2014 MotoGP Rules Confusion – And Who is Riding What?

2014 MotoGP Rules Confusion - And Who is Riding What?
Drive M7 Aspar Honda's Nicky Hayden (Open Option)

2014 MotoGP Rules

MotoGP has suffered in recent years with smaller grid numbers and some criticism (not entirely unwarranted) that the show is compromised by only having the same four bikes/riders capable of winning.

So Dorna – the governing body of MotoGP –  has tweaked the technical rules several times with the aim of tightening up the racing, and enticing the independent teams back to the starting grid.

The 2014 technical rules are straightforward – teams have to run a spec ECU (computer black box), but, until 2016, can run their own engine management software. Factory teams also must use spec Bridgestone tires in Medium and Hard compound, 20 liters of maximum fuel capacity per race, and a maximum of five engines per season.

These rules keep the Factory teams happy as the considerable engine hardware, and engine management software technical challenges, justify the expense of their so called “rolling test-beds.”

But as it turns out, these technical challenges are far too big for anyone other than Honda and Yamaha. So to level the playing field, and help those teams who cannot afford a pit full of software engineers and who only have access to slower or thirstier motors, Dorna is allowing exceptions to the rules. Those entrants will now compete under the “Open” option.

Teams entered under these Open rules have to run the spec software as provided by Magneti Marelli, but they can use Bridgestone’s Soft compound tire, are allowed 24 liters of fuel per race, and can use up to 12 engines per season.

A wrench was thrown into the works when Ducati — clearly a “Factory” effort — decided to work within the Open option rules for 2014. Ducati’s logic was simple, and very understandable: The manufacturer’s development has lagged behind in the past few years, and it has no interest in racing a series that restricts their engines to the existing ones.

Ducati needs to develop new stuff, and be able to compete with it and see if it’s improved. In addition, the rules were adjusted slightly so that the Magneti Marelli spec ECU software could be contributed to and enhanced by any team — provided the improved is software available to everyone. And that made it much better – closer to the Factory software, if you will.

Naturally Honda and Yamaha could see that suddenly they were somewhat painted into a corner: here’s a Factory (Ducati) that clearly has the resources to develop its bike — and under the Open rules it would be allowed to do that — and yet Honda/Yamaha have almost complete restriction.

Additionally, the fuel limitation reduces the power output of an engine fairly dramatically; Ducati without that handicap could quite likely produce enough power to claw back some of its cornering problems on the straights. Indeed, in practice at Qatar we were treated to the sight of Andrea Ianonne on the “Open” Ducati (Pramac Racing GP14) cruising past Valentino Rossi on the Factory Yamaha (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1) on the straight.

So another addendum to the rules was introduced; it is effectively an Open-option handicapping system in case those teams get too good. If an Open-option team (and that includes all the bikes on that team) finishes a dry race in first place, once; second place, twice; or third place, three times; then the team’s fuel capacity is restricted to 22 liters of fuel (from 24) and they can no longer use the soft option Bridgestone tire.

A second wrench jarred things a bit more when NGM Forward Racing (leasing full-spec Yamaha engines) announced that their FTR chassis would not be ready for the season, and they would be leasing both the engine and rolling chassis from Yamaha — in other words, a MotoGP machine with different bodywork.

This rather upset Honda, who had followed Dorna’s instructions literally, and produced an entirely standalone “production” race bike — the RCV1000R. Although a complete machine based on the factory bike, the specification is somewhat diluted, most noticeably with conventional valve springs instead of pneumatic ones, and that limits it to a lower rev ceiling and therefore less power.

So we have almost three different classes in any MotoGP race in 2014! Weird as that may be however, it has to be said, judging by the recent Qatar round, that the show is excellent.

For example: the top-10 qualifiers on the grid in Qatar were all within half a second in lap time. Valentino Rossi, who qualified tenth, actually finished second, and came within a whisker of winning.

So without judgment as to the good or bad of Dorna’s latest technical rules, here is a rundown of what each team and rider are riding this year:

Factory Option Class [Full MotoGP bikes. Proprietary software; 20 liter fuel limit; hard/medium tires only; 5x engines season limit]:

  • #93  Marc Marquez,   Repsol Honda team

  • Dani Pedrosa,   Repsol Honda team
  • #99  Jorge Lorenzo,   Yamaha Factory Racing
  • #46  Valentino Rossi,   Yamaha Factory Racing
  • #6   Stefan Bradl,   LCR Honda MotoGP
  • #19  Alvaro Bautista,  Go&Fun Honda Gresini
  • #38  Bradley Smith,   Monster Yamaha Tech 3
  • #44  Pol Espargaro,   Monster Yamaha Tech 3

Open Option Class with MotoGP engines: [Full MotoGP bikes. Open/Spec software; 24 liter fuel limit; hard/medium/soft tire options; 12x engines season limit]:

  • #04   Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati
  • #35   Cal Crutchlow,   Ducati
  • #29   Andrea Iannone,   Pramac Racing Ducati
  • #68   Yonny Hernandez,   Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Ducati
  • #41   Aleix Espargaro,   NGM Forward Racing Yamaha
  • #5   Colin Edwards,   NGM Forward Racing Yamaha

Open Option Class with “Other” engines: [MotoGP bikes with diluted spec or production based engines. Open/Spec software; 24 liter fuel limit; hard/medium/soft tire options; 12x engines season limit]:

  • #69   Nicky Hayden,  Drive M7 Aspar Honda [Honda RCV1000R production racer*, coil spring valves]
  • #7   Hiroshi Aoyama,  Drive M7 Aspar Honda [Honda RCV1000R production racer*, coil spring valves]
  • #45   Scott Redding,  Go&Fun Honda Gresini [Honda RCV1000R production racer*, coil spring valves]
  • #17   Karel Abraham,  Cardion AB Motoracing [Honda RCV1000R production racer*, coil spring valves]
  • #8   Hector Barbera, Avintia Racing [Kawasaki inline 4 with pneumatic valves]
  • #63   Mike di Meglio, Avintia Racing [Kawasaki inline 4 with pneumatic valves]
  • #9   Danilo Petrucci,  Ioda Racing Project [Aprilia V4, coil spring valves]
  • #23   Broc Parkes, Paul Bird Motorsport PBM [Aprilia V4, coil spring valves]
  • #70   Michael Laverty, Paul Bird Motorsport PBM [Aprilia V4, coil spring valves]

* Note: The RCV1000R is supplied by Honda with only a 22.2 Liter tank, and so that slightly limited the power of the bikes in Qatar. They are actually allowed 24 Liters under the Open rules, so presumably one of the first customer updates by Honda will be to supply a replacement 24 Liter tank, so these guys can crank up the power some. 

Will the sticky tires and extra power make up for the lesser electronics over race distance and make the independent teams more competitive, or will they just shine briefly in qualifying? And if it does make a difference, which tracks will it work better on… the big open fast ones, or the shorter, twistier ones? That remains to be seen. Stay tuned!