The FIM released a set of rule changes on Friday, for both the MotoGP and World Superbike series. For World Superbikes, the biggest change was the abolition - or rather, the change of format - of Superpole, switching to a Formula 1 style knock-out qualifying format. The bulk of the rule changes in MotoGP were of course the new tire regulations, but there were also a number of changes to the sporting regulations, to be applied to both series.
Perhaps the most eagerly awaited of the rule changes were the changes to the tire regulations. These have now been modified to specify exactly how the single tire supplier situation will work, and it is clear that a great deal of effort has gone into ensuring that the rule is applied as fairly as possible. The most prominent example of this effort is the fact that tires will be allocated to the riders at random, and by Race Direction's Technical Director, to avoid any favoritism either by the tire company or at the behest of a particular team or rider. Otherwise, the rules are very much as had been predicted and discussed after the single tire rule was announced.
There will now officially be a single tire supplier. The tire supplier must make sure that they can supply enough tires for everyone, and that everyone will receive the same spec and same number of tires.
Tires will be selected at random and distributed by the Technical Director.
Tires are allocated to riders individually. If a rider is replaced due to injury, the rider drafted in to replace that rider will have to use the tires supplied to the rider they replace. In other words, if you break an arm on Friday afternoon, your replacement won't get to choose any new tires, but will be left with what remains of your allocation.
Each rider will have an allocation of 20 slick tires at each race weekend. There will be 2 different specifications ("A" and "B") available (most likely one harder specification, one softer). The allocation will be divided up as follows:
- 4 "A" fronts
- 4 "B" fronts
- 6 "A" rears
- 6 "B" rears
Each rider will have an allocation of 8 wet tires for each weekend: 4 fronts and 4 rears. There will only be a single wet-weather tire specification. If it rains in every session, then the riders will get 1 extra set of wets for the race.
Although no mention was made of intermediate tires in either the old regulations or in the new rules, there is a passage in the new rules which basically rules them out. Under the new regulations, only the tires supplier can cut tires, and any alterations to tires for one rider must be made identically available for all riders. As the rule stands, intermediate tires will only be cut from the available slicks if the tire supplier decides it is necessary, and the tire supplier must supply exactly the same tires for all riders. That basically means no individual rider is able to ask for intermediate tires any more.
The testing regulations have also been amended, to limit the number of tests which will take place, as well as limit the number of tires available at each test.
Testing during the season will be limited to 5 post-race tests. These test will only last one day (previously, they were usually two days at least). Testing during the winter (i.e. after the end of one and before the start of the next season), teams and riders will be limited to participating in 5 official IRTA / Dorna tests. What's more, riders will be limited to 12 days' testing in total during the winter.
At the one-day post-race tests, each rider will have 8 slick tires and 4 wet tires available. The slicks will be available as 2 fronts and 2 rears in both A and B specs, and wets will be 2 fronts and 2 rears.
At the winter tests, tire allowances are a little more complicated. On day 1, the allowance is the same as for the post-race tests (8 slick tires). On day 2 and subsequent days, the allowance is 6 slick tires, 3 fronts and 3 rears, in any combination of specifications. Riders will be also allowed 4 wet tires per day (2 front, 2 rear), and a maximum of 8 wet tires for the entire test.
If the tire supplier wants to test new specification tires at official tests, they have to supply at least all of the factory riders with the new tires. And plenty of notice is required: The teams have to be told 2 months in advance of any such test of a new tire specification.
As previously, the tire company can continue to run tire tests using a test team. If they wish to test at a circuit due to organize a race, they can hold a 2-day test there at least 4 weeks before the event. Any riders participating in the test may not race at the event. This is worthy of note, because it would have prevented Ben Spies from competing at Indianapolis, as he tested the Suzuki during the Indy tire test prior to the inaugural Indy MotoGP round.
One other rule change is worth mentioning. Practice starts are once again allowed, after having been banned during last season. We are back to the situation where we were before the previous rule change, where practice starts are allowed off the racing line after the session has finished.
125 And 250
In addition to rule changes for the MotoGP class, there are a number of changes to the 125 and 250 classes as well. For both classes, qualifying practice will now only take place on Saturday, as is the rule for MotoGP currently. Previously, qualifying was held on both Friday and Saturday, but Friday qualifying is now officially scrapped.
There has been talk that this could be the first step on the way to scrapping the Friday altogether, in an attempt to cut costs, but as has been pointed out elsewhere, this would have very little effect. Currently, the contracts with the circuits are for all 3 days, and a single night's accommodation for the entire team would not be such a huge saving.
In addition, for the 125s, the number of bikes available to each rider has been reduced to just 1, a measure which was taken to reduce costs by reducing the number of machines a team would need. Sadly, the likelihood of this actually being effective at cutting costs is negated by the allowances made for an "irreparably damaged" bike.
If a bike is "irreparably damaged", then the team may be allowed to use a second bike, at the discretion of the Race Direction. What this will mean in practice is that teams will invariably be forced to have a second bike available at the race track, in case the first one is damaged. The net result is likely to be very small indeed: a competitive team will still have to have two bikes, it's just that only one of them will be actually being used at any particular event.
As previously announced, the big change for the World Superbike series is the introduction of a different system of qualifying. Instead of a single lap, there will be 3 sessions of 12 minutes each. At the end of the 1st session, the 4 slowest riders will be taken off the track, leaving 12 riders on track. After the 2nd session, another 4 riders will be taken off the track, leaving 8 riders to battle it out for the front two rows of the grid.
After a couple of high-profile oil incidents last year, the rules also recommend that a red oil warning light be fitted to the dash. And any rider causing practice or a race to be stopped due to an oil spill will be punished by either a fine, disqualification, withdrawal of championship points or even suspension, depending on the severity of the transgression.
The FIM also announced that a full set of technical regulations would be announced on January 1st, 2009.
There were also a couple of tweaks to the sporting rules governing both the MotoGP and the World Superbike series, to try and bring the rules governing both series more into line with one another.
The first rule is a slight alteration to the 107% qualification rule. If riders don't manage to get inside 107% during qualifying, they'll be allowed to participate in the race if they have already set a time within 107% at some time during the event.
And there was also a slight relaxation of the telemetry rules. Teams can now receive GPS data from the bikes, and they can also receive TV signals, but TV only as managed by organizer's TV crew.
Finally, there is the introduction of what should probably be called the "Simoncelli Clause". Riders must now wear a helmet all the way back to the pits, an infraction for which Marco Simoncelli was fined after he won the 250cc world title at Sepang.