Deep Dive: Bradley Smith Explains MotoGP Electronics, Part 2

Electronics in MotoGP remain a complex and fascinating subject. To help explain them to us, we had Bradley Smith talk us through the various options at his disposal on board his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1.

In the first part of this interview, published yesterday, Smith talked to us about the different electronics settings he has during practice and the race. In the second part, the Tech 3 rider talks us through how he and his team, under the guidance of crew chief Guy Coulon, arrive at those settings. Smith walks us through the different options available, and how he arrives at the right settings to use at a particular race track

Q: The buttons on the right hand side: pit and stop buttons?

Bradley Smith: So pit and stop is quite straightforward. Stop is stop, pit limiter is pit limiter. When pit limiter is on, we get some lights coming up on the dashboard. Again, it's set at an RPM that we work out is going to be 60 km/h for that track, based on your gearing. So they may have to adjust that a little bit, because the circumference of the wheels changes with rain tires and intermediate tires. So we want to make sure that in case of flag-to-flag, we have the maximum.

Also we're asked to try it all through the weekend, to make sure that we're right on that limit, because 1 km/h all of the start straight is quite a long way, so it's something we analyze quite closely. Then you bring in a bit of tolerance with the radar guns and this, that, and the other. You try and bend the rules as much as you can, but no one wants a stop and go, so you have to stay within the limits. You only go as far as what you think you can get away with.

Q: Do you have different electronics map set ups for flag-to-flag races?

BS: Basically, we will put an emergency switch on there, for example in switch 3. The emergency switch will be, in case we're out on slicks and it starts to rain and you go, I really need help right now, then you can go to it. I had that in Misano [in 2015], didn't use it. I used the slick setting and did everything with my right hand. But I think it all depends on the track at that moment, how much confidence you have, because in Misano, I didn't even think about it. I was so concentrated on what I was doing, I didn't even think about it, too busy trying not to fall off. It all depends on that moment. Usually in flag-to-flag, we already know if we are starting on slicks. If we start on slicks, the spare bike will have wet tires with a rain map. The rain map will be a similar scenario to what you have in the dry. So for me personally, I usually start off with the strongest TCS, and then get softer and softer.

Q: What do you mean by "strongest TCS"?

BS: The strongest working. So you have to remember that TCS can work in two ways: it can work strong, or it can work a lot. So you have two ways of doing it: the spike in which it cuts, or the frequency of cuts. So you either get one really big cut, or lots of smaller ones. So it depends on the rider, or the grip, or the character of the engine. It depends on what you decide to do. So for me, strongest TCS would mean the most amount of cutting of the power to prevent slides.

So basically, we start off on the strongest, and then go weaker and weaker. Because basically, you want to start off in the safe setting and test the grip, and if the grip looks OK, you can go softer and softer. With engine braking, we probably start off with the strongest, and then go softer and softer as well. Because if the speeds come up and you start to roll through the corner, the last thing you want is a whole load of engine braking at that point and you ending up going sideways.

And then you can all do it by lean angle and bank angle: I want this number here, or this engine braking at this point, and a little bit softer there, and when I'm at that angle, I want it a little bit less, and when I go to that angle I want it more. It's a real science.

Q: So all of these variables have to be baked into a single map, and then varied between settings?

BS: Yes. So that's why you see us super busy after sessions. We've seen Valentino even more so than usual through Matteo's [Flamigni, Rossi's data engineer] Instagram, doing lots of those type of meetings. Because that's finally what you're doing, you're not talking about setting any more, you're talking about dialing in the electronics. Because that's what's making the difference at the end of the day at this level.

The chassis and stuff like that, still chief mechanics and engineers are making a difference, but there's a lot of things you can overcome with the electronics, even though they've gone to a more basic system. I think the more basic system has placed even more importance on the rider and the people there. Because when it was the really sophisticated system, it was easy to do. Now it's a basic one, we have to spend more time on it and be more precise, and pinpoint it.

Which is why I believe the factory teams have even more of an advantage this season, because they have guys who are able to do it. Me as a rider, I've got to go, I've got to explain to my guy, and my guy is trying to do three people's jobs in one. So he's trying to tap everything into the system, and sometimes that's just too much to ask, it just doesn't work.

Q: Back to switching maps, do you get messages on your pit board telling you when to switch maps?

BS: Only during free practice if your rider is a little bit forgetful and needs a little prompt, or it's something you really want to try and you make sure the rider tries it. That's the only time, because the team doesn't know what the bike feels like, and it's down to the rider. Sometimes you actually want it to spin. You want it to spin because it continues to drive forward, or sometimes you want it to spin because you can turn inside the guy in front of you.

The other thing you've got to remember is that if you go too strong, you're kind of limited to what the bike does. You get to the maximum angle, you touch the throttle even a little bit, and the TCS starts to cut in. You can't turn the bike, you can't do anything. And the power only comes when you pick the bike up. So you ride around with your hands tied.

Q: So you're restricted to the speed of the bike, you can't do anything extra?

BS: Yes, which is no problem at all when you are setting a rhythm by yourself, because if you're setting a fast rhythm, that's OK. But if you're in a battle, and you need to square up the inside of someone, you can't do it like that. And then you're even more tied, because you can only do what your bike allows you to do, and if the other bike accelerates away from you, you can't be creative. And one thing as a rider, when you're all doing the same lap times, sometimes you need to be creative.

Q: Any other buttons?

BS: There used to be a button for lights, but because of how important it is that when the rain map get sent to the ECU, the light automatically comes in.

Q: What about the lights?

BS: These are all shift lights, and this is the warning light from IRTA themselves. So anything we get from IRTA telling us red flag, black flag, those type of things, that's all we see at the moment, it's coming on that one. They're just different colored LEDs. So like blue will come up if you're a slow rider. Black doesn't come up, but some orange ones do. It's basically to do with the black flag and orange circle. It's quite sophisticated, I've looked at the actual thing, and I'm like, please narrow it down to only some! Because otherwise you get confused...

But red flags are super important. Like with Dani's crash in Austria (during FP1), that means that, it's not only the sector time, because the track is split into more than four sectors for IRTA, so that means that pretty much next corner, you're going to have the mark. And especially with those red flags incidents, it's really super important that we have that.

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it gives just a fraction of what they are doing  on the bike :D 

i love it to read about it more david  great piece  :D this is why is signed up for one more year in september.

gr harrie 

I always wondered why a team like Tech3 wouldn't just hire another data guy. BS says his guy is overworked. You would think it would be worth the extra salaray...

No, not fancy electronic wires - just plain wire wound round and round to stop the grips coming off (pic 2 above). Sweet! I like the simple stuff.

" I think the more basic system has placed even more importance on the rider and the people there. Because when it was the really sophisticated system, it was easy to do. Now it's a basic one, we have to spend more time on it and be more precise, and pinpoint it."

Same amount of work, just happening on the garage end instead of the Manu end w the system itself. Perhaps rider involvement increasing makes for a more important skill set. Not just the rider, the data engineer too, and their relationship. I prefer to have it in the garage, and simpler. Makes a case for electronics in Moto2 btw. Although the case for riding a bike moving around w little nanny assists is also an important skill.

Good stuff. More please. Thank you!

Bradley Smith may not be the most talented as far as speed goes. But he sure is one of the most articulate. Thanks for these, thoroughly enjoyed part 1 and 2. He would be a great Technical Announcer or just plain anouncer. I always enjoy analysis.

In the second picture you can see the twistgrip throttle, and to comment on a previous post yes safety wire to hold the grips in place. Racers have been doing that forever. Even at the GP level. So on the throttle I see 2 cables. Your standard push pull. No ride by wire? Even a lowly R1 street bike has ride by wire. What gives here?

The throttle cables visible go to a potentiometer on the chassis. The values from the pot meter are then used to calculate how much the butterflies should be opened by, the ECU taking throttle opening and a host of other stuff into account. 

They do this for a number of reasons. It is a familiar feel, the friction of a cable making it easier for riders to understand how much throttle they have opened. It's also less vulnerable in a crash. The Hondas used an electronic throttle, with a pot meter on the handlebar, but that can easily get damaged in a crash, which means you have no throttle at all. 

So, even though it looks like a traditionally operated throttle, it isn't really.