The newly released 2014 FIM MotoGP regulations reveal that the deadline for deciding on participation in either the Factory or Open class is February 28.
Ducati - which has confirmed one Open class version of the Desmosedici for Pramac's Yonny Hernandez - is rumoured to be considering switching all its bikes to the new category. Leaving the Factory class would force Ducati to run the full control ECU system, but bring benefits such as extra race fuel and engine changes, while avoiding the new engine development freeze.
Open replaces the privateer 'CRT' category. Machinery is no longer subject to a claiming rule, potentially clearing the way for full specification prototypes (barring the ECU software).
Ducati Team riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, plus Hernandez's team-mate Andrea Iannone, are presently listed as Factory class entries. Ducati, without a podium last season, has responded to reports of a complete Open switch by stating, 'Currently there are no further plans regarding the 'Open' option'
- but until February 28 it remains at least a theoretical possibility.
“Entries in the MotoGP class must specify which category each rider will participate under, Open category or Factory option, by the 28 February deadline for entry form completion,” state the new rules for 2014. “Teams are permitted to declare this category option for each rider any time between the [last race of the previous] season and the entry form deadline.”
February 28 is also the final day of the second Sepang MotoGP test, meaning Ducati could potentially gather six days' worth of testing information with race riders on both bike specifications before submitting a final decision.
MotoGP leaders Honda and Yamaha will also offer (lower specification) Open machinery, but are unlikely to consider leaving the Factory class. Honda is especially determined to continue software development, but most believe the full control ECU will eventually become mandatory.
The new rules also confirm that Suzuki - assuming it enters the Factory class - can make nine (instead of five) engine changes and avoid the development freeze during its 2015 MotoGP return. Because Suzuki withdrew at the end of 2011, it was previously unclear if it would be regarded as a 'new' manufacturer
. Aprilia would gain the same concessions, should its Factory project return as stated in 2016.
“Riders entered under the Factory Option by a new manufacturer participating for the first time (ie. a manufacturer not competing as an MSMA manufacturer in 2013) will be limited to 9 engines per season for the first year of the manufacturer's participation,” state the 2014 rules. “These engines will not be subject to the Factory Engine Homologation regulations (specification freeze) for the first year of the manufacturer's participation.”
The new 'specification freeze' means all engines used by a Factory class rider throughout the season must be identical. Riders in the Open class have a maximum of twelve engine changes available before incurring a penalty and teams are free to improve their engines throughout the year.
An edited selection of the 2014 MotoGP rules, focussing on the differences between Factory and Open class, can be seen below. Additional notes have been added in [brackets and italics]
1.11.3 Every accepted team must complete an entry form in respect of each rider and submit this to the Secretariat of IRTA by 28 February of the relevant season.
Entries in the MotoGP class must specify which category each rider will participate under, Open category or Factory option, by the 28 February deadline for entry form completion.
Teams are permitted to declare this category option for each rider any time between the start of the season* and the entry form deadline. However, a rider may only be nominated for the Factory option if he has respected the testing regulations specified for that option.
Specifically, with effect from the start of the season, that rider may only have participated in Official tests, tests authorised by Race Direction, or Manufacturer tests of the manufacturer factory team the rider is contracted to.
[* For rule purposes, the 'season' starts the day after the final race of the previous year.]
1.11.10 In the MotoGP class, Motor Cycle Manufacturers are permitted to participate with a maximum of two entries in their own team. Those Manufacturers may also lease motorcycles and equipment to Independent [Satellite]
teams. However, each Manufacturer is limited to a maximum of 4 entries in total (whether in the manufacturer's own team or an independent team) under the Factory Option.
1.15 Practice & Testing
220.127.116.11 MotoGP Class
f) Contracted riders entered in the Open category using the official MotoGP ECU Kit may test at any circuit during the season (except during the test ban period), using the team's Test Tyre Allocation
g) Contracted riders entered by a Motorcycle Manufacturer (volume manufacturer of complete motorcycles) in its own factory team may test at one nominated circuit for a maximum of 5 days during the season (except during the test ban period), using the manufacturer's Test Tyre Allocation.
[In both cases tests may not be within 14 days before a GP event held at that circuit.]
2.4 MotoGP Class Technical Regulations
Motorcycles participating in the MotoGP class must be prototypes. Those that are not entered by a member of MSMA [Manufacturers' Association]
must be approved for participation by the Grand Prix Commission (GPC). [Whilst non-MSMA members must still be 'approved', the section that followed - on CRT status - has been removed entirely, rather than updated for the Open class. Therefore Open status does not need to be "approved by unanimous decision of the GPC" in the way that CRT was.]
18.104.22.168 Engine Description
4. Each MSMA manufacturer must declare to the Technical Director their prototype engine bore and stroke for the 2012 season, and these dimensions may not be changed before the end of the 2014 season. Entries in the Open category are not covered by this regulation.
5. Factory Engine Homologation [engine development freeze]
is applicable to Manufacturer machines entered under the Factory Option.
a) A homologated MotoGP Factory engine is one which has all parts included within the seals identical in every respect to the parts included within the seals of a sample engine delivered to the MotoGP Technical Director no later than close of Technical Control of the first event, or where all the parts included within the seals are the same for all sealed engines of the same team.
All parts not within the seals are free to be changed. Once homologated in accordance with the above, no changes may be made to the design or construction of the homologated parts for the duration of the homologation period.
b) Exceptions can be made for sealed parts that are solely associated with safety issues and which have no performance benefit…
e) Each manufacturer must supply the same specification engine to all riders in one team, specifications may be varied between different teams of the same manufacturer
f) The homologation procedure applies for one full season to machines entered by Manufacturer teams under the Factory Option (a maximum of two riders entered by the manufacturer's own team and a further two riders entered by independent [satellite]
teams who lease machines from the manufacturer].
Machines entered under the Open category are not subject to the homologation procedure.
g) The homologation procedure applies to all engines used by the rider, including any extra engines taken, above the allocated number of 5 engines.
22.214.171.124 Engine Durability
1) The number of engines available for use by each permanent contracted rider is limited to 12 per season [for Open class]
. The following terms and exceptions will apply:
a) Riders entered under the Factory Option will be limited to 5 engines per season. These engines will be subject to the Factory Engine Homologation regulations, which freezes engine design and internal parts.
b) Riders entered under the Factory Option by a new manufacturer participating for the first time (ie. a manufacturer not competing as an MSMA manufacturer in 2013) will be limited to 9 engines per season for the first year of the manufacturer's participation.
These engines will not be subject to the Factory Engine Homologation regulations (specification freeze) for the first year of the manufacturer's participation.
3) The use of the official MotoGP Electronic Control Unit (ECU) supplied by the Organiser is compulsory for all machines.
4) As an exemption, each Manufacturer (includes motorcycle manufacturers and chassis manufacturers) can choose up to 4 riders to enter under the Factory Option, with the following conditions:
…c) Application software for engine and chassis control is not controlled, and it will be possible to write it in C or Matlab/Simulink languages...
5) For Wild Card entries ECU hardware and software, and dataloggers are not controlled, with the following related conditions:
• Wild Cards may use a maximum of 3 engines per event.
• Wild Cards entered by a Manufacturer with contracted rider(s) already entered under the Factory Option will be have a maximum fuel tank capacity of 20 litres. All other Wild Cards [Open class]
will have a maximum fuel tank capacity of 24 litres.
126.96.36.199 Fuel Tanks
5) The fuel tank capacity limit in the MotoGP Open category is a maximum of 24 litres.
For riders entered under the Factory Option the fuel tank capacity limit is a maximum of 20 litres.[one litre less than 2013]
188.8.131.52 Tyre restrictions
3) A. The quantity, specification and allocation of tyres will be determined by the official tyre supplier in consultation, and by agreement with, the Organisers and the Technical Director…
The specification of tyres may be different for each of the class designations, ie. MotoGP Open category and Factory Option [this means the Open class may, like the previous CRT category, be offered a softer spec rear tyre]