MotoGP's rule-making body, the Grand Prix Commission, adopted a number of changes to the MotoGP rules in a meeting on Wednesday. As expected, the testing restrictions were dropped, now to be limited by tire allocation. Other changes adopted include an increase in the minimum weight, the introduction of rear-facing red lights to be carried in wet conditions, a slight tweak to the 107% qualifying minimum time, and explicitly granting authority to impose penalties on event organizers. The GPC also considered the entry list for the 2012 MotoGP season, and accepted 9 CRT entries, along with 1 reserve CRT entry.
The change to the testing regulations had been expected for a while, but the Grand Prix Commission cleared up the final details for the 2012 season. As announced earlier, contracted riders will be allowed to test for the factories instead of test riders, the only restriction being the limit of 240 tires allotted for testing purposes. In effect, this replaces a de jure restriction (amount of testing limited by the rules) with a de facto one (testing limited by tire allocation). But the easing of restrictions on the factories left the satellite and claiming rule teams in limbo: manufacturers were unlikely to make tires available to them to test with, and so they were awarded their own supply. Each MotoGP rider not in a factory team will have their own allocation of 120 tires to be used for testing, giving them an equivalent amount to the factories.
Rather ironically, the disappearance of Suzuki and the reduction of the Repsol Honda team from three riders to just two was one move that made this possible. Honda, Yamaha and Ducati now all have two-rider teams, so in theory, those tires could be distributed equally between both riders in the team. In practice, factories will still also want to run tests with test riders, and that testing will also be done with tires from the factory allocation of 240, reducing the amount of track time for the factory riders. But it also gives the factories the flexibility to continue development, should one of their factory riders suffer serious injury and be ruled out for an extended period of time. The other rider could pick up the slack, without being restrained by the limits imposed on non-factory teams.
In theory, this should give the non-factory riders a slight advantage. They could have a little more time for testing the bike than the factory riders, with none of their tires being used by test riders. In practice, it will not make that much difference, however.
The most interesting news was the acceptance of 9 Claiming Rule Team entries and 1 reserve, which would bring the total grid up to 21 bikes, including the 12 factory prototypes already accepted. Though the list has not yet formally been issued, it seems likely that the entries will include the latest confirmed riders (as shown here), along with the two BQR entries. The reserve entry is likely to be the Laglisse Suter BMW of Carmelo Morales, and with funding still likely to be an issue for some of the Claiming Rule Teams, there is a reasonable chance that the Laglisse team will make it onto the grid.
The press release emphasized that the GPC still has the authority to withdraw CRT status at any time. However, to do so requires a simple majority of the four parties in the GPC: Dorna, IRTA, the FIM and the MSMA. With IRTA and Dorna almost certain to want to have the teams retain CRT status, securing a majority will be hard for the MSMA (who have the most to lose from the CRT rules), especially as Dorna has the casting vote, as chair of the committee. In effect, once CRT status has been awarded, it will be very hard to have it taken away again.
Some of the changes have been made in response to either safety or the changing of the rules. With all three classes now four stroke, allowing starters onto the grid is a necessity. The days of (relatively) easy-to-bump-start two strokes are gone. Red tail lights have now been made mandatory for all classes in wet conditions, a rule that should enhance safety in poor visibility conditions. And the 107% qualifying rule has been extended to include times set during warm up, giving riders who fail to make the cut during qualifying one last chance to make it onto the grid on Sunday morning.
The penalty for infringing the engine durability regulations has also been tightened up a fraction. Riders who have used an extra engine over and above their allowance of 6 (for factory prototypes) or 12 (for CRT entries) will now have to wait until 10 seconds after the green light at the end of pit lane has gone out, rather than 10 seconds after the start of the race. This has been a response to what was informally being referred to as "the Valencia situation," where starting from the pit lane - even 10 seconds after the race started - put you in with a fighting chance of entering mid-pack. In terms of both fairness and safety, this was not acceptable, and the change means that riders taking an extra engine will now start 10 seconds after the riders on the grid have passed pit lane. The 10-second delay is now a genuine disadvantage, and now varies much less between race tracks.
Another change which could prove to be significant is the explicit granting of the authority to Race Direction to police the running of a MotoGP event and issue fines as appropriate. The issue was raised in response to the failure of officials at Sepang to wave warning flags during the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class, causing a number of riders to crash very heavily. The incident possibly affected the outcome of the 2011 Moto2 championship, with Marc Marquez' incredible charge being halted due to the injury he sustained, and ending his title hopes. Race Direction will now have a much greater say and much more direct influence over the running of an event. After criticism leveled at the series over the deaths of Marco Simoncelli and Shoya Tomizawa, this move should provide better consistency in the running of the events.
Below is the official press release from the FIM announcing the rule changes:
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Executive Director, Sport), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Javier Alonso (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA) and Paul Butler (Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 14 December in Madrid, decided the following:
Application effective from 01 January 2012
A revised wording of the testing regulation was approved. This incorporated the various decisions made earlier in 2011 concerning this matter. Additionally it was decided that contracted riders in the MotoGP class may also test machines using the allocation of 240 tyres available to each manufacturer's team. Previously such testing was restricted to test riders only. In the interest of fair competition it was also agreed that other MotoGP class riders could exclusively test their team machines with a limit of 120 tyres per rider.
It was agreed that riders who did not qualify for the race based on their time in the qualifying practice can qualify if they achieve a time at least equal to 107% of the fastest rider in the warm up. This is an addition to the previous regulation which only considered free practice sessions.
Under the regulation concerning MotoGP class riders starting the race from pit lane due to an engine durability sanction, it was agreed that in future they will start ten seconds after the green light is shown at the pit lane exit.
Riders in all classes may now use a starter engine on the grid. For all classes tyre warmers may now remain in place until the display of the one minute board. Generators must still be removed at the three minute board.
With effect from 2012, for all classes, it will be compulsory to display a red rear light in rain conditions.
The minimum weight limits for 1000cc machines in the MotoGP class will be increased from the current 153 kilos.
Effective 2012 157 kilos
Effective 2013 160 kilos
The permitted wheel sizes for the Moto3 class were confirmed as:
Front 2.50" x 17" only
Rear 3.50" x 17" only
Several detail changes to regulations, submitted by the Technical Director were all approved.
A list of MotoGP class entries for 2012 was considered by the Commission. The list contained nine entries plus one reserve entry using CRT machinery of various types. Participation of all CRT entries was approved by the Commission on the understanding that the granting of CRT Status was subject to review by the Grand Prix Commission at any time.
Disciplinary and Arbitration Code
The authority and competence of the Race Direction to impose penalties was extended to cover failure by any party to ensure the efficient running of events or for serious breaches of the regulations
Precise wording for all the changes will be incorporated into the FIM Grand Prix regulations shortly. The regulations may be viewed on line at WWW.FIM-LIVE.COM