It’s a year of change both on- and off-track in MotoGP in 2017. A few tweaks to some regulations affecting both bike and rider aside, the majority of these changes appear on the grid.
In my first piece on Traction Control, though, let’s cover the dull boring stuff most fans aren’t interested in. It’s been a while since I wrote about bikes, so I’m going to ease myself in.
When Dorna announced the arrival of KTM as a constructor, they also announced a set of limitations on the entire MotoGP field, something which could have had some major ramifications for some of the constructors, but in truth hasn’t made a grand deal of difference for this year.
In addition to restricting the overall field to 24 riders, each manufacturer now has to have a team of two factory engines, and put at least two machines up for tender to customer teams. This is nothing new for the likes of Ducati, Yamaha and Honda, but could have been an issue for Suzuki, and even KTM.
The idea, I believe, was to have an even playing field of six manufacturers – Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha – with two factory riders and two customer bikes. 6×2 being 12 and 12×2 being 24, etc etc. It hasn’t worked out like that though. KTM get a pass on account of being new, but no-one has bought a Suzuki bike – probably because the riders on it last year were far outperforming their machinery – and no-one has bought an Aprilia, likely because it is a work in progress still.
So this year, the field consists of eight Ducatis, five Hondas, four Yamahas, two Suzukis, two Aprilias and two KTMs. Whether this changes as the bikes change over the next four years is anyone’s guess, but for now it seems a little skewed.
In the coming weeks I’ll be previewing each team and what they bring to the table.
Intermediate tyres are now no longer a thing.
They were introduced at the request of teams and Dorna themselves, but were barely ever used, mostly because they were never really ideal in any situation – they were no good on a properly wet circuit, and they cut up far too quickly on a drier track.
Instead, there will be four types of dry tyres for the teams to choose from, up from three last year, in addition to the full wet. Michelin were already bringing four sets of tyres anyway, giving three choices to the teams to use over the weekend, so it isn’t much of a change for them.
A sustainable future?
It’s not exactly a secret that it is expensive to run a racing team – look at the way the bottom end of the Formula One grid constantly struggles to make ends meet. Dorna have decided to address those concerns head on.
There will be price caps for engine components, as well as increased central funding for teams from the paymasters, aimed at reducing the personal costs of the teams to keep them financially stable. The team grid is supposedly set in stone until 2021, and Dorna do not want a team unable to afford their commitments.
Tighter controls on changeable conditions
We all love it when it starts to rain mid-race. You see people up the front, chancing their arm on the drier parts of a track, that would never be there otherwise – Danilo Petrucci’s second place at Silverstone in 2015 springs to mind.
Dorna are trying to make pit lane a safer place for the bike switches. Only four mechanics will be allowed on pit lane for these changes, and they must have approved helmets on. One mechanic is allowed to hold the bike in place, and he is allowed to hold the clutch in to avoid a misplaced gear and a bike shooting off. However, the bike must be in neutral – only the rider can change gear.
Any other business
On-bike tyre pressure regulators are now disallowed, as are wings, probably to the dismay of Ducati.
There are also some tiny tweaks, such as the riders not being responsible for deploying safety lights (this will now be an electronic thing), and the restriction of usage of non-homologated sensors in all sessions except FP4 and warm-up. Why you’d bother using non-homologated sensors for two sessions out of eight I’m not sure.
One interesting tweak is the tightening of a rule that states riders must be back in pit lane five minutes after the stopping of a race – be that chequered flag, or red flag in the event of a stoppage. This has been in place before, but now is being tightened so that the riders must be in pit lane or will not be allowed to take part in any restarted race.
Most of this is just waffle and the usual playing around with things that happens in off-season, but the increased central funding is a key point. It won’t matter much to the majority of racegoers, but if it keeps more teams in the black and able to compete, more’s the better.
Next time, I’ll start my preview of the field, working my way alphabetically through the constructors.