The FIM is taking further steps to contain the cost of aerodynamics. The banning of winglets decided earlier this year was made on two grounds: removing the danger of being struck by a protruding wing, and reducing the potentially astronomical cost of an aerodynamic war beginning. Banning winglets would prevent the first issue from being a problem, but would do nothing to address the second point. Indeed, with the aerodynamics cat well and truly out of the bag, the factories have already hinted that their focus would switch to fairing design.
The Grand Prix Commission have moved to stop that war starting before it begins. From 2017, factories will have to homologate fairing and front mudgard designs, with only one upgrade to each allowed per season. The idea behind it is to allow factories to continue to develop aerodynamics, but to limit the amount of time and money spent in search of wheelie prevention.
The rules do leave one loophole open, however. The aerodynamic homologation rules apply to each rider separately. In theory, each rider on a Yamaha, Honda, or Ducati could start with a different fairing, the results of which could be assessed by the factory to help develop the next homologated version of the fairing for use in mid-season.
Theoretically, this could mean that Ducati could start the season with 8 different fairing designs, one for each of the different bikes on the grid. They could then take this data and improve the fairing design for each individual Ducati rider, supplying 8 different upgrades. This would of course be prohibitively expensive, but there is a chance that some factories (especially Ducati, who are convinced of the benefits of aerodynamics) could phase development, providing early updated versions of fairings to satellite teams, to assess performance before rolling them out to the factory teams.
The allowance of an aerodynamics package per rider also recognizes the different needs of riders. For example, Dani Pedrosa has abandoned wings altogether this season, while Marc Marquez has pushed for ever larger wings. This new rule would allow the two riders to run different fairings with different aerodynamic characteristics.
Airbags in Leathers
The Grand Prix Commission also introduced a rule making airbags in rider leathers compulsory from the 2018 season. This has been made possible by the main manufacturers of airbags, Alpinestars and Dainese, agreeing to license their technology to other manufacturers. That means more leather manufacturers will be able to use airbags without having to develop the complex electronics and sensor systems which are required for the airbags to trigger correctly.
The final announcement of interest in the minutes of the GPC meeting is the putting out to tender for a spec electronics system in Moto2. With the contract to supply engines to Moto2 coming up for renewal at the start of 2019, this is opening new opportunities for engine suppliers.
The change of engine suppliers also allows Dorna and IRTA to get a tighter grip on the electronics. One of the constant problems which Moto2 has faced has been the fact that the HRC kit ECU has been so easy to hack, mainly because the kits is in widespread use in 600cc racing series around the world, and a lot of people have had an opportunity to crack the system and change the parameters. That has been made more difficult in recent years, with a more secure upgrade introduced at the beginning of last season. Despite that, there are paddock rumors that the new system has also been cracked, and that teams are running the Moto2 engines beyond the supposed limits set by the HRC ECU.
Having a bespoke spec system should prevent that. Having control over the Moto2 ECU software should allow Dorna and IRTA to clamp down more effectively on cheating in Moto2.
However, the call for tender for the new spec ECU reveals that Dorna expect electronics to become more sophisticated in Moto2. The system will be required to manage two injectors per cylinder for up to four cylinders, allow ride-by-wire, and supply various engine and chassis strategies. The named requirements include gearshift management (i.e. quickshifter management), traction control, wheelie control, launch control, engine braking and torque maps.
The change to a more sophisticated electronics package should make the transition from Moto2 to MotoGP a little easier. At the moment, the electronics in Moto3 are far more sophisticated than Moto2, meaning riders go backwards before advancing on to the (even with spec software) much more complex strategies of MotoGP. The call for a more complex spec ECU and software package should provide a better middle ground between Moto3 and MotoGP.
The FIM press release announcing the changes is shown below:
FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on Saturday 15th October 2016, made the following decisions:
MotoGP Class Aerodynamic Evolution – Effective 2017
In the interests of cost saving there will be a limit on the number of upgrades that a manufacturer can make to the design of their fairing or front mudguard during the season.
Initial designs will be homologated by the Technical Director at the first event of the season. Thereafter, only one upgrade of the fairing and one upgrade of the front mudguard is permitted in that season. The restriction will apply “per rider” and not per make of motorcycle.
Riders’ Leathers – Effective 2018
In an effort to improve rider safety, leathers used by riders must be equipped with an approved inflatable airbag device. (This proposal was supported by all current suppliers in their safety working group).
Appointment of Liqui-Moly
The Commission approved the re-appointment of Liqui-Moly as the official supplier of oil for the Moto3 and Moto2 classes for the three years 2018-2020.
Tender for Moto2 ECU Supply
The Commission agreed that an invitation to tender for the supply of an ECU for the Moto2 class should be announced. The tender will open on 16th October and close on 9th November and be for a three-year period 2019-2021.
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on: