Rider Reaction Mixed To Spec ECU Proposal In MotoGP

With the MotoGP paddock assembled at the Motorland Aragon circuit, the press got their first chance to gauge rider reaction to the proposal of a spec ECU which Dorna is looking to introduce into MotoGP, most probably from 2014. The reaction was guardedly positive among the MotoGP regulars, though all five riders questioned in the pre-event press conference raised concerns over safety. Only Jonathan Rea, standing in for Casey Stoner in the Repsol Honda team for probably the last time, dissented, believing that MotoGP should be a pure prototype series.

"If everyone has the same electronics, this will be positive for everyone, more positive for the ones who do not have the best electronics," Jorge Lorenzo told the press conference. He was the first to voice safety concerns. "I think we have to try it and to see if we still have the same security on the bike. Because now we avoid a lot of crashes, especially highsides, and maybe with the standard electronics the bike is a bit more dangerous. Because now, the bikes are more powerful, we have more than 250 horsepower, so we have to be careful of these things."

For Dani Pedrosa, many unknowns remained, but the experience from Formula One was positive. "It's hard to say now because it's a new thing, and nobody tried it, nobody know which challenge this new electronics will provide on the bike," Pedrosa said. "Obviously it's a thing coming from Formula One, and it seems like there it's working. I'm not sure really who is taking the advantage or disadvantage, but it seems like they don't complain much about that. But obviously a car is not a bike, so everything is unknown."

Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow was the most positive of the riders asked, but he warned that it won't change anything at the front of the race. "I think it's going to be the same for everyone, I don't really have a big opinion on it," Crutchlow said. "I think it's a good idea, but it makes no real difference, you're still going to see the same guys in the front. I think the guys who are fast in the championship are fast in the championship for a reason, not just electronics. I don't think it's suddenly going to make one guy at the back win the race. But I think it's good for the championship, and especially the financial situation of everyone." Never short of a quip, Crutchlow immediately spotted a business opportunity: "Maybe also a leathers manufacturer needs to make a parachute in the humps!" he joked.

Valentino Rossi, who has been critical of the influence of electronics in the past, was similarly cautious. "For me it's quite early to say, to understand, because it depends very much on the product. I think it's good to have everyone on the same electronics, but they have to study the right balance, the right level to make sure the bike is safe close to what it is now, but to have a bit less help and make the races more fun and have more fights, so we have to see." The experience of Formula One was cause for optimism, however: "Like Dani said, when the idea first arrived at Formula One, there were a lot of people who said it was impossible, but at the end, it was possible, and also the races became more fun to follow."

San Carlo Gresini Honda rider Alvaro Bautista's main concern was with safety: "I think if you have the same electronics, for sure the races will be more interesting to watch on TV. But you have to see how safe those electronics are. I don't know what will happen in the future, I think what is most important to the rider is the security, and it will be important to give us the security and the confidence to ride the bike."

The lone voice of dissent was Jonathan Rea, standing in for the still-injured Casey Stoner, probably for the last time this season. Though he would enjoy racing whatever he was given, MotoGP was supposed to be special. "I'm a rider, I get paid to do a job and I do it," Rea told the media at Aragon. "Whatever, I'm going to enjoy riding a motorcycle, but for me, it's nice to ride the best a motorcycle can be, and that is with full electronics, full slick tires, the best of the best. It's not about cutting corners because of this or that. For me, MotoGP is not spec ECU, it's prototype racing at its best. But it's pointless asking me, I'm not opinionated enough about it, but whatever happens happens, it makes no difference to me, it maybe makes some difference to lap time or whatever." Imposing a spec ECU could give Honda cause to consider their interest in MotoGP, Rea warned. "I think as a company, especially Honda – I'm not speaking on behalf of them – but it's very important to develop new technologies so they can filter down to their customers. And they use MotoGP as that test ground. So if they have a spec ECU, maybe the grass will be greener in World Superbikes."

Rea had an alternative suggestion for fixing the problem of boring racing in MotoGP. "I think the first thing you fix is the tire," Rea told reports. "Because with the tire, the Bridgestone tire now, the level is so high, I think when you start introducing a tire with less performance – Bridgestone could produce a much worse tire – and let everyone go racing, and it will bring the racing together."

Back to top


Jonny seems to have the right of it, in my opinion.

A spec ECU is a sham, but so is spec tire and just about every other half baked 'money saving' rule over the last 5 years.

Spec racing and CRT. I have house pets with more imagination.

At this point I would almost welcome Honda pulling out so that the house of cards can collapse and be rebuilt.

To me, Jonathan Rea`s comment "maybe the grass will be greener in WSBK" regarding if Honda are forced to use a spec ECU in MOTOGP, is a chilling thought. If Honda did quit the GP`s for World Superbikes would Yamaha and or Ducati be tempted to follow? Then would the top riders in GP`s and the few major sponsors follow? It doesn't bear to think about the damage it could do to MOTOGP.
But there's a lot of `ifs`there. Hopefully the MSMA[Honda] and Dorna can reach agreement on this. How much difference to costs a spec ECU package will make to the factory teams i don't know,but it should help the CRT`s. As for closing the gap between `full prototypes` and CRT bikes in performance,that remains to be seen,but i have my doubts that a spec ECU would reduce the gap much.

Rea touched the hearts and all that but he is not consistent when he says everything about MotoGP should be the best of the best but on the other hand the tires not much so.

I think the perfection is sterile, and sterile is not fun. Look at the most "characteristic" motocycles. Those are the ones with flaws. So there has to be sacrifices if all we want is a fun factor. To some it's going to be spec ECUs, to other it's tires or less sensors.

...FINALLY did/said something I can applaud. Do for the MotoGP tires, what F1 did for their tires. More "horsepowers" than traction...finally, hearing any racer say such a thing, always makes me smile.

And as far as costs, I could swear that I read here about Magneti Marelli offering the spec ECU for FREE to any team that wanted it. True, you gotta have some really talented white-coat eggheads on the payroll to make it work, but free sounds like an attractive proposition for some teams.

Is a terrible one. The bikes are too powerful so we need electronics to control them? Can anyone imagine Fast Freddie, Doohan, Rainey, Schwantz, Ago, or any of the previous 500cc World Champions complaining of such a thing? I mean I remember reading an article about Doohan's 98 championship winning bike and he basically admits the thing didnt turn. He said he prayed as every corner entry that he would make it through. Fast forward 15 years and Lorenzo is complaining that the bike is too fast without the aid of electronics. Id like to think that the true legends of Grand Prix racing are laughing at him. Afraid of highsiding the bike? Learn to modulate your throttle better. That was the answer in the days of the 500s.

I mean I dont want to sound like Im carrying a torch and pining for the days of old, but the reason that the "Legends" will always carry more weight, no matter how many races, championships and records the new guys win, is because they wrestled and fought with the mighty 500cc beasts that gave nothing and took everything from you if you screwed up.

The old RC211V had to have is power levels turned down to make it a usable bike. Why is this not an option anymore? Turning down the HP levels does NOT mean that you are no longer on the gleaming edge of technology. It simply means you have backed the HP levels down.

Vote me down if you want, but Im sorry, the reasoning that the bikes are too fast without electronics is a weaksauce answer at best and a pathetic one at worst.

I had the same emotions when i read the article. Also the Honda lines JR said, repeating the indoctrinated words to leave MotoGP for WSBK. Most of these guys were still sh****ng their pants when the champions you quoted were riding the wild kicking bronco's.

DK couldn't agree with you more. If the bikes were designed without TC in mind, they'd be ride-able. The 4 stroke powerband ended the nasty high sides of the 2 strokes by having a broad powerband instead of all the power within a few k rpm's.

Once the sliding returns you'll see the intense battles return and the sport will stay the same in terms of safety. A marginal amount of TC is all that is needed for safety reasons only. Right now 90% of TC is used for lap times.

How are corner by corner strategies for TC and engine braking, which actually use up MORE fuel, relevant technologies for production bikes..?

With great regret, disappointment and frustration with MotoGP rules/regulations/state of affairs is cresting a critical mass for me right now. With a grimace and head shake, after all these years of passion and dedication, something is waning inside. And in its place is a newfound affinity for WSBK that may blossom. All kidding aside, THIS HURTS! (sigh)

re: "And in its place is a newfound affinity for WSBK that may blossom. All kidding aside, THIS HURTS! (sigh)"

no worries, production will ease your suffering. btw, for some this is an OLDFOUND affinity. WSBK's been homolgating and racing to your benefit for 25 years... "where the %#$@ you been...?" (shaobo qin [yen] from ocean's 11 voice) :)

Spec ECU or not, the factories will find a way around any shortcomings the spec-ecu will bring to their particular machinery. A spec-ecu will not change the front running line-up of riders and teams. Nor will a RPM ceiling cap for the engines change much, the same thing will happen! Since Carmelo is following behind Formula-1, then he needs to have Bridgestone produce tires like Pirelli does for their series! The tires should have a shorter life span like Formula-1 or WSB for that matter! Have fewer performance options and/or allow other tire brands back into MotoGP!

Comparing the old days (which were great) to the new days is pointless. I am not trying to rag on people commenting on it, please don't take it that way, but what I am saying is that the beasts are totally different, the competition is immensely better and the budgets are HUGE. That being said, my preference would be no rider assistive electronics. Why? As stated by many, it means the rider is doing everything. The safety arguement about highsides and whatnot is somewhat valid but that simply means that riders need to learn to control the power. Too much power? Need electronics? Guess that means that you have unusable hp and need to change something(engine mapping, etc) to fit the tires/chassis/conditions.

As far as the cost goes, the ACTUAL cost of the hardware is very small. Technology these days is getting cheaper and cheaper to produce. The software development and use is what costs the big bucks. THAT is what will bring the cost down, something everyone knows and can use. Just ask Suzuki about electronics development :)

This is precisely what Carmelo is trying to do:

"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."

It's fun to hear people talk about the good old days, but here's my wager. If you could take modern TC technologies, hop in a time machine, somehow make them work with carbureted 2-strokes, demonstrate how it will improve lap times, how many of the legends at the time do you think would turn it down to use it in a race?

Pass up an advantage to kick the other guys arse on the track? Decrease the chance to make it high-side, to get injured?

It's already been mentioned but well-worth repeating... spec ECU has worked well for F1 and has improved the racing.

It's worth taking a crack at it.

Isn't Honda the only manufacturer not to have traction control on their liter bike? I'm not sure about Suzuki, but Ducati, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and BMW all have it already. Seems strange to me that Honda is complaining about wanting to trickle down tech to their street bikes when they are the one of the only ones that have not done so. So Honda is complaining about the inability to filter down technology that, although they have had a decade to do so, they have not yet deigned to do. And now it's a sticking point. Whatever.

I do remember reading an article a couple years ago about how manufacturers now make "bad engines" with unusable powerbands and then use electronics to tame them, as opposed to maybe the early 990 days with rudimentary electronics when they still had to make "good engines" with usable powerbands. Maybe a stock ECU would force manufacturers to make good engines again. That and get rid of the turn-by-turn power mapping and let the riders control the power. Build the TC on the spec ECU to provide the safetly net the riders need, but no more.

I like Rea, but he doesn't really speak from much GP experience, does he? He more likely seems have the words put in his mouth by Honda, although I'm sure he'd say otherwise.

Honda says they like competition, but only when everyone is playing by Honda's rules. 800cc and a 21 liter fuel limit played into the hands of the company who could spend the most to get the most power from the least fuel. Those were Honda's rules they wanted to win by. Didn't work out for them too great, But if they're not in GP to unduly influence it, we might be better off.

ok, what about this idea: make freely available to ANY tire manufacturer a SET proven compound with certain approved tolerances & then allow them to manufacture tires that fit into those specs & THEN see what happens?!

like most industrial manufacturing, there will be subtle differences between manufacturers & batches that will liven up proceedings; this is kind of like the pre-spec tire days HOWEVER with the guarantee that all tires CHEMICALLY will be of say 99% identical rubber formula.

that should remove the stigma of a spec tire series yet keep the playing field somewhat even, so we don't end up with Rossi getting his overnight specials & winning 99% of the races! ;)

that & remove the TC & WC & fly-by-wire & we'll see Stoner return & WAY more exciting races!

also, I second EVERY request for return to 2 strokes - & as all engines are now electronically everythinged, can't these engines be programmed with 2 stroke-like characteristics?

come on guys - GET CREATIVE you TITS! ;) LOL

re: "can't these engines be programmed with 2 stroke-like characteristics?"

ride with the TC completely off on any of these modern "tractors" and you've got 2-stroke characteristics in spades. 'renzo and stoner know what i'm talkin' 'bout.

re: "San Carlo Gresini Honda rider Alvaro Bautista's main concern was with safety: "I think if you have the same electronics, for sure the races will be more interesting to watch on TV. But you have to see how safe those electronics are. I don't know what will happen in the future, I think what is most important to the rider is the security, and it will be important to give us the security and the confidence to ride the bike."

we owe this much to simoncelli, tomizowa, lenz, katoh, etc. those who have given their lives so that we might continue to act and think selfishly and be nothing more than ENTERTAINED in the MotoGP era.

With the exception of Dijaro, electronics would not have mattered in the unfortunate deaths of the other riders you mentioned.

Electronics do not help with a lowside, nor do they prevent another rider from colliding.

re: "Electronics do not help with a lowside, nor do they prevent another rider from colliding."

kenny roberts would ask, "and this has WHAT to do with the responsibility of taking safety seriously at ALL times...?"

like a genie, safety is not something you get to "stuff back in it's bottle" or shrink away from when and where we see fit (ie. ridiculous notions of willfully reducing tyre performance, or programming in 2-stroke peakiness on 250hp machines). it's OUT (safety), as such we are obligated to it. even if we "err"...? so long as we do so on the side of caution, it'll always be the RIGHT thing to do. such is the beauty of the logic.

There is no evidence that they are reducing safety by moving to a spec ECU. You are SPECULATING that a control ECU indicates a reduction in safety, which is entirely false.

IIRC it was Kalio on the Pramac Ducati that turned the rider aids off during the wet race at Jerez. Yet it was Pedrosa who flung himself down the road while leading (by what seemed like an hour) and broke his collar bone.

IMO if DORNA is flipping the bill to allow the satelite and CRT machines a free ECU with free support, it's a fantastic idea. The factories are not in harms way of losing anything. Even if the spec ECU brings a CRT bike to factory speed there is still one very important thing missing, the rider. Aspar will never have the funding to recruit riders like Pedrosa, Jorge or Rossi.

I am against a spec ECU, but all for anything that will help the little guys get more competitive.

The F1 "spec" ECU allows for a big part of the software to be written by each team. The MotoGP spec ECU will be exactly the same for everyone, no software changes. In F1 this has a huge effect, such as the blown diffuser (season 2011 engines would rev higher to blow gas exhausts under the car to help downforce, 2012 Red Bull tried it in Germany and was outlawed for the following races), turn by turn engine mappings (probably), trach specific software and so much more that we have no idea. Just see a F1 start and check how many spin the wheels. None! Traction Control (as a reaction system to spinning) has been banned for years, and they still do it. GPS turn-by-turn engine mapping has been banned (MotoGP) and they still do it, just using sensors. This has no use in road? Just think of adaptive power mapping according to your lean angle which provides much better results than just TC.
In MotoGP maybe they will come up with clever ideas (within the rules, just see F1 for "bending" rules) to overcome the shortcomings of the spec ECU. This will probably mean that lots of money will be invested to R&D on overcoming ECU pitfalls.
In theory spec ECU (which is not free this year, Ezpeleta is paying Maranelli for it, teams will fork out the money in 2014), is being brought forward to have less money. Usable engines and everything else that is needed for the new ECU will equal more spending. BSB has spec ECU and it wasn't that great of success.
F1 got a much better show since the introduction of Pirelli tyres and the DSR system. Bridgestone made amazing tyres for F1 and does the same for MotoGP (see Rea comment).
Just one more comment about electronics, Honda brought the Screamer engine back in two-strokes when they made advances in electronics. It was not possible to "ride" them before. Electronics is the reason why most riders are not crashing violently in every other race, as it would happen in the good old lovely-smell-in-the-air-two-stroke days.
Bottom line is that MotoGP is a show that needs to balance, revenue, show and technology. In this scale I see the revenue as being the biggest problem, as pointed out by Motomatters some time ago.