Ever since Yamaha announced that Ben Spies would be making a wildcard appearance at the final round of MotoGP at Valencia, message boards across the internet have been abuzz with the question of how many engines the Texan would have for his Yamaha. The rules for the regulars - contracted riders, to use the jargon of the FIM rulebook - state that each rider has 5 engines to last the final 7 races, from Brno onwards. But how did this affect Spies? Would he have all 5 engines for the weekend? Would he have just 1 engine, as the minimum of 5 divided by 7? How were you supposed to the math to work it out?
To settle the matter, we went straight to the person who should know: Mike Webb, MotoGP's Technical Director and the man charged with enforcing the rules. We chased him down here at Valencia, and asked him what the score was. "There are no rules for wildcards," Webb told us. "So in theory, Spies could have as many engines as he likes." The problem is that the rules make no provision for wildcards, Webb explained. This had been discussed in the Grand Prix Commission when the engine limits were debated, but the MSMA - the manufacturers' organization who put forward the engine limit proposals - didn't think it important enough to cover at the time.
And so the number of engines, and the spec of those engines, that Ben Spies gets will be up to Yamaha to decide. Yamaha Racing Manager Lin Jarvis told us that Spies basically has the Yamaha test team at his disposal, with enough engines to last the weekend. The bikes will be virtually identical to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha satellite machines ridden by Colin Edwards and James Toseland, and therefore the same as the machines he will be riding next season.
With the engine limits due to be discussed this weekend in the Grand Prix Commission, this is one subject that will be settled at a later point. But as Mike Webb pointed out to us, as it's the MSMA who wanted the limits, the MSMA will decide how to handle the situation for wildcards. If the manufacturers decide they want to use a wildcard rider to test engines, then limits will not be placed on the number available. If, on the other hand, they wish to prevent wildcard riders from dominating the proceedings with a fresh engine, they will limit the numbers. We shall have to wait and see what they decide.