It has been ten days since Carmelo Ezpeleta announced to an unsuspecting world that a new category would be added to the MotoGP class to contain Ducati, the 'Factory 2' class. The change was to be ratified on Tuesday, 11th March, in a telephone meeting of the Grand Prix Commission, and Ezpeleta was confident that it would go through without too many problems.
Tuesday came and went, and no agreement had been reached. In fact, it has taken all week and much of this weekend for the situation to approach a resolution. Sources with knowledge of the situation have now confirmed that an agreement will be announced on Monday, allowing the rules to be set in place for the start of the season on Thursday, 20th March.
The precise details of the agreement are not clear, but the rules are unlikely to be very far off the proposal put forward by Dorna in response to complaints from the Open teams. The name looks set to change, the category no longer being called 'Factory 2', but merely as Open. According to the German language website Speedweek, the limits imposed by the Factory 2 status - reduction from 24 to 22.5 liters of fuel, and from 12 engines to 9 - will apply for each of the three Ducati riders separately, if they achieve a win, two 2nd places or three 3rds. The rest of the Open class rules - most importantly, not being subject to the Factory Option engine development freeze and free to test at any circuit they like - will remain in place.
The new system looks set to be applied only to the three factory-backed Ducati riders, Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Iannone. All other Open teams will continue under the existing rules, as they use the less complex 2013 Magneti Marelli software, rather than the 2014 software which so far, only Ducati have expressed any interest in running. How the situation will change throughout the season is as yet unknown, with a meeting set to take place among the Open teams at the test after the Jerez round of MotoGP. A simpler solution would have been to simply force all of the teams - including Ducati - to run the simpler 2013 Magneti Marelli software, while development continued on the 2014 software. The 2013 software had not slowed Aleix Espargaro up on the Forward Yamaha, our source pointed out.
There appear to have been few concessions made to the MSMA under the deal. There were earlier rumors that Factory Option entries would be allowed switch to the Open class at any time during the season. However, given Honda's opposition to the spec championship software, the only team which this may have benefited is the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. Speedweek suggest that the GPC has agreed to extend the deal to allow any team to retain Factory Option status and run their own software through 2017, an extra year after the original contract was due to terminate at the end of 2016. What is clear from all this, however, is that the days of factories developing their own software are numbered, and the spec software will be adopted soon enough. MotoGP is drawing ever closer to a single set of rules applying to all competitors equally, which has been the aim of Dorna, IRTA and the FIM all along.