Technical rule changes confirmed for the 2016 MotoGP season
As MotoGP enters its 68th season, it will undergo the biggest overhaul in rules and regulations the sport has seen in a while. Last year’s dramatic title win by Jorge Lorenzo over Valentino Rossi is still fresh in people’s minds and remains a hot topic of discussion.
With the changes in regulations, it will have to be seen which teams and drivers will benefit the most while who will be on the losing side, as such is the nature of the new regulations that it is predicted to favour some, and cause a downslide for others.
Below is a look at the various changes in regulations to be introduced this year.
Unified Electronic Unit
For a while now, the teams have been allowed to utilize their own electronic software. But that will not be the case this year onwards, when all the teams will be required to run the same or unified electronic unit. This package will be known as Electronic Control Unit (ECU), with any changes to the unit needing the unanimous approval of the three factory teams that is Honda, Yamaha and Ducati before implementation.
Reversion to a single class
Majorly the use of a single electronic package by all teams will mean that all the teams will operate under the same specifications. This will result in elimination of division of the grid between factory and open class, rather there will only be a single class.
This introduction should play a major role towards decreasing the gap between the manufacturer and customer teams.
Arrival of Michelin as sole tyre supplier
Michelin marks a return to the sport as sole tyre supplier, replacing Bridgestone who had handled the duties since 2002.
The French tyre manufacturer has had a glorious history in MotoGP, with several riders winning championships with it over the past few decades, but following its unceremonious exit at the end of 2008, Michelin will surely look to make amends and formulate a fresh start in the sport.
Same tyre allocation
Last season, the teams granted concessions had the advantage of using soft rear tyres. This rule has been done away with entirely this year, with same tyre allocation for all teams.
Modification in concession rules
One of the major changes this year has been to the concession rules. The teams which have benefitted from concession rules will continue to get the benefit of such rules, but there have been some modifications to this.
With effect from this year, a points system has been introduced according to which any team gaining 6 points under the rule will not be eligible for any further concessions.
This points system is based on the following arrangement: 3 points for every first place finish, 2 points for every second place finish, and 1 point for every third place finish.
Any team garnering 6 such points will not get concession, that is it will not be allowed to do unlimited testing during the ongoing season itself while other concessions like advantage of using 12 engines as opposed to 7 engines, in-season engine development, etc will not be allowed from the subsequent seasons.
Currently Honda, Yamaha and Ducati are the teams which will not get any concessions.
Maximum fuel limit
The maximum fuel limit for every team has been set at 22 litres. The limit serves as a midway between 20 litres for Factory teams and 24 litres for Open teams, which existed earlier.
Minimum Vehicle Weight
The minimum vehicle weight this year has been reduced from 158 kg to 157 kg. There were proposals to reduce the weight further to 156 kg, but it was felt that it would too soon to implement such change, given that it was only last year when minimum weight was brought down to 158 kg.
Maximum Number of Engines
There was a huge debate as to the maximum number of engines to be allowed to the teams. The Japanese manufacturers’ Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki all wanted 6 engines, while their Italian counterparts Ducati and Aprilla were in favour of 9 engines per season. Finally, a compromise has been reached amongst the manufacturers, according to which they have agreed for a maximum of 7 engines per season.
Approval of safety measures towards drivers’ equipment
Even with all the safety measures introduced, MotoGP still remains one of the most dangerous sports in the world, with two fatalities in the last decade and numerous serious injuries suffered by the riders.
In order to address this issue, the quality of helmets, boots, leathers, gloves, etc have been further improved.
Most of the above changes have been made with a view to have a level playing field, an aspect which MotoGP has lacked for the past several years. Crucially, doing away with factory and open class should serve as a major catalyst towards the said purpose.
But nothing can be said with certainty; the real pecking order will only emerge after the five red lights go out at the opening round of the season in Qatar on 20th March.