Official MotoGP Cost-Cutting Proposals For 2010 Include One Bike Per Rider

As the global financial crisis continues to hammer the world of motorsports, the Spanish magazine Motociclismo has revealed the Grand Prix Commission's proposals aimed at significantly cutting costs in MotoGP. The commission, composed of the MSMA representing the manufacturers, IRTA representing the teams, Dorna and the FIM, has spent the last few weeks putting together a range of measures which should help to reduce the expense of participating in MotoGP.

The most radical change suggested is to limit riders to a single bike per race, instead of the current two bikes they have. This would save both in costs of leasing the bikes, as well as mechanics to maintaing the bikes and spare parts. The biggest obstacle to this change would be the current flag-to-flag rules, which means that riders are allowed to switch machines if the weather conditions change during a wet race. With only a single bike, riders would be forced to switch wheels instead of bikes.

There are likely to be safety objections to any change of the flag-to-flag rules. Just changing from slick to rain tires - or vice versa - will not be sufficient to prepare the bike for the changing conditions. Usually, adjustments to the setup are also required, including changing the suspension to make it either softer for rain or harder for dry conditions. These changes require more time than just a change of wheels, and so the gamble of coming in to the pits becomes that much greater. More riders may choose to stay out on unsuitable tires rather than coming in for a time-consuming change of tires and setup. More riders out in the rain on slick is likely to mean more crashes, and more crashes means more injuries, and more holes in an already decimated field.

The one thing the teams would not have to worry about under the new rules is changing brakes. The proposals also include a ban on carbon brakes, which Fausto Gresini has lobbied for, claiming it would save him some 250,000 euros a year. The argument against carbon brakes is fairly solid, in that they are of no practical application outside racing, as carbon disks wear out too quickly and don't work in the rain, making them impractical on the streets. This change is almost certain to go through, and may as a side benefit make the racing more exciting. Steel brakes take longer to stop a bike, and if braking distances are longer, then outbraking maneuvers are more likely to succeed.

The final proposal under discussion, according to Motociclismo, is an extension of engine life. Under the plan, engines would have to last for three race weekends before the engineers are allowed to change them. A minimum engine life has been in force for the past couple of years in Formula 1, and has spectacularly failed to reduce costs in that series. As we explained in our series on saving MotoGP, the manufacturers can either choose to reduce performance so that existing engines last longer, or they can radically redesign the engine using more expensive materials to make the engines last longer. It's almost blindingly obvious which path the manufacturers will choose to go down.

Imposing longer engine life will save on engine rebuilds, which Honda's old steel spring engines required every 300kms, while Ducati's desmodromic engine needed very 700km or so, and this would be a big saving. The only question which remains is whether the extra development time and more expensive materials required to make the engines last longer will be less than the amount saved by the reduced maintenance requirements. The lesson from Formula 1 is that any savings achieved are likely to be minimal at best.

What is clear is that the Grand Prix Commission is taking the question of cost-cutting very seriously. Unfortunately, what is equally clear is that their thinking is still flawed: too many suggestions fall into the trap of trying to circumvent the law of unintended consequences. And that's what got us into this trouble in the first place.

 

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Comments

The limit on bikes sounds like a good idea. I think the mechanics and crew chiefs will be able to adjust to the tire change rules. I think that the current pit situation seemed a bit too fast and made things dangerous in the pits as well as penalized the leading rider. If it frees up more bikes for a larger grid and reduces cost it seems like a good idea. The other technical rules seem to be heading in the direction warned of by Preziossi. The loss of carbon brakes seems less likely to force an expensive technology race, but I suppose there is the possibility. The engine durability change seems destined to just add to the costs. Hopefully the three proposed areas mentioned are all part some political gamesmanship on the part of Mr. Ezpeleta and the bike limit and maybe brake rules will be adopted. The lone concern would be to make sure that LCR Honda gets some revenue for showing up. Because, given DePuniet's crash history, there may be several weekends that he won't be able to field a bike for lap 1 of a race.

Total votes: 104

Are they kidding? One bike per rider, okay great riders need to be careful and husband their resources, crash in pratice and you can't qualify? or the rain tire change problem.... give me a break if thy do that in 2010 I wont watch. GP is the premiere class, not the struggling super bike class. Crazy how times have changed.

I am not a fan of the one tire rule but think it might help racing be closer, I am NOT a fan of the 800's, I agree with your earlier post that they should bring back the 990's and dial down the traction control a little and let the guys ride the dang bikes. the only thing in the above "proposal" that makes any sense is going back to steel breaks, again should make for better racing.

I look forward to the building season in WSBK should be a good one and could replace MotoGP as the racing series I follow.

Note a fan of GP racing since the Shawantz, Garner, Lawson, Rainy days, man that was racing.

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Total votes: 104

with the loss of carbon brakes we are one more step closer to being a superbike race, and not a prototype race.

Total votes: 96

Engine life is a bit of a red herring.  The engineers, by default, will pursue durability; it is a simple cost/benefit curve.  If there were no rules, they start with the premise that the engine has to last at least race distance.  Then, they would prefer to have them last as long as possible, as soon as they can get the cost of those more durable parts down below the cost of swapping the engine out and rebuilding it.  As the spec matures (meaning:  if the rules aren't constantly changing), they will continue to pursue durability, power, and efficiency.  But, the price of that pursuit begins to stabilize with time, and the cost of manufacturing more units for satellite teams becomes more reasonable.  (As an aside, getting beyond valve springs is probably the single most significant engine-life enhancement.)

If the rules mandate a length of service beyond race distance, they will still build to the spec - whatever it is - while also still pursuing design improvements.  The engine manufacturers will always spend their budget trying to improve power, efficiency, and durability (which usually equates to reliability), no matter how long they're supposed to last. 

A cost-limiting comparison to F1 would have to include a freeze on engine development, and that's what has failed spectacularly over there.

The single-bike rule would be remarkably short-sighted.  The teams will still need a second bike for each rider in case one is demolished.  If a rider has some kind of benign, high-speed off during qualifying and walks away, but the frame has to be written off, there will be a hole in the grid for at least a week, if not more.  How does that benefit anyone?  If the teams could get by on just one bike, they would have already been doing it.  There would be so much more susceptibility to weather conditions the sport could become unwatchable...  unless they plan to go to fully treaded tires all the time (forcing rapid increase in the development of active suspensions...).

If they continue to eliminate incentives and opportunities for practice time, the riders themselves will lose their ability to make the sport what it is.  If they have to live in constant concern for preserving their equipment, while becoming increasingly unfamiliar with it, they and their teams will cease to improve.  If you think the races are "processional" now, just keep banning testing and practice and qualifying and extra parts...

Total votes: 111

I'm not very familiar with how corporations function, but I believe that departmental budgets are set well in advance for the coming year.

If there any 'savings' in one area of technology or development due to a rules change, the money will simply be spent on another. There will be no net change in the amount spent.
The only way to see an actual reduction in budgets for the teams would be to set a spending cap.
Obviously this would be extremely hard to police, and any money saved by the teams would probably be spent by the governing bodies enforcing it.

Rules changes are a fact of life, but should really be enacted for reasons of safety or improvement of the 'show'.

Total votes: 108

Budgets are set prior to the year in question but they can and often are changed based on circumstances. Every managers loves being able to give money from their budget back.

The issue being faced right now is that spending is such an issue that "The Show" is being impacted.

Total votes: 107

See? I showed how little I know about corporate budgeting..
But is returning a portion of your budget at the end of the season really a cost savings?
To the bottom line of the Co. as a whole it may be.
But in order to cut costs, the savings has to be up front I would think.
Also, I thought if a department didn't use all its budget it would get less the following year?
Or is that in Government....

Total votes: 97