The 2014 MotoGP Rules: A Minor Modification Redefines The Foundation Of The Rules
At the same time the World Superbike rules for 2014 were announced, the revised version of the MotoGP rules, including updates for next season were also published. But unlike the WSBK rules, no press release was sent out to announce the new rulebook, as the minor rule changes had already been announced previously.
Yet this rulebook marks a sea change in the way MotoGP is defined. For 2013, MotoGP is still defined as prototypes competing with 21 liters of fuel, and an additional class of machines running under the claiming rule banner. From 2014, however, the roles are reversed. All bikes are classed as MotoGP entries, but an exception is made for teams entered under the 'Factory Option'. MotoGP bikes are allowed 12 engines and 24 liters of fuel, but must run the official ECU hardware and software. Manufacturers can choose to enter four riders as 'Factory Option' entries, who must run the official ECU hardware, but are free to write their own software for the standard ECU. Factory Option entries are allowed only five engines per season, and 20 liters of fuel per race.
It is a remarkable and shrewd rewriting of the rulebook. Although on the face of it, nothing concrete has changed, in effect, the MSMA entries have become the exception, rather than the rule. The concept of a single class has been reinstated, with a special allowance made for factories who wish to submit to the discipline of making do with 20 liters of fuel, in return for the freedom to write their own software. Having the class redefined in this way is the first step on the way to the removal of that freedom. After all, it is easier to remove an exception than it is to change the rules. The next major rule change is expected to come in 2017, with the removal of the factory option the first priority, closely followed by the imposition of a rev limit.
The introduction of the Factory Option also slips another change under the radar. Where previously, a manufacturer was defined as a motorcycle manufacturer and member of the MSMA, now the link to the MSMA has been dropped. In its place comes an explicit reference to a manufacturer as being either a motorcycle manufacturer or a chassis manufacturer. This recognition had been demanded by the chassis manufacturers in the series since shortly after the introduction of the Moto2 class. The MSMA was still making the rules, while the chassis manufacturers had no say in the rulemaking process.
The introduction of the Factory Option has another useful side effect. For a while, everyone involved in the sport had been wondering how to refer to the CRT teams now that the claiming rule was to be dropped. By redefining everyone as MotoGP entries, and manufacturer entries as Factory Option, there are once again two clearly defined and easily explained classes: MotoGP, and Factory MotoGP.
While the main change to the rules came in the form of the redefining of the entries to the class, a recently opened loophole was once again closed. When the minutes of the Grand Prix Commission from the Sachsenring were announced, it looked as if it cleared the way to allow a four-rider factory team. That was never the intention of the rule, though a miscommunication meant that the minutes were so worded as to make it an option. At Indianapolis, that option was closed again, with each manufacturer allowed a total of four entries as a Factory Option, but only two in the factory team.
The full rules for both this season and next are available on the FIM website. For details of the 2014 rules - including full details of the spec ECU - search in the PDF file for "2014".