Roll on 2016!


That was prime Jorge Lorenzo: grab the holeshot, then lay down the law, so there’s no gunfight at the end. Perhaps there would’ve been a shootout in the final laps if Marc Márquez hadn’t been handicapped by his finger injury and Valentino Rossi hadn’t been spooked by a few front-end scares, but that’s all ifs and buts.

Jerez was the first procession of a so-far dazzling season which will surely give us more great races, but I’m already looking forward to 2016.

We have had four seasons of classes-within-a-class MotoGP racing. Next year MotoGP will be back to where it should be: everyone working to the same technical rules, a level race track, no excuses, let’s go racing.

In 2012 and 2013 there were the silly-named Claiming Rule Teams bikes, gamely propping up the back of the sadly diminished grid and trying hard (but never succeeding) to pretend they were in the same race as the factory bikes.

Since last year there’ve been the Open bikes, which make a better but not utterly convincing show of pretending to be in the same race. And then we have the Factory 2 bikes, or whatever they’re called (I long ago lost interest). Factory 2 bikes belong to manufacturers who are struggling to keep up; they are factory bikes but with benefits.

Open bikes get more fuel, softer tyres and more engines (but less electronics) to give them a very small hope in hell of getting close to the factory machinery. Factory 2 bikes get more fuel and all that but can run their own hi-tech electronics. But if they turn out to be any good, they lose some of their extra fuel but they can keep everything else. Are you with me?

Both CRT and Open bikes were introduced for a good reason, to bring a half-dead grid back to life (remember 2011, when some races started with just 15 riders), but the split-level technical regulations are enough to drive a spectator crazy.

Some riders get 24 litres of fuel, others 22 and still others 20. Some riders get softer tyres which can be an advantage at some tracks but a disadvantage at others. Argh, it’s not a race, it’s a Sudoku!

Accurate comparisons across the grid are impossible because there are several different decks of cards out there. Ducati are finally doing well again, but is that just a regulation-induced mirage or will they still be competitive in 2016 when they must run the same fuel and tyres as the Honda and Yamaha factory bikes?

That’s what I want to know and that’s what we will find out next season when everyone will race with the same fuel capacity, tyre compounds and electronics. At the moment it’s all a bit of a farce. As Rossi recently said, “Sincerely, in motor sport this only happens in MotoGP!”

On the subject of the hugely controversial control ECU I’m like the character in The Fast Show, who always agrees with the last person with whom he spoke. So when the owner of a privateer team tells me it’s a great idea, I agree, and when a factory electronics engineer tells me it’s a daft idea, I agree.

In theory the control ECU should hurt the fastest and help the slowest – it’s trying to narrow the gap. Formula 1 engineers tell me that F1’s control ECU cut electronics costs by half, but they cast doubt on Magneti Marelli’s ability to run the system. Any team will be able to propose new software, which must be considered of use to all teams before it gets the Dorna green light, and all code will be written by Magneti.

Most riders are in favour of less electronic controls, and (in theory at least) the control ECU will mean less electronics getting in the way of riders doing what they want to do, which is ride the motorcycle themselves.

I couldn’t count the number of occasions that riders have told me stories that reinforce the conviction that NASA-style electronics dramatically widen the already gaping gap between rich teams and poor teams.

At Austin, Bradley Smith struggled in the late stages of the race because his satellite Yamaha M1 has less efficient fuel-management software than the factory M1s. Not only did he lose power and therefore straightline speed during the final laps, he also lost out in the corners, because his electronics gave a sharper first touch of the throttle, so it was harder for him to save front-end slides by gently unloading the front tyre with a whiff of throttle.

Next year’s control ECU will surely even things out, but of course the wealthier teams will still have the upper hand because they can afford to pay a small army of electronics boffins to get the best out of their little black boxes.

An equal fight is something to look forward to, although there will be one area of difference between bikes in 2016. Factories which haven’t won a race in several years will still be granted engine concessions – they will still get nine engines, with the freedom to change and improve as the season goes on.


You may also like