After an exciting and nail biting season last year, which saw a rookie clinch the title,sending the more experienced riders running for cover, MotoGP heads to the 2014season with rule changes aplenty.
For this year, MotoGP consists of two entries; the Factory Option and the OpenCategory. We are done with the term CRT from this year onwards. As a change,all machines will run an official 'standardised' electronics unit produced by Italiancompany Magneti Marelli, regardless of whether they are Factory or Open. Entriesare distinguished by the ECU software they use, i.e. Factory bikes have the option todesign their own software to work with the standard commissioned hardware. Openbikes can only use standard hardware and software combination. This looks to be aclear advantage for Factory bikes again, but here is the catch.
A Factory bike is restricted to just 20 litres of fuel for a race (down by 1 litre from lastyear) and are allocated only five engines for a whole season. In addition the engineswill be sealed at the start of the season with freeze on further development. Testing islimited to just three official post-race tests as well.
An Open bike (essentially a factory engine on a private chassis) on the other hand cancarry 24 litres of fuel, use 12 engines for the season and are allowed to carry out anyform of development on the engine. In addition they are allowed to use softer tyresthan the Factory bikes as well and are granted unlimited testing.
This promises to give the Open bikes a fighting chance against the Factory bikes.The rules also confirm that new MotoGP manufacturers entering as Factory Optioncan have nine engines in their first year. This is paving the way for Suzuki's return tothe sport in 2015.
Ducati managed to find a loophole in the new rulings and decided to run their factorybikes with standard ECU software. As a result, this will let them carry unlimiteddevelopment on their engines and exploit other leverages on fuel and tyres andtesting which applies to the Open Class bikes. This could well prove to be a possibleadvantage over its rivals in the long run. To even out the divergence, Grand PrixCommission reverted with a Factory 2 rule which states that a manufacturer withentries under the Factory Option who has not achieved a win in dry conditions in theprevious years are allowed to follow the same rules as Open Class bikes for this year.
On the flip side should any rider or combination of riders nominated by the sameManufacturer, achieve a race win, two second places or three podium places in dryconditions during the 2014 season then for that manufacturer the fuel tank capacitywill be reduced to 22 litres. Furthermore, should the same manufacturer achieve threerace wins in the 2014 season it loses the right to use the soft tyres available to OpenClass entries.
In each case the reduced concessions will apply to the remaining events of the 2014season and the whole of the 2015 season. As for 2016, the championship ECU andsoftware will be mandatory for all entries with effect from 2016, thus creating acommon platform for all.
The regulations have a clear objective of reducing the gap between the Factory andOpen Class bikes. Last year CRTs were no match for the Factory machines, so eventhough they were filling the grid as intended, they were eating the factory bike'sdust every race. In fact it was officially a two way championship which didn't makeany sense. New rules seem to have brought a new lease of life though, with AleixEsparago of NGM Forward Racing (Open Category) consistently finishing amongthe top factory bikes during testing. Ducati too have found their lost pace and arechallenging the likes of Honda and Yamaha factory racers much to their dislike. Thisyear's rules, amid many changes and confusion might just prove to be the right recipefor wheel to wheel racing up and down the grid.