Fuel consumption has become the key to success and performance in the MotoGP class. The clear advantage in top speed down the long Losail straight at the GP of Qatar probably had more to do with the 21-liter limit on MotoGP fuel tanks than on any true horsepower advantage of the Ducati Desmosedici and Honda RC212V over the Yamaha R1.
The fact that Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo placed first and second, beating the top Honda of Andrea Dovizioso and the Ducati of Nicky Hayden back to third and fourth, was obviously not the result of any power advantage by the two FIAT Yamahas.
Rossi ran out of fuel less than half way around his victory lap and said afterward that he was worried about fuel because the M1 was spinning up on corner exits. Lorenzo said the same about spinning, and admitted that the main worry over the weekend had been about getting to the end of the race with the bike still running hard. The fuel monitoring systems on MotoGP bikes make sure they get home (usually) by constant measurements and adjustments. The system saves fuel by reducing power (revs), and that is probably the reason that the Yamaha was giving up between 4 and 6 mph to the Honda and Ducati on the straight.
In fact, when Dovizioso pulled out of Rossi’s slipstream and powered by, that was the warning Rossi was waiting for. “When I see Andrea can pass before the finish line I realize that I must open a bigger gap so that he cannot do this on the last lap,” said Rossi.
Finally, Rossi broke clear and that left Dovizioso to fall into the clutches of Lorenzo, riding with broken bones in his right hand. There was not enough speed advantage for the Honda to offset Lorenzo’s hard riding and the Yamaha seemed to jump off the slow corners better that the Honda.
Qatar is a track that burns fuel by the bucket, but what we are seeing in the jostling and negotiating between Dorna and the MSMA (manufacturer’s association) is that the currently participating factories are determined to keep a lid on performance by holding to the 21-liter limit when the new regulations for 2012 go into effect.
This is not what Dorna and IRTA wanted. The original proposal from Dorna (and with support from IRTA) was for a two-tiered MotoGP class with 1000cc engines eventually replacing the current 800cc bikes. Under this formula, still strongly supported by IRTA, the current 800cc bikes under present rules would continue, but competing against factory-entered 1000cc four cylinder bikes with a maximum piston diameter of 81mm and six engines for the 18-race season (the same number of engines allowed to the 800cc bikes). These factory bikes could be either pure prototypes or modified production engines. A third level of machines would consist of 1000cc engines entered by ‘non-factory’ teams. These ‘private’ or ‘independent’ teams would be allowed twelve engines instead of six.
Both Dorna and IRTA were originally in favor of upping the fuel load to 24 liters for all three classes of machines. But the MSMA members objected strongly, arguing that it would not be commercially or socially wise to abandon emphasis on fuel consumption at a time when these concerns are becoming more important.
Although the MSMA insists that there was already a compromise agreement even before meetings in Qatar, IRTA’s General Secretary Mike Trimby said on Saturday morning that there was a push by the MSMA to keep 800cc prototypes as the only regulations for ‘factory teams’ and to allow severely restricted 1000cc engines with the 81mm bore rule only for private teams.
I know that the original Dorna proposal was for a single capacity