First Step Towards MotoGP's Spec ECU: Magneti Marelli To Offer Spec Unit In 2013

MotoGP has taken its first step towards the formal introduction of a standard ECU. Today, Dorna announced that they have reached agreement with Magneti Marelli to supply an electronics system to MotoGP teams for the next four years, starting from the 2013 season. To support the electronics system, Magneti Marelli will set up a MotoGP R&D center at their base in Bologna, Italy.

The system to be supplied is complete, and highly sophisticated. The system will comprise an ECU, a complete sensor package, data logger and all of the various wires and switches to make the system. The ECU on offer is described as being Magneti Marelli's "highest technological option". More importantly, the Italian electronics firm will supply full support for the ECU, both on and off the track, helping teams develop and set up the system. The system will be supplied free of charge to any team that requests it.

The system on offer will be supplied on a voluntary basis for 2013, with the teams free to continue to develop and use their own systems should they so choose. To allow teams to compete with the teams electing to use proprietary systems, the Magneti Marelli system supplied to the teams will be fully functional for the 2013 season. The Magneti Marelli system is the de facto standard in the paddock, with both Yamaha and Ducati already using a very similar system on their factory prototypes.

Though the press release does not mention it, the announcement marks the first stage on the way to the introduction of a spec ECU for all MotoGP entries. This same system, with a rev limit and restricted functions, will be made compulsory for all MotoGP entries. The spec ECU will be very similar to the system used in Moto3, where teams are allowed to change fuel maps, but not develop their own algorithms. Some level of traction control will still be available, but the parameters for applying it will be greatly restricted.

The argument currently is when the spec ECU is to be imposed. Dorna wants to impose a spec ECU on the series from 2014, but the factories are resisting. The MSMA, however, is split on the issue: Ducati is willing to accept a standard ECU, however begrudgingly, and Yamaha is prepared to accept standard hardware, but not standard software. Given that the hardware being introduced by Magneti Marelli is almost identical to the system being used by Yamaha, this should hardly be seen as a concession.

The fiercest resistance is coming from Honda. HRC have threatened to leave the series if a standard ECU is imposed, and given Honda's massive influence on the series, this is a risk. Honda's argument is that they use MotoGP as a platform for developing their electronics systems for use on road bikes, while Dorna points out that other manufacturers seem to develop their electronics system just fine without a MotoGP program. Whether Honda's threat to leave is genuine or just bluster will come down to their judgement of the marketing value provided by MotoGP.

The press release from Dorna announcing the agreement with Magneti Marelli is shown below:

Magneti Marelli ECU available to all MotoGP™ teams from 2013

Magneti Marelli will give all competitors in the MotoGP™ premier-class the option to utilise the Italian company’s Electronic Control System on their racing machines from 2013. This landmark four-year agreement will give all teams access to Magneti Marelli’s electronic control system, which includes an engine and chassis control unit with inboard datalogger, as well as the relevant tuning and data analysis tools, dashboard, handlebar toggle switch and inertial platform.

This system, representing the highest technological option in Magneti Marelli’s portfolio, will be backed up by a permanent presence of its technicians on track, as well as continual development and evolution at its MotoGP-specific R&D centre as its Bologna headquarters, which will be set up specifically in light of this agreement.

Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna CEO, is thrilled with this latest cooperation: “I cannot hide the fact that I am very happy with this new cooperation with Magneti Marelli. The agreement reached we have reached with the Italian company merely validates MotoGP as a competition that incorporates and encourages the latest and most innovative technology. The experience of this company, which has spent many years at the highest level of competition in motor sport, represents a major step in the premier-class of two-wheel racing.”

Roberto Dalla, Magneti Marelli Motorsport Managing Director, added: “We are very glad to share our know-how and experience in the motorsport field with MotoGP, in order to jointly achieve new objectives in terms of performance and technology development. The main aim is to provide top technology at affordable costs, which is Magneti Marelli’s mission firstly in racing and also in the field of series production. Magneti Marelli has been developing solutions in the electronics and electro-mechanics area for MotoGP teams for the last decade: this new initiative with Dorna represents a further strategic opportunity to enhance the development of our technology.”

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So is Honda currently using in-house developed hardware as well, or simply using a different third party supplier to Yamaha/Ducati? And what about the CRTs (with the obvious exception of the Suter-BMW riders Bosch systems)?

Given that Honda is the only company (publically) planning on building a customer racer, I would have thought this move would save them a significant amount of money. Hopefully other manufacturers will follow suit and build proddie racers now they won't have to give up any elec-trickery. Of course, depending on how limited the software options are, it could also see the the advantage the factory bikes have over the customer machines narrow significantly when the spec ECU is introduced, something Honda will not be happy about.

This move has got to be good for the CRT bikes in the short term though, and the early introduction of the system will be a bonus for Suzuki (and any other manufacturers planning on entering the series), allowing them to test their new bike (and hopefully make some wild card appearances) with the electronics package they'll actually be running in 2014 or 2015.

Suzuki also said that they are not interested in a spec ECU (

Honda uses in house electronics (they got a couple of gurus from Yamaha) while Yamaha buys the hardware and does the programming in house.

If this move would be to help the CRTs to be more competitive, it would be fine. But to force a spec ECU to dumb down the bikes to favor "show" is something that may not be good for the future of MotoGP as a prototype series. It's just another step into spec racing. So it will be 4's, rev limited with spec ECU, spec tyres, spec wheels, (almost) spec brakes, (almost) spec suspensions. So lots of development to do in (delta) frames, swingarms and aerodynamics. How long before the Honda endurance bike costs more than the MogoGP “prototype”, as it was in the 90's? I only see 2-5 guys battling in the moto2 series and until the end of the race, we are usually down to 2-3, when we don't get one of them checking out at the front. How many "aliens" are there in MotoGP?

HRC uses similar technology in other products, like robots and such. Electronics is not only about traction control, anti-wheelie and things like that. It's also about fuel economy and engine response, which can be passed to road bikes.

Let's imagine for a second that Honda does drop off the series. That's 4 motogp bikes (2 of them the most competitive on the grid), maybe the spec racing bikes they are talking about, all moto2 engines are Honda and the Moto3 full Honda and Honda-hybrids. If there is no other manufacturer to fill in the MotoGP gap, then what do we get?

I don't see Honda going anywhere especially if they do introduce a "spec racer". Nothing would look worse than if there was yamaha and Ducati in the top 8 positions followed by 10 hondas. Yeah, we know that they aren't exactly comparable bikes but to most people buying bikes they would see every Honda in the series getting beaten badly. I can see where they are coming from though, the electronics have become pretty incredible over the last 10 years however a step back could be welcome. There is no way a roadbike is going to use gps data to control the engine.

As far as I understood from that particular interview, the "spec-racer" is to be sold to private teams, much like a CRT, only better. So it's to "fill" the grid, but with some pretty decent bikes while they are also proving the full factory blinged up rockets. With the news that they are going to make a new V4 SuperBike with MotoGP technology, maybe they moved that project to WSBK.

source: Honda Building "Production Racer" CRT Version Of RC213V MotoGP Bike -

my point was that it would not be marketable for honda to build the production racer and duck out of the series with their own team. Its not advantageous to have a large presence in the series and not be winning, and especially be getting hammered on the score-card with manufacturer "honda" placing well down the standings with nothing at the top. So if honda were to pull out their prototype there goes the production racer, but if the production racer stays, so does the prototype. I think the production racer is the better way forward for the crt concept for sure and i would like to see it happen, but parity will surely exist and to a greater degree if a spec ecu is not used. Seems like the crt guys today are fighting the bikes more than each other.

What are the chances of this ECU preventing per-corner electronics? Banning GPS was supposed to stop that, but they found a way round it.

For me, it is the per-corner electronics that kill the excitement. Honda can't possibly argue that it has any application for road bikes.

Is the spec ECU likely to have Corner-by-corner electronics functions?

It seems an obvious area to reduce the complexity (and therefore programming costs). As you say, this has no relevance to road bikes, so seems like an odd point for the factories to protest over.

Let's recap: a perceived problem in MotoGP of a lack of affordable, competitive machinery.

Why did this occur? Surely, in an economically competitive market, there should be a number of suppliers vying against each other to offer the best product? Well, the reason is that the suppliers of the machinery had been allowed to have an interest in their customers. That is, the suppliers of the bikes were allowed to run teams. And so the supplier became motivated to favour one team over others. An obvious way to do this is to restrict supply of the best products to all but your favoured team (the one you run). Thus, the economically competitive market in bike racing was eroded, and ultimately destroyed when the suppliers were allowed to retain ownership of /all/ the bikes.

CRT tries to address the latter problem. It may yet be successful, we shall see.

However, introducing spec equipment into the rules seems wrong. It is trying to fix what is inherently a problem of a lack of economic competition, by creating a monopoly. This may paper over the perceived problems in the short-term, but it will surely destroy the sport as we know it - that is one between riders AND machinery - given time. It is fundamentally a contradiction to have a prototype racing series with significant spec parts.

The rules should seek to *enhance* competition, both between riders and machinery. Spec parts may enhance the competition between riders, but they *eliminate* it on the machinery side. To enhance competition on the machinery side requires taking the economics into account - requires *breaking* monopolies and oligopolies (horizontal or vertical), not creating them! The rules should specify that machinery used must meet certain market availability criteria (as Moto3 rules try to do) - not disallow all but one type of machinery!


Moto3 has a spec ECU. Though that does not invalidate your point about controlling the price being a more direct form of intervention.

I agree with your conclusion, but I reject the notion that sports is a competitive marketplace. Winning seems to be the only source of value, and since wins are finite, sports is more of a mercantile arrangement.

Creating more value-oriented credentials (including subjective fan votes) could have a serious impact on the amount of credentials to be passed around. Tying these accolades to additional prize funding could increase competition without manipulating the technical rules at all.

Just for hypothetical development of the theme, the organizers could do something as radical as creating a 'charity' fund that is allocated based upon a fan vote. Democratic process within sports could fundamentally alter the value of MotoGP and stimulate competition. I'm not advocating such methods, just saying.....

Of course, as MotoGP moves more and more towards Spec racing, WSBK machines are moving in the opposite direction. Not one of the bikes lining up on this year's WSBK grid is really anything like the bikes you can buy.

As has been pointed out by paulj above, what MotoGP actually needs is a rule forcing the manufacturers to build and sell bikes to private teams. The CRT project has shown that, given a little more development time, a road-bike based engine in a prototype chassis can compete with the current crop of over-priced satellite machines. Even out the disparity between the ridiculous budgets of the factory teams and the private teams, and we may even see some close racing again!

And while we're at it, scrap the spec tyre rule, and let people choose a tyre that suits their chassis. Then you'd have even more chance of teams building a home-brew machine (no offense to FTR/Kalex/Suter/Tech3 et al) that would be capable of at least fighting with the satellite bikes.

With tire wars, costs are much higher and so is the gap between the "haves" and the "have nots." This is the basis for spec tires. And it is the same with electronics... high costs and huge gap between the big spenders and the rest. So the basis for spec electronics is the same, to reduce costs and level the field somewhat between the big-budget factories and the others. This is a reasonable compromise, IMO.

Many of the comments are idealistic, lamenting the loss of prototype purity, but ignoring the fact that only two teams can afford the best of everything (and who knows if Honda and Yamaha can continue to afford their big budgets).

Ultra sophisticated electronics are diminishing the grid and killing the show. We cannot expect the engineers to un-learn electronics. So we need to ban them.

Far from lamenting the loss of prototype purity, I'd much prefer to see the factories all creating production racers based on their current machines which teams could actually buy, run and sell on when they upgrade.

There is no escaping the fact that money will always buy you the best, whether that is riders, engineers or tyres. What we need is a system where there is a trickle down of technology from the top teams to the rest. The balance then starts to move away from a simple case of 'who has the biggest budget' towards rider/mechanic/programmer skill, as a good team using 'last years cast-offs' can still provide some outstanding performances.

I'm all for banning advanced 'corner-by-corner' electronics, but the best way to improve the 'show' is for the lesser teams to come up towards the performance level of the top teams, not the other way around. And do you know what will help these teams to improve the most? RULES STABILITY!!

I understand that, when they banned GPS, the teams just used the timing loops to tell the ECU where it was on track.

Assuming this is the only way the bike can locate itself on track (and Nicky Hayden's woes would indicate that is the case, at least for Ducati), then surely if you just ban any data link between the timing transponder (or any other device capable of RECEIVING data) and the ECU, then the bike CAN'T know where it is?

Or even more simply, ban any device capable of receiving a signal from being on the bike at all.

I wonder if they could do turn by turn mapping by dead reckoning. Tire spinning (and different lines) means you can't know exactly where you are by wheel revolutions alone, but if you factor in braking and lean angles the bike might be able to figure out where it is purely from sensors on the bike.

You could limit the number of inputs into the ECU but a really clever team might find a way around that. I recall that in the AMA Suzuki came up with a really clever form of traction control that circumvented the rules. Part of me has to admire that sort of creative problem solving. Increased restrictions create new opportunities for technical innovation.

That's exactly what they already do. Jorge Lorenzo's problem during QP at Mugello was precisely because he cut the track, skipping the second half of the circuit. The bike was using dead reckoning, and thought it was still round the second half of the circuit, not the front straight, so was cutting power when it should be giving full power, and vice versa.

In reality, a track map and previous data from the circuit is all you need to do turn-by-turn, if you can write the software yourself, and if you have multiple inputs (revs, gear, wheel speed, lean angle). There are always characteristic points in any circuit which are easily identifiable from the data. You base your mapping on those data points. You need to have free algorithms to be able to use that data, however.

You can get quite a noisy signal, and it takes a bit of work to process it, but you can work out roughly where you are from them. They cost next to nothing.

E.g. pretty much all smartphones have 3D accelerometers. There's research out there for software that can use them to work out where you've gone inside a building, just from the phone bouncing around on your leg pocket as you walk (which is an exceptionally noisy signal). It should be even easier with a motorcycle.

They should just unban GPS. Corner specific navigation clearly has performance benefits, and is an interesting development avenue to explore.

I cant be the only one who thinks equal bikes does not equal equal racing.
Slower riders need that unfair advantage gained through hi tec speculation.
When a team gets the advantage its not long before another team works out how they did it and compensates.
The Desmo valves soon brought about Pneumatic valves which leveled the field again.

Your always going to have better riders than others.
The factories know this and have to make allowances. Smaller riders for instance.
But the spec tyre didnt level the field. it just made some teams struggle more than others.
I would assume the spec ECU will do the same.

My two-pence thinks this is another turn in the wrong direction

It's been said before that even with spec bikes, the factories will always win because they can afford the best riders. It will likely be the same with spec ecu's. The factories will have squadrons of IT guys to do the mapping etc. and they have years of organised data accumulation experience. I also doubt that Honda will do the series any favours in providing spec. racers and the like unless they get their way with the technical regs. Surely those bikes are a carrot for Carmelo to be nice. Honda also probably doesn't appreciate that the spec system is the one that Yam have used for years.

The biggest problem the engineers have are the riders.

Given total control over matters, I'm sure Honda would love to supply a full grid of ASIMO's, fettled by Geo Tech perhaps and wedged with triple axis gyros and accelerometers, to substitute.

Press conferences would be a bit dull though..second thoughts, maybe not?

about not having Spec rules. But being "prototypes" they will always find some way to spend money. All these changes are not saving any money for the teams. In fact, it is probably making them spend more to test and adjust to whatever rule is being introduced. Which does not allow them to work with what they have already developed and refine it, (with minimum costs compared to developing something brand new.)

On the flip side, I would like to see the racers with less electronic aides and having to rely more on themselves. Yes it would be more dangerous, but that is exactly why I watch Professional Racers, because what they are doing is dangerous, and the danger is what puts me on edge while watching. F1 dropped traction control and people threw a fit, but the racing got tons better. No longer were people able to just rely on the electronics, (which were worse than Motogp has ever gotten). Mistakes were being made, and the racing became worthwhile to watch.

I am not saying that is a guarantee that would happen in Motogp. But it could help things if it is easier to make mistakes while under pressure. Bring some much needed tension back to racing. The best will always shine, but taking away some of the electronics, and adding a little more human to the racing may help.

And there we have yet another stupid spec rule added to the so-called GP's. Let's rename it MotoSpec (TM of course).
So far all those spec rules brought nothing but confusion and frustration to teams, riders and factories - and to the people watching. Solution: even more spec rules, apparently.

Thing is that it not only kills engineering innovation and factory interest, it also robs smaller teams with smart engineers of the possibility to come up with out-of-the-box thinking constructions. Now it is just a matter of building the most optimised (= most expensive) version of the prescribed configuration. It does not help less funded teams at all.

Apart from that, Ezpeleta & Co can now through Marelli conveniently control who is fastest. We want Rossi to be champion? Make his bike run faster/better/smoother. Is the championship not close enough? Please Marelli, give the opponents a bit more power or traction.

I don't even see a point in a rev limit when the ECU is already spec. You can simply level the power output anyway.

Why do so many people see it as the ultimate goal to make all bikes equal? It is called motorsport for a reason; it is not just a battle between riders, it is also between bikes. That is what makes it such an interesting sport, all those factors that play a role in the outcome.

Superbikes is becoming more and more the biggest spectacle in motorcycle racing, in my opinion. Real brands, real engine tuning, lots of different bikes and real racers doing serious battling. The GP's seem to slowly evaporate... What a shame.

When you say Superbikes do you mean WSBK, where the Ducatis get more displacement to compensate for their two cylinder design but have just had ballast added because they were doing too well?

Good point. There are some panic patchwork rules in WSB as well. Still, apart from the Pirelli tyres (unfortunately), people are still free to choose whatever component they think will work best for them.

Regarding the displacement difference for twins (it's not just for Ducati of course), triples and fours, I think this is not restricting development. Based on current materials and the laws of thermodynamics, you can rather easily work out a formula that will give you displacements for each number of cylinders, so that engines of the same level of efficiency/development will give the same amount of horsepower. For instance, inertia forces will determine how much more revs a four can make, which will be the major factor in achieving maximum power. There is a scientific way to level the engineering field; it's not that you are simply punishing people when they do a good job. The ballast weight indeed does, and therefore I don't like that.

The reason why they came up with the displacement differences in the first place was of course to get all the types of road superbikes into the racing class, which is what we as spectators like to see. You want your own bike/brand to be in there as well.

Anyone care to define the word prototype? And describe what part of an aluminium twin spar frame using Ohlins suspension, Brembo brakes and (mostly) Magneti Marelli electronics is prototype?

"pro·to·type (pr t-t p) n. 1. An original type, form, or instance serving as a basis or standard for later stages. 2. An original, full-scale, and usually working model of a new product or new version of an existing product."

However, in racing, prototype series generally means a series which _allows_ prototypes to be entered. It does _not_ mean every part has to be a prototype, or even every bike. It just means there are no "build at least X bikes" requirements. A bike can be built from off the shelf parts. A bike could even be mass produced. However, others may build limited production or one-off parts if they wish.

To my thinking, such series exist to allow pure race-based engineering competition (no need to take any market into account other than those who'll use the equipment in the series concerned) to be a factor in the sport. Spec parts are anti-thetical to that kind of definition (least, other than non-performance things like cameras and loggers required for the organiser to carry out their functions).

How about that? ☺

One problem is that suppliers and teams are vertically integrated. The internal market in MotoGP has become inefficient. So some restrictions on certain technologies may be required. E.g. "build at least X units, and make available to competitors according to Y means at <= Z price" rules that effectively ban prototyping for those classes of parts might be required. That doesn't stop the series being a prototype class though. ;) Nor does it mean single-supplier spec parts are required.

Production restrictions are often ineffective b/c the suppliers still develop components which cost significantly more than the selling price. The financial deterioration is simply shifted from the factory to the parts suppliers. Racing organizers have used two methods to remedy the problem--the NASCAR method (spec/define every component) and the FIA GT method (mandate that all machines go the same speed, thus the advantages of deficit spending are negating and the benefits of cost-cutting can be realized).

Changes to the competitive environment would have to be a lot more robust, imo.

You have to specify some conditions on how a part is made available, to ensure the maker doesn't game it by choosing to sell the part only to certain, favoured teams. There's probably a number of ways this can be done, e.g. by requiring the use of some broker, who allocates a part randomly when there's more demand than parts.

Specifying a certain level of performance, or a specific part, eliminates competition completely, thus removing incentive for refinement (i.e. better performance for the same price, or same performance at a cheaper price, or something between). I dislike the spec approach (performance or part), and I think it's unnecessary. There surely are better ways.

Equal distribution of parts is not the issue, though some claim WSBK can't make it happen (control tire). The issue is spending. "Make X part available for Y price" merely shifts overspending from the factory teams to the parts manufacturers. The factories and teams have their costs controlled, but nothing stops the parts suppliers from spending far more on production than they generate in revenues.

I'm sure there are more options than spec equipment, but price controls (alone) are not one of them.

To be honest, I don't really care about how much is being spent, whether it's lots or little. All I care about is that there's good competition. So for me, competition is the variable that should be governed for.

High spending can be an issue, if a few competitors have much deeper pockets than others. High spending is *not* an issue if the majority of competitors have relatively equal pockets. So the issue isn't high spending, so much as the ability of one competitor to *out* spend the other. IF out-spending is an issue, then yes, of course you need to look at that. It's hard to see how you can address unequal spending power other than through measures that limit some costs. Spec parts are one way - though that way doesn't necessarily equalise the costs on the *cheapest* part (given the functionality), i.e. equal cost, but not necessarily cheap.

If parts manufacturers overspend, but rules are in place to avoid favouritism (e.g. random allocation if demand > supply), then what's the problem? The parts manufacturers either absorb the loss (e.g. because it's worthwhile marketing) or they have to change the price, or they have to change the part to be cheaper.

Note that you can set Z to be infinite, in which case it's just a minimum-build restriction. You can set X to be larger than the number of bikes required for the grid, so everyone is guaranteed the part if they want it (making X "must be able to supply at least X", rather than requiring them all to be built, I guess).

Are there other ways? Let's explore them. Exploring all the possible solutions, and refining each other's views through questions and rebuttals, is what the comments to this story should be about! :)

Didn't Dorna define what a prototype was in the CRT rules by saying it was anything that has not been homologated for competition use?

I think the key point of a prototype series is that any of the teams are free to use any type of frame, suspension, brakes, engine, or electronics that they desire, whether a one-off part or something unbolted from a production bike. Because Brembo (or insert top manufacturer here) makes the best product and nearly everyone uses them does not mean that the teams are regulated to use them. Doesn't Honda use their own in-house electronics? This rule would hurt them the most with Yamaha being the least affected since they are already using MM. How is this fair?

Honda, the one company that has been willing to produce as many (expensive) bikes as they had customers, has gotten most of the static from nearly everyone, while Yamaha, who refuse to make more than 4 bikes, is rarely mentioned, and Suzuki, who left early and broke their promise, is being courted to come back, and BMW, who has never been in GP racing in my memory, is eagerly anticipated even though they have not made any firm statments on their plans. Dorna seems to be ignoring their long-standing participants in favor of smaller entries that have either broken promises before or have not contributed anything to GP in many decades. Its like F1 telling Ferrari to go blow and then catering to HRT and Caterham. Seems like nobody is in the control tower.

Also please at least try to analyze Dorna's press releases with somewhat of an impartial view. Ezpeleta says "The agreement reached we have reached with the Italian company merely validates MotoGP as a competition that incorporates and encourages the latest and most innovative technology." He says 'incorporates and encourages the latest and most innovative technology' yet the previous statment just related how in 2014 the advanced capabilities of the 2013 MM ECU would be restricted. How does 'incorporate and encourage the latest technology' coexist with a restricted spec ECU? If anything he is actively limiting the use of the latest and most innovative technology yet was not called out on the glaring contradiction.

If you are in favor of the new direction he is taking GP racing that is fine, but please don't ignore contradictory statments in order to smooth that road. You are doing neither the sport nor its fans a favor and that is something not expected on this site.


Racing can enforce a conservative trend, especially when design restrictions are piled upon design restrictions. It's not especially disconcerting when teams trend toward whatever brakes, electronics, frame configurations, etc., are the best at any given moment. It's logical. And when something else is proven to work better, others will change to that.

Had Rossi gotten the carbon-framed Duc to work, we may well have seen other teams change - and in a prototype series, they are free to, without having to worry about homologation, production minimums, etc.

Hell, if anyone wants to make a Featherbed-style frame and bolt in an air-cooled parallel twin and drum brakes, there's nothing in the rules that prevents them from doing so. If they get it to work, others will follow.

As others have pointed out here: The only rule change needed is a rev limit, a limit on the number of ECU inputs and a ban on corner-specific electronic aids.

And if you really think Honda needs MotoGP more than MotoGP needs Honda, revisit your history and read what happened here in the States in open-wheel racing when Honda pulled out of the then-dominant series and backed the lower-cost, lower-spec alternative. It was bloody and ugly, but in the long term, the series Honda moved to basically usurped the series that owned open-wheel racing in the U.S. for decades.

As I mentioned several days ago, it would be a major mistake to think that Honda's threat to move to World Superbike was empty. I did not anticipate that events and revelations would occur so quickly to demonstrate that Honda may, indeed, be ready to depart from the MotoGP paddock.

What Honda would get in WSBK: A platform for their new V4, more technological freedom, races in burgeoning markets ... I'm sorry, what were the drawbacks to going to WSBK again?

And if Honda goes, don't expect them to turn around and reverse the decision in a year.

p.s. The new entry-level sportbike from Kawasaki here in the U.S. comes with ABS. That means it's only a step from TC. Railing against electronics development misses the direction that the bike makers are heading.

Massively lower media exposure, almost none in the really important markets (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand). Like almost everyone involved in MotoGP, I have a mass of Indonesian followers on Twitter. They know virtually nothing of WSBK, despite being completely up to date with MotoGP.

That could change, for sure. But as long as the biggest names and best riders are in MotoGP, the real media exposure in key markets is in MotoGP.

As for technological freedom, maybe you should ask Aprilia and Ducati how they feel about the rules in WSBK. If Honda comes in and wipes the floor with the competition, Infront will immediately take measures to stop them. They have built an outstanding series around performance balancing, and done a great job. But rules in WSBK are never stable or safe, they are always subsidiary to the importance of the entertainment.

I agree that manufacturer withdrawal is usually the swan song of many series, but I tend to think that the causation is incompetence. The manufacturers withdraw b/c the sanctioning bodies are incompetent and uncreative. Collapse is imminent.

The trend creates the appearance of manufacturer sovereignty, which means the series actually give control to the manufacturers. Withdrawal is then the cause of series collapse.

I don't think MotoGP is all the way to the latter scenario, but I could be wrong. I think the brand is strong enough to survive the withdrawal of Honda, especially if they draw participation from other brands who were badly burned by Honda's fuel-efficiency rules.

They would have supplied five bikes instead of four. Wow.

As for Dorna's press release, I was highlighting the most important parts of it, not performing exegesis. I expect my readers to be intelligent enough to do that for themselves.

Then there's Ohlins/Brembo. Are they the best possible options on offer? Guy Coulon told me earlier this year "riders always want want the other guy has. It doesn't matter if his equipment is working or not." The paddock is a massively conservative environment which avoids risk. Trying something else is a risk, revolutions are a risk. Showa, WP, Technoflex, these could all be better solutions. But we don't know, because serious teams are all taking the safe option. 

Very true. But they're taking the 'safe' option - aluminum frame, Ohlins, Brembo, etc. - by choice, not by mandate. They're free to try something else.

I'd wager that WSBK is in a far stronger place, compared to MotoGP, than the IRL was when Honda jumped ship from CART. As you and others have noted, WSBK has been far more aggressive than MotoGP in courting new markets, and there's no indication that they're going to stop doing so anytime soon. (At least they're not racing three times in the U.S., which I really think is nuts).

If Honda does take its new V4 to WSBK and starts to dominate, at least the floor will be open to discussions about how to level the playing field with approaches that allow for development in the areas that manufacturers are most interested in. Juggle weights, intake restrictors, etc - I think you'd get far less resistance from the factories.

MotoGP seems hell-bent on trying to level the playing field or reduce costs by spec-ing the one area the manufacturers see the most future in for development. Believe me, I get what they want to do, and what they want to see. But how they are trying to go about it ... I just scratch my head.

Teams choosing to act like sheep and follow the herd and being forced to use specific components are two different things.

The WSBK route of weight and restrictor plates still allow technological deveopment, the proverbial doing more with less or in this case doing lower lap times with more weight. The Dorna approach of outright banning of technology only limits development and frustrates people trying to impriove the breed.

Maybe WSBK should be more like MotoGP and be developing and optimizing these close to production technologies. That would require GP to truly transform into a technology prototype series, maybe switch the rule from 21l of fuel to 700MJ of energy, eliminate any material or tech bans and really allow companies to do technology development. Unfortunately that wil never happen as the TV broadcast revenue potential is too hard to estimate so with the current business model there would be no money to run the series.


Bazzaz developed a rate-of-rise based TC system built on black boxes sent from Japan to the Yoshimura squad here in the U.S. He was hired because, basically, no one on the Yosh squad knew what to do with the boxes of stuff that kept showing up from Japan, which was insisting that it would make the bikes go faster.

Basically, thinking at the time was that TC would rely on a front wheel sensor, a rear wheel sensor, and an ECU that would compare wheel speeds and cut power if the rear was going faster than the front. The AMA tried to ban TC by banning wheel speed sensors. Yosh got around it by measuring the rate of change of the countershaft sprocket speed and having the ECU compare it to what it expected the rate of change to be if the wheel wasn't spinning.

But ... the only reason it was so effective was that in the absence of any competing system, a crappy system is a devastating advantage. While the rule restriction did indeed generate a novel solution to the problem, the solution was far from ideal.

p.s. With driver-less automated cars coming to California, I might have to reconsider my objection to GPS-based corner-specific electronic aids. As someone else here pointed out, they might be critical in the very near future for road purposes.

I think David was asking an important question, not endorsing anything. To find the right answer, it's very important to make sure you understand the problem, which takes questioning to do.

Dumbing down the seiries, IMO, is fine as long as the "lesser" series are not able to keep up.

What is really keeping a WSBK machine from matching GP laptimes? Tires? Electronics? The riders? The bikes are powerfull enough for sure. There's riders in WBSK that should still be in MotoGP IMO. So what is it?

The tech in WSBK is too much IMO. I remember seeing pictures of Spies' R1 less fairings and thinking it looked a lot like a naked M1 with the amount of electonics on it. There has to be a disparity bewteen the series that makes MotoGP the pinnacle of the sport. The direction it's heading in does not seem to fit that bill.

I see your point but don´t forget that some WSBK-Teams burn 3 engines per weekend while MotoGP circles 2-3 seconds faster (Qualifying) and has only 6 Engines for a whole season and less fuel per race. I call that prototype racing. No ordinary off-the-shelf-stuff there I think.

Just a bit of off the cuff speculation here.

With the manufactuers at the reigns, we've seen the dissolution of profit generating teams, which have resulted in an anemic grid. The worst of which was seen during the 2011 season. What was it, 13, 14 bikes on the grid? 11 or 10 finishing?

The problem has been further compounded by impossibly high barriers setup by the manufacturers. Namely: Honda, and Yamaha. As a result, we've seen both Kawasaki and Suzuki drop out.

It may be a bitter pill to swallow, but MotoGP is going to fail if it continues to let the manufacturers strangle the series. The organizers deserve a chance to have a grip of the rules, and develop a series that promotes an enviornment where a private team can thrive.

If Dorna can't get a handle on making the series interesting to the Average Joe, it's going to fold. End of story.

I am trying to understand all this but I keep thinking this is just a way to push out the MSMA. Is there a minimum number of manufactuerers required to keep the MSMA intact?

I have been frustrated by the emergence (it is new in evolutionary terms) of electronics. But MGP isn't flat track racing. It is much more sophisticated in engineering terms. Dumbing it down does seem attractive but it must surely be counter-intuitive.
I believe CRT is the way forward for MGP - let people bring in new tech, whatever that may be, let them dominate for a period as a reward for their efforts and investment, then move that tech into the CRT element of the rules. HRC/Yamaha/Ducaudi have an electronics/other advantage? Fine - let other teams claim it for $20k.Just make sure MGP exludes patent etc protection or 'supplier capacity limits' for CRT kit.
In many industries you can only profit from your R&D for so long - if what the fasctories get up to really benefits the consumer, let others share it and let the consumer benefit sooner rather than later - also a good argument for letting us race in these 'sustainable' times.
Do the same for tyres and fuel/lubricants or whatever else, that would level the playing field over time but benefit those who innovate and invest in winning.
This would make for a more innovative and relevant sport than trying to tie us down to the 1990's - that will very quickly look dumb, which is hardly the image for the premier level.

But like real-life you eventually need rules with some limits on freedom. I am not comfortable with single supplier rules either - but how else do you let the less-well-funded teams perform to a similar level as the factories? The independants need to be encouraged, but need help too.
Perhaps a technology 'parc ferme' is needed where the CRT rules apply but teams are allowed exclusive updates/add-ons for a period (and penalties for any fake software they feed in etc). Dorna need some software engineers on the team to help advise on this IMO (true independants, not MM secondees/transfers).
The corner-by-corner tech may not seem relevant at the moment but as driverless technology evolves it will be essential, unless we all wish to travel at the lowest safe average speed for a section of road, maybe with a hairpin somewhere...

I thought the change to a spec ECU was to reduce costs, which are (i believe) not in the acquisition of the box of tricks, but in hiring the skills to make it better than the guy next door? If that is the case (David?) Dorna 'giving' CRTs the same spec ECU as the factories that does not reduce the cost, or level the playing field without additional investment. If this is simply so they can later apply an RPM limit, then that should reduce cost, but I'm sure the deep pockets of the factory teams will work out a way around that too.

The cost reduction in the spec ECU was explained by Corrado Cecchinelli, in an interview I did with him some time ago. The crucial point in all of this is controlling the software. It is in these algorithms that the most money is spent for the most effect. If Magneti Marelli is supplying the algorithms, and teams are only free to modify maps, then the returns on spending a lot of money developing fuel maps are severely limited. The gap between the private teams and the factory teams will be closed to a large extent, but the factory teams will still have an advantage. They won't be spending six and seven figure sums developing software, but they may be spending six figure sums on the dyno perfecting fuel maps. The private teams should be able to start at a race track with a fuel map that is good enough, and tweak it to make it better. This is the situation in Moto2 at the moment.

Exactly correct, and exactly the heart of the conflict with Honda, Suzuki, and perhaps others.

Those algorithms - and the process of developing those insanely complex lists of if-than instructions - are/is going to be increasingly crucial to the operation of the TC and ABS systems that are showing up on more and more road bikes every year. Outside of racing, that's where the development is going. A spec-software series deviates from the street development path almost as dramatically as two-stroke V4s deviated from the four-stroke bikes that the manufacturers actually were selling.

It's way harder for the racing department to sell the parent company on racing when the race bikes are deviating from the development path of the vehicles that are being sold. (Hence, the disappearance of the two-strokes). The series that aligns itself with the manufacturers' needs is most likely to get their attention.

I don't put myself in the group of purists or idealists. But I do get to talk to people in the Big Four who decide what technology to put on their street bikes, and I know where their areas of interest are. The more spec elements of the race bike, the less relevant it is to their current street machines, since the spec usually is frozen at an elevated price point or one of limited functionality for street purposes.

Then all that is left for them is racing as a branding exercise, and that expenditure has to compete with all other potential marketing avenues.

p.s. I think it's pretty funny how the riders reacted to the news. For all the Internet fast guys who think electronics don't belong on racing bikes, the guys who actually have to ride them seem to get pretty nervous when you start talking about taking those electronic aids away ...

In defense of the MSMA,what I don't want to see is a bunch of spec engines and ECU's adorning a spec 1000cc layout grid on spec tires with spec this and that and neither do they. No way is that pure prototype.

The final straw will be spec stature riders. That is an issue which has already raised its ugly head. All ISO9001 spec, 1.75m and 68kg standard,conditioned issue. HA ! 20/20 vision stipulation and all O positive blood type.
As for HRC and Yamaha,I guess it will be some time before pneumatic valve actuation filters down to their respective street products.

I don't have a final solution and neither do the GPC. Wait and watch.

Can we please stop throwing around the term 'prototype series'? The term didn't even occur to anyone until the introduction of the 4-strokes. There was no mention of 'prototype' in the rulebook until Honda drafted the 4-stroke rules.

There is nothing glamorous about being a prototype series, it has more to do with massive budgets controlling competition and driving out smaller competitor (Suzuki, Kawasaki, KR, WCM, Aprilia, etc.). Being a 'prototype series' has been the single most destructive element to the series in decades.

So, let's drop that as an argument in this discussion because it is false and misguided.

Jon Rea's comments on MGP tech make interesting reading- either he stayed in WSB because Honda are moving/re-focussing there, or that's the half-truth they told him to overcome a shortage of seats in MGP, or maybe they will do both and the challenge of a new/competitive bike and a strong partner in Haslam, plus a bigger pay cheque , was just too good an offer.
Dorna sure don't have an easy game to play here.