After what has seemed like an agonisingly long wait, the premiere of the 2014 MotoGP Championship under lights at the Losail circuit is upon us (oh praise the Gods!). While there will be plenty of fireworks on track, when the first of many of the new season questions will be addressed, a bomb has detonated in the paddock with the ever changing rules adding uncertainty, unease and plenty of controversy to this year and beyond.
So what else is new? The paddock has been an ongoing saga of changes in the rules and regulations for a few years, but this latest one has sent alarm bells through the rank and file of the teams and Dorna.
An amicable agreement does not appear to be any of the options, but talk about moving the goalposts… It could be claimed that the Open class is so named as it has truly opened a huge can of worms, and since the tyre test at Phillip Island the rules have been changed again.
Did Dorna have its arm twisted by a certain manufacturer for this “Factory 2” class to be dramatically introduced so soon after Ducati announced its “defection” to the open class for the 2014 season?
They say a week is a long time in politics. The same could be said for events since the second Sepang test when Ducati decided to go the “Open” pathway.
That really stuck in the craw for both Honda and Yamaha who were still reeling from the performance of the NGM Forward Racing Team’s Yamaha’s in the two tests at Sepang. The Forward Racing M1 is, essentially, last year’s factory bike, without the electronics or the seamless gearbox. Yamaha, and particularly the Herve Poncheral-owed Tech 3 Team, are pissed off that last year’s bike with a few bits removed has a great chance of beating some of the factory machines.
With Aleix Espargaro on the Forward team he will no doubt have a bit of extra incentive with his younger brother, Pol in the Tech 3 Team, and that incentive has been clearly displayed overnight in Qatar when Aleix brought his pre-season testing form to the main game, topping opening practice.
At Phillip Island it was interesting to speak to all the major players that were in attendance from new Ducati signing Davide Tardozzi, Honda’s Livio Suppo and Wilco Zeelenberg and Massimo Merigali from Yamaha expressing their own personal thoughts.
However the sun had just set on those tyre tests at Phillip Island when word came through that Dorna had moved the goalposts – again – in the just introduced Open class. Overnight, it was decided that there would be penalties imposed on any Open class teams if there is any immediate and sustained success, the new avenue aimed squarely at Ducati and Forward if they nab a few regular podiums.
There will be limitations in engines and fuel if any Open class combatants start regularly appearing on the podium with sanctions. If this happens they will then be reclassified as Factory 2 entries.
While MCNews.com.au received a few answers from Suppo on the latest development after the PI test had concluded, unfortunately there was no word from Yamaha and Tardozzi. At Phillip Island Tardozzi was particularly animated when the subject of the open class was brought up. Perhaps “animated” is a misnomer as he reacted to the question like a cobra springing from its basket!
Maybe we were lucky not to get his impressions of this latest direction because quite likely he is now on the prowl like a Bengal tiger!
While the finishing order of the race will go some way to answering the question if Marquez can continue his winning ways, the main uestion of the weekend and after the flag will be, “what will Dorna‘s and Honda’s reaction be if the unthinkable occurs and Ducati lands on the podium?”
So, did Honda put any pressure on Dorna to move the goalposts? Read the words of those in the know, but don’t forget to read between the lines… As we speak with Livio Suppo, Davide Tardozzi, Gigi Dall’lgna, Wilco Zeelenberg and Massimo Meregalli.