MotoGP has taken its first step towards the formal introduction of a standard ECU. Today, Dorna announced that they have reached agreement with Magneti Marelli to supply an electronics system to MotoGP teams for the next four years, starting from the 2013 season. To support the electronics system, Magneti Marelli will set up a MotoGP R&D center at their base in Bologna, Italy.
The system to be supplied is complete, and highly sophisticated. The system will comprise an ECU, a complete sensor package, data logger and all of the various wires and switches to make the system. The ECU on offer is described as being Magneti Marelli's "highest technological option". More importantly, the Italian electronics firm will supply full support for the ECU, both on and off the track, helping teams develop and set up the system. The system will be supplied free of charge to any team that requests it.
The system on offer will be supplied on a voluntary basis for 2013, with the teams free to continue to develop and use their own systems should they so choose. To allow teams to compete with the teams electing to use proprietary systems, the Magneti Marelli system supplied to the teams will be fully functional for the 2013 season. The Magneti Marelli system is the de facto standard in the paddock, with both Yamaha and Ducati already using a very similar system on their factory prototypes.
Though the press release does not mention it, the announcement marks the first stage on the way to the introduction of a spec ECU for all MotoGP entries. This same system, with a rev limit and restricted functions, will be made compulsory for all MotoGP entries. 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.
The argument currently is when the spec ECU is to be imposed. Dorna wants to impose a spec ECU on the series from 2014, but the factories are resisting. The MSMA, however, is split on the issue: Ducati is willing to accept a standard ECU, however begrudgingly, and Yamaha is prepared to accept standard hardware, but not standard software. Given that the hardware being introduced by Magneti Marelli is almost identical to the system being used by Yamaha, this should hardly be seen as a concession.
The fiercest resistance is coming from Honda. HRC have threatened to leave the series if a standard ECU is imposed, and given Honda's massive influence on the series, this is a risk. Honda's argument is that they use MotoGP as a platform for developing their electronics systems for use on road bikes, while Dorna points out that other manufacturers seem to develop their electronics system just fine without a MotoGP program. Whether Honda's threat to leave is genuine or just bluster will come down to their judgement of the marketing value provided by MotoGP.
The press release from Dorna announcing the agreement with Magneti Marelli is shown below:
Magneti Marelli ECU available to all MotoGP™ teams from 2013
Magneti Marelli will give all competitors in the MotoGP™ premier-class the option to utilise the Italian company’s Electronic Control System on their racing machines from 2013. This landmark four-year agreement will give all teams access to Magneti Marelli’s electronic control system, which includes an engine and chassis control unit with inboard datalogger, as well as the relevant tuning and data analysis tools, dashboard, handlebar toggle switch and inertial platform.
This system, representing the highest technological option in Magneti Marelli’s portfolio, will be backed up by a permanent presence of its technicians on track, as well as continual development and evolution at its MotoGP-specific R&D centre as its Bologna headquarters, which will be set up specifically in light of this agreement.
Carmelo Ezpeleta, Dorna CEO, is thrilled with this latest cooperation: “I cannot hide the fact that I am very happy with this new cooperation with Magneti Marelli. The agreement reached we have reached with the Italian company merely validates MotoGP as a competition that incorporates and encourages the latest and most innovative technology. The experience of this company, which has spent many years at the highest level of competition in motor sport, represents a major step in the premier-class of two-wheel racing.”
Roberto Dalla, Magneti Marelli Motorsport Managing Director, added: “We are very glad to share our know-how and experience in the motorsport field with MotoGP, in order to jointly achieve new objectives in terms of performance and technology development. The main aim is to provide top technology at affordable costs, which is Magneti Marelli’s mission firstly in racing and also in the field of series production. Magneti Marelli has been developing solutions in the electronics and electro-mechanics area for MotoGP teams for the last decade: this new initiative with Dorna represents a further strategic opportunity to enhance the development of our technology.”