In mid-October, the Grand Prix Commission announced that changes would be made to the MotoGP testing rules for 2018 and 2019.

Previously, all MotoGP teams could choose when and where to hold their five days of private testing with race riders, provided it was not within 14 days of a grand prix at the same circuit. Manufacturers with concessions are exempt from the five-day limit.

Meanwhile, factory test riders could lap at any circuit, at any time, as long as they only used the team's Test Tyre Allocation (120 tyres per race rider, per season) and it was not within 14 days of a GP at the same track.

For 2018, once the winter test ban ends, only three of the five days of private testing with race riders can be at circuits which are yet to hold their grand prix. Any remaining test days (the 2018 season began the day after the 2017 Valencia race) must be used on a circuit where the event has already taken place. No testing is permitted in the summer break.

But the biggest change is for test riders, who are no longer free to use any circuit they like. Instead manufacturers must nominate three current GP circuits. The 14-day rule before a race and Test Tyre allocation continues to apply. Test riders can continue to take part in all official tests.

The reason for the changes is to help balance the geographical difference between manufacturers based in Europe (Ducati, Aprilia and KTM) and those from Japan (Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki).

With the MotoGP calendar still weighted towards European rounds, it was far easier and cheaper for European manufacturers to test at a circuit before an event, gaining valuable set-up data.

"I think the new rules are absolutely reasonable," said Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna. "It's true that we have test team here in Europe and for us it's a lot easier to test at a lot of different tracks. The Japanese manufacturers cannot because their test teams are in Japan."

But the Italian is not happy that the rules were brought in at such short notice, wrecking Ducati's schedule.

"I agree with the principle of the rule, but I don't agree with how this rule will be implemented," he declared. "Above all, the timing. I'm completely against it because we had already programmed all of next year's tests.

"The programme was that Dovi and Jorge would test the new bike [at Valencia] in the official test after the race and then Petrucci would test with Pirro in Jerez at the end of November.

"We had to change that programme completely because firstly Jerez is not anymore [one of our three] test team tracks, so Pirro cannot test there, and also because Jorge and Dovi cannot test for the five days we had planned next year."

As a result, Lorenzo and Dovizioso were sent to Jerez at the end of November.

Ducati Corse sporting director Paolo Ciabatti confirmed: "Ducati agreed with the idea [of changing the testing rules]. What we didn’t agree with was a decision taken one month before the beginning of a new season.

"We think that it was somehow disrespectful for the companies who had already planned their testing activities, and also the allocation of bikes between factory teams and satellite teams."

From the perspective of the Japanese manufacturers, outgoing Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo and Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis felt the new regulations were needed for cost reasons as well as to level the playing field.

"There’s a general movement to save cost and avoid excessive testing," Jarvis said. "Yamaha’s position is that we primarily have our test riders and team in Japan, as does Honda.

"If you start a new testing team in Europe, it requires considerable extra expense. I think the new testing regulations will give a more fair, level, even playing field for everybody. Hopefully it won’t be necessary to spend so much time and money on this excessive testing."

"We cannot speak always about reducing the cost and then be free to go testing everywhere," Suppo said. "Also considering at the moment there are six manufacturers. Three from Europe, three from Japan. I think it’s correct to try to have a kind of balance between the chance to do tests, because mainly we race in Europe."

'20 races is a lot'

Thailand is joining the MotoGP calendar in 2018, followed by Finland - for what will become a 20-round season - in 2019.

In response, one of the three official pre-season tests will be dropped in 2019, while at least two private test days (out of the five) must be used in November 2018.

"20 races is a lot," said Jarvis. "Not only for the riders, frankly for all of you [media], all of us, for the staff. Doing the triple flyaways is always an exhausting issue at the end of the year for everybody. So definitely we don’t want to do more than 20.

"I think if we do 20 we should reduce some testing as well and there’s a plan to reduce the winter tests by one to give a little bit more balance."

"I agree with the riders, who say that 20 races is more than enough," added Suppo, who would later cite the expanding calendar as the main reason for leaving the paddock.

"Also, when you have 20 races it is not so easy to find a week to go testing. So I think the limitation of tests is welcome in my opinion.

"At the end of the day it’s better to go racing than testing."

Jarvis confirmed that the increase in calendar size will probably also mean an extra engine change is allowed, from seven to eight per rider, in 2019.

"It’s not really a big issue because it’s a matter of reconditioning the engines we already have."



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