Two rule amendments have been agreed by the Grand Prix Commission ahead of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix; the first involves yellow flag infringements and will be effective immediately, while a more significant change sees the end of race stoppages due to rain in the MotoGP class and will be effective from the start of next season.

The yellow flag ruling confirms that when yellow flags are waved riders "must slow down and be prepared to stop. Overtaking is forbidden up until the point where the green flag is shown."

If any rider does overtake under waved yellow flags, they will still lose that lap (under practice conditions), while if the infringement occurs during a race the new rules state that:

"The rider must go back to his position prior to the overtaking. The penalty will be first communicated to the team and then a board will be displayed for the rider on the finish line during a maximum of 3 laps. If the rider did not return to his previous position after the board has been presented 3 times, he will be penalized by a ride through."

Further penalties - such as fines or suspensions - can still be applied, while if a rider realises his error immediately - then raises his hand and returns to his original position - no penalty will be imposed.

Meanwhile, the more significant rain ruling - passed by majority - appears to pave the way for flag-to-flag racing in the premier-class, more usually seen in four-wheeled motorsport.

"In the MotoGP class only, in case of rain, the race will not be interrupted," states the new rule.

This means that, from 2005, should rain fall during a race there will be no red flags and so no race restart. Instead, it appears that the riders will pull into the pits and change tyres (and brakes?) - or swap to a spare bike - as and when they see fit.

It is a controversial ruling in that, due to the relative short length of a MotoGP race, many riders will surely try and avoid the considerable time loss that will occur by coming into the pits, by staying on slick tyres in the rain.

The counterbalance to this argument is that MotoGP riders are supposed to be the best in the world, and so should know the limits of themselves and their machine, while flag-to-flag racing is seen as preferable for TV time schedules and watching race fans.



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