Ducati ‘accepted’ new concession system ‘for the sake of the sport’

Ducati is the only manufacturer to be ’penalised’ for the start of 2024, under MotoGP’s new concession ranking system.
MotoGP bike line-up, Portuguese MotoGP, 23 March
MotoGP bike line-up, Portuguese MotoGP, 23 March

Quite rightly, some might say, given its machines have won all three titles - riders’ (Francesco Bagnaia), teams’ (Pramac Ducati) and constructors’ (Ducati) - for the second season in succession.

Not to mention supporting eight bikes on the grid, compared with no more than four for its rivals, helping it to win 17 of 20 grands prix and fill 43 of the 60 podium places.

Yamaha and Honda meanwhile, 4th and 5th in the constructors’ standings, gain the most from the new Concession ranking system, which is no longer determined by podium finishes but by constructors’ points.

The sub-35% of maximum constructors’ points for Yamaha and Honda means they will now be eligible for not only the ‘old’ range of concessions - private testing with race riders, more engine changes, free engine design, plus more wild-cards and aero updates - but also the new concession of extra private testing tyres.

KTM and Aprilia, second and third in the constructors’ standings, will also gain extra test tyres and wild-card entries relative to this season.

But for Ducati, the only manufacturer starting (from now) in ranking ‘A’, thanks to its 96% score of the maximum possible, the changes are only negative.

The Italian factory will not only be reduced to 170 test tyres (50 fewer than KTM/Aprilia and 90 fewer than Yamaha/Honda) but will not be allowed any wild-card entries.

Paolo Ciabatti, MotoGP, Valencia MotoGP, 24 November
Paolo Ciabatti, MotoGP, Valencia MotoGP, 24 November

"We always said we were ready to find a solution which will make the manufacturers in a difficult position, namely the two Japanese manufacturers now, to be able to catch up,” Ducati sporting manager Paolo Ciabatti told MotoGP.com.

“Because they each got a podium [in 2023], the current concessions system would not have allowed them any extra help [for 2024].

“We want a championship where every manufacturer has a fair chance to be competitive.

“With the previous rules, it would be very hard [to catch up] because of the limited development of the engine, aerodynamics, and no testing with factory riders.”

Ducati, Aprilia, KTM and Suzuki (which left MotoGP at the end of 2022) all graduated through the old concession system, created after Honda and Yamaha agreed to allow technical perks for their struggling rivals in 2014.

Now the roles are reversed.

“The [old concession system] was decided in a different era of MotoGP when the Japanese were the leaders,” Ciabatti said.

“Now the situation has changed, Ducati is in a privileged position, the other Europeans are very close and the two Japanese, for whatever reason, need to catch up and get back to where they should be.

“So somewhere you need to accept that you will be slightly penalised.

“In the end, [we will have] no wild cards and limited tyres for testing and there will be more freedom for others.”

Alvaro Bautista, Malaysian MotoGP, 10 November
Alvaro Bautista, Malaysian MotoGP, 10 November

Ducati could have wild-cards (and test tyres) back after the 2024 summer break?

A key factor in securing Ducati’s agreement was that the new ranking system would be re-calculated twice per season, via two 'windows'.

The first calculation 'window' covers constructors' points during each racing season (for example start and finish of the 2024 World Championship). The second 'window' counts points accumulated from one summer break until the next. This appears to be backdated, meaning from the summer break of 2023 until the summer break of 2024.

That would mean, if Yamaha or Honda rapidly improves in the early stages of 2024, they might only enjoy the full range of ‘D’ benefits until the summer break checkpoint.

Likewise, Ducati could regain access to wild-cards (and more test tyres), in theory, by the second half of next season if it dropped to ranking B or lower at the summer break. Although given its near-perfect score in the second half of this season, that would be surprising.

It is also theoretically possible to drop from ranking A to D, or jump from D to A, in a single move.

“The new system will be revised twice a year, so these advantages are not taken to extreme consequences. It’s just to reach the level of the leading manufacturers,” Ciabatti said.

“So for the sake of the sport we accept this new system that will hopefully speed up the recovery of the Japanese brands.

“Many times we had riders on the podium, and we still would like to do so, but maybe with tougher competition it will give us even more satisfaction."

Constructors’ points are awarded only to the top bike from each brand, in each race, Sprint and Grand Prix.

The distribution of concessions under the new ranking format suggests MotoGP is aiming for all manufacturers to eventually settle in either ranking B or C.

The only differences between B and C are test tyres (190/220) and wild-cards (3/6).

No manufacturer is currently eligible for ranking ‘B’.

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