The role which electronics play in modern motorcycle racing is a continuing cause of discussion, or perhaps controversy would be a better word. Almost everyone inside and outside racing has had their say on the matter, some more publicly than others. Opinion remains deeply divided between the "rider purists" and the "racing purists", with both sides expressing their opinions increasingly forcefully.
Now, a new voice has been added to the debate. In an interview with Octavio Estrada of Prototipos Racing, published on the Spanish website DailyMotos.com, FIM President Vito Ippolito has spoken out against the use of electronics in MotoGP, saying that "MotoGP must not make the same mistake that Formula 1 has made, where the role of the driver is reduced to a minimum."
But despite being arguably the most powerful man in world motorcycling, even Ippolito is powerless against the factories. For it is the manufacturers who are driving the development, and resisting any attempts at regulating the field in which they have sunk many millions of dollars, and which is one of the fields which is starting to trickle down into production motorcycles.
"I'm not against the technological development of the bikes," Ippolito said, "but today the electronics control everything, from traction control to the amount of power transmitted to the road and acceleration, which leaves little margin for the riders to exploit their abilities, and this technology is only available to the richest and most powerful teams."
But Ippolito sees the economic downturn playing a positive role in this: "Now, thanks to the economic crisis, the voices calling for reductions in costs are starting to be heard more clearly."
While the debate over the role of electronic aids is likely to rage on for some time to come, the global financial crisis may yet achieve what regulations alone have been incapable of doing: The electronics may yet be limited, but more as a cost-cutting exercise than as a measure to improve competitiveness.