2012 Misano Thursday Round Up: Of Fallen Riders, Ducati's Junior Team, And The ECU Face Off

The return to Misano was always going to be an emotional affair, the first time MotoGP has returned to Marco Simoncelli's home circuit - now renamed in his honor - since the Italian fan favorite was killed in a tragic accident at Sepang last October. Though Simoncelli is being remembered in many different ways during the weekend - nearly all of the riders in all three classes joined for a lap of the track by bicycle this evening - the remembrance has been cheerful rather than mawkish, a celebration of his life rather than mourning at his death. Fans, riders, mechanics, photographers, journalists, many have made the pilgrimage to Coriano, Simoncelli's home town just a few short miles from the track, paid their respects and headed to the circuit feeling better for the experience. Simoncelli's ghost may haunt the paddock at Misano, but happily, he does so in the guise of Casper rather than Banquo.

There is more than enough to keep the minds of those present engaged. Uppermost in most people's minds is Ben Spies decision to go to Ducati to race in the Ducati junior team to be run by Pramac. Both of the 2013 factory Ducati riders welcomed the signing of both Spies and Andrea Iannone, with Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden saying it was a good decision by Ducati. Both Spies and Iannone had proven their speed, and Spies experience at the factory Yamaha team would be very valuable to Ducati in helping to develop the bike. There was surprise at Spies' decision - "I thought he would go to World Superbikes" Dovizioso told reporters - and both men were interested to see how he would perform on the Ducati.

There was special praise too for Andrea Iannone. "He's already shown he has talent," Hayden said of the young Italian, while Dovizioso was impressed by Iannone's ability to ride many different bikes, and ride all of them very fast. Hayden suggested that Iannone's lack of experience could be a help. "In some ways, it's easier if you don't know anything else when you come to Ducati," Hayden said. When asked whether this was also a risk, signing a rider who could turn out to be fast despite the bike, rather than because of the bike, in the same way that Casey Stoner could win on the Ducati while all around him failed, Hayden disagreed. "I think they'd take another Casey right now!" The American quipped.

Hayden himself is back from injury, racing again since his monster crash at Indianapolis. The concussion was gone, and his head was OK - "Well, as OK as it's ever going to be," Hayden joked - but the still fractured metacarpal in his right hand was a problem. Mobility was fine, but he lacked strength in his right hand, Hayden told reporters, something which was a real problem because it meant he was not sure he would be able to brake the way he wanted to. He would not really understand how well he would be able to cope until he got on the bike on Friday and actually rode in practice, but he had already discussed some possible ways of reducing the pressure while riding on his right hand with the team.

Ducati brings some new parts to Misano, parts tested by Valentino Rossi at the track two weeks ago. Rossi had a new chassis and a new swingarm to use from Misano onwards, parts which he had originally intended to test at Mugello, but an electronics problem early in that test had prevented him. The chassis had a revised stiffness, and altered the location of the electronics and gas pod had been altered, changing the weight distribution. The bike had been an improvement when compared to the new one, and Rossi hoped that this would help make the bike more competitive. He also hoped that Ducati would be able to bring yet more parts to help before the end of this year, to allow him to get closer to the front.

On a different note, the 2013 calendar has been anxiously awaited for the past few weeks, with some hoping that a provisional calendar would appear at Brno. That did not happen, nor will a calendar be published this weekend, though one is expected around the middle of next week. The calendar will feature 18 or 19 races, depending on how the political situation over the Repsol YPF nationalization in Argentina develops. If Argentina is on the calendar, even that will not mean that it will definitely go ahead, with tension between Spain and Argentina continuing. Repsol is believed to be opposed to going to Argentina until the expropriation of YPF has been resolved. There is also uncertainty over Texas, though that round looks sure to go ahead, the question being who will organize the event. The Austin round will take the place of Estoril, happening some time in late April or early May, while temperatures are still bearable.

MotoGP is also on course to introduce a spec ECU for 2014, with the initial version of the unit being offered to the CRT teams for 2013. The original plan was to offer the teams next year the spec ECU as intended for the 2014 season, but with no limit on the factory electronics in 2013, that would have disadvantaged them even further. So instead, the 2013 unit will be the standard ECU which will be used from 2014 onwards, but with much more functionality enabled. This way, teams electing to run the spec ECU will be able to be competitive in 2013, while still getting experience with the ECU that is to be made standard for all of the bikes for 2014.

That 2014 date now looks to be set in stone, despite threats by HRC that they could leave the MotoGP series and head to World Superbikes if they do not get their own way. Suzuki had had meetings with Carmelo Ezpeleta at Brno, to talk about a return in 2014, and the Japanese manufacturer had also threatened not to come back to the series if a spec ECU were to be implemented. Ezpeleta was blunt: either accept the spec ECU or don't come, he reportedly told Suzuki, the Spaniard's previous experience offering Suzuki special dispensation having worked out rather badly (Suzuki told Ezpeleta they would leave the series if they were not allowed to sign a rookie to the factory team; Ezpeleta made an exception for them, and a year later Suzuki cut back to a single bike, to withdraw completely a year later).

Ezpeleta is willing to call the factories' bluff on the technical regulations, believing that they cannot afford to leave. HRC's threats to leave MotoGP if they are subject to technical restrictions they don't like may be credible, their threats to go to World Superbikes instead are not. The Flammini brothers who run WSBK have been clear throughout, they make the technical regulations and the factories have very little say in it. Ducati - backbone of the series and of whom it has been said they have way too much say in WSBK's rules and regulations - have been unable to get Infront to drop the 6kg performance balancing penalty introduced at the beginning of 2012, and are not inclined to drop the 50mm inlet restrictors either. Honda threatening to leave MotoGP and go to WSBK because of the lack of technical freedom in MotoGP is like an artist threatening to defect from China because of a lack of artistic freedom, and go and live in North Korea.

This is a battle that will run for a while, but in the end, Dorna will prevail. The Spanish organizer of MotoGP has spent the past ten years giving the factories what they want, and the factories have either raised the price of satellite bikes or left the series altogether.

Tomorrow, the riders take to the track in Misano for practice, and many people's thoughts will be with Marco Simoncelli. Fewer people, perhaps, will think of Shoya Tomizawa, the young Japanese star who lost his life here at the circuit in 2010. That is a shame, as both men were sparkling personalities and truly talented riders. Two fatalities, in two consecutive years, robbed the championship of far, far too much talent. Keep both Simoncelli and Tomizawa in your thoughts this weekend.

Total votes: 187
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Comments

...a great article David.

from Thursday to Sunday; each day's read of the motogp news is not finished until your stuff has been read.

A real benchmark for me!

Total votes: 185

I still have the MotoMatters calendar from December 2011 hanging on my wall above my PC
Just can't bring myself to take it down.

Total votes: 172

Honda's threat may not be as empty as it seems.

Paolo Flammini said clearly at the Miller WSBK round this year that he was not concerned about "advanced engine control electronics" in WSBK. If a manufacturer really is interested in electronics R&D, Flammini's public statements indicate that he's welcoming them to do it in WSBK..

And remember that Ducati's influence definitely is on the wane. No "official" factory team this year, no word yet on whether they will race the Panigale next year. The fact that Ducati can't get the weight limit or restrictors changed might be proof of the waning influence of Ducati, not the waning power of manufacturers in general in WSBK.

I'd say that keeping the weight penalty on the Duc, as the rules of WSBK require, is an indication that the series organizers are willing to stick to their rulebook, instead of making ill-advised changes to "improve the show," and provide rules stability.

And if you want to seduce Honda, whisper "rules stability" into their ears and watch them get all hot and bothered ...

Total votes: 160

the penalty's on the duc's in wsbk are supposed to be flexible based on performance. The Bike was weighed down this year based on the performance of one individual as the rest of the bikes ran on average mid pack. What WSBK should be doing is taking the air restrictions off and keep the weight on.

Total votes: 165

WSBK is not fuel limited. Furthermore, the technical rules and regulations are designed to make the bikes relatively equal. MotoGP is fuel limited, and prototype racing does not include any regulations or procedures that make the bikes relatively equal (like the fixed rev limit in BSB). If MotoGP moved to a 15,000rpm-24L-1000cc formula, we wouldn't be having this silly discussion about spec-ECU in MotoGP. . . . .

So it all makes sense, right? Dorna don't really care about imposing a spec-ECU b/c it's just more hassle, more expense, and more regulations to police. Dorna actually want a rev-limit (or a bore limit) and more fuel. If the manufacturers refuse, Dorna will kill the electronics to improve parity and reduce expenses for the teams.

Everyone should understand how hapless HRC and Nakamoto really are. They are going to refuse rev-limits and 24L capacity in MotoGP so they can compete in WSBK which has horsepower limits and 24L capacity AND restrictive homologation procedures. What HRC are really saying is that they will quit prototype racing if Dorna introduces a spec-ECU. "Quit" sounds awful from a marketing perspective so HRC will be "defecting" to WSBK in order to keep the "purity of racing alive". A defection also hypes the market value of WSBK, which gives HRC more mileage out of their deception.

If the MSMA will simply accept 15,000rpm-24L-1000cc capacity, they could have the engine freedom and electronics freedom they want. Unfortunately, they are too worried that some undeserving factory might get to race GP. In the real world, multi-national corporations are withdrawing as quickly as their directors can manage. HRC's fears are as ridiculous as their fake defection to WSBK.

Total votes: 168

From the article it seems that the supplied spec ECU for 2014 will be less sophisticated than what the CRT teams (mainly the ART) are currently using. So upon introduction of the spec ECU to everybody in 2014 the CRTs will be slowed down just like the factories will be, likely keeping the gap between CRT and prototype about the same.

The main reason the CRTs are slower than the prototype bikes are the engine designs. Production-based engines are a little bigger, heavier, and less powerful than prototype engines, not to mention having a shorter useable life. If you build one bike around a prototype engine and one around a production engine the production engine's higher weight and larger size ripple through the entire bike design, resulting in a bike that is slightly bigger, heavier, and slower than the prototype version.

So its not a mystery why the prototype bikes from major manufacturers are faster than either factory-adapted street technology or a specalist builder's product. What is a mystery to me is why CE thinks a spec ECU will slow down the CRTs a little but the factories a LOT. The rest of the parts of the prototype bike are still a much higher performance than the CRT so the gap will remain.

CE better be careful of his antonigization of the factories. WSB can tell them to go blow, all the teams have to do is buy a bike from the dealership and race prep it but you can't get a GP bike from the corner dealership. WSB doesn't need factory entries, they'd be running the same machinery as a customer team anyway. GP with no factories is a joke.

Chris
moto2-usa.blogspot.com

Total votes: 163

I think CE might be thinking he can lure in more factory involvement, not more CRTs, by reducing the cost of the prototype electronics. The thinking is that if BMW, Suzuki, etc., all only have to buy a spec ECU instead of expensive custom electronics, then they'll see MotoGP as an economically viable option. Maybe he's thinking he can bring back satellite teams who will be able to lease or purchase bikes that are less expensive than the current prototypes.

Still, I think you're correct, and that CE's thinking is muddled. A spec ECU will do nothing to close the gap between the Repsols and the Gresinis. At least, a spec ECU has had zero effect in British Superbike this year in terms of closing up the field at the front.

And given the cost of fielding a two-bike MotoGP effort for 18 races (or so) around the globe, the cost of the ECU doesn't seem that particularly significant. Replace the expensive electronics from an M1 or RC213V with off-the-shelf Pectel or Motec stuff, and ask if Forward could afford the resulting machine ...

p.s. I wonder if CE's take-it-or-leave-it approach to Suzuki is why Spies chose to race a satellite Ducati next year ...

Total votes: 172

Unless the CRT bikes' electronics are as good as those on the factory bikes, they will be slowed down less by a spec ECU. I don't think anyone expects to eliminate the gap but this will make it smaller.

Total votes: 166

I think that's a reasonable assumption at first blush. But electronics aren't the sort of thing where you buy a better black box and you automatically go faster. The factory teams still will have better gurus who will have more resources and a lot more money to better wring performance out of the spec ECU than the CRT teams.

That's basically what has happened in BSB, with the bigger-budget teams simply getting better performance out of the spec box than lesser-funded teams - at least that's what the electronics gurus over there say. You could give Repsol's electronic stuff to the LCR team, and it wouldn't change much unless the team of gurus who program it went with it.

Think of it this way: In WSBK at the end of last season, Cosworth sent three technicians to handle the Pectel fly-by-wire system on Jonathan Rea's CBR every race. If you give those three guys a spec ECU, they're going to be able to do more with it than the single electronics dude working his butt off at Team PATA Racing.

And that's on top of Chris' points about the overall performance parameters of the bike in the first place.

Total votes: 179

Besides these facts, let's not forget the "aliens" and the amount of support they get. In moto2 you have 10 guys actually fighting for the win in each race, and the championship has now 5 contenders, right?
I do not understand this attempt to have "stock-bike" racing, or dumbing down the bikes for the possibility of a better show.
Engine Bore
Engine configuration (who will run anything but 4's?)
Engine Rev
Engine ECU
Wheels (to be introduced)
Tyres
Suspension & Brakes (only one exception in the prototypes)

So lots of exciting things to look for in chassis and aerodynamics department. Or the teams will now start to develop a bike around tyres, and engine ECU. I'm sure that all of this is good R&D for the teams. In F1 teams are now spending their money on aeropacks that suit only one particular track. How long before MotoGP starts doing the same? The factories have money, they will spent it.
Easier solution would be to keep the current set of rules for factory prototytpes and give CRTs whatever they need.
One engine a race (if cheap enough or)
More Capacity (like the twins in WSBK)
Let them use special technology on their engines
More fuel
Special tyres

Honda is already building a "racer" bike, cheaper. They can probably sell it to teams in 2014. Is CE willing to get rid of 2-4 more bikes on the grid, much better than the current CRTs effort? If Honda quits and Suzuki stays out, we are left with Ducati, Yamaha and CRTs. WSBK may not be so bad for Honda. If they go there, they will put 4-6 bikes on the grid, on a series that IMHO is struggling for air (BMW no factory supported team will have less competitive bikes, Ducati is unknown, yamaha is out).

Total votes: 162

BMW Motorrad Italia in SBK will have full factory support. Engine and electronic will still be developed from factory BMW team. It is similar move as Ducati. I do not see BMW less competitive for next year. Aprilia, BMW and Kawasaki are main player for next year. Ducati with new Panigale will need a year to get it up there.

What Honda wants is a big question. In street sportbike scene they are far behind the competition (BMW, Kawasaki, Ducati, Aprilia...). So is Yamaha (R1 and R6 are getting really old). Everybody is trying hard, except Yamaha and Honda.

I really do not know why they are giving so much money in to MotoGP. You can`t see that on their street bikes. So why bother? It makes no sense. For me at least.

So until we know the reason why are they staying in MotoGP ... it is hard to predict what will they do.

Total votes: 169

Very good point about the technicians. Still, I think having the same hardware will make narrow the gap some. Whether it narrows it enough to make CRTs in any way competitive remains to be seen. Part of it will depend on how flexible the spec ECU is. There may be hard limits to how much fancy programming you can do.
I was in the turn 4 stands at Laguna and I got to watch a lot of riders practicing starts. Many of the CRTs were doing big wheelies off the line. I do think electronics are a significant part of the difference.

Total votes: 158

Maybe another part of the reason why the spec ECU is to be introduced is to make a rev limit enforceable?
If you have to much control over the ECU, you can probably game the system to show less revs then there are more easily.
But there are probably cheaper ways to control the revs.

Total votes: 171

This is a concern, I'll admit, although others say it can be policed independently of the ECU.

My last thought on this, I promise: Kawasaki just released their new 636 here in the States. It comes stock with a three-position power map and a three-map traction control system that is more sophisticated than the TC system on its ZX-10R. The system offers wheelie control. Oh yeah, it has ABS and a dual-cam slipper clutch, too.

It's pointless to argue for eliminating electronic rider aids/engine controls in MotoGP when middleweight production street bikes - and make no mistake, for a lot of U.S. riders this will be their first-ever motorcycle - come with traction control, wheelie control, slipper clutches and braking assistance.

Total votes: 182

Nakamoto (IIRC) already said that a spec ECU is not necessary to enforce a rev limit.

Total votes: 165

Guys I thought the ECU that Carmelo offered to the CRTs would indeed be an improvement over what they already have, except fot the ART's , as far as I'm concerned, the other CRTs might be runing a Bazzaz or a Dynojet system (LOL ok that was a joke) as Colin Edwards have said many times, their problem is access to sophisticated electronics, and I read somewhere that Espeleta is getting a real nice ECU from Marelli that has "almost" all that's needed,IMHO that's why the factories are bit_ching because Honda and Yamaha have unlimited resources to make for big & fast data buses, countless sensors and all sorts of geeks taking data samples, while the CRTs have very basic setup.

I think spec ECU is something I would like to see implemented, I know the factories will bytch and moan because they would loose super computing power and then they have to depend on the old hand and feet to control their bikes but if thats what it takes to level the playfield I go for it.

Total votes: 203

I have never posted on Motomatters but Luiggi's comment about and I quote "..all sorts of slit-eyed geeks taking data samples.." is totally uncalled for. I'm not Asian but even I realize the term 'slit-eyed geek' is derogatory. Those types of derogatory comments are not needed here.

The moderator can delete my comment if needed but I felt I needed to say something about the above post.

Total votes: 173

I don't see why David would delete your comment, it's perfectly true.

Somebody needs to remind Luiggi that other "geeks", like Furusawa, who have been the genius behind the mechanical advancements at the big 3 manufacturers since their inception, and their dominance for the past 40 or so years in GP racing.

Talk about a total lack of respect for the people, not to mention the profession.

Total votes: 164

I agree, that was completely uncalled for.
Ruined an otherwise good post.

Total votes: 183

The post has been edited to remove the offensive reference. 

Total votes: 159

And prototypes have to go on in development. They have huge power, and tires that slow them coz of rules. They have very limited fuel for the race and very limited engine allocation... So if electronic development is halted by ECU... what can they do? MotoGP development has come to a halt. They can not work with aerodynamics , downforce ... etc like F1 can. They are at the limit. So if there is no meaningful advancement ... well who the hell will pay so much money for so called top level racing. Word MotoGP as top level moto racing will be rendered meaningless.

My view.

Total votes: 163

"Spies experience at the factory Yamaha team would be very valuable to Ducati in helping to develop the bike." Oh Really? In 2 years Valentino and Burgess have achieved little or nothing, and Yamaha eperience is still an argument to sign Ben Spies? C'mon. They signed him for marketing, and he signed, becouse it was only option to stay in MotoGP....I like Both. Ducati and Spies, i hope they will hit some sort of good luck and get decent results. But I don't count on it. and I am shure, it will not be couse of "Spies experience at the factory Yamaha team"

Total votes: 152

I think HRC will in fact pull out of MotoGP and begin selling Production Racers as they have already stated. If they can't develop as they want what's the point of being there and spending vast sums.

Total votes: 164