MotoGP has introduced a new set of technical rules and regulations in a bid to make racing’s premier class more competitive, and cheaper to compete in.
There are two new stand out changes – tyres and electronics – and these mean that the 2016 promises to be one of the most exciting season’s ever.
The biggest change sees the introduction of Michelin as the sole tyre supplier – and many riders are struggling to understand where the limit of the front tyre is. Testing was marred by a series of front end crashes with Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi all suffering lowsides.
Another seismic change is the introduction of unified software, with all teams forced to run the same Magneti Marelli ECU complete with standard hardware and homologated software.
Honda, Yamaha and Ducati have had a significant input into the software, and if all three factories unanimously request a specific piece of functionality then Magneti Marelli is obliged to introduced it.
With all teams now forced to run the same software and hardware, and the gap between Factory and privateer teams being reduced (on paper anyway), the special tyre allocation has been scrapped.
Many fans disliked this concession to the weaker teams, as did the Factory Yamaha and Honda riders, claiming the tyres gave the weaker Ducatis and Suzukis an unfair advantage and artificially high starting positions on track, something they struggled to maintain at race pace.
All 22 bikes on the 2016 grid will now have access to the same rubber – a softer option and a harder option.
Fuel concessions have also been scrapped and all bikes now have a maximum of 22 liters of fuel, with the minimum weight has been reduced by one kilogram to 157kg.
What this means is that every rider is effectively starting the 2016 season from scratch. Rossi and Pedrosa have experience of racing on Michelins, and ordinarily this would be an advantage, but as all teams are now forced to run a spec ECU, that experience effectively counts for nothing. And make no mistake, Honda are struggling to make the ECU work. Their engine is still overly aggressive, and Pedrosa was forced to switch the electronics off altogether during testing at Valencia in November in a bid to understand how the 2016 engine works.
Testing starts again in Sepang at the beginning of February and many teams will switch their attention from electronics to tyres in an attempt to fine tune their set-up ahead of the season opener in Qatar in March.
Expect to see a few surprise results during the first three races – our money’s on the Suzukis and Pramac Ducatis being right at the very sharp end before the Factory teams considerable resources see them return to the top.