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MotoGP InFocus - 2016 Rule Changes

A new era for the new era of motorcycle racing commences next year, but what exactly changes?

Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images

Every year, there's always some minor changes to the rules and regulations in MotoGP. It's usually something like a change to the number of engines, or the amount of tyres you have access to over a race weekend.

For 2016, though, there's to be a big overhaul of the entire championship. We're going to have stock homologated parts, a new fuel limit, and even the removal of the open class series. Further to that, there's a change to the rules of admittance to the championship.

Let's have a look, shall we?

Standardised ECU

Currently, the open class bikes have a standard ECU software that doesn't alter from bike to bike. The software is what communicates with all the different sensors over the bike, regulating traction control, fuel injection and the like. From 2016, this software will be a standard throughout the entire field, and every bike will be obliged to use it. This includes the top two teams - the factory efforts from Yamaha and Honda, who particularly have long developed their own software to work with their bikes.

All manufacturers will provide input to the development of the standard ECU - indeed, there is now a software freeze in place for Yamaha, Honda and Ducati in order for their teams to dedicate time towards developing the ECU.

Along with that, every bike will be obliged to use a standard set of sensors at several points throughout the machine, available at a fixed cost to all teams across the field, although there are several exceptions to this. The following is a list of free devices, via

  • All actuators, such as fuel injectors, ignition coils, electric motors, actuation coils, fuel pumps.
  • Alternator and related Regulator/Powerbox (CAN protocol homologated by the Organiser).
  • Dashboard and message display devices (CAN protocol is unidirectional from ECU to device, homologated by the Organiser).
  • Inertial Platforms (up to 2 IPs are permitted, CAN protocol homologated by the Organiser).
  • Wiring Harness.
  • Any device specifically allowed by the Organiser.

Other manufacturers will be allowed to inspect these free devices, and in some cases are allowed to block the use of them. That seems a bit counter-productive to me but I suppose it helps to keep a level playing field.

Overall, this ruling is a good thing for MotoGP. It gives teams further down the field time to develop other parts of their bikes, and at least means in one aspect, anyone can win a race, really. It's all in the application, and how they make the software work with the rest of their bike.

While you'd still expect Yamaha and Ducati to be at the front of the field, watch out for Aprilia. They're not afraid of spending the necessary money, Alvaro Bautista is getting good results from his machine, and if they can match this advancing throughout 2015 and into 2016, they could be a major player.

The End Of The Open Class

With the introduction of the standard ECU throughout the whole grid, it sort of negates a need for the open class bikes. Granted, some teams will still have an advantage over others, but one of the major reasons for having it has gone, so there's not much point in running as separate entities - especially when you consider one team, the CWM LCR Honda outfit, have one true satellite rider in Cal Crutchlow, yet run an open class bike too, ridden by Jack Miller.

Previously, open class bikes were also allowed an extra four litres of fuel per race, as well as two extra engine changes than their factory opposition. This has been averaged out for the removal of open class - every bike will be given a 22 litre fuel allowance (up by two litres for factory bikes, but down two litres for open class bikes) while every team will be allowed seven engines a year per bike.

This might seem a bit unfair on the smaller teams, but when you consider the next point, it begins to make more sense.

Streamlining And Realigning Teams

In 2016 MotoGP welcomes KTM to the premier class, becoming the sixth manufacturer in the series. Dorna seem to have decided that enough is enough, and have introduced the following rulings, which are applicable until at least 2021.

  • Each manufacturer has to have two factory bikes, as well as being obliged to provide between two and four bikes for lease, at a cost of no more than 2.2 million Euros (excluding crash costs), and this is only open to teams currently operating.
  • The field will have a minimum of 22 riders and a maximum of 24.
  • No more manufacturers will be admitted if the grid has more than 22 riders. Any new manufacturers wishing to enter the championship must make a deal with an already existing team.
  • Dorna have the right, but are not obliged to, buy the rights to the bottom two teams in the championship, should it need to - for example if they are struggling financially.
  • Central funding to the teams will increase by 30%, which Dorna believes should allow all teams to be able to afford the costs of being in the championship.

Let's have a quick look at how the grid currently lines up, and which teams may need to change engine supplier.

Factory Team Repsol Honda Marc Marquez
Dani Pedrosa
Customer/Satellite Teams CWM LCR Honda Cal Crutchlow
Jack Miller
Estrella Galicia Marc 0.0 VDS Scott Redding
AB Motoracing Karel Abraham
Aspar MotoGP Eugene Laverty
Nicky Hayden
Factory Team Movistar Yamaha Valentino Rossi
Jorge Lorenzo
Customer/Satellite Teams Tech 3 Yamaha Bradley Smith
Pol Espargaro
Athina Forward Stefan Bradl
Loris Baz
Factory Team Ducati RT Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Iannone
Customer/Satellite Teams Pramac Ducati Yonny Hernandez
Danilo Petrucci
Avintia Racing Hector Barbera
Mike Di Meglio
Factory Team ART Gresini Alvaro Bautista
Michael Laverty
Customer/Satellite Teams IodaRacing
(not technically a customer team, running an old bike)
Alex De Angelis
Factory Team Suzuki Ecstar Aleix Espargaro
Maverick Viñales

Having looked at who is contracted for 2016, it would appear that the Aspar Honda team is the one that is most under threat, with neither Nicky Hayden or Eugene Laverty contracted - so you could say two out and two in, with the KTMs arriving. Nothing groundbreaking there.

Other than that, I don't think we'll see too many changes. Aprilia, Suzuki and KTM will want to focus on getting their factory efforts right before leasing bikes (although they will have to offer some to be leased, I don't see many teams taking up that option).

The real problem lies in if, or when, other manufacturers want to join the party. BMW have long been rumoured to be looking at getting into the MotoGP field, and Kawasaki may eventually want to come back into the fold. How do you say no to two powerhouses like that? According to the rules, they will have to wait until Dorna buys out a struggling team, or do a deal with a current team. But if a current team are doing okay financially, they're not likely to sell up and shift out, are they?

That said, Dorna are looking for stability, and these regulations mean that there will be stability. Manufacturers have to run two bikes, have to offer a set number of bikes, and teams can only be bought out - you're not going to have teams falling off the ladder because Dorna won't allow it.

In Conclusion

I think the new regulations will close up the MotoGP field and make the racing even more exciting than it already is. I'd expect the factory bikes to still be at the front - they'll have more time for R&D, and more resources to throw at it - but I think the other factory teams will get a lot closer. The Suzukis will get closer, the Aprilias will become a force, and KTM (heavily rumoured to be backed by Red Bull) won't be coming in just to run around at the back.

It's going to be an exciting year.