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MotoGP stars respond to Factory/Open rule change

Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow gave their opinion on the last-minute Factory/Open MotoGP rule changes.
On the eve of the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, MotoGP stars including Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow gave their opinion on the new rule changes revealed on Tuesday.

The changes will see Ducati, which had applied to race under Open rules, instead stay in the Factory class but enjoy much of the benefits available to Open riders - including four litres more race fuel, twelve rather than five engine changes, a softer rear tyre and no in-season engine development ban - until they achieve a race win, two second places or three podiums in dry conditions.

The riders generally agreed that while the three-tier class set-up is confusing, it is part of a process that will finally lead to a single set of rules.

Coinciding with the latest Factory/Open regulations was the bigger news that MotoGP will have a standard ECU for all from the start of 2016. Currently the Factory class uses its own software, while Open riders run the standard software.

“For the fans maybe it will be a little strange because the rules have changed two or three times. At the beginning they said there were two categories - Factory and Open - but now they have this other category... I don't know the situation!” admitted Repsol Honda's reigning world champion Marquez.

“Anyway in the end it will be quite similar. Open and Factory will each have some advantages and disadvantages. But I think everyone is working to have only one category, because the name is just 'MotoGP', but they need time.”

Movistar Yamaha rider Lorenzo, who lost out to Marquez by just four points last season, added: “I think the ideal thing would be to have just one category and maybe 10-15 riders fighting for the world title. This is the goal for Dorna - reducing the costs and having a lot of bikes fighting for victories.

“The first goal [lower costs] is a little bit confusing because you reduce engines and fuel consumption [for the Factory class] but now you have the option to go with Open and have more engines and more fuel. But having more riders fighting for the championship and for victories - they've got it.”

Team-mate Rossi won't be losing any sleep over the rules: “A little bit of confusion yes, but I think at the end the riders don't care a lot about this. The important thing for us is to give the maximum, go as fast as possible, put on a good show for the people and the result after the chequered flag.”

However the Italian, who needed a lift back to the pits after running out of fuel on the slow-down lap of last year's Losail race, admitted the thought of more fuel is tempting. "For sure it is better to have more litres. The bike is easier to ride - and you can get back after the flag!”

New Factory Ducati rider Cal Crutchlow, whose team is set to enjoy most of the benefits of being in the Open class while retaining Factory status, simply said: “I think the rules are fine. I think Dorna are doing a good job to help us. Thanks!”

But the rider that provided the biggest winter upset while running the new Open class rules was Aleix Espargaro, who took the new Forward Yamaha to fourth at the Sepang tests and then the fastest lap - in the absence of the Factory teams - at the recent Qatar outing.

“These are the rules. We are just racing for the fans, who are watching the races on the grandstands or TV. So [we need] more competitive bikes, more options for the riders, more fun races," Espargaro said. “I think it is not easy for Dorna. It would be much clearer with one rule. [Last year] we had only four bikes that are competitive. This year maybe more with the new Open rules, so I think it is a step forward.”

Perhaps it was Pedrosa who offered the most rounded insight.

“I think of course it is not ideal. We are in an era where every five minutes we have [rule] changes, because it's not easy to find a way to make MotoGP only one class where everybody races in the same conditions and make the show good enough," commented the Repsol Honda rider.

“I think we have to wait some more years to find the correct balance, to get the best out of the championship. But if you look outside [of MotoGP], Formula One is also making many changes all the time to figure out the best way. It's not ideal but it is what it is.”

The talking will stop tomorrow (Thursday) when opening MotoGP practice begins, under the floodlights, at 19:55 local time.

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