MotoGP Bikes To Go To 5 Engines Per Season From 2013, Rev Limit Draws Closer
As talks continue between Dorna and the MSMA over the future of MotoGP from 2013 onwards, some proposals are already looking solid for the future. On Saturday, Carmelo Ezpeleta told members of the Spanish press that Dorna and the factories had agreed further limits on the number of engines allowed for each rider during the season. As part of the cost-cutting proposals, from 2013, the number of engines is to be reduced from 6 per rider to 5.
The engine limits have been popular with the factories, as it has allowed a significant reduction in costs - at least, once the initial cost of developing a longer-lasting engine had been defrayed. So the proposal was readily agreed between the two parties. How this will affect the Claiming Rule Teams is as yet unknown, but as this is the first year of the CRT rules, Dorna and the teams will want to see how the season plays out before making any changes.
Pressure is also building to apply a rev limit from 2013, and the limit looks likely to be set low. Sources in the MotoGP paddock suggest that Dorna is looking at a figure of around 15,000 RPM, although the limit could be set as low as 14,500. While the MSMA is violently opposed to the imposition of a spec ECU, they might be able to accept a rev limit in exchange for being allowed to keep the electronics. The rev limit would also serve as a de facto limit on top speed, a concern which has been raised by many people inside the paddock, not least Jorge Lorenzo, who told the media on Friday that the thought of hitting 360 km/h at Mugello scared him. The very reason for switching from the 990s to the 800s was because the top speeds the bigger bikes were reaching was starting to cause safety problems. Reducing capacity did little to help safety - corner speed increased, and with it, the speed at which riders crashed - and so a rev limit is a way of limiting top speed without repeating the mistakes of the past.
Honda and Yamaha are believed to be in favor of a limit closer to 16,000 RPM, as engines require either pneumatic valves or exotic alloys in valve springs to operate safely, and both of those technologies are expensive and keep potential competitors out. Ducati would prefer not to have a rev limit at all, as they feel that their desmodromic system gives them a major advantage, which increases with engine speed. However, if Ducati is to lose its perceived advantage, then they are likely to prefer a lower limit rather than a higher one, as that would mean that both Honda and Yamaha would also lose theirs. A rev limit of 14,500 RPM would offer a much more level playing field than one set at, say, 16,000 RPM.
Dorna is believed to prefer a limit of around 14,500 RPM because of the CRT machines. As most of the current production engines rev to between 14,000 and 14,500 in race trim, that would allow more variety in engine choice to the CRT bikes, without forcing the teams to spend money chasing performance through more revs. The factory machines would still have the advantage, but the CRT machines would at least have a good chance of competing with the satellite machines.
The final limit could potentially be reached in two steps, rather than at one go. With the factories just having spent millions on developing new engines for the 1000cc class, they will be reluctant to immediately spend more money on developing an entirely new engine once again. Fortunately, merely imposing a rev limit would not necessarily require an engine redesign, as the existing bore-limited 1000cc bikes already provide masses more torque lower down the rev scale. But a stepped rev limit - with one reduction in 2013, and another in 2014 - would give the factories more of a lead time to look at producing new engines. But even if the limit is introduced at once, the existing bikes would almost certainly be competitive.
Unlike the engine limit, which has already been accepted, the rev limit joins a number of other proposals which are still under discussion between the MSMA and Dorna. At Jerez, the factories had presented their counterproposals to the ideas put forward by Dorna during the Sepang tests, and at Qatar, there will be another meeting to discuss Dorna's response to the MSMA's proposals. Now that the MSMA no longer holds a monopoly over the technical regulations, changes to the technical rules are now subject to an awful lot of haggling, with both the MSMA and Dorna sacrificing former sacred cows to keep the series running and affordable. The atmosphere at the talks is described as amicable, but that does not belie the hardness of the bargaining going on.