The Grand Prix Commission has made a couple of minor changes to the MotoGP regulations for the 2017 season, and unlike many rule changes, at least one of them will be met with outright joy by most MotoGP fans.
The biggest change to be announced is the adoption of Michelin's wireless technology that allows them to automatically identify which tire a rider is using, and pass that information back to the Dorna data feed. This data will then be available to all teams and riders, but far more importantly, it will also be available to TV broadcasters. No longer will they have to rely on the sterling work of pit lane reporters such as MotoGP.com's excellent Dylan Gray, they will have the information at their fingertips.
Though the press release issued by the Grand Prix Commission does not mention it, fans will have to fervently hope that tire selection will also be made public on the official MotoGP.com live timing website, and on the MotoGP mobile app. That would add an extra dimension to fan enjoyment of practice and the race.
The information on which tires are fitted to a bike is relayed though the spec Magneti Marelli ECU. The information is then passed back to Race Direction (and then on to Dorna's data feed) through the full duplex communication channels in the circuit timing loops. Having the information available inside the ECU will also allow the tire information to be displayed on the dashboard of the bikes, removing any confusion over which tires are fitted to a particular bike.
However, this does not mean that the bikes will be able to automatically switch engine maps according to the tires fitted. This will only be possible if all six MotoGP manufacturers agree to updated the spec software to enable this.
Additional soft tire in Q2
Tires are also central to the other tweak to MotoGP rules. From 2017, any rider passing into Q2 from Q1 will be given the option of swapping one of the harder compound tires in their allocation for a softer tire. The total number of rear tires allocated will not change, but allowing the riders coming through from Q1 gives them a better chance of being able to qualify well.
This is only an advantage if riders still have enough tires to use in the race, however. If they are through their allocation of softer tires, but intend to race the harder compound, then they may not be willing to sacrifice one of their harder tires for an additional soft, and would be forced to use an already used softer tire to qualify. But as that is the status quo, there is no change.
An interesting alternative was offered by Rick Elliot on Twitter:
@motomatters Perhaps in the way satellite teams had concessions in previous years, it should be a concession for any satellite team 1/2— Rick Elliott (@RickElliott2) December 21, 2016
@motomatters 2/2 making it into Q2. Factory riders should be making it straight into Q2 anyway.— Rick Elliott (@RickElliott2) December 21, 2016
There is some merit to this argument. Factory riders have the data and support to manage their tire allocation better, and so should be able to manage with the existing allocation. If a rider from an independent team should make it through to Q2 from Q1, it would be an interesting proposition to allow them to have one extra tire in their allocation, instead of being allowed to swap a harder tire for a softer tire. That would be a very small concession to make to the independent teams, without radically interfering in the balance between factory and satellite teams. Whether the rule makers are willing to listen is another question altogether.
The official FIM press release containing the updated rules appears 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 Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in an electronic meeting held on 15th. December 2016, made the following decisions:
Technical Regulations – MotoGP class
Effective Season 2017
Automatic Detection of Tyre Types
In collaboration with Michelin and the MotoGP class manufacturers a new system will be implemented that will enable automatic detection of the tyres that that riders are using and to make that information available to all riders and teams as well as to the TV broadcasters.
The tyre detection is made by means of wireless technology. The information is then fed to the unified ECU and routed to the track timing system which reports via an updated version of the unified software.
To address the issue of a perceived disadvantage affecting riders who progress from QP1 to QP2, the two riders involved will now be able to choose an additional soft specification rear slick tyre. The total number of tyres available to such riders remains unchanged.
Addendum – Tyre Allocations
In the information released concerning decisions of the Grand Prix Commission in Madrid held on the 2nd. of December it was stated that the maximum number of wet and dry track tyres remains unchanged.
This was incorrect. The maximum number of wet weather tyres has been changed to five front and six rear. (Race Direction can still approve an additional allocation of one extra front and rear tyres when all free practice and qualifying is held in wet conditions).
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on: