“I think MotoGP will change very much after next year.” Valentino Rossi.
MotoGP is once again set to enter a new era - that of a standard ECU and software package being introduced for the 2016 season and with the change to Michelin tires coming in the same year the belief amongst most is that these changes will see a more competitive championship. But will it bring more shoulder-to-shoulder racing from the best riders in the world or will the main factory teams be able to get the edge on the rest?
Most riders are looking forward to a more level playing field and just this week, seven times MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi said one of his main motivations to sign for another two years with Movistar Yamaha was the allure of the 2016 season. "I think MotoGP will change very much after next year. Because two of the crucial things, which are electronics and tires, will be different so maybe it will be another kind of riding style, another way to control the bike. It is like a ‘year zero,’” Rossi said at the official MotoGP press conference at the Sachsenring.
The issue of a standard ECU and software for the MotoGP grid has been debated at length with the privateer teams naturally in favor of the proposal while the factory teams (Repsol Honda&Movistar Yamaha) were mainly against the idea at the start with the main commercial reason for the manufacturers’ participation in the class being down to technical progression that can transfer into their respective road-going machines. This year saw the introduction of a standard ECU with the smaller teams using a Magnetti Marelli package while the factory teams used their own software – a compromise made with series owners Dorna.
While the introduction of the standard ECU seemed to have worked to a point, the factory teams are still the ones who have got the jump on the rest with Marc Marquez proving as much last season and also this year. Most riders believe that with the standard software package being introduced in less than two seasons it will see the field leveled somewhat and with the new Michelin tires it should make it more competitive for everyone but the one thing that only a few have mentioned, but something that every person in the MotoGP paddock knows, budget it everything.
MotoGP factory teams now spend an equal amount, if not more in developing their super-sophisticated electronics packages in order to extract every ounce of their machine’s BHP levels, and when the contact patch between a MotoGP machine and a race surface just the width of a credit card; it’s easy to see why teams will pay so much. So will the rest of the MotoGP teams have the budget to effectively use the standard electronics package in 2016? Maybe not as even this year the Open class teams were offered a more powerful electronics package but they didn’t have the resources to fully exploit the advantages offered.
Maybe one of the ways that the field will be more competitive in 2016 will be the fact that all teams will have an input into the final package but that doesn’t mean that all teams will be able to utilize it to the fullest with resources and budget once again the main issue here while Suzuki, who are set to return in 2015, has been hard at work testing the Magnetti Marelli ECU and it’s own software after signifying that it will re-enter the championship as a Factory team and not in the Open Class.
Dorna is not relying on electronics alone to level the playing field and making the racing more exciting for the trackside fans and the millions of TV viewers worldwide though; there are other rules aimed at shrinking the gap to the frontmen. When a team declares itself as a Factory entry it is restricted to 20 liters of race fuel with just five, sealed engines to last the season while the Open class teams are allowed to race with 24 liters, develop their engines throughout the season and currently have the option of a super-soft rear Bridgestone tire.
The Open rules are proving to be a slight leveler with NGM Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro consistently lapping at the top of the timing sheets during the practice and qualifying sessions this year but once raceday comes it is still the Factory teams who have the edge with race pace and on tires that will last the distance. While the changes in rules continue to seek to make racing more competitive it seems that the old combination of rider and machine, riding within the permitted rules and teams having the budget to fully develop their machines within these rules is still the most effective combination.