We’re just days away from the start of the 2014 MotoGP season and one would think it’s a little late for series organizers to make any significant rule changes. At least, one would think that if one were unfamiliar with the political back-and-forths going on between the major manufacturers and MotoGP promoter Dorna.
But with the season-opening Qatar round about to begin, the Grand Prix Commission approved new rules establishing a compromise between the new Factory and Open options. The new regulations allow new manufacturers or current manufacturers that haven’t won a race over the last year to compete with their own ECU software but the other Open option rules. Should they prove to be too successful however, the manufacturers would lose some of those Open option benefits.
Under the current rules, the Factory option allows teams to use their own ECU software but are limited to 20 liters (5.3 gallons) of fuel per race, a maximum of five engines per rider in a season and are barred from developing engines during the season.
The Open option, originally designed to give privateer teams a better chance of being competitive, are allowed 24 liters (6.3 gallons) of fuel, are allowed 12 engines per season, are allowed to continue developing engines and have access to a softer tire compound. As with the Factory option, Open teams use the same spec ECU hardware but are restricted to a standardized software.
Ducati threw a wrench into the works by deciding to enter under the Open option to take advantage of the chance to continue tinkering with its engines and the rest of the option’s advantages. This drew a strong reaction from Honda which believed the move undermined the purpose of the Open option. The result of the behind-doors negotiations was the creation of a new compromise.
The result is Ducati will continue to be considered a “Factory” team, but otherwise receives the benefits of Open teams, a status some have unofficially nicknamed “Factory 2”. Should Ducati, or any other manufacturer operating under as a “Factory 2” win a race, score two second-place results or three third-place finishes under dry conditions, that manufacturer would have its fuel capacity reduced to 22 liters (5.8 gallons) per race. If the manufacturer wins three races in 2014, it will lose the option of the softer tires. The manufacturer would also have to abide by these new restrictions in the 2015 season.
Though Ducati is the obvious target of these new rules, they also apply to other prospective manufacturers such as Suzuki which is planning to return to MotoGP racing in 2015 but may decide to enter select rounds this season as a wildcard. Suzuki would be allowed to do so as a Factory team with Open option benefits, but should they beat the odds and win as a wild card, it would have to adopt the 22-liter fuel capacity in 2015. There are a lot of “ifs” in this scenario, but it could conceivably happen.