The Factories Win a Reprieve: MotoGP Rev Limits Delayed Until 2014
Jerez saw another round in the game of bluff poker being played between Dorna and the manufacturers over the future of MotoGP's rules, and both sides took another step closer to an agreement. Reports emanating from the discussions suggest that Dorna has made a concession to the MSMA over the rev limits, while the factories are pushing through a single-bike rule, and an agreement should be ready by the middle of the year.
Ever since the MSMA lost their monopoly over the rules at the end of 2011, when the contract between the MSMA and Dorna lapsed, Dorna has had the stronger hand, and Carmelo Ezpeleta has been pushing the factories hard for changes. The pressure is starting to pay off Ezpeleta, as by a combination of cajoling, threats and promises, he has also reached an agreement over the future shape of the sport. MotoGP is to undergo a radical transformation from the pure technology exercise that the 800 era became to a sport focused on entertainment where costs are kept in check.
The introduction of a rev limit has now been more or less agreed with the factories, after Ezpeleta agreed to put the limit back for a year. The limit will now be introduced from the 2014 season onwards, rather than from 2013 as Ezpeleta had at first intended. Based on advice received from his technical team, including Dorna technical chief Corrado Cecchinelli and (now) Race Director Mike Webb, Ezpeleta is still pushing for 14,500rpm, but he may be willing to accept 15,000rpm, if the factories are willing to make further far-reaching concessions. Sources indicate that the factories were willing to accept the rev limit on condition that they got 2 years out of their current engines, having just undergone major spending program for the switch to the 1000cc bikes. The factories also wanted a lead time of 18 months to make the necessary changes to the 1000cc bikes: though the change is much smaller than the switch from 800cc to 1000cc, the engine characteristics will be rather different. With Suzuki currently working on a return to MotoGP with a 1000cc bike slated to be introduced in 2014, bringing in a rev limit then will also make it easier for Suzuki to participate.
More change will come in 2015, when a single ECU is likely to be introduced for the CRT bikes at least, though some people inside Dorna are pushing for an ECU for all the bikes. Discussions are currently underway with Aprilia over the ECU, as the Italian factory is preparing to supply a string of ART bikes based on the RSV4 as production racers, much in the long tradition of Yamaha's TZ and Suzuki's RG series. BMW may be willing to accept this as they will be in a position to use their CRT program to help develop the WSBK program, where the electronics have always been the S1000RR's weakest point. A spec ECU for all of the MotoGP bikes, including the prototypes, is still under consideration, but at the moment, this would be a bridge too far for the factories. The hope is that a much lower revving engine which is much easier to manage without electronics will persuade the factories that limits on the electronics are a sensible option.
There will still be some changes from 2013, though these proposals have been put forward by the factories. In response to Dorna's request for a 1 million euro lease price for a prototype machine, the factories have suggested that the way to make this possible is to switch to a single bike per rider. The cost of supplying spares and support for a single bike instead of two per rider is sufficiently reduced that the factories feel it their losses will be sufficiently limited that they can afford to supply satellite teams at a cost of a million euros per rider. This is unlikely to lead to a defection of CRT teams, however, as a rule specifying that each factory will supply bikes for just two factory and two satellite riders is also likely to be adopted. With Honda, Yamaha and Ducati the only factories currently supplying prototypes, and no new factories likely to join next year, that will leave 12 factory prototypes on the grid.
With Moto2 favorite Marc Marquez looking set to switch to MotoGP in 2013, there have been question marks over the continuation of the so-called Rookie Rule, which prevents a MotoGP rookie from going straight to a factory team. However, there is huge pressure from within IRTA to keep it in place, with IRTA President and Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal telling MotoMatters.com at Jerez that he was committed to keeping it as it is. "This rule has been good for the private teams, and we really want to keep it," he said. "It has also been good for the riders; they can go to a private team and learn to race in MotoGP without too much pressure, it is a better situation for them. If Honda wants to support Marquez, they could do it perfectly well at Gresini or LCR." The only complication in this argument is the power of Repsol: if the Spanish oil giant threatened to pull out at the end of this year over the Rookie Rule, Dorna's stance on the matter could be compromised. But so far, Poncharal told MotoMatters.com, Ezpeleta had said he had no intention of changing the rules.
While a rev limit will surely create bikes which are significantly less peaky and much easier to ride, the one additional change needed to reduce the reliance on electronics would be the addition of more fuel. So far, the factories have been opposed to raising the fuel limits, but if an engine redesign is going to be needed to cope with the imposition of rev limits in 2014, then that would also be the ideal moment to raise the fuel limits. Even with 24 liters of gas, the Aprilia CRT bikes are struggling to reach their target, and so more fuel would also bring more relief for the Claiming Rule Teams.