Thursday, October 25, 2012

Monday morning Crew Chief, Thursday Edition. The six-motor rule blows. Or does it?

For a while, it seemed is if MotoGP's "six motor" rule could have a real impact on Jorge Lorenzo's World Championship bid. As the season wore down, Pedrosa's team had lots of (expected) life left in their six motors. But Lorenzo, through no fault of his own, wrecked one motor half-way through the season. That left the very real prospect that #99 could have to use a seventh motor, which would mean that he'd have to start from pit lane.

"I see your white smoke," said Pedrosa, "and I'll raise you 250 rpm."
The consensus seemed to be that, should that happen, it would suck. I.E., that we were (again!) experiencing the law of unintended consequences as it applies to MotoGP rules. Limiting the number of engines sort of made intuitive sense as a cost-limiting measure (good). But few liked the idea that the rule might actually be the 'outside assistance' Honda and Pedrosa needed to pull championship victory from the jaws of defeat second place.

With only two races to go, it now seems less likely that this will be a deciding factor in the championship. It could still be so, but only if Lorenzo blows a motor and is DNF somewhere, which doesn't seem to happen that much any more. Most feel that if Yamaha had to fit a seventh motor and thus forced him to start from pit lane, that he'd still have no trouble putting enough points on the board to win the title, thanks to his very strong early season form.

I frankly like the added strategic battle that the six-engine rule brings to MotoGP. If there can't be action on track, there's at least intrigue in the pits, and the battle's well-joined by the Crew Chiefs.

It's cool that (by measuring the pitch of Pedrosa's exhaust note at peak revs) geekfans have determined that Honda's been raising the rev limit on his bike. I think that right now, if Lorenzo finishes right behind Pedrosa at Philip Island (which is not a given, since Stoner's resurgent, but still) then Lorenzo would only have to finish 8th or better in Valencia to clinch. That would make for a boring last couple of races except that we may be looking at a situation in which Pedrosa's team can tune a bike for guaranteed wins while Lorenzo's team have to tune for the finish.

I think it would have been even more interesting if Lorenzo had run into engine life issues a few races ago. That would open up the situation in which his team's best strategy was to take a seventh motor with, say, four races to go even though they may have made their six 'legal' motors last.

Yes, that would mean an unnecessary pit lane start -- which seems like a ridiculous choice -- but it might be better to do that and run all the motors at full power rather than start at your earned grid position in that one race, but run all remaining races detuned for reliability.

I wonder if the teams have a computer simulation that allows them to calculate and optimize this strategy?


  1. I fail to see how the six motor rule is saving any money since the teams already have a 7th or 8th motor with them at every race. This whole idea of saving money in racing is counter intuitive and everybody knows it. Nothing but another example of political correctness, just baloney!

    1. I suppose that if there was no six-motor rule, they'd have 9th through 20th motors in various stages of readiness, but I get your point. I've said this before but it bears repeating: Everyone spends all their budget, no matter what it is. If you have the money to bring to bear, you'll find a way to spend it, and make yourself or your team faster.