MotoGP Race Director Mike Webb has explained the thinking behind the new ‘Long Lap Penalty’ (LLP) that will be implemented from the first round of 2019, stating it is an idea that “fits all our criteria” for mid-race penalisations.

Webb admitted he was looking for alternatives to the previous penalty, which required riders to drop a position, and was metered out during a grand prix after a particular competitor had blatantly or repeatedly exceeded track limits.

To put it simply, Webb acknowledged this measure was “quite unfair” as the amount of time lost could vary depending on a rider’s position or circumstance during a race.

The new idea, which will require a competitor to ride through a lane painted around the outside of a track’s slower corner, “is the same for everyone.” Furthermore Race Direction believes it to be “easy, safe, we can monitor it,” and it will generally cost the offender “three-four seconds” – a critical amount in a tightly contested race.

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The LLP was trialled at the recent MotoGP preseason test in Qatar, where the lane was painted around the outside of Turn Six. It was generally met with positive reaction. “I think it could be much better to manage than when you have to drop a position,” said Andrea Dovizioso. “It's more clear what you have to do, what you lose. It's the same for everybody.”

After receiving the approval of the FIM Stewards and, according to Webb, a "far and away positive reaction" from the MotoGP field, the proposal was approved by the Grand Prix Commission this week, meaning it can be used from next weekend's Grand Prix of Qatar onwards.

“To start from the beginning,” Webb told Crash.net, “the target has been for quite some time, especially with the track limits penalties, and especially with Moto3, and to a certain extent Moto2, some tracks we had a lot of infractions, it depends on the track.

“When there’s a lot of them it’s difficult to manage from our point of view. If we give them the standard penalty, which is the change a position penalty, it’s difficult to manage during the race.

“Plus it’s quite unfair, depending on how close the rider behind you is. You can be giving up more time or less time by dropping a position. We’ve been looking to find a more fair and easy penalty. We’ve been at this for quite a while.

“This is our latest attempt. We’ll call it a ‘Long Lap Penalty’. Similar things have been seen [in other series]. They’ve been doing it in Rallycross for years and years, a joker lane. They’ve been doing something in FormulaE where a driver can go outside.

“We’re quite confident this is a better way than changing position. The target is to give a penalty that is the same for everybody, so it doesn’t depend on their track position.

“And it’s going to end up being, in the amount of time lost, a bit more than dropping a position. We’re happy about that, because the track limits is a nightmare.

“That’s the idea. It’s targeted at track limits infractions during the race, not practice. But I see no reason why we can’t use it for many, many things. A three-four second penalty is a reasonable penalty for something that happens on track. So we’re looking forward to seeing it. Hopefully it works.”

Webb also believes this could act as a greater deterrent. A penalty that is guaranteed to see a rider lose three-four seconds is greater than the threat of dropping a position, especially if one is engaged in a multi-rider scrap.

"That’s part of the proposal and why we were looking for so long," he said. "I mean this one sounds obvious but it took a while to find a proposal that fits all of our criteria. It’s easy, it’s safe, we can monitor it and it’s the same for everyone.

“One good thing is that, compared to a Moto3 race, when everyone’s in a group, losing one position is nothing. So losing a significant number of seconds is a greater deterrent and we’re happy about that.”

Preparing circuits for a ‘joker lane’ should require nothing more than painting some lines on one of a track’s slower corners, Webb said. A team of rider experts will now assess where this should appear on each of the calendar’s 19 circuits.

“All we have to do is have a dashboard signal that says ‘Long Lap’, a signboard that says ‘Long Lap’, and paint some lines on the ground,” he explained. “So we can do it. It’s just the small amount of bureaucracy that it takes to change the rules which can be done. So we’re ready to go.

“We want [it to be in] a slow speed [corner]. We wouldn’t want turn one. And where there’s an asphalt run off, or where there’s a safety area that you can do something off track.

“We’ve got our rider experts looking at the safe places at all the circuits we go to and we’ll do a similar thing wherever we go. So hopefully it works!”

And what of the MotoGP rider reaction after trying it at the three-day test in Qatar? "We requested they try it. We explained the reason we’re doing it. There was some discussion about 'What it [this happens], what if, and all that. Not every rider tried it, but certainly more than half – a good majority of the field tried it.

"The response was far and away positive. There were some question [like], ‘Do we do this or this?’ – some fine-tuning, if you like. But overall it was positive so we’re really happy."

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