Interview: Valentino Rossi's Data Technician Matteo Flamigni - "When I Check The Data, Valentino Is Right"

Watch any session of MotoGP practice and at some point, you will see Valentino Rossi enter the garage, sit down, and start talking animatedly to two people. One, a balding mustachioed red-headed man, is Silvano Galbusera, the crew chief who replaced Jeremy Burgess at the end of 2013. The other, tall, slim, dark-haired, and invariably bearing a laptop, is Matteo Flamigni, Valentino Rossi's data engineer.

Together, this triumvirate work at perfecting a setup for Rossi's Yamaha M1, each with their separate roles. The data engineer seeking out where the bike can be improved, the crew chief finding ways to improve it, and the rider trying to extract the maximum performance from the bike, and telling the other two what he needs to go faster.

At Misano, I spoke to Matteo Flamigni at some length about his job, what it entails, and what it is like working with Valentino Rossi. Flamigni has been with Rossi since the Italian joined Yamaha back in 2004, and has formed a close, almost intimate relationship with the nine-time world champion, four of which Flamigni has had a hand in. We talked about his job, and how it has changed over the years; the precise nature of Rossi's feedback, and what Flamigni has taught Rossi through the years; and why the rider is always right.

Q: First of all, I'd like you to explain your job, explain what you do.

Matteo Flamigni: Basically I’m a data recording engineer, and I’m taking care of the data recording system on the bike. That means we have quite a lot of sensors on the bike that give you many, many different kinds of information. I record and I take all that information in my PC and I analyze that information and try to get the bike performing better and better during the weekend.

Q: Whenever I see you in the garage, it’s you and Valentino and Silvano. You seem to be the core?

MF: Yeah, what you said is true, because basically Vale tells us what’s wrong with the bike, what he would like to have from the bike. So me and Silvano, we try to improve the bike performance by chassis setup and by electronics setting, that’s specifically my job. Analyzing all the information coming from the sensors on the bike, I can understand where the bike is losing time, or improving time also, and making a comparison between the two riders. So we can adjust the anti-wheelie system, the traction control, the engine brake, corner by corner we can do this.

Q: Even with the new system you can do it more or less corner by corner?

MF: Yeah, exactly. So that’s it, basically.

Q: You saw you are responsible for the electronics settings. You are just adjusting settings? You’re not actually developing strategies?

MF: For that we have a department in Japan where they take care of the unified software and they study all the strategies of this software.

Q: So they give you a selection of strategies that you can choose from? You also work with the Japanese engineers?

MF: Yes. So basically we don’t really have a selection of strategies. We have, for example talking about the traction control, we have one traction control base setting, and we adjust by changing the parameters inside that strategy. We cannot really choose between many strategies. This is the traction control. This is how it works. You can change it corner-by-corner by increasing or decreasing the parameters, but just like that.

Q: I was just talking to Bradley Smith and he said the problems he sometimes has with his data engineers is that the feeling on the bike isn’t the same as the data. The data says one thing. You must know this too?

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Total votes: 75

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Comments

" but you have to explain to the technician if this engine brake is too much in the first part, or the down-shift, or when you lean the bike, or just when you release the brake. We can adjust the engine brake in all these situations. "

Holy bejeezus this stuff is complicated.  Takes all the fun out of riding the bike, although I wish I had lean-angle sensitive TC on my street bike.

David, can you explain a little (or maybe do an article) about how one becomes a racing data technician?   Are there schools with classes?    If not what are the backgrounds of these guys before they became data techs?   I've always been curious about this.

Total votes: 24

Technically incredible as the bikes are, these guys are still racing, they love it, they're never bored.

Of course so much of this trickles down to road bikes, but how much is actually useful on the road? Some of it, for sure.

BTW quite a scoop this David, well done.

Total votes: 16

Check out the links below, these guys are running their own race teams and putting engineers into top level teams. Came across them from and old interview (also linked below).  They have a Facebook page as well to see what their up to and I’m extreamly jealous of their new building and program they’ve built up there.

https://uwtsd.ac.uk/beng-motorcycle-engineering/

http://www.motoeng.com/motoeng/Motorcycle_Engineering.html

https://m.facebook.com/groups/8384957337/

https://www.edn.com/Pdf/ViewPdf?contentItemId=4005855

 

Total votes: 13

Now I can start daydreaming about my new career.

Total votes: 10

You absolutely can get a street bike (best used on the track tho) that has very similar capabilities. Current generation Yamaha R1 has 2 IMUs that actively monitor 6 axis of movement (bike position in X/Y/Z dimension, plus independently measures Pitch, Yaw and Roll - relative to bike position) and gives you ability to adjust TC separately from YSC (slide control) and obviously Wheelie, engine mapping, etc. 

R1-M comes with data logging so you can review all of this based on the track (a la Flamigni in this interview). Regular bike I believe you can add the data logging and app as an option. 

There are are a few others, I just wanted to point out what I feel is the most GP-like with the R1’s system and how - trust me - it does not take anything away from the fun of riding.

Losing out in a “technical battle” and having your bike’s electronics not manage traction as well as rivals through a race distance however... yeah, that would take some fun away because you’re trying to make up ground chasing improvements. 

The systems/capabilities themselves don’t lessen the sport, though - in my opinion. 

Total votes: 11

Thanks Lindz for the detailed response.   I meant I wanted TC on my bike (a 2012 Triumph Street Triple), which I know has all the bells and whistles on the new model (765).

Total votes: 7

you took the words out of my mouth.  I own a current generation R1 and the lean sensitive TC system is fantastic and tailorable to your needs.  Definelty improved acceleration safety on the road in lower grip environments.  Hey, even in great grip conditions you can lean on the TC and enjoy the bike sliding, relatively safely.  You couldnt say that before with previous generation bikes without TC.

Now..... if only they allowed the ABS to be more tailorable.

Total votes: 9

To the traction control controlling my slide at an advanced lean angle next time I'm commuting through London in the rain during the rush hour.

Total votes: 8

I remenber Casey Stoner suggesting that all electronics should be removed, leaving everything up to the rider. He had a good point in that regardless of how much electronic help the riders have or don't have, the same guys are going to be the fastest. Can you imagine how less costly racing would be without all this equipment? But then again, racing provides the opportunity for research and development. Another consideration of the high cost of racing is how some riders race for free. The team cannot afford anything more than the bike and all that goes with it. As I understand it, it's up to the rider to line up his own sponsors, thus in reality providing his own salery. Quite possibly I misunderstand the entire process. I thought back in the day riders simply showed up and raced the bike for a salary and whatever prizes that came with winning. The team did all the rest. Now the cost of racing has become so high that some of the riders must pony up for some of the expense. I am inclined to think Casey was on to something.

Total votes: 17

As has been pointed out many time on this site, much of what you say about the electronics is true, but on the other hand we have far far fewer highsides and hence broken bones. That's an improvement the rides will never give up, and rightly so.

Total votes: 11

I have the first gen crossplane R1 and a few more bikes, and none of them have TC, and I have no interest in it.  Learned to ride on track and road without, don’t need it.  My right wrist is my TC.  Have ABS on one of my bikes and it is horrible.  It will kick in when I don’t want it to and is more dangerous than beneficial, and it cannot be removed from the bike.

I also agree with Stoner, remove the electronics completely.  I miss the two strokes and the 990’s when riders would cross them up out of the corners and the slides were epic.  Wy better sport back then but I will admit, less safe.  Pointless to discuss, as most of the MSMA would quit the sport if electronics were banned.  I do find it odd that I’m trained, and I can push on the track or out in my twisties, and manage to keep myself right side up and safe with no wheelie control, no anti-spin, no lean sensor, no traction control, etc.  Ohlins, Brembos, and good AF/R is all I need.   

Total votes: 14

ABS has come a long way.  If you have a bike with an older generation of ABS, they were universally loathed due to their poor performance and feel.  But current Gen ABS is actually quite good.

For road riding (not track) there is no good argument anymore for saying that a bike is better without ABS.

As for TC, I grew up without it. I learned without it. I rode big bore sportbikes without it.  But I love it on my current bike and it doesnt remove any of the fun factor.  In fact it has probably increased it due to new experiences with sliding (yet still having that safety net).

Total votes: 12

"Q: Even with the new system you can do it more or less corner by corner?

MF: Yeah, exactly. So that’s it, basically."

Can someone please clarify this? I thought doing stuff with GPS was outlawed? Or am I misunderstanding "corner by corner"?

Total votes: 8

They use the timing loops, of which there are more than the 4 sectors shown for TV.  The timing loops allow them to know where the bikes are on circuit and they tailor the TC etc to those.  No GPS anymore. 
A shame really, I dont like corner by corner.

Total votes: 8

If this is really how they operate, using lean data in the range of time loops to identify a corner is coming, then it may also mean -given how strict is your corner profile- the system gets to be decieved if something unusual (resembling your corner profile) happens in track. That's cute!

Total votes: 4

Wow - Enjoyed this Article - Thanks David !

Total votes: 7

...about how I'd love to have done that 30 years ago when I started as a an engineer. Now I just have do data analysis on conveyor systems.

Thanks David for your entertaining and insightful writing and interviews as absolutely always !

It'd be worth the subscription at twice the price, so to all you non subscribers out there, please subscribe so I can afford to keep subscribing !

Total votes: 2