The Grand Prix Commission is to tighten the noose on electronics a little further, in an attempt to prevent cheating. The GPC today issued a press release containing the minutes of their meeting held at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. There, they agreed restrictions on the ECU, agreed to limit riders in all classes to FIM homologated helmets, and increased the penalty for speeding in pit lane.
The two changes to the electronics are aimed at restricting the ability of teams to alter the data on the official ECU. The first change allows the Technical Director to use an official approved laptop to download the data directly from the datalogger on the bike, connected to the ECU, rather than relying on the team to provide the data. By downloading the data directly, the idea is to ensure that the data has not been altered for whatever reason.
The issue for the teams is that their data is then stored on a computer outside their control. To ensure that such data does not leak to their rivals, a safeguard has been put in place to have the data deleted once it has been verified by Technical Control.
The second change to the regulations involves forcing the use of an official unified CAN Bus decoupler. This is basically the adapter used to connect a laptop to the spec ECU, to allow the data engineer to download the data from the datalogger. It is called a "decoupler", because it isolated the two ends of the connection, meaning there is no direct electronic connection between the ECU and the laptop, to avoid electrical surges from causing damage. As there is already some intelligence built into the decoupler, it is conceivable that a team or factory could program the decoupler to alter the data in some way as it is being downloaded. Enforcing the use of an official item avoids this.
The other major change for next year is that only FIM homologated helmets will be allowed to be used in any FIM sanctioned racing activity, which includes MotoGP. The FIM homologation of helmets is stricter and more thorough than the current test used by national and international standards, such as ECE, Snell, and JIS.
In general, this will have a positive effect on safety, both for racers and for consumers, as manufacturers move to incorporate the new FIM standard in the design of their helmets.
But there has been some criticism as well: the FIM homologation process features a hard-shell philosophy. The idea behind this philosophy is that injury from direct impact is best prevented by having a hard helmet shell, which resists puncture or damage as much as possible. Critics say that although this protects against direct impact, it does not absorb energy as well, increasing the risk of brain damage because the rider's head is stopped more abruptly, generating higher g forces, and allowing the rider's brain to move inside their skull.
The other school of helmet design favors a softer shell, which has more flexibility. The idea behind this is to bend slightly and absorb energy, allowing the rider's head to decelerate more slowly, and reducing the chance of brain injury as the brain moves inside the skull. The downside to this philosophy is a lower resistance to impact, the critics claim.
Depending on which philosophy a particular helmet manufacturer follows, it will be easier or more difficult to obtain FIM homologation. Some manufacturers may be forced to produce special racing helmets to comply with the FIM requirements.
The press release from the GPC appears below, and from the FIM on helmet homologation below that:
FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting) and Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology), in a meeting held in Sepang on 3 November 2018 made the following decisions:
EFFECTIVE SEASON 2019
Data Analysis – MotoGP Class
The Technical Director has been granted authority to download data directly from the ECU to the “Official PC” for the purpose of verifying that it has not been modified from its original recording. Once it is established that the data complies with the FIM regulations it will be deleted from the Official PC.
ECU and Connections – MotoGP Class
In addition to the official ECU and IMU teams are now restricted to only using the official unified CAN decoupler which may also not be modified or have additions.
The unified Can decoupler is categorised as a “Free Device”
Ambient Fuel Temperature – MotoGP Class
The lead time between the announcement of the official ambient temperature and the start of the race has been increased from 60 to 75 minutes. This is to give teams more time to complete the fuelling process.
The Commission approved the new FIM helmet standard established by the FIM for all circuit racing disciplines. This means that there will now be a single, enhanced standard for helmets, replacing the various international standards used before (ECE, Snell and JIS).
Helmet homologation tests are ongoing with some manufacturers having already concluded the tests and some planned within the next weeks. It is the intention of the FIM to publish by the Valencia GP a list of the helmets manufacturers that have been approved through the FIM Racing Homologation Programme and of those which are working to achieve this.
More detailed specifications for the materials used for brake hose connections and brake master cylinders were approved.
EFFECTIVE SEASON 2019
Speeding in Pit Lane
Currently there is a standard fine of €200 for exceeding the pit lane speed limit.
In future the FIM MotoGP Stewards will have the possibility to impose larger financial penalties for repeat offences during the same event. The Stewards will also have the right to impose higher fines or further penalties for excessive speed or for multiple repeat offences during the season.
Following the decision of the last Grand Prix Commission, who gathered in Sepang (MAL) on November 3 2018, the use of FIM homologated helmets will be mandatory for all riders accessing FIM Grand Prix competitions starting from next year. The FIM homologation will be thus required for the helmets in place of the international standards (ECE, Snell and JIS) to which the FIM referred solely to until now. Relatively to the international standards previously referred to, the FIM homologated helmets have undergone an enhanced and more complete evaluation of their performance; this includes an assessment of the protection against low, medium and high velocity linear impacts, oblique impacts and penetration.
The FIM Homologation Label will uniquely identify each helmet that access FIM Grand Prix competitions and will be an efficient tracking tool for Technical Stewards. By scanning the label QR code, information relative to the helmet features and the validity of the homologation will be accessible. A link to the tradename webpage will be also available for redirection to the advertising and the web services offered by each single manufacturer. Further, the 3D FIM Hologram will add a high security value to the label in order to guarantee maximum trust in the homologation.
‘This is a true example of technology at the service of sport and safety, we are very proud that this Programme’s launch is under way and that the industry and the whole racing community have welcomed these changes’ explained Fabio Muner, FIM Sports Director.
It is the intention of the FIM to publish by the Valencia GP a list of the helmets manufacturers that have been approved through the FIM Racing Homologation Programme and of those which are working to achieve this.