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Honda responds to Ducati’s Open MotoGP decision

Repsol Honda team manager Livio Suppo 'understands' Ducati's switch to the Open MotoGP category, but insists it goes against the 'aim' of the new class.
Repsol Honda team manager Livio Suppo 'understands' Ducati's decision to switch to the Open MotoGP category, but insists it goes against the 'aim' of the new class.

Ducati - without a podium last season - officially announced it was leaving the Factory class on the final day of last week's Sepang test, the deadline for submitting 2014 entries.

Open machines will continue to enjoy the fuel, engine and tyre perks on offer to the previous privateer CRT category.

However with the claiming rule dropped and the MSMA (Manufacturers' Association) having no say in the granting of Open status, the door is now 'open' to full specification prototypes run directly by a manufacturer team - something that appears to have surprised remaining Factory class participants, Honda and Yamaha.

The only condition for entry to the Open class is use of the standard ECU software, supplied by Dorna and being continuously developed by Magneti Marelli. Factory entries are allowed to develop ECU software for their own exclusive use, but face a range of penalties.

Ducati stated that the main reason for going Open was to avoid the new in-season engine development ban. "I think they [Honda and Yamaha] can understand and we don't want to create a problem with anybody. We need to develop the bike. That's it," new Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall'Igna stated at Sepang.

Responding to the decision on the official MotoGP website, Suppo said: "As Honda, the position is clear. We understand Ducati is behind, so they are trying everything to recover. Sure the Open class rules allow them to work on the engine during the season; this is important for them, I understand.

"On the other side, we are not so happy that - just a few days before the announcement of Ducati going Open - there was the introduction from Magneti Marelli of new software, which is much more complicated than the standard one of the Open class. So I think this is something we need to speak about.

"At the end of the day if Open class is with the factory bike, very sophisticated software, more fuel, more tests, more engines - then it is not a cheaper class compared with the Factory bikes. And I think this was the aim of the rule. To create a cheaper class."

Words like 'aim' and 'understanding' are not often associated with black-and-white technical regulations, but Suppo was adamant:

"We need to understand - together with Dorna and the MSMA - if it was clear to everybody what the aim of this class was. Our understanding - and I think it was the understanding of everybody - was the idea of the organiser was a class that was cheaper than the Factory bikes.

"Now, with the interpretation of Ducati, it is not."

Costs may be the public concern, but some will question if Honda is equally worried by the potential competitiveness of the Ducati in Open trim - especially if significant elements of Ducati's advanced Factory software are (or have already been) transferred to the shared Open ECU.

In addition to the complete Ducati MotoGP programme, Yamaha is supplying Factory specification engines, chassis and swing-arms to the Open class via Forward Racing.

Honda itself has built a Production Racer for the Open class, based on its world championship winning RC213V prototype, which it offers for sale. But to limit costs, the Honda does not feature the same pneumatic-valve system as the Factory specification bike and was a best of 15th (Nicky Hayden) at Sepang II.

The semi-formal target price for Open equipment is just over one million euros, per season, for the teams. This is not a factor for Ducati since its official team does not pay for the race bikes. Pramac - as Ducati's official satellite team - is in a similar situation. If the Open cost target was to be strictly enforced, Ducati could simply supply the full specification bikes to its two race teams for a token price.

Honda is opposed to limits on Factory software development, believing it is vital R&D for future road bikes and therefore justifies the expense of racing in MotoGP.

By contrast, Dorna's long term goal is for an Open-style control ECU system to be used by all competitors. This would not only help cap electronic costs, but allow for restrictions on show-stopping rider aids such as traction control.

Dorna's present tactic appears to be to tempt as many teams as possible onto the Open system, by showing that the new class offers superior track performance.

That ironically means that to eventually clamp down on electronics, Dorna/Magneti Marelli must create Open ECU software that is very close to the best used by the Factories (the Open class concessions will do the rest).

But once an overwhelming majority of MotoGP entries have moved to the Open software, it will be a small step to make the system mandatory for all. Hence Ducati's arrival will have been welcomed with 'open' arms.

Ducati's defection means there are now only eight Factory class entries, divided equally between Honda and Yamaha. The other 15 machines on this year's grid will race under the Open rules.

Suzuki is returning to MotoGP in 2015 and, so far, is planning a Factory class entry.

Tagged as: Honda

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March 04, 2014 11:45 AM
Last Edited 406 days ago

I don't remember any 'moaning' about Yamaha by Honda. As I've said before I believe the 'open' class RCV1000R Production Racer was designed and built for the CRT class i.e. well before the rules changed to 'open' and Honda simply got caught out by said rule change. As for the 'open' spec ECU and software, I can fully understand their beef about it. Hours before Ducati announce they are going 'open' out comes a huge software upgrade from the company that supply Ducati's electronics and if the rumours are true the 'open' ECU and it's software are now exactly the same as Ducati were using in the factory proto class. How is that limiting electronics and costs, which is what this is all about in the first place and what Suppo is saying in the article. So what we now have is a factory proto Ducati with their own factory software more fuel and softer tyres, all wrapped up in 'open' clothing. Nice.


March 04, 2014 12:36 PM

As usual Suppo is wide of the mark. Ducati's move to 'open' is actually exactly the aim of the new class. Dorna wants all bikes to ultimately be open class and is changing the rules to make the open class ever more attractive and competitive. Honda doesn't like it because they can no longer throw megabucks at it to gain a competitive advantage. Honda seems to think that 'factory' class should be the preserve of Honda and Yamaha with everyone else riding sub-standard machines (not least of which their own uncompetitive offering) just making up the numbers. I hope Ducati & Forward Racing give them a serious run for their money.

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