Dorna is considering allowing communication between teams and riders via the dashboard. At a meeting today between Dorna and the teams, initial discussions took place over a system to allow teams to pass very brief messages to the dashboard of the bikes.
The ability to pass messages between team and bike has been made possible thanks to the transponders currently being used in MotoGP. Those allow for a very limited and very short burst of communication as the bikes pass the timing loops at the track. Race Direction is currently using the system to pass signals to the dash in the case of a red flag, black flag or ride through penalty, but the system would also allow teams a limited ability to pass messages to the riders.
"It's at a very early stage," Technical Director Danny Aldridge told us at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. "Basically, teams could send very short messages to the dashboard. It would only be something like 'BOX'."
There are a lot of details still to be worked out. It is unclear exactly how often messages could be passed, and exactly how long such messages would be, but it would only be a few characters. In theory, four messages could be passed to a rider each lap, in addition to messages on the pit board. But it is still not clear whether a message sent to the dashboard would be replaced by another at the next timing loop, or whether the message would have to removed at one timing loop, then a fresh one sent at the end of the following sector.
What is also unclear is exactly what granularity of timing loops would be available to the teams. Although MotoGP splits each race track into four sectors, the number of timing loops at each track is much greater. There may be ten or more at some tracks, although only a few are being used.
The proposal to allow communication has come forward after riders missed messages on pit boards at the last race at the Sachsenring. Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow, Hector Barbera and Jack Miller were battling for the lead as the track was drying out. Marc Márquez went in to swap bikes early, as he was losing too much ground to the leaders on wet tires. At the front, Rossi, Dovizioso, Crutchlow, Barbera and Miller were all looking at each other too much rather than their pit boards. By the time they went in, it was too late, and Márquez went on to win the race.
That made teams think carefully about sending information to the riders. Teams were frustrated that the riders ignored messages on their pit boards, something made more difficult by the position of pit lane at the Sachsenring, which starts after a steep climb to a blind crest.
Dorna are keen on the messages, as they will also be available for the TV feed. Because the messages would go through the transponder system, Dorna could use them and display them on the TV feed, similar to the system used in F1.
The idea is still at a very early stage, and has a long way to go before actually being adopted. There will have to be discussions between the teams and Dorna about what kind of messages it will be possible for the teams to send, how much space they have and how often they can be changed. The system will have to be tested before it can be adopted, and the riders will have to decide whether they believe it can be done safely or not.