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The rider vs electronics in MotoGP

The rider vs electronics in MotoGP

In 2016, only one year after Suzuki’s return to MotoGP, a new rule became effective introducing what is called “unified software”. This set a base for the electronics shared by all teams, and of course changed the way to manage the electronics on the GSX-RRs.

Let’s have a talk with Claudio Rainato, Electronics Engineer working with Andrea Iannone.

What do we mean when we speak about “electronics” in MotoGP?

“First of all, let’s define what we mean by ‘electronics’ in MotoGP: differently from Formula 1, in MotoGP the so called (live) telemetry is not allowed, meaning that there is not a real time transfer of digital information or data to and from the bikes while they are on track. Our bikes are equipped with sensors, cables and ECU that collect the data and we can only download them once the bike gets back to the garage, through a wired connection. At the same time, we upload the maps and instructions before the bike leaves the garage to take to the track.”

Why is it called “unified software” if everyone can then customise their own parameters?

“It is called unified software because there is a unique supplier for the hardware, Magneti Marelli, and part of the logics of the software are the same for everybody. Then every manufacturer can complete, integrate and interpret those base logics and enrich them according to their experience, needs, and the requests of the riders. The first main part of this is done in Japan, but then everything is checked and finalised on the race tracks by the engineers of the team.”

How do the electronics work?

“Electronics for us basically means two things: data, with the collection of information about the dynamics of the vehicle and engine management. The first one is a one-way process: from the machine to our computers, and it represent a collection of information regarding bike dynamic and engine behaviour; the latter is a two-way system: we collect information from the engine but we also send instructions to the ECU telling the engine how to behave, for example regarding the power delivery, the traction control, the anti-wheelie and anti-spinning. This is the so-called “map”: the mix of instructions on which the ECU manages the engine.”

Differently from Formula 1, in MotoGP the so called (live) telemetry is not allowed. We can only download data once the bike gets back to the garage, through a wired connection

How is your typical work flow?

“The preparation for the race starts when we are still at home, with some generic parameters to be set according to the track characteristics and our experience. Then we arrive at the circuit and check the track, to see if there is something different from the previous year or the test if we have tested some weeks before. New asphalt for example can heavily affect our base parameters. Then we start the finalisation work with the rider during the Free Practice sessions. Basically when the rider gets back from a run we download the data and compare the information with what the rider tells us about his feelings. Then we adjust the maps to improve the machine’s behaviour in two main aspects: acceleration, with the power management and traction control and braking, along with the engine braking. In this regard, we have a pretty high accuracy as we can change the behaviour of the bike corner by corner.”

How can the rider modify the electronics while riding?

“The rider has three buttons on his left handlebar and using those he can switch the maps, change the sensibility of the traction control and increase or decrease the engine braking. The maps are preset by us, which means that he cannot change the single parameters of the map but he can only switch into different configurations. While we in the garage can change the map corner by corner, once the map is set in the ECU of the bike it cannot be modified, so if the rider increases the sensibility of the traction control – for example – this affects the behaviour of the traction control over all the circuit and not in one single spot on the track.” 

Is the rider still important?

“Despite the fact that our calculations tend to be very precise, we cannot have automatic machines that can drive by themselves. I would say that nowadays the importance of the electronics is 50/50 with the vehicle dynamics, but both of them together are still less than a half the importance of the rider. I would say that on a single lap the electronics is not so important than compared with the dynamics, but over the race distance a good electronic configuration could help tyres management and chassis behaviour gaining lap by lap more importance, up to 50/50. Basically our final objective is to allow the rider to set the throttle at 100% as much as possible to give a reference of performance and put some limit that could help to prevent crashes so the rider can focus on the most efficient riding. While the rider goes for the limit, we go helping him to find the limit without getting hurt.

How is the relationship with the rider?

“During the sessions, the Electronic Engineer and the Crew Chief are the two people that have the most intense communication with the rider. We have to listen to him but also to explain him what we did, and let him understand what’s going on. Being a rider myself helps a bit because it makes easier to understand some of his feelings, recalling some experiences that you lived when riding, despite that being in a much less competitive way!”

I would say that nowadays the importance of the electronics is 50/50 with the vehicle dynamics, but both of them together are still less than a half the importance of the rider

How is the relationship with the rider?

“During the sessions, the Electronic Engineer and the Crew Chief are the two people that have the most intense communication with the rider. We have to listen to him but also to explain him what we did, and let him understand what’s going on. Being a rider myself helps a bit because it makes easier to understand some of his feelings, recalling some experiences that you lived when riding, despite that being in a much less competitive way!”

STATS

·      Approx number of sensors: 50

·      Approx number of chanels (sensors + eleborated data): 1000, out of which 600 managed by the ECU, 400 managed by the software

·      Approx amount of data managed for every session: 60 Gb

·      Approx downloading time per map: 1’

·      Approx uploading time per map: 10”

·      Approx length of cables on a bike: 200 mt

 

TYPE OF SENSORS

  • Position

Measure the distance / stroke of moving elements

Example suspension travel, clutch / brake lever travel, throttle bodies opening/rotation, gas, gearbox

  • Speed

Measure the speed of the rotary elements

Example engine revs, wheel speed

  • Acceleration

Measure vehicle acceleration speeds and vibrations

Example wheel accelerometers, IMU

  • Inclination

Estimation of bike roll and pitch (wheelie)

Example inertial platform, the measurement is made by combining accelerometers and gyroscopes, one per axis (XYZ)

  • Temperatures

Measurement of the operating temperatures of the engine and other systems

Example water temperature, oil Brakes Control unit

  • Pressure

Measurement of engine pressures, hydraulic elements and environment

Oil pressure, brakes, clutch, air

  • Force / Torque

Measurement of forces applied by pilot and engine

Force applied to the gear shift lever by the driver for electronic geashift

Measurement of the torque supplied by the motor

  • Gps

Only for tests by regulation

Measurement of the motorcycle trajectory

The rider vs electronics in MotoGP