Engine Trouble Looming For Yamaha: Rossi And Lorenzo Burning Through Allocation

The defense of Jorge Lorenzo's MotoGP championship faces a further obstacle. In addition to having to fend off an unleashed Dani Pedrosa and the rookie sensation that is Marc Marquez, the Yamaha Factory Racing rider now has to deal with a looming engine shortage as well. Just six race weekends into the 2013 MotoGP season, and the factory Yamaha riders are already using the fourth of the five engines which they have for the entire season. With two thirds of the season left to go, the Yamaha men will face a serious challenge in making their engines last until the end of the season.

The issue affects both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in the factory teams, as well as Cal Crutchlow in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, all of whom have taken a fourth engine. Crutchlow's teammate Bradley Smith is still only on his third of five engines, though even that is not an ideal situation. Making things worse for the factory men is the fact that both Rossi and Lorenzo have had one engine withdrawn, meaning that they will not be able to use those engines for the rest of the season. 

Reports of a problem first emerged after Jerez, with the Spanish website Motocuatro flagging Lorenzo's use of a third engine after that race. Lorenzo reported a problem with his engine #1 during the warm up, and that engine has now been withdrawn from the allocation. Valentino Rossi has also had his engine #2 withdrawn after Mugello, though this was an engine with 28 sessions on it. Rossi's engine is rumored to have also suffered a problem, which caused it to be withdrawn.

There are more signs of issues with Yamaha engines from the pattern of usage they are displaying. Though still in use, Rossi's engine #1 has never been used in a race, and has not been used in qualifying since Jerez. Cal Crutchlow's engines appear to be normal, though his #1 and #2 engines have not seen action at Barcelona. The issues Yamaha are suffering has prompted them to impose stricter limits on engine use, with extra care being taken not to stress the engines too much.

Illustrative of the plight of Yamaha is the engine usage of Honda. All four Honda riders are still using engines #1 and #2 of the five in their allocation, with no sign of them being needed. That Honda has always been good at this kind of engineering was demonstrated in 2011, when Casey Stoner won the championship using just five of the six engines allowed, in the first full year of the engine allocation.

Yamaha's engine problems could pose an insurmountable obstacle to Lorenzo's title defense. As the situation stands, Yamaha could probably just about manage until the end of the season by juggling engines to the end of the year. This will place a greater strain Rossi's and Lorenzo's mechanics, as they will have to spend more time swapping engines around during race weekends, using older engines with more miles on them for free practice, and saving fresher engines for qualifying and the race. But the loss of an engine this early in the season effectively leaves Rossi with four engines to manage thirteen races, and Lorenzo with four engines to last fifteen races. Any other mishaps, and they will almost certainly be forced to start from pit lane at one weekend this year. That is a penalty which the Yamaha men cannot afford to risk.

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Comments

So, there is a possibility that Yamaha may be out of engines before the end of the year. Is this a joke? David, How is '5 engines' saving $$$$, when they fly the teams/equipment all over the world....20+ times a year! Engine costs have to be cheap compared to loading up a 747 or two!

Total votes: 176

Engine Allocation was suggested by the factory teams, not David and not Dorna. It wasn't to save money. Further the teams don't fly equipment all over the world 20 times a year. DORNA uses 3 747 jets around 8 times a year to transport everything for the teams, as well as for DORNA. As most of the races are in Europe they typically transport everything by road a majority of the season.

Total votes: 178

I know the manufacturers' all agreed to this rule but it would be incredibly silly for the championship to be decided this way. Imagine Dani, Jorge (and possibly Marquez) are neck and neck in Valencia...then Jorge has to start from pit lane. Wow, I bet even Dani wouldn't want the championship decided that way! Please please change this rule.

Total votes: 208

You're ignoring the fact that this is a team sport, and you're ignoring the constructors championship. It is not all about the individual riders talent, if it was they would all be on the same homologated bikes. While some people like the idea of that, others don't. Also engine restrictions lead to engine innovations which flow down to us mere mortal motorbike riders.

Total votes: 154

I am tired of this stuff.

Does a baseball batter have to continue using the bat he broke in the first inning? Is a tennis player forced to continue using a racquet after breaking a string?

What is next? limiting the damping adjustment positions on the suspension? That would make the bikes "cheaper", right?

I want to watch racers (athletes) compete, not engineers.

Total votes: 206

Dorna, keeps making claims about cost savings..... The mechanics can no longer even open the engine so it has to be send back to the factory... I am sure these "cost savings' have costs the factory's millions in extra engineering costs. It certainly costs alot more to make an engine for 3+ races than it does to make it for one.

I don't belive I've seen one figure for how much Dorna figures they're saving the factories with all these "cost saving' measures?

Then again, I don't think the issue is cost at all but keeping the grid more competitive for the CRT's etc.... Anyway, it blows I wish they would quit changing things so much and just let them race..

Total votes: 187

It's not Dorna's fault, it's the MSMA, and namely Honda. Yamaha is at fault as well for agreeing as is Ducati but it was clearly Honda that introduced it and got the other MSMA members to agree.

Total votes: 198

It's Honda's fault, surely. I think that on every MSMA meeting Honda has some gruesome thugs with big bats, and these boys are hitting hard other representatives (of MSMA) who disagrees with them.

Total votes: 176

In my understanding it's there because it presents an engineering challenge that the racing departments (basically of Honda) need in order to get money from the boards of their companies. No cost saving involved. It's there to make the game interesting to businessmen, that can see racing also as a ground to refine the reliability of their products. I don't like it, and I don't buy it really, but that's the idea behind this rule. Ezpeleta doesn't like it either, and has been quite verbal about the irony of prototypes using only 5 engines whereas WSBK "production bikes" use tens per season, but gave in for the spec ECU to get MSMA approval. This rule is not Dorna's making, it's the factories'.

Total votes: 174

Is not to save the factory teams money. They have already shown the willingness to spend as much as they deem necessary. These rules are supposed to help make satellite bikes cheaper (funny, huh?) because although it costs factories a lot to develop a long life engine the result is a satellite bike package with only 3 engines and 2 rebuilds over the entire season. The factory's development costs are likely written off in their complex tax filings to production technology R&D.

One thing I really miss is the victory burnout. That is a pretty cool part of the show to have lost as a casualty of these engine and tire policies.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 188

As far as I'm aware, Honda did not had an European based factory, so they had to ship their engines to be rebuild back to Japan, which was quite costly. Apparently, opening up one was not possible, since they have massive R&D facilities back in Japan.
At the same time, all factories agreed to use less fuel and to reduce the number of engines.
Last season, Jorge lost one engine (when Bautista took him out) and they managed fine until the end of the season. That was a "new" engine, not a high milleage one. That's probably why Yamaha agreed, as they noticed that they would have no problems using only 5 engines, albeit with much less margin for accidents.

Total votes: 165

With how engines are these days I think all the factories treat an engine failure like a crime scene and want the entire thing shipped, seal unbroken, back to the mothership so a complete failure analysis can be performed. They don't want a quick rebuild that erases all clues as to why the failure occurred.

Honda get all the flack for being a vocal member of the MSMA even though Yamaha supports all the same policies, although quietly. It would sort of suck to have engine allocation be a big part of the title chase. Maybe for a manufacturer title but a rider title?

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 184

... Honda tend to detune their engines in order to improve reliability. I'd hate to think how good the bikes could be running at their full potential if this is the case now!

On the flip side it may well mean Yamaha are forced to power back the engines a little in order for them to last. If that's the case then it looks like the M1 has a lot of work to do.

Of course this may not be a worry. So both factory Yamaha bikes have discarded an engine and are rotating between the 4 remaining ones. How do we know this isn't part of their engine management strategy, using each engine less might mean they're less likely to blow one up earlier in the season while they are at their favoured tracks and only really wear them out once they've clocked up the miles and arrived at the fly-aways which arguably favour the RC213V anyway?

Conspiracy abounds...

Total votes: 173

There is no evidence that Honda detunes their engines in order to improve reliability.This is probably just a one off engineering mistake on the YZFR-M1 engines, and i'm sure any reliability difference comes from the different engine configuration rather than 'detuning'.

Total votes: 167

I took my evidence from Neil Spalding's MotoGP Technology book. Apparently it's traditionally been Honda's philosophy to do so

Total votes: 162

But what 'reliability' means varies for each application. For top fuel it is 6-10 seconds. It used to be GP engines need to last 200-300km. Now they need to last 2000km. Engine life is inversely proportional to max rpm/power levels. I'm sure the Honda and all the engines on the grid could be made to rev higher and make more power but would not last as long. Hell, the ARTs can't consistently use a WSBK spec engine because they don't last long enough to make a season with 12.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 147

I might be seeing conspiracy here, but if yamaha are burning through their engines to compete, I'd bet they are doing so in the knowledge that Carmelo would be very likely to change the rules if faced with "ruining" the championship and especially forcing valentino to be seriously penalised because of the engine allocation rule.

Total votes: 186

If I remember correctly Rossi has already started from pit lane once in the past at Aragon in 2011 because of engine limits and nobody bent the rules then to help him.

Total votes: 159

The reason Rossi was okay with starting from pitlane was becuase Ducati was making the change to a Delta box frame from carbon and old the engine wouldn't mount to the new frame...

Total votes: 153

I have made the argument before that race simulations, which the Yamaha boys are so fond of, are detrimental in an engine limited formula. Lorenzo is basically asking his engines to do 2 full races at full race pace every weekend. Where as the Honda boys typically do short runs to set the bike up and therefore tax their engines less. This is well demonstrated by Stoner only using 5 in 2011.

Total votes: 179

If you're speaking about the tests - the engines they use aren't part of the allocation.

2nd - Stoner had problems as I recall because he didn't understand how the bike would work on worn tires... as a direct result of only doing short runs.

To my understanding the engines are built to last for 3000 - 4000k or So kilometers.

Total votes: 147

It has been reported on this site that this weekend the 'claiming rule' will be dropped for the engines of second tier bikes in MotoGP for 2014. The rule, as I understand it, was written to prevent factories that are not entering their own teams from supplying high spec. mega Euro engines to the privateers. I think the original price put on one of these privateer engines was 20,000 Euro (please correct me if this is the wrong figure). Under the 'claiming rule', only factories with official entries (Ducati, Honda and Yamaha) could claim one of these privateer, supposedly series production-based engines.

However, now that Honda and Yamaha are to supply prototype engines (and complete bikes in Honda's case) to these privateer teams next year, the Japs want the 'claiming rule' abolished.

Could this have the unintended consequence of allowing privateer teams to use Superbike spec. engines in 2014? Our understanding is that the so-called CRT teams were limited from doing that by the 20,000 Euro price cap. With that removed, one can guess that Gigi Dall'Igna will have his team in Noale busy building RSV4 engines using the gear-driven cams from 2010 and the cylinder heads, cams etc. currently used by Laverty and Guintoli, and working on the dyno with the stock MotoGP ECU and the Magneti Marelli software to make engines available for somewhat less than the Million Euro Motors Yamaha is offering to lease.

These teams (shall we call them Formula 1000 teams?) would have 12 engines at their disposal, along with 24 litres of race fuel.

That could be interesting, no? - especially considering the progress Aleix Espargaro is making on Aspar's Aprilia-framed and Aprilia-powered machines.

Total votes: 185

The claiming rule formula was established b/c Dorna demanded a second tier for IRTA. The rules were becoming cost prohibitive, factories were withdrawing, and IRTA were begging Dorna for more money as lease prices rose and sponsorship opportunities decreased. The MSMA agreed or were forced to agree to 1000cc capacity, 12 engines, and 24L of fuel. According to Ezpeleta, production engines were allowable for CRT due to some ambiguous loophole/change in homologation rules. The GPC had no interest in letting the 2nd tier teams win so they were handicapped with the claiming rule.

In 2014, the teams will be handicapped with a spec-ECU and spec software. The spec software probably has a rev limit or some other performance control. The claiming rule has been eliminated, and the MSMA are sufficiently satisfied with the CRT performance controls that they have reduced factory fuel capacity to 20L.

The claiming rule was not dropped so Honda could build new 24L bikes. If HRC are willing to sell the new bikes, obviously they wouldn't care if the technology were claimed. HRC have decided to build a new bike for the 24L rules b/c they want to mess with Aprilia. The Italian factory is currently bolting their RSV production engine into a prototype chassis, and charging 7-figures for lease. So Aprilia are basically learning how to build a Bridgestone chassis and using private teams to subsidize their racing program. HRC are going to put the kibosh on the Aprilia gravvy train, kind of like they did in the 250cc class.

Total votes: 185

... for the engineers. That is until one (or two?!) championship contenders are rendered a non-threat to their rivals because of a lack of engines. Then of course, the rule will be universally considered the dumbest idea ever applied to a form of ENTERTAINMENT and promptly relaxed considerably. I wouldn't even call it an embarrassment to whichever factory eventually succumbs to a lack of engines before season's end. It's a tiny allocation of engines for 18 race weekends, period.

Btw, if the manufacturers would reign in their endless hunger to transform these bikes into uber-computers, this cost conundrum wouldn't be nearly the hurdle it is today.

Total votes: 190

If Lorenzo has already used four engines does that eliminate the possibility of introducing the seamless gearbox this year (except in the fifth and final engine)?
Or can they swap out the transmission and stay within the rules? (If it's even physically possible to swap between a conventional and "seamless" gearbox this way.)

Total votes: 155

Anybody else notice Rossi's bike smoking lightly near the end of the Qatar G.P.?

Total votes: 143