With the Grand Prix Commission meeting what feels like every race weekend nowadays, it's hardly surprising that readers of the press releases issued get a sense of déjà vu from time to time. Today's FIM press release detailing the latest decision of the Grand Prix Commission is no exception. MotoGP's rule-making body - consisting of the organizers (Dorna), the teams (IRTA), the sanctioning body (FIM) and the manufacturers (MSMA) - introduced new restrictions on fuel pressure, limiting the pressure in fuel lines to a maximum of 10 Bar. If that had a familiar ring to it, it is because exactly the same rule was introduced for 2010 at a previous meeting of the GP Commission back in December of 2009, a rule that was quietly dropped before the start of the 2010 season.
So the fuel pressure limitation is back, but the difference between December 2009 and now is significant. The December '09 announcement merely read "In the MotoGP class the maximum permitted fuel press is 10 Bar." No further explanation or specification was given. This announcement sets out in detail how that maximum pressure is to be limited, including what appears to be a growing trend in MotoGP: an approved part. All fuel regulators must now be approved by MotoGP's Technical Director, Mike Webb, and sealed and certified by the manufacturer. The solution is to introduce what is almost a spec fuel regulator, with the difference being that multiple regulators could be permitted providing they fulfil the technical requirements.
The reintroduction of the rule points up a couple of interesting developments in MotoGP. First and foremost, if the MSMA accepted this regulation - the MSMA has a veto over technical regulations, and is basically in charge of drawing up the technical rules for MotoGP - the there is a very good chance that none of the manufacturers are using a high-pressure fuel injection system at the present.
Secondly, and far more interestingly, it points to the balance of power swinging away from the factories. Dorna, the FIM and IRTA have all been open about their frustration with the current set of technical regulations, which have produced very expensive, electronically regulated MotoGP bikes and sterile racing. It is hoped that the reintroduction of 1000cc bikes will solve part of the problems in that respect, but a second prong of attack comes with the expiry of the MSMA's contract with Dorna to provide the technical rules. Dorna has an agreement with the factories that the MSMA gets to make the technical regulations, which is due to end after the 2011 season. The imposition of a spec fuel pressure regulator could the first step by Dorna and IRTA towards taking the technical rules away from the factories, and casting the MSMA in another role from 2012 onwards. If the MSMA is prepared to accept a spec fuel pressure regulator, then other parts may follow, with the jewel in the crown being a spec ECU. That is currently completely unacceptable to the MSMA - and especially its Japanese members - as the manufacturers get a lot of R&D effort from the data they gather while setting up the complex fueling of a MotoGP bike. As the deadline to renew the MSMA contract draws nearer - and the number of teams expressing an interest in running a CRT effort from 2012 continues to grow - opposition from the manufacturers could be swept aside under a new rule-making regime.
That is going to take some time to work itself out, though. For now, the non-manufacturer members of the GP Commission can be glad that the first blow has been struck in the war that is to come. Here's the text of the Grand Prix Commission announcement, froman FIM press release:
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Claude Danis (FIM), Hervé Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Ignacio Verneda (FIM Sports Director) and M. Paul Butler (Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 18 September in Alcañiz (Spain), unanimously decided the following:
MotoGP class: 2011 Regulation for fuel pressure
In the MotoGP class the maximum permitted fuel pressure is 10 Bar, at a recirculated flow rate of 50 litres/hour.
1) It is mandatory to use an official approved fuel pressure regulator, as specified by the Technical Director. This official regulator must be fitted downstream of the fuel pump, such that the maximum fuel pressure available to the injectors is never more than 10 Bar.
The official regulator manufacturer may supply regulators set at any lower pressure and/or any higher flow rate, as requested by MotoGP teams, provided that these regulators are not capable of delivering more than 10 Bar at 50 litres/hour.
2) Additional regulators may be used in conjunction with the official regulator to further reduce and control fuel pressure, but no device or strategy capable of increasing fuel pressure at the injectors above 10 Bar may be used anywhere in the system.
3) The approved fuel pressure regulator will be sealed, marked and certified by the regulator manufacturer, and may be inspected and/or removed for testing at any time by the Technical Director.
4) Teams must supply a schematic diagram of their fuel system including the location of the fuel pressure regulator when requested by the Technical Director
5) In measuring the fuel pressure and flow rate delivered by the regulator, the tolerance as specified by the offical approved regulator manufacturer will be taken into account.