprises the motorcycle manufacturers involved in racing. But the proposal is an ominous sign. When Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta threatened to impose a single tire on MotoGP at the end of last year, he unwittingly opened a Pandora's box, with manufacturers now seemingly willing to use rule changes as political bargaining chips for exerting pressure. But MotoGP's problems should surely not be settled in the political arena, but out on the track. In a prototype series, rev limits surely have no place.

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