Electronics are to take a further step in the world of motorcycle racing this season. In addition to being abundant throughout engine and chassis, Moto2 and Moto3 official tire supplier Dunlop is to introduce them into the tires. In an official press release issued today, Dunlop announced that they will be using RFID chips in the spec tires used in Moto2 and Moto3, to keep precise track of the tires used in both classes.
For the moment, the technology will be used solely to track tire usage in Moto2 and Moto3. Tiny RFID chips will be built into the official Dunlop tires during the manufacturing process, each programmed with a unique identifying code. Sensors in pit lane (shown in the photo here on the Dunlop website) will monitor when each tire leaves pit lane, and when they return. Using the database which maps which tires have been allocated to which riders, Dunlop can keep precise track of which tires have been used when, and for how long.
The technology is very similar to that used in biometric passports, or in stock tracking in warehouses, though a racing motorcycle tire is a far more demanding environment for an RFID chip. Dunlop already have some experience with the technology, having provided the same service in both BTCC (the British Touring Car Championship) and the FIA European Truck Racing Championship. Temperature profiles and construction are a little different in motorcycle racing, making the challenge a little more complex.
But this is a relatively simple use of the technology. The next stage for Dunlop is to provide real time feedback from the tires, passing the data back to monitoring systems using active, rather than passive, RFID chips. Though the FIM regulations ban the use of telemetry - that is, any data signal passed back from the motorcycle to the pits, with the exception of data used by Dorna for TV broadcasts, which is not made available to the teams - the tire data could be passed to the data logging system, making for more accurate tire monitoring than by simply using tire sensors.
Having Dunlop build the technology and make it available to the teams also limits the cost of development to the Moto2 and Moto3 teams, though clearly, providing extra data to the teams adds yet another level of complexity for engineers to try to work their way through, and favoring the teams with the smartest engineers. As the smartest engineers are generally smart enough to realize their market value, they also tend to work for the richest teams, who can pay them the best wages. That, however, is an inevitable side effect of a technical sport.
Though the introduction of RFID chips is in itself not yet of world-shattering significance, the long-term consequences will be very interesting to watch. Data - data gathering, data analysis and data transmission - are becoming totally ubiquitous in the modern world, and real-time tire monitoring has very interesting applications in street technology. Monitoring tire wear and loads on the race track is an important step, but monitoring them on the road could be a crucial factor in improving road safety. With tire pressure monitoring systems becoming more common on high-end road bikes, RFID telemetry could be the next big step forward.
The Dunlop press release announcing the introduction of RFID chips appears below:
Dunlop Motorsport trial innovative intelligence chip in one of world’s biggest sport categories
Dunlop Motorsport today announced the trial of new electronic intelligence innovation embedded into the tyre of the world’s premier motorcycle racing event – MotoGP, where Dunlop is the official tyre partner of the Moto2 and Moto3 championships.
The company has announced its future goal is to increase tyres’ intelligence to the point that tyres are feeding back vital real-time information to the rider. The starting point of this evolution takes place today through testing at Circuito de Jerez in Spain.
Dunlop Motorsport has teamed up with MotoGP organisers Dorna Sports and IRTA (International Road Racing Teams Association) with the aim of introducing its award-winning RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) technology at the start of the 2014 season. Dunlop Motorsport has already enjoyed success in global motorsport and truck industries with RFID, including the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in the UK and the FIA European Truck Racing Championship.
The key element of the RFID technology is a tiny, 1cm chip. The microchip is built into the tyre on the assembly line at Dunlop’s centre of excellence in Birmingham, UK and is programmed with a unique code that identifies the tyre, enabling automatic reading to see the type and size of the tyre as well as its unique identity number.
Revolutionising the Motorsport industry
The Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship in the UK and Dunlop Motorsport Europe successfully pioneered a world first in motorsport tyre technology in 2011 with all tyres on BTCC cars – exclusively supplied by Dunlop – automatically scanned as the cars drive into the pit lane. This ensures that each car is using the correct and allocated tyres at all times. In the FIA European Truck Racing Championship all Goodyear 315/70R22.5 truck race tyres are built with RFID. This system is used by the company for tyre management purposes at races and FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) officials use it for regulatory purposes.
The success of this innovative technology on four wheels is now being tested on Motorcycle tyres for the first time, explains Tony Duffy, Dunlop Operations Manager.
"When you look at key introductions in motorcycle motorsports over the years such as the restrictions of cylinders and gears in 1967 and the introduction of carbon brakes in 1988 we believe this is up there as one of the most significant introductions to Motorcycle racing since its inception.
"Firstly the RFID technology will be a huge benefit in ensuring no tyre is missed and we can provide the Moto2 and Moto3 organisers with a 100 per accurate log of each tyre’s activity. However, while the RFID chips only currently carry identifying data it may be possible in the future to make them dynamic so that real-time monitoring of various criteria is possible offering a range of exciting opportunities from a rider intelligence point of view.
"Whilst the technology has now been around for a couple of years in other global race categories, today we will be ensuring the RFID tags remain stable in the MotoGP tyre and fine-tuning the frequencies to the point where no tyre is 'missed' when bikes return from the track. Together with our technical partner Datalinx we have achieved a great breakthrough for motor sport globally and we are sure this will be a success in MotoGP from the start of next season.”
Awards and developments
In 2011 Dunlop was selected as “One of the best of the Automotive Sector 2011 – Innovation Technology Category” by a team of journalists from AutoData Publishing, the most specialised auto industry magazine in Brazil. This recognised the company’s work related to RFID technology in its tyres. Datalinx also scooped a major international award thanks to its involvement with RFID technology, winning the prestigious Most Innovative Solution of the Year trophy at Motorola’s Executive Partner Conference.
Dunlop’s 125th birthday
Dunlop celebrates its 125th anniversary this year but continues to look towards the future as it celebrates 125 years of leadership explains James Bailey Director of Marketing Dunlop Motorsport Europe:
“Looking back, our heritage and culture of technological innovation in competitive motorsport cannot be rivalled. Dunlop has had a long list of motorsport wins over the years on two wheels and four including more wins in the Endurance Motorcycle World than any other tyre manufacturer. Looking forward, we are now introducing new technologies such as the RFID as well as developing tyres for the Green GT H2, a car and technology that are part of the future of motorsport and motoring.
“This year alone Dunlop will be supplying over 250,000 tyres over the course of the season to over 500 different racing teams across more than 30 different championships worldwide from our Birmingham centre of excellence. With 2013 being Dunlop’s 125th anniversary we are more determined than ever to make it one of our most successful years ever.”