This year, MotoGP’s technical regulations face a massive overhaul. From the abolition of the Open Class to standard ECUs and change of tyre manufacturer, 2016 will see one class governed by one set of rules, but with concessions allowed for less accomplished manufacturers. Confused? No problem! Here’s what you need to know.
By far the biggest rule change is the switch to a standard ECU. Every bike must be fitted with the same unified hardware, and software supplied by Magneti Marelli. Honda, Yamaha and Ducati have all had input into the software’s development and will all input into its refinement until the end of the season. If there’s a change all three manufacturers agree needs implementing, Magneti Marelli are duty bound to oblige. Likewise, they have the right to veto any changes proposed by Dorna.
The switch to standard software essentially means a more level playing field for the entire grid. There is no Open Class, though concessions are still available to those manufacturers new or returning to the championship – ie Suzuki and Aprilia, and KTM as of 2017.
To allow Suzuki and Aprilia the opportunity to catch up to Honda, Yamaha and Ducati in terms of machine development, they have been allowed a number of concessions. The allowances are similar to those offered to Ducati in 2015, without which the Italian team likely would have abandoned the championship after a years-long struggle.
These allowances are not as extreme as the Open Class rules, but are nevertheless essential to the long term health of the championship. As well as the unified software and hardware – essentially meaning power delivery is more closely matched for all bikes – concessions teams will run the same fuel allocation and the same tyre choices. It’s worth noting that the minimum weight has been reduced to 157 kilos and fuel is capped at 22 litres for both concessions and non-concessions teams – the idea being the extra two litres for non-concession manufacturers allows for more experimentation while adapting to the new standard ECUs.
The benefit of concessions lies in development and testing. For the big three – Honda, Yamaha and Ducati – engine development will be frozen as of the first round in Qatar. Suzuki and Aprilia, however, will be allowed to continue development throughout the year. They are allowed nine engines for the season (versus the big three’s seven) along with unlimited testing. Honda, Yamaha and Ducati are limited to an additional five days testing on top of the official IRTA tests to take place on the Monday after three European rounds throughout the season.
Teams able to take advantage of the concession rules will be determined by their level of success, which is the same points system awarded for podium finishes in 2015 – three for a win, two for second and one for third. As soon as the manufacturer scores six points they will immediately lose testing privileges for the rest of the season, and all other concessions the following year.
These new rules mean that if a manufacturer was to experience a downturn in development – eg if Ducati, Yamaha or Honda were to not score a single podium in 2016 – they will earn the same concession benefits for 2017.
Another major change in the 2016 rules is the switch from Bridgestone to Michelin as MotoGP’s exclusive tyre supplier. But that’s not the only change. Wheel sizes have increased from 16.5 to 17 inches and there is the addition of an intermediate tyre for changeable conditions.
Michelin will bring the choice of two compounds to each round, and riders will choose their preferred tyre after the first day of free practice. They will then have 10 front and 12 rear tyres at their disposal, with a maximum of seven tyres of their preferred compound. So if the rider prefers the soft option, for example, they will be allowed either seven or six soft option fronts (with three or four hard for their 10 front-tyre maximum), and seven or six soft rears (plus five or six harder option tyres for their 12-maximum rear allocation).
In exceptional circumstances – see Phillip Island in 2013 – Michelin will have the option of bringing a third compound to the race meeting, of which riders will have an additional three front and five rear tyres.
As for wets and intermediates, riders can choose from two compounds of wets, with a maximum of six compound A or three compound B out of an allocation of seven. The new intermediate tyres will be capped at three per weekend.
Teams will have an allocation of 120 tyres per rider available for testing throughout the season.
Regulations have been placed on riders’ gear, which must now meet standards set by the ISO and EN, and overseen by MotoGP’s technical director Danny Aldridge. Equipment such as helmets, leathers, gloves and boots must now meet a minimum standard. Additional body armour such as back and chest protectors are now compulsory and must be worn by all riders. Rider equipment safety standards must be met after a rider’s tumble – so riders may be prevented from returning to the track if their gear is damaged. Such incidents will be monitored by Aldridge and also onsite manufacturers of the products, for example Dainese and Alpinestars.
Amid safety concerns, winglets will also now be regulated. The addition of the aerodynamic aids used by Ducati in 2015 – also making an appearance on Yamaha occasionally through the year and Honda in pre-season testing – will be the subject of closer scrutiny. Under new rules, winglets may not exceed the width of the faring and its edge must have a minimum radius of 2.5mm – in other words a rounded edge rather than being a razor sharp protrusion.
Although the penalty points system is still in place, the only action to be taken is the disqualification of riders who accumulate 10 points on their licence. Previous penalties at four points (starting from the back of the grid) and seven points (starting from pit lane) no longer apply.
It’s also worth noting that there is a new panel of stewards known as the FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel. They will have the responsibility of issuing penalties to riders in incidents where actions and consequences are not considered a matter of fact. Matter of fact incidents are those which are black and white, eg speeding in pit lane, passing under a yellow. Should there be incidents similar to that in Sepang, riders involved will report to this panel.
Penalties may be appealed to the FIM MotoGP Court of Appeal within four days of issue.
There have been a number of changes to starting procedures and the way teams and riders must conduct themselves. Riders’ starting positions on the grid have been more precisely defined. How this appears to viewers is yet to be made clear.
If rain starts to fall while riders are on the grid preparing for the race, the delay to the start of the race has been reduced while still allowing teams enough time to make necessary adjustments to wet weather settings.
There is no longer a fixed penalty for passing under a yellow flag. In the past riders were told to drop a position, now penalties are more flexible dependant on circumstances and track position. This may still include a rider’s drop in position.
In the wake of The Sepang Clash, riders and teams are no longer permitted to issue statements or press releases considered unsporting or damaging to the championship. Loosely, Honda would not have been allowed to accuse Valentino Rossi of kicking Marc Marquez’s brake lever, and equally Yamaha could not accuse Marquez of riding shotgun to Jorge Lorenzo. These limitations will not, however, affect their teams’ rights to legitimately question organisers’ policies or decisions.
The 2016 season begins in Qatar on March 17.