No amount of politics or rule bending can mask the obvious — Spanish tyro Marc Marquez and the factory Honda RC213V are the combination to beat in the 2014 MotoGP World Championship.
It will be a tight and tense battle with double World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha M1) again shaping as Marquez’s toughest challenger, as he was in 2013.
Marquez claimed his historic rookie world title last year by just four points over Lorenzo, who won eight races to Marquez’s six.
But the approach of what is set to be a titanic battle between these two Spaniards — with Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa playing spoiler roles — has been over-shadowed by political chicanery.
Confusion has abounded over illogical rule changes designed to try and cut the cost of racing, equalize electronic development and boost grid numbers with competitive bikes.
And finally, on the eve of the 2014 MotoGP season with the Qatar GP this weekend, some sanity has prevailed.
2016 – One Rule For All
The most important announcement for the future has been confirmation that from 2016 there will be a single set of technical regulations for all teams in MotoGP
This advances by one year (from 2017) the use of a standard-spec ECU (hardware and software) for all entrants, either factory or independent team.
It has been a tortured road to arrive at this point and, crucially, a compromise has also been reached for the 2014 and 2015 MotoGP rules.
Rule changes over the past month which appeared to heavily favor Ducati and assist its desperate bid to end an embarrassing three-year losing streak have been streamlined.
While Ducati will retain an initial gift, it will be increasingly penalized as it achieves success. It’s time to see if Ducati can win without a free kick.
Now it will be a clear measure of just how clever new Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna is. The faster the Desmosedici GP14 goes, the quicker it will lose its generous rules advantage over Honda and Yamaha.
2014 – Two Classes
Clarity has come to the rules for 2014 and also 2015 — there will be just two classes: Open and Factory.
The rules will be as they were set at the end of 2013, thus eliminating the illogical concoctions of the past two months, including the bizarre Factory 2 suggestion.
Main points are 20 liter fuel tanks, five engines per season which are sealed at Race One with no development allowed. ECU software is free but running on the Dorna-issued Magnetti Marelli hardware.
Fuel limit is up to 24 liters with 12 engines per season with no limit on development or testing. An extra soft compound tire option will be available in the Bridgestone allocation for open teams; this tire is not available to factory teams.
Thus in 2014, Honda, Yamaha and Ducati are factory entries but with Ducati handed a compromise as a performance incentive.
A manufacturer with an entry under the factory option that has not achieved a win in dry conditions in the previous year (Ducati) will initially have :
- 12 engines per rider per season with no design freeze
- 24 liters of fuel
- Same tires allocation (addition of an extra soft compound rear) as Open Class.
- Unlimited testing.
- Success Penalty
Subject to results, a series of success penalties will apply, and in 2014 this means for Ducati:
Fuel allocation will be reduced to 22 liters if the combined results of Ducati riders (Dovizioso, Crutchlow and Iannone) reach one race win, two second places or three third-place finishes.
Three race wins by any combination of riders will also mean the loss of the extra soft tire option.
So Ducati is back as a factory entry — and able to use its own ECU software — but with the advantages of the open class until it triggers the success penalties.
These changes mean that the lower-budget independent teams will not be overpowered by a factory bike in a class that was designed to build competitive opportunity for privateers.
When Suzuki returns to MotoGP in 2015, it will be allowed to enter the Factory class under the same conditions (above) until they trigger the success penalties.
And then in 2016, it is all in together with a single set of rules.
The reality: The fastest and most talented riders backed by the cleverest engineers will still be the big winners.
Three years ago, Ducati committed itself to being a loser when it let Casey Stoner defect to Honda and thought that Valentino Rossi was the answer to all its problems.
Now Ducati is exposed. How clever is Gigi Dall’Igna against the best brains from Honda and Yamaha? And can Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow — with more power from more fuel, plus softer tires — beat Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi?