Grand Prix Commission Close Down More Electronics Loopholes

The Grand Prix Commission is to tighten the noose on electronics a little further, in an attempt to prevent cheating. The GPC today issued a press release containing the minutes of their meeting held at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. There, they agreed restrictions on the ECU, agreed to limit riders in all classes to FIM homologated helmets, and increased the penalty for speeding in pit lane.

The two changes to the electronics are aimed at restricting the ability of teams to alter the data on the official ECU. The first change allows the Technical Director to use an official approved laptop to download the data directly from the datalogger on the bike, connected to the ECU, rather than relying on the team to provide the data. By downloading the data directly, the idea is to ensure that the data has not been altered for whatever reason.

The issue for the teams is that their data is then stored on a computer outside their control. To ensure that such data does not leak to their rivals, a safeguard has been put in place to have the data deleted once it has been verified by Technical Control.

The second change to the regulations involves forcing the use of an official unified CAN Bus decoupler. This is basically the adapter used to connect a laptop to the spec ECU, to allow the data engineer to download the data from the datalogger. It is called a "decoupler", because it isolated the two ends of the connection, meaning there is no direct electronic connection between the ECU and the laptop, to avoid electrical surges from causing damage. As there is already some intelligence built into the decoupler, it is conceivable that a team or factory could program the decoupler to alter the data in some way as it is being downloaded. Enforcing the use of an official item avoids this.

The other major change for next year is that only FIM homologated helmets will be allowed to be used in any FIM sanctioned racing activity, which includes MotoGP. The FIM homologation of helmets is stricter and more thorough than the current test used by national and international standards, such as ECE, Snell, and JIS. 

In general, this will have a positive effect on safety, both for racers and for consumers, as manufacturers move to incorporate the new FIM standard in the design of their helmets.

But there has been some criticism as well: the FIM homologation process features a hard-shell philosophy. The idea behind this philosophy is that injury from direct impact is best prevented by having a hard helmet shell, which resists puncture or damage as much as possible. Critics say that although this protects against direct impact, it does not absorb energy as well, increasing the risk of brain damage because the rider's head is stopped more abruptly, generating higher g forces, and allowing the rider's brain to move inside their skull.

The other school of helmet design favors a softer shell, which has more flexibility. The idea behind this is to bend slightly and absorb energy, allowing the rider's head to decelerate more slowly, and reducing the chance of brain injury as the brain moves inside the skull. The downside to this philosophy is a lower resistance to impact, the critics claim. 

Depending on which philosophy a particular helmet manufacturer follows, it will be easier or more difficult to obtain FIM homologation. Some manufacturers may be forced to produce special racing helmets to comply with the FIM requirements.

The press release from the GPC appears below, and from the FIM on helmet homologation below that:

FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission

The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Paul Duparc (FIM), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Carlos Ezpeleta (Dorna), Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting) and Corrado Cecchinelli (Director of Technology), in a meeting held in Sepang on 3 November 2018 made the following decisions:

Technical Regulations


Data Analysis – MotoGP Class
The Technical Director has been granted authority to download data directly from the ECU to the “Official PC” for the purpose of verifying that it has not been modified from its original recording. Once it is established that the data complies with the FIM regulations it will be deleted from the Official PC.

ECU and Connections – MotoGP Class
In addition to the official ECU and IMU teams are now restricted to only using the official unified CAN decoupler which may also not be modified or have additions.

The unified Can decoupler is categorised as a “Free Device”

Ambient Fuel Temperature – MotoGP Class
The lead time between the announcement of the official ambient temperature and the start of the race has been increased from 60 to 75 minutes. This is to give teams more time to complete the fuelling process.

The Commission approved the new FIM helmet standard established by the FIM for all circuit racing disciplines. This means that there will now be a single, enhanced standard for helmets, replacing the various international standards used before (ECE, Snell and JIS).

Helmet homologation tests are ongoing with some manufacturers having already concluded the tests and some planned within the next weeks. It is the intention of the FIM to publish by the Valencia GP a list of the helmets manufacturers that have been approved through the FIM Racing Homologation Programme and of those which are working to achieve this.

Brake Components
More detailed specifications for the materials used for brake hose connections and brake master cylinders were approved.

Disciplinary Matters


Speeding in Pit Lane
Currently there is a standard fine of €200 for exceeding the pit lane speed limit.

In future the FIM MotoGP Stewards will have the possibility to impose larger financial penalties for repeat offences during the same event. The Stewards will also have the right to impose higher fines or further penalties for excessive speed or for multiple repeat offences during the season.

FIM homologated helmets mandatory in Grand Prix as of 2019

Following the decision of the last Grand Prix Commission, who gathered in Sepang (MAL) on November 3 2018, the use of FIM homologated helmets will be mandatory for all riders accessing FIM Grand Prix competitions starting from next year. The FIM homologation will be thus required for the helmets in place of the international standards (ECE, Snell and JIS) to which the FIM referred solely to until now. Relatively to the international standards previously referred to, the FIM homologated helmets have undergone an enhanced and more complete evaluation of their performance; this includes an assessment of the protection against low, medium and high velocity linear impacts, oblique impacts and penetration.

The FIM Homologation Label will uniquely identify each helmet that access FIM Grand Prix competitions and will be an efficient tracking tool for Technical Stewards. By scanning the label QR code, information relative to the helmet features and the validity of the homologation will be accessible. A link to the tradename webpage will be also available for redirection to the advertising and the web services offered by each single manufacturer. Further, the 3D FIM Hologram will add a high security value to the label in order to guarantee maximum trust in the homologation.

‘This is a true example of technology at the service of sport and safety, we are very proud that this Programme’s launch is under way and that the industry and the whole racing community have welcomed these changes’ explained Fabio Muner, FIM Sports Director.

It is the intention of the FIM to publish by the Valencia GP a list of the helmets manufacturers that have been approved through the FIM Racing Homologation Programme and of those which are working to achieve this.


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"The issue for the teams is that their data is then stored on a computer outside their control. To ensure that such data does not leak to their rivals, a safeguard has been put in place to have the data deleted once it has been verified by Technical Control."

  • So, this data is downloaded to the "Official PC", (the "official approved laptop"), verified and then deleted.
  • Most if not all of us know that deleting data files doesn't remove them entirely under most conditions.  
  • I'm assuming that a more thorough removal process with verification (in front of a team representative) is what's intended.  
  • Does the Commission publish detailed procedures?  (Here I am advocating for paperwork, what a world.)

Are these checks on data performed randomly, like drugs tests?  Or do they investigate only when there is a suspicion of foul play?

They check top finishers every time for sure. I can remember a few instances where backmarker teams lost good results because they had something illegal on the bike and it was discovered after an odd podium. Not even meaning intentionally, I remember yuki takahashi being dq’d due to an illegal air filter they only found once he dragged the bike onto the podium the first time. The team just didn’t know and had been running it for years

I do not see why teams' data shouldn't be published. If they are all using spec electronics all they stand to lose is settings, which will be irrelevant if the data is published on Monday morning. Normally I decry the nothing to hide, nothing to fear argument but in this case I think it would be the best solution. They all have the same gear, so nobody is losing a trade secret. It would also provide stats dweebs like me another set of numbers to pore over. For example, who is getting on the throttle where, hardest braker, most lean angle and so on.


Not so sure about the FIM's helmet ruling too. Modern helmets are very puncture resistant even if the outer shell has a degree of flexibility. Specifying an overly hard shell is asking for an increase in concussions. Although with so many helmets using multi density foam and spin liners now that might be a non issue.

I didn't know there was an issue with helmet safety. What brought that on David?

The main feature of the FIM helmet standard is their addition of limits on angular acceleration rather than just straight impact. They also require that any add on aerodynamic devices be included in the tests and all combinations be declared as part of the homologation to this standard.

This has been a hot topic in recent years in head protection as more data from various sports has solidified the connection between the effect on brain damage and concussions to rotational acceleration of the brain inside the skull rather than just a straight line impact alone. I think of this like a cam lobe which generates high forces under its contact area when it rotates, so like the cam lobe the brain beign an oblonged shape just floating in fluid can generate high contact stresses on it when rotated at a high rate of spin within the skull.

Specificaly what the FIM has done is add additional drop test onto a 45 deg angled plate with sandpaper on it to create a rotational accelaration of an impact. They then apply medically supported limits using an equation called Head Injury Criteria that looks at angular accerlations of the brain and what consequence occurs.

Current limits starting for next year are at levels corresponding to brain hematoma, 10400 rad/s2, and are written into the standard to decrease to limits of concussion, 8000 rad/sec2, by 2020.

This is an important distinction as the other helmet impact test standards are all based on straight impacts designed to protect aginst skull fracture.  So this is now an add on to those based on protecting the soft tissue as well.

That said they are also increasing the straight drop testing velocity above that of ECE22/05 standards and adding shell penetration tests and a few other things from SNELL.  This could potentially be an issue for ECE standard helmets but would not be for ones that can also meet SNELL as those already have, and still will have, higher impact energy absorption test than what the FIM has done here. 

Below is a link to the FIM standard and also one to several presentations on Medical studies related to head injury criteera and angular acceration of the brain, be sure to skim through to at least middle and the last one at the end where some directly relevant information is presented. you will even see the same diagrams in the FIM standard where they came directly from one of these studies.

Why are the GPC mandating a change to helmet designs?  Do they have any evidence to back up their claims that harder shells are needed?

Harder shells are needed when riders heads contact sharp edges.  Studies of post-accident helmets have shown that this rarely happens (Hurt 1981, Maids 1999, Wobrock & Smith 2003, etc).  Road accidents are more likely to involve sharp edges due to environment, compared to track accidents.  Why then are the GPC instituting a change?

Here in the United States of America we have "American football". The organization (NFL) has changed helmets for the players. They went from hard shell exterior to a lighter more absorbent material. Just for the record some of you may or may not know there is a high incident of concussions with football players that eventually leads to traumatic brain injuries, Michael Schumacher has a similar injury I believe? They have discovered that with the outer shell being more absorbent, it does appear to reduce the coup contra coup that happens with sudden decelaration of the brain inside the skull. It appears they are adopting a similar helmet for MotoGP? Just wondering out loud.