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Traction control and its effect on racing

Discussion in 'Racing, Motorsports, and Track Days' started by [FLUX], Jun 5, 2006.

  1. Here's an interesting series of traction control reports from the point of view of various racers in various series, including AMA, WSBK, and even Rossi's views from MotoGP, lifted from here:


    A Moment With Mat: Traction Control
    Mat Mladin

    There has been a bit going on lately in regards to traction control. Can somebody please tell me why we shouldn't be using traction control? The whole idea of racing in the first place is to develop tomorrow's street bikes for the consumer. Does it matter if the privateers can't afford it? No. The factories spend tens of millions of dollars in a whole host of nations racing. If we do not test the newest technologies on the racetrack, trust me you guys on the street will never see it. The manufacturers are not into selling hundreds of thousands of motorcycles with un-proven technology. Would anybody out there like to go and pick up a new GSXR 1000 from your dealer and have them tell you, "We are testing a new traction control system on your bike. Can you please go down the road there to that fourth gear right hander, lay it on its side at a buck fifty and just grab a big handful of gas, oh and don't feel like a guinea pig because the other fifty thousand Gixers that Suzuki sell are the same". Your reply to this is something like, "um, um, yeh, um, but have guys like Spies, Yates and Mladin done any testing on this stuff at the track, I mean Suzuki pays them a whole load of money to be the test pilots". To which the answer to that is. "Well they are not allowed to use it in racing because the privateers can't afford it, even though in production form it will only add twenty nine dollars to the price of your new bike".

    You get my drift. The fact of the matter is that traction control would make our racing safer and your new street bikes a bunch safer. The fact that an organizing body can ban traction control because of a few privateers who, traction control or not will never be in the race is crazy. It is your bikes that are being held back by this ridiculous rule.

    The same person isn't telling everybody that to get the good race gas that the factory guys' use is costing them? But if we all used pump gas that it would only run one hundred bucks for the weekend. Superbike is for the factories to show their stuff, not worry about the privateers. Change the support class rule so it forces the factories out of it and put a salary cap on the amount allowed to be paid to the riders that ride the support classes. Make the support classes just that, support classes and give the privateers somewhere to show their stuff.

    What is happening? I have heard that a fair amount over the past six weeks. I will tell anybody that wants to listen. I am getting my ass kicked. Pretty simple really. Now I could make up some excuses like I have a sore finger, the dog ate my notes from last year, you know the ones that tell me how to ride or just plain say I am getting smoked.

    There are no excuses. As a team we are being beat by a better rider/team combo. Together they have lifted their game and are doing a tremendous job. The good thing for us is that at Infineon I learned a couple of things from the kid and put a bit of it to work at the Miller test, with good results. I seen a couple of things at Fontana and confirmed it at Infineon, a few areas where Ben is stronger than me. I love the challenge. I have been happier this year getting beat than last year winning so many races. Of course the bank account doesn't look as good but the motivation to get better has lifted up to new heights in the past weeks and I look forward to the up coming races.

    I have always enjoyed doing things with people that are better than me at whatever it is we are doing. When I used to play a bit of golf, I enjoyed mostly playing with Jason Pridmore because I knew that I had to be completely at my best just to keep him in sight on the scorecard. The last couple of years Marty (Craggill) and I played a lot of Squash. It was some of the best fun for me as I hadn't played for years and Marty put some hurt on me for quite a while. The challenge of getting to his level was the most fun. In the end we had some epic games, to the point of me collapsing on the court with a stuffed back. It must have been a sight for the people working there to watch Marty essentially carrying me out of there and to the doctors. When I was six or seven years old I used to race motocross with the eleven and twelve year olds at my local club. Being in the fight was much more fun than putting a trophy on the mantle for winning an easy race.

    At Infineon I was asked why I am doing wheelies after finishing second and why am I smiling more than ever? I was reminded that I have won races before and almost looked unhappy at the end. 'Because it has been fun getting my ass kicked,' is the honest answer. The challenge ahead is steep and I look forward to seeing if I can do it.

    I have the best job in the world; I wake every morning to breath the fresh air. Somehow I think I've got it good.
    Ride smart and stay safe

    Traction (Out Of) Control
    Mission: Control

    Traction Control has been the buzzword in AMA Superbike for a couple of seasons, but the TC debate has gone to full boil in 2006. Anyone with ears and eyes can see certain factory Superbikes smoking the tire out of a corner, then emitting an audible "rat-a-tat-tat" in the next corner. And it's been witness in more than Superbike, too. It's often rumored in the paddock these days that one factory-supported "Superstock" team was told to leave their electronics gadgets at home after a race earlier this season. Repeat: a factory-supported Superstock team.

    Whether you are for it or against it, the traction control issue in the AMA needs to be resolved. The current situation has resulted in a certain amount of chaos in the paddock.

    SuperbikePlanet.com spoke with AMA Technical Manager Kevin Crowther at Infineon. We asked Crowther where things were with the Traction Control situation right now.

    "As you know, there are several different philosophies as to what Traction Control is. We don't allow front-wheel speed sensors," said Crowther of the AMA's ban on independent Traction Control systems. "There are some different philosophies about engine management systems and what goes on there on the engine side of the house when things spin up."

    It is the "black boxes"--the engine management systems--where all the dandy work is going on. And, since AMA rules only ban dedicated Traction Control systems and front-wheel speed sensors, that is the exact gray area that the factory teams seem to be trying to exploit. "Unfortunately, we have the same problem that World Superbike and everyone else has, and that is, there's no real way to police what goes on inside the boxes," said Crowther. "Our rules allow them to change things (in certain classes). You hear different things with motorcycles...is that Traction Control? Is that engine management? Is that acceleration management? Everyone can debate that all day long.

    "The electronics of motorcycles and motorcycle racing have become much more refined over the past few years, and MotoGP lap-time breakthroughs have often been the result of electronics. There are several companies like Motec and Magneti-Marelli who are aligned with the MotoGP teams, and they offer third-party engine management systems with what could be termed "Traction Control capabilities" for sale. And aftermarket data-logging instruments (one of the key ingredients of Traction Control) are allowed in both Superbike and Formula Xtreme.
    The bottom line is that advanced electronics are not much of a black art anymore.

    Crowther continues: "Technology is moving forward so quickly. The rental cars everyone is driving this weekend have Traction Control. We're probably not that far off from an OEM bike coming with some type of (advanced) Traction Control engine management. The R6 has fly-by-wire, and that type of stuff. But again, it's the AMA's highest priority. My feelings when I took this job...we need to come up with an answer. Whether we allow it or not allow it, we can't stick our heads in the sand. Hopefully, within a couple of races, we'll have a policy and move forward."

    At Infineon, there was a meeting held in which Traction Control was discussed among AMA personnel and the teams. 'Soup has spoken with several in attendance, and a wide variety of opinions were offered by those in attendance. Some want a strict ban, and others want it wide-open for all classes. Some want a middle ground where advanced electronics are allowed in some classes (like Superbike and FX), but not others (Supersport and Superstock).

    Crowther said the problem is deciding on a rule that can actually be enforced. "I wish there was an easy answer. That's the only problem. I wish there was a definitive way for us to say 'we won't allow it and here's how we'll troubleshoot it.' In Formula One years ago, they hired a crew of 10 guys and put them in a semi, with the sole purpose of finding the driver enhancements. They spent a year and couldn't find anything."

    What of the Superbike Commission meeting to be held in Italy in early June? Will that affect things? "I don't know if it will shape what we decide to do with Traction Control," said Crowther. "I understand that the meeting is to come to a united front, with Japan and World Superbike and the others, to come up with an overall package so the manufacturers won't have to make 15 different race kits for each series, they can make one. As far as Traction Control, I don't know if we will adapt to what they say. I don't know. We'll have to wait and see what happens," he said.

    Crowther confirmed that a rumored rulebook update is, indeed, in the works. "It's not so much of revamping the classes. I don't want anyone to think that is what we are talking about with that. (The changes) would be more of a common-sense thing and get rid of the gray areas. We've already issued some bulletins this year on a few things. Overall, I think everyone can agree we need an organization of the rulebook."
  2. AMA SB: Traction Control Exclusive
    By Kevin Duke and Don Becklin

    There is no subject in the roadracing paddock that is currently more controversial than traction control. Although banned by the AMA, many observers believe there are some U.S. teams using a form of traction control.

    The hullabaloo began last year when Mat Mladin's Yoshimura Suzuki Superbike could be heard misfiring at the exits of corners. It sounded a little like a bike hitting its rev limiter. The chorus of complaints got even louder in the early part of the 2006 season, as it seems as if Mladin isn't the only rider enjoying the benefits of such a system.

    Traction control has been in use in MotoGP for several years, and it has tamed the fierce, tire-spinning spectacle that it used to be in its first season of 990cc four-strokes. Today, MotoGP rookies can be competitive in their first year because the bikes have been made easier to ride through the use of electronics that limit wheelies and tire slippage under acceleration. Chris Vermeulen has said that riding Honda's RC211V MotoGP bike is easier to ride than the less powerful World Superbike CBR1000RR he used to ride.

    This advancement in electronics has resulted in quicker lap times, but it comes at the expense of the visual drama of a rider fighting a bucking and sliding machine. A fan comparing a 2002 MotoGP race with one from '06 would never guess riders on the new bike are going seconds-a-lap quicker than in '02. This situation, according to none other than Valentino Rossi, makes the rider less important.

    In World Superbike, where traction control isn't outlawed, some teams began using anti-spin electronics in 2005. The Suzuki GSX-Rs of Troy Corser and Yukio Kagayama currently have a high-priced Mitsubishi system, costing perhaps as much as $300,000. The Ducati Corse factory team uses a Magneti Marelli system derived from the Italian company's MotoGP bike, while a cheaper version is apparently being used by several of the Yamaha R1s.

    Racing's governing body, the FIM, and the promoters of WSB, the Flammini Group, are meeting this weekend to discuss the issue of whether traction control is good for the sport and, if not, whether there is a way to police it. This decision will likely have ramifications for domestic Superbike series, including the AMA.

    Officially, AMA Pro Racing bans traction control in its classes, but its current problem lies in its definition.

    "A true traction control system uses the front wheel-speed sensor and rear wheel-speed sensor," according to Kevin Crowther, the AMA's Technical Manager for roadracing. "The system needs to compare the speed of the rear and the speed of the front. Once you take away the front wheel speed sensor you take out the key point of the system. To the best of my knowledge, nobody is using a true traction control system."

    In this limited view of what comprises traction control, it's simple to detect and, thus, easy to police. But it also overlooks the fact that sophisticated electronics can detect a spinning tire without a front wheel-speed sensor (a rear wheel-speed sensor is allowed in AMA competition). It's theoretically possible to have a program that limits spark or fuel when certain conditions are detected, such as the increase in revs in certain gears. Power can also be limited while a bank-angle sensor or wheel-travel potentiometer detects the bike is in a corner, a condition not requiring full power out of an engine.

    "It's a very gray area because of the wording," says Jordan Suzuki's team manager, Rich Alexander, adding that he was reluctant to comment on whether he believed anyone is using a TC system. "I don't think anybody has traction control out there - they might have other things if you want to word it differently."

    Because of the wording of the AMA rulebook, Alexander says a system that controlled wheelspin without using a wheel-speed sensor would fall within the stated rules. "It's legal, because what's being done out there isn't traction control." But when we asked how such a system would be classified, the former racer laughed and said, "That's where we get into the tricky stuff." Alexander declined to comment when we asked if the Jordan Suzuki squad had ever tested a TC system.

    "With modern bikes," the AMA's Crowther continues, "there are cam speed sensors, crank speed sensors, and there are so many places to pick up engine speed, and that makes it so hard. Even if we're provided with the program that they use and a laptop, there's so many ways to hide it once we plug into it. We're in a position now the technology has just moved so fast on us with this. It's a big concern of ours and we are spending a lot of time right now to figure out what direction to go with it."

    "Yeah, I suspect there are probably a few guys out there doing it," says Chuck Graves, the leader behind the factory-supported Graves Motorsports Yamaha R1s. But Graves became a bit cagey when we asked if his team used traction control.

    "The problem is unless you give me the definition of 'traction control' and 'engine management,' I can't give you a good answer," said the veteran of the race scene.

    "As far as true traction control goes, I think everybody's full of shit, said Mladin's crew chief Peter Doyle, part of the Yosh team that is at the center of the controversy. "I mean, it doesn't exist.

    "With an injected bike, we do use an engine management control," Doyle continues. "And we can, for example, put in different ignition timing in each gear. So we might want to mellow the bike in first gear to nothing in sixth gear. But that's not traction control."

    "There are strong indicators that are pointing that some people do have some type of device that is managing their engine power output," says Honda's team manager Chuck Miller, adding that it's obvious by the sound of some bikes exiting corners and by a relative lack of skid marks. "I don't think (the AMA) have the technical ability, at the moment, to monitor it or understand it or know how it works or where to look if somebody does have it."

    Kevin Erion, the leader behind the Erion Honda race team, is another insider who believes some teams are using a form of traction control. "We're not using it and we think that teams are," the former racer said at the Infineon round.

    "First of all, they wouldn't know because they don't work here," countered Doyle. "Second of all, I would be more looking at the most sophisticated companies and electronics packages that are out there are probably Ducati's and Honda's, and are they using launch control." Doyle also noted that Yamaha runs a front wheel-speed sensor during tests on their Superstock R1s and that Honda has been told by the AMA to remove a front wheel sensor off their Superbike in the past.

    "I don't think anybody's cheating per se," comments Tom Bodenbach, the Parts Unlimited Ducati Team Manager. "I think they are doing what the AMA is telling them is legal at this point."

    We asked Doyle if he thought the traction control rule is simply ill-defined or if it is meaningless at this point. "Yeah, I think it's meaningless. You have standard motorcycles coming out that have variable ignition curves in each gear based on rate of rpm increase, throttle position. It's standard over-the-counter stuff. Get rid of the rule out of the rulebook."

    We asked Bodenbach why, if he considers engine management traction control legal within the rules, the Ducati team wouldn't use such a system. "It's just resources at this point in time," he said, adding that his team has never tested a TC system.

    There are many differing views of what it takes to implement such a system. Its cost is, of course, a huge factor, and there's a lot more to it.

    "I don't think the system itself is expensive," says Erion, "but the manpower support to really implement it properly and to continue with the support to keep it moving forward (is). You're talking about a guy that's got to have a laptop that really knows what he's doing. So how much is that? It could be 50 grand just for the guy."

    The traction control, er, engine-management control systems that are likely being used in AMA competition would be prohibitively costly for a privateer trying to compete against the factory teams. However, traction-control systems that use wheel-speed sensors are relatively within reach of the underfunded.

    "It's getting cheap enough that even a privateer can do it for 600 bucks," says Alexander. "So I think in today's technology with it being easier to do, I think it's a safety issue. Superbikes definitely should be doing it. Superstock, you're kind of going on the issue is that it's a stock class, its production based racing. Yeah, it would be safer for those guys as well, but that's when you're kind of treading a thin line of it being a production motorcycle."

    Two questions linger for the AMA: Should traction-control systems be allowed in production-class racing, and; do electronic rider aids improve the show?

    "Obviously a decision needs to be made in what direction we are going to go with this," says the AMA's Crowther. "The FIM needs to make the same decision; the whole world needs to make a decision on it. Our problem now - the FIM's problem, everybody's problem - is how do we police it if that's the way we're going to go.

    "It is one of our biggest priorities right now."
  3. Hot Superbike Topics: the Ducati 1,200cc Twin and Traction Control
    Written by: Dennis Noyes

    Traction control is like pornography…hard to define but you know it when you see it. Most people who love roadracing, I have discovered at the last three World SBK races in Valencia, Monza and Silverstone, would like to see throttle control put exclusively back into the right had of the rider, but rule-making seems to be in the hands of engineers and factory teams rather than fans, riders and privateer team owners.

    It may very well be true that there will be traction control options on all serious sports bikes in the future, but until it is, should TC be used in Superbike racing? And if, in fact, TC is the direction of the future, should the systems used in professional Superbike racing be restricted to the homologated versions sold on the street-legal motorcycle, or should MotoGP or Formula 1 level electronics, at prices that start at three times the cost of a Japanese four cylinder 1000cc sports bike and reach the cost of four bedroom homes, be allowed?

    In Rome on June 6, the powers that control World Superbike racing will attend a meeting chaired by FIM president Francesco Zerbi for the purpose not just of dealing with Ducati´s proposal, backed by FGSsport (the World Superbike promoters), of increasing maximum displacement for twins to 1,200cc, but to begin a dialogue and create a structure for Superbike rule-making at both world and national level. The meeting will be attended by representatives of the world´s two top national series, AMA Superbike and BSB (British) Superbike.

    We should all be looking over their shoulders and the men responsible for the AMA and BSB SBK championships and demanding that they be diligent in defending the sporting strategies and philosophies of their own countries. At present World and BSB regulations are close, but there are disparities between the regs from these championships and the AMA series.

    The idea of allowing large capacity (1340cc) twin cylinder, push-rod, two-valve
    engine to compete against four cylinder 600cc in the Formula Extreme class has been trashed as if it were a hare-brained notion, but, just as most credible engineers defend the concept of allowing twin cylinder, OHC, four valve desmodromic twins to compete against the ubiquitous Japanese fours in World and British Superbike, the AMA equivalency formula that led to the approval of the Buell makes sense if you consider the technical specs of the Harley-Davidson engine used in the Buell in relation to the current Japanese 600cc fours.

    The problem with the AMA´s Buell ruling was that it seemed to catch everyone by surprise. By contrast, the Italian factory and the championship promoters have done an excellent job of packaging and selling the concept of a 1,200 cc twin. Ducati engineers, notably Paolo Ciabatti, began lobbying for a 1,200 upper limit early in 2006 and FGSport CEO Paolo Flammini has argued the case in logical terms this year. Even Ducati Corse CEO Claudio Domenicali has explained in interviews why the idea is a good one….and all this ahead of a model that will not be presented until mid or late 2007 and, if approved, raced in 2008.

    When the Ducati 1,200 idea broke cover as a rumor it was condemned and ridiculed just as the Buell 1340 Formula Extreme concept was, but interviews not only granted but actively sought by Ducati executives and open pit lane discussions have convinced the teams running Japanese bikes in World Superbike because they now understand that along with the increased capacity, Ducati will lose their special compensations to change crankshafts, bore unlimited inlet tracts and use alternate throttle bodies.

    There may need to be some fine tuning of the regulations allowing 1,200 twins, but racing engineers agree that there is an advantage for four cylinder machines against twins of the same capacity.

    It seems a foregone conclusion that World Superbike will accept a 1,200 maximum capacity for twins in the near future, probably for 2008, and certainly not before someone, Ducati or KTM, actually presents a sports twin over the 1000cc limit.

    The 800 pound gorilla in the room, however, is traction control and the increasing costs of electronics. This is where the members of the “Rome Superbike Summit Conference” may be unable to offer immediate guidance.

    Engine mapping, engine management systems, mechanical and electronic, that soften the power in specific gears has been with us for a long time, at least since the 500 two strokes of the mid and late nineties, but traction control, long present not only in automobile racing but also in many road-going cars, is relatively new in racing motorcycles.

    In a knee-jerk reaction to the humiliation of the three Honda-Europe backed teams at Valencia, Honda Europe race boss Carlo Fiorani called for a ban on traction control, but after discussions with other team directors in Monza, Fiorana said in Silverstone that Honda Europe was working with Honda teams to develop a system for the CBR1000RR with Pectal PI of Great Britain and that the system would be tested by the Winston Ten Kate team on June 10, 11 and 12, and, if successful, used first by Ten Kate as early as the Czech Republic round on June 23, with the Klaffi and DFXtreme Honda team possibly coming on-line with TC at Brands Hatch.

    But Fiorani also spoke of the idea of each participating manufacturer offering all teams using the brand’s bike a “homologated” electronics package which the manufacturer would be obligated to offer at “a reasonable price” and with technical support as part of the package.

    The price? Well, it was confusing. Garret Ten Kate said on Saturday that the price for the unit and tech support would be around 16,000 euros (just over $20,000), but on Sunday Fiorani estimated that the Pectal PI system and technical support for a season would be around 40,000 euros (just over $50,000).

    So Superbike teams that now pay a reasonable $45,000 for the season’s tires and Pirelli tech support, would be looking at paying more than that for electronics.

    In fact, the vast majority of riders that I spoke to in Silverstone and almost all the journalists covering the series told me that they would like to see “traction control” banned.

    I also remember that in the late seventies the FIM, backed fervently by the British federation and quite a few others around the world, was very seriously considering banning the use of slicks, thought to be an aberration borrowed from automobile racing. Currently the only World roadracing championship that bans slicks is World Supersport, but, for the moment anyway, Formula 1 cars are obliged to run grooved tires. (And there are still advocates in Grand Prix racing for treaded tires, among them three-time 500 World Champion Wayne Rainey.)

    In the World Superbike section of SpeedTV.com I am trying to make sense of this traction control and electronics question and talking to many top riders and team officials in both World Superbike and MotoGP.

    Surprisingly, there are many even in the MotoGP paddock who believe that current electronics has the potential of spoiling the races and making the rider less important in relation to the technology.

    Will the FIM, in its wisdom, act decisively to curtail costs and keep the playing field level, especially for privateer teams, or allow technology to evolve freely with regards to traction control, launch control, anti-spin and wheelie control…and any new filters and electronic rider aids that come on line?

    Sometime in the future we will look back on this decision and either laugh at our own naivety, applaud the FIM and the powers that be for their intervention or, on the contrary, praise the authorities for having the foresight to make the right call or a good no call.
  4. TRACTION CONTROL part II: Roberts, Mamola, Rossi, and Parrish Weigh In
    Written by: Dennis Noyes

    We have come a long way from the flagrant spitting and banging in the pipes of the 2002 MotoGP machines from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia, to today´s milder popping from Ducati and Kawasaki and the almost unnoticeable systems that allow the RC211V Hondas and the Yamaha M1s to accelerate, wheels almost perfectly in line, out of low gear corners with the throttle wide open.

    Technical people, journalists, and active racing technicians are divided about the merits of the systems and even more divided about what, if anything, can be done to reign them in or ban them.

    Interestingly enough almost all the riders I have talked to, including Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, Honda´s Nicky Hayden from MotoGP and reigning World Superbike Champion, Troy Corser, would like to see intrusive electronics (“traction control”) either eliminated or greatly reduced.

    This is not a scientific survey. I just talked to people, mostly riders, whose opinion I greatly respect and who I had time over a couple of busy weekends in MotoGP at Istanbul and World Supertbike at Monza to corner with a recorder in my hand.

    I asked two questions: How have traction control and other electronic rider aids changed the way the top class of Grand Prix machines are ridden? Should something be done to eliminate or reduce the influence and cost of electronics in MotoGP and/or Superbike?

    By far the longest reply is from, from Randy Mamola. Randy and I were riding from Istanbul to the circuit together on Saturday morning during the Turkish rand Prix and Randy warmed to the subject and held court. Of all the ex-riders of the glory days of 500, Randy is probably the one who is most aware of the big picture because he sees racing from many angles…as an ex-rider, as rider of the Ducati twin-seater, as a tester with Motociclismo magazine of Madrid, as a TV expert commentator and as a consultant to a sports marketing company that manages several top talents. I tried to cut the long Mamola reply, but decided to leave it all because Randy, like Kenny Roberts, sees the big picture that engineers often miss in their push for more performance and faster lap times.

    KENNY ROBERTS: A three-time 500 World Champion and two times AMA Grand National Champion, Kenny is regarded as the man who revolutionized the way 500s were ridden when he came to Europe in 1978. He currently owns the KR team in MotoGP with a KR Frame and a Honda RC211V engine. We spoke in his garage in Turkey on Thursday prior to the Grand Prix. The questions annoyed him at first because, as all of us in the GP paddock know, Roberts has been outspoken inside IRTA about the need to ban traction control, fly by wire throttles, intrusive electronics and has even advocated the use of a control tire system with a single supplier and a limited number of tire options available for a reasonable price to all riders.

    “Traction control is not so expensive. You want total traction control with no spinning, I can provide that for not very much money, but you won’t go very fast. Some riders like that. Kawasaki comes close to total traction control sometimes, it looks like. What we’re talking about is the whole engine management package that includes traction control. At this point in MotoGP the guys that are winning would be winning anyway. But I’m talking about two or three guys…then there are a lot of guys farther back that can ride the bikes a different way, like 250s, but still go fast because they have traction control. It’s easier to ride with all these power devices, not just traction control, but the whole package of electronic rider aids, make it easier for these 250 guys. Should it be banned? Well that depends on the show you are trying to put on. In Formula 1 right now they are spending millions and millions of dollars trying to get a better show on TV and they are going to have another crack at banning traction control by making everybody use a standard ICU…at least that’s what they are talking about.

    They couldn’t ban traction control the first time because they couldn’t detect it. Maybe what they need to do is just take control of the electronics completely. But, do we want to do something like that? Do you want NASCAR or Formula 1? That’s a question Formula 1 is asking themselves. Look at all the new rules. They are getting closer to NASCAR all the time, or trying to. Look, if you are trying to sell the sport and sell sponsorship, then you do whatever you have to do, whatever, to keep the show exciting. If you are trying to run the fastest lap times, make the fastest top speed and go round the corner the fastest, then you let the engineers make the rules and you get what Formula 1 is trying to get away from and what we are heading towards.

    What’s more exiting to watch…a guy hooked up with his wheels in line and hauling through the corner, or a guy with the bike sliding, smoking the tire. This question pisses me off because I am trying to forget about all this crap since I gave my opinion a long time ago. I said to ban traction control, ban fly-by-wire and get us all on the same control tires a long time ago. I don’t talk about it anymore because its just a waste of time. You’re wasting my time asking me about what we should do in MotoGP. Look at my bike. There is millions in that bike but none of that money that is spent shows anything to the crowd or the TV. They don’t see where all the money is spent and I think in this sport we need to be spending money in things the fans and the sponsors can see. Now, if you ask about Superbike, I think they have no choice but to ban anything that uses money without making the racing more exciting. Their only way forward is to make really bitchin’ racing.

    If you’re Superbike you can’t let the factories get loose and do what they are doing over here, especially since nobody has MotoGP budgets over there. If you let the manufacturers make the rules, they will break everybody else who tries to keep up with them. In Superbike that is exactly what you don’t want. You want some guy to go out there and ride the bike loose and on the limit and so you can see that this guy is winning because of something you can see, his riding, not some electronics package that decides how much throttle to open. If I was just coming over now like I did back in 78 I wouldn’t be able to use my sliding and throttle control experience to stand out from the pack. I’d figure out a way to win, but it wouldn’t be as exciting either for me or for the show.”
  5. RANDY MAMOLA: four times runner up in 500, a factory rider with Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda and Cagiva with 13 wins and 54 podium appearances…and still fast on anything that has two wheels.)

    “The electronics have made the racing kind of neat and tidy. In 2002, the first year of MotoGP, when Honda came out with that awesome V5, like nothing anyone had seen. And it was exciting that year, with Rossi and Ukawa backing it in and sliding on the way out, smoking the tires, and beating the 500s which were on the track with them in the first year. But the Honda won its first race and all the races but the two that Max won on the Yamaha M1. It was great to watch. You could see the rider controlling the spinning rear tire, scrubbing off speed with the bike sideways on the brakes…the MotoGP bikes did everything the old 500s did but with a big, forgiving powerband that meant that the bikes were safer to ride.

    But this is not just about the riders. The engineers were working hard, getting those clutches to work with the fly-by-wire throttles, reducing engine braking by bringing up revs when the rider was braking with the throttle closed and down-shifting. The engineers aren’t interested in getting the crowd to stand up and watch a guy smoke it out of a corner with the bike crossed up. The engineers just want the lap times to be fast and steady so they want to clean up all that sliding and smoking. So they have worked to get those wheels in line coming in, cornering and on corner exit. Also you have mapping that softens the bike in the first three gears, but on top of that you have systems that only tolerate limited spinning. The team can program in more spin, but what we are seeing is that when you are spinning a lot you aren’t driving forward out of the corner. Ducati, Kawasaki and Suzuki, you can hear their traction control working, cutting out, Honda is a lot more subtle but it’s working to keep the bike from spinning up too much. Yamaha too, when it is working, sounds like its rolling through the corners in a higher gear and you don’t see these guys up out of the seat. These things don’t high-side and that’s not because this bunch of riders is better than the 500 riders. The bikes are just so good, so easy to ride and safe, that the bike’s smart electronics just don’t let a guy with a quick fist hurt himself.

    What’s changed? Everything about how you race is different. Two bikes of the same kind that are both working well will shadow each other, same lines, same acceleration, same top speed. It doesn’t seem to matter even if two Honda riders have different riding styles. You could have Marco and Dani with their high corner speed, or Nicky who squares it off more, but when they get on the gas, the bikes accelerate the same. Two Hondas come out together even if they enter differently because the electronics figure out the way to get the power down. In Formula 1 you see the two Ferraris or the two Renaults starting on the same row and running the same times because that’s what the car can do at that track. The drivers’ aids are doing a big part of the job and the fine line between winning and being second is producing close races but not more exciting races because, I guess, we are not seeing the mistakes and the mistakes or the saves of mistakes are what is exciting. We have adjusted our way of thinking so that when a guy finishes fourth four second back we think he is way back when he is only losing a little over a tenth of a second a lap over 45 minutes.

    Now it is easy to get into a rhythm and run a race with consistent lap times. Before, when you had a hair-trigger 500 engine with too much power to let you use the side grip you had to stay on top of it all the time, making sure you had the thing picked up before you got on the power. You were sliding and using the sliding to finish turning…that’s if you were riding the way the Americans and Australians rode. Otherwise the 250 guys from Europe were carrying lots of entry speed and corner speed and waiting with the bike on it’s side until they dared open up the carbs. The 500 was lightning, lightning! When it was leaned over you’d hear that pop, pop, pop! and then ruuuk! And you were out of the seat…we started on five inch tires and the engines were all or nothing when you opened the carbs with the bike on its side.

    We have made so much progress with electronics that now the tire technicians, seeing the way these bikes can accelerate so progressively, have started working to give the riders the kind of sidegrip that a progressive engine can use. So the tire guys are working to give the electronics guys the kind of tire that will allow the big, forgiving engines with all their built-in traction control and anti-spin to use. And these engines are easier on the tires because there may be 250 HP in fifth and sixth, but not in the lower gears…and when the power does come on, it is steady…not a big hit and spin.

    We, us 500 guys, had whatever we had depending on the year, 130, 150, 180 HP, but it was in all gears and it was nasty. The first real step to get traction and stop run-away spinning was with the Big Bang in 1992. First Honda and then everybody had it, and then when Mick went back to the 180 degree screamer engine in 1997 it was because engine management systems had made it possible to map the power differently for different gears and for different circuits, but the 500s were still nasty, high-siding bikes that needed you to concentrate on throttle control and you also had to take care of your tires.
    We all had to figure how to keep those 500s under us instead of on top of us. Some guys rode the rear brake to keep the things from spinning too much. Me, I just used my right wrist. That has changed now.

    These guys now are good, but they are not as close to each other in real ability as what we see on the track. If you took these guys and stuck them on 500s I think the same guys would be winning, but some of the guys who are running close to the front would suddenly be way back or in the gravel.

    Here is how it is. Let’s say we’ve got some big street bikes, R1s, CBRs, ZXs, GSX-Rs, and a lot of normal street riders on them, but what they don’t know is that we’ve put a MotoGP traction control system on their bikes. We send them out on the track at Cataluyna but without turning on the wheelie-control, launch control, traction control and without working on the mapping to make the bike more rideable in lower gears. Remember these things are making 160 to 170 HP. The guys are on race tires but they are scaring themselves, up out of the seat. They are good riders so they are lapping around 2 minutes, maybe 15 seconds slower that the MotoGP pace. So we bring them back in and ask them what problems they are having and, and, of course, it’s grip. The bikes are spinning, crossing up…and they are having trouble with engine braking too, the bikes getting out of line on the brakes. So we tell them to have a coffee while we work on their bikes and then we tell them that we have found some solutions and they all go out and come in, lapping a lot faster, maybe two seconds. That was from mapping. They all say it’s awesome!

    They ask if we gave them getter tires. Now I tell them, you just improved two seconds, but now you’re going five seconds faster and the bike is going to keep the wheels in line. You’re not going to have as much fun, and forget about sliding it…if you slide it you’re losing time. And I’ll tell you, it’s not as much fun to ride these bikes. They behave like big 250c and it’s not as much fin for the crowd and the TV viewers because they are hooked up and running in line.”
  6. (Summing up and as we pulled into the Istanbul circuit, Randy said):

    “Now, for me, this is where Flammini gets it and this is where NASCAR gets it. I’m not a Superbike guy and I’m not a NASCAR guy, but in Superbike and NASCAR they are thinking of the show, of the fans. Close racing is not exciting in itself. What’s exciting is guys riding on the edge, making mistakes, correcting them sometimes and sometimes not catching it in time. F1 is boring most of the time. Even if you get two cars close together on the track, they can’t pass. But in F1 they are trying to fix the show. They grooved the tires to cut down on traction. They tried to ban traction control but they couldn’t figure out how to do it…but they are still trying to improve the show. In this MotoGP hasn’t gotten it yet. They haven’t figured out that the excitement comes from the fans seeing the edge…seeing the bikes sliding around. Now if these big 990s aren’t sliding with all the power they have, do you think the 800s are going to slide. No chance! Those things are going to be as hooked up as a slot cars. No chance at all of those things sliding or backing in.

    Formula 1 tried to ban traction control, but they couldn’t stop the cheating. You don’t verify electronics like you do displacement. There is nothing to measure. So they said, OK go ahead and use it while we figure something out. Now I think the FIA is getting ready to slap an electronics box on all the cars that will make it almost impossible to cheat. That’s what Flammini needs to do if he wants to keep his championship exciting and affordable and if he wants to make Superbike a place where riders make the difference.

    I don’t want to get in trouble with today’s riders. I know these guys are as good as they get. Every generation sends its best to the GPs and you can’t compare generations, but, man, I know that there is a lot of masking going on. When Rossi has a problem like in Jerez and somebody else, a good rider like Capirossi, has the better package of tires and bike, he can not only beat Rossi he can play with his rivals. But when Rossi is close to having his stuff working, like he was in Qatar, he is sitting up, looking around and controlling the race. It only turns out to be a small winning advantage, but if you are used to watching these bikes you see a second at the flag as a big advantage. Valentino would be smoking these guys on 500s. He’s the best rider out there, but with these bikes that mask errors and let riders of lesser ability run in the same second, Rossi wins by being the foxiest, the smartest. They guy who paces himself and knows when to go. You don’t see him go early because he knows that he can’t get away and he doesn’t what to give away his lines and his braking points.

    One thing I do see is that Valentino is having fun, even this year with all the problems, but anybody who says that the races are as good now as they were when the bikes were actually ridden 100% by the riders, is probably a big fan of Rossi or Dani or Marco or somebody, but if you forget about the personalities and just step back and ask somebody who doesn’t know these riders which is more exciting…and you show them DVDs from 500 and from MotoGP, they’ll say that the 500s are more exciting.

    MotoGP needs to pay attention to the show, but with the manufacturers making the rules, it is going to be the engineers calling the shots. Now in Superbike, if they are smart, they will not let electronics run up the costs and ruin the racing. If somebody makes a streetbike with a switch that softens the power in the first three gears, then that’s OK, but don’t let MotoGP traction control take over or Superbike will just be another kind of MotoGP…and with 1000cc Japanese bikes and 1,200 cc Ducatis, and with Pirelli getting better from all the feedback they are getting, Superbikes with full-on MotoGP electronics will end up being competitive in lap times and race times with MotoGP and that’s not what Superbike is supposed to be. The reason there are 19 bikes on the MotoGP grid and over 30 on the Superbike grid is because you can afford to race.

    MotoGP is the F1, the cutting edge, and it’s awesome to see the money that is spent and the progress that is made in race track efficiency, but I’ve got to step back and ask if this is really making the show better. If bikes all hooked up and running with wheels in line was where it was at, we’d just watch 250s. As it is these 990s are looking a lot more like 250s than 500s and that is something that we ought to start worrying about. Remember fans can’t see records get broken. They don’t get off reading the data acquisition printouts. They just see the racing, so the exciting nature of the racing is probably more important than the records.

    If Superbike is smart enough to figure it out first that the show is more important than the lap time then we might end up learning from them how to make the show exciting. If Superbike follows MotoGP down the path to more and more electronics then Superbike will just be another, second division MotoGP class with bikes that are more prototype than production.
  7. VALENTINO ROSSI: (Seven time World Champion and now going for his sixth 500/MotoGP title in a row. Vale answered only the first question before being swept off to another TV engagement.)

    “I miss the 500 still. The electronics is so important now and this makes the rider less important. I would like that the rider controlled more the motorcycle but maybe with so powerful bikes now it would not be possible to ride these bikes without the electronics. For sure it is easier to ride them. When I came from 250 to 500 the power was so quick. I had to learn to control the 500 throttle and to slide. It was more fun, more exciting. I don’t know what can be done to give control back to the rider, but I see that the young rider from 250 now can go fast from the first races. In Qatar when Stoner begins to have tire trouble, I can catch and pass him, but only when the tires are sliding. With new tires and all the electronics I cannot catch him. These bikes are very fast and very good, but it is true that, compared to the 500, they are boring.”

    STEVE PARRISH: Steve is a former Grand Prix 500 rider, a team mate of Barry Sheene in the late seventies. He’s raced cars and was a European truck racing champion. Parrish covered World Superbike for the BBC for many years and now is the color commentator for the BBC MotoGP TV coverage. We spoke in the media center on Saturday at the Grand Prix of Turkey.

    “First of all electronics…let’s just call it traction control but of course it is a lot more than that…has made racing faster. Lap times have come down because electronics are unfortunately better than riders at controlling power. Once one team fits traction control, everyone else has to go down that route. Arguably it spoils some of the spectacle that we like to see, but when you watch closely you see, as we saw with Loris Capirossi in Jerez, you see they can dial in or dial out more spin because there are times when you want a bit of slide to help turn the bike and unload the front on cornering, But traction control is a development, something that is going to happen on all road bikes in the future and it makes lap times come down. So in MotoGP, which is prototype racing, you have to have it. The cost is high now, but it will come down and down because it will be fitted to road machines shortly. Sure it makes the bikes easier to ride and that kind of goes against what we all feel about the MotoGP class, the continuation in tradition and prestige of the 500s…they are supposed to be beasts to ride, selective and difficult, so it that respect traction control makes the transition too easy.

    With regard to the idea that Honda Europe’s Carlo Fiorani has suggested that traction control be banned in Superbike…I sort of like his style! Whether or not Honda Europe is strong enough and powerful enough to get rid of it on everyone else’s bikes, I don’t know, but I think in Superbike racing which is supposed to be production-based, I think it is a good idea to keep the cost down and keep the show exciting. I think, yes, it would be very beneficial to the series to not have it. And even if traction control were introduced on a road bike that wouldn’t mean that you would necessarily allow it. That would be the call of the promoter to decide what was best for the show. But there have been cases in touring car races where ABS has been available on the production cars but they have banned it from the racing cars because they wanted to give more importance to the drivers. But if it seemed wrong to ban something that was available on the road bike then the way to go about it would be to say that you can use it, but only the standard system as fitted to the road bike…and that probably wouldn’t be any good for racing anyway, so that would delay the decision and give the promoters more time to decide how best to keep the racing exciting.”
  8. "and your new street bikes a bunch safer"

    I have great respect for Matt Mladin, but this is PAP.

    More expensive? yes!

    Dearer to service? yes!

    Safer?? Tell me how being able to gas a bike up to maximum revs and have it not slide out while exiting the Burnely Tunnel makes it safer??

    We have reached a stage where what's going on on the race track has lost its rational connection to what's going on on the street.....
  9. You gas it up rounding a corner on the spur/gor/old rd etc, and get a heap of wheel spin, lose the rear and crash.

    Most weekend warriors on their litre bikes that dont have the skills to control a slide will simply crash. If the traction control broke the ignition and reduced the amount of spin to the point where mario & gino were now able to control their bikes and prevent a crash, you say thats a bad thing?
  10. :wink:

    Jeez, what a kill-joy, can't I troll like everyone else does?? :LOL:
  11. Traction control would be one option - not making bikes with engines tuned to produce the maximum amount of hp power possible (and offering better reliability, fuel economy etc.) would be the other. If you need a computer to stop you from killing yourself on a bike then perhaps you shouldn't be riding it in the first place.
  12. In "car" racing I don't agree with driver aids in fact the Porsche Carrera Cup has removed ABS brakes as it was found that some drivers were just jumping on the brakes and letting the car do all the work.

    I've had several examples where I've felt the traction control & ABS kick in when I've been driving chase cars at motorsport events and it's saved me on a couple of occasions from doing something silly :wink: unlike some of my collegues :roll:

    I'm not sure how well it would work on the track but on the road.......

    Imagine if traction control & ABS was fitted to even cheap bikes, it would certainly reduce the number of off's that occur as grabbing too bigger handful of front brake in an emergency might not result in coming off the bike. A good rider would never notice them being there unless they try to deliberately or accidently over do it.

    It's almost impossible to police so we are probably stuck with whatever the manufacturers decide to do.
  13. Great articles Cathar and thanks for posting

    So what is your view of it all?

    Would switching to standard ECU's bring back racing like it used to be in "the good ol days". Be a heap of engineers (mere mechanics work on our bikes :wink: ) out of a job

    I enjoyed Randy's comments - he was very passionate about it all and no doubt like many of us wants to see the rider with more control.

    Although, IMHO, I think traction control is a good thing for road bikes as surely it would save some lives.
  14. I'm personally in two minds about it.

    If what Mamola and Rossi are saying is true, then part of the reason why the likes of Stoner, and Pedrosa are able to run up the front so well against racers of more experience from day dot on 250hp+ machines in comparison to their older ~100hp 250cc bikes is because the traction control tames the power delivery to the point that the 990cc bikes can be ridden exactly like a 250cc bike, with the rider's throttle control being less important than one would think when the rider whacks the throttle wide open on corner exits while cranked over.

    This is not to say that such riders are unskilled, far, far from it, but what it does is it masks the throttle control deficiencies of riders with slightly lesser skill than someone like Rossi, and in a two-edged sword, dulls the throttle control proficiencies of riders like Rossi. It levels the playing field and we are seeing more of a combat of computers rather than riders. The effect of the human element is diminished.

    Then again, we can point to the Italian GP of last night, with all that close racing that is arguably the direct result of traction control levelling the playing field to the point that everyone is close, no rider truly dominates, and we have lots of exciting close racing. No doubt that last night's race was exciting to watch.

    Problem is that at the back of one's mind must linger the doubt of just what it is that we're watching. Are we watching a true battle of the world's best riders banging fairings 'cos they're all so equally matched in skill, or are we just watching a battle of machines and computers, with the riders just squeezing the brakes and twisting the throttles in a bit of a masquerade that pretends to fool everyone into thinking that rider skill is of primary importance?

    I'm almost reminded of the movie "Strictly Ballroom", with the references to "crowd pleasing" actions as opposed to real demonstrations of actual skill. Again, that's not to say that just anyone could ride a MotoGP bike 10% as well as these guys, but if the difference between Rossi who might be 98% perfect, and someone else who might be 93% perfect, and the technology raises them both to 99%, then what are we really watching?

    As for traction control on road bikes, it makes total sense. Seen too many people low/high side from poor throttle control. Anything which saves the idiots from themselves will only be a good thing. All I would ask for would be the ability to turn it off if I so choose.

    Very difficult call though with respect to racing. I want to see real rider finesse in action, humans working at the pinnacle of their potential, rather than computers making up the last 5% of their deficiencies.

    Just my 2c.
  15. Great articles Cathcar. I really enjoyed them.

    I like the idea of traction control but only in the very upper reaches of the sport. MotoGP is the pinnicale (spelling?) both technology wise and rider skill wise of our chosen sport. Any technology that filters down to us ham fisted idiots can only be a good thing.

    I would however like to see this technology kept out of the lower Superbike (AMA, Aus Superbike etc...) classes to minimise racing costs and to keep a level playing field for local racers. You wouldn't want the local factory Honda teams streaking away from the rest of the field every weekend. This could be Superbikes chance at differentiating themselves from MotoGP even further by banning traction control and heading towards a more production based feel? (Thanks for this idea Stan and Tex)

    You can't argue that the Italian GP wasn't exciting, so theres no problems there, but a fast bike is also the product of a complete package. This includes a powerful but predictable engine. A well engineered chassis and suspension system. Tires that can grip longer and stronger than your rivals. And truly fantastic riders to extract the best from the machine, and now we have to include a good electronics package to complete the deal. I think if one team had a massive advantage from traction control, there might be more noise to call for it's banning, but the packages all seem fairly matched for Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. I think it is a case of Suzuki and Kawasaki just need more mumbo..

    Ducati, as an example, while having a great engine/aero kit for many years, had an average chassis and tire package backing it up. This year they are well sorted bike now and are just starting to show there true speed and potential (ie title winners). You can still see them have a bad weekend when Bridgestone drop the ball.

    I think every one has also got the wrong idea on just what traction control can save as well. These MotoGP bikes can still bite a rider hard, but they are just more predictable than the cranky 500 cc missiles of old.

    No amount of Traction Control will save you if you jam the throttle to the stop cranked over on a wet day, but it may minimise some unwanted rear tire slips that we may encounter in regular day to day riding. That can only be a good thing I think.

    Just a few of my thoughts and I look forward to argueing/debating/slinging shit at other people on this topic.
  16. Couldn't agree more; many of the advances being made today ONLY have application on the race-track, at speeds that NO-ONE should even be contemplating on the road......
  17. These lines remind me of a silly old bugger in the Daimler Car Club of Vic. when he declared at a meeting in all seriousness....

    "Disk brakes are all well and good for a modern racing car, but they're not needed on a road car."

    :? :shock:
  18. Traction control through corners, even at the race-track, is most important at speeds of around 50-150kph.

    At yer average sort of track, about half the corners don't get taken much in excess of 100kph. Now if traction control is designed to assist racers on the track at sub-100kph speeds, how is that not applicable to the road?

    Even at PI, turns 2, 4, 6, 10 and 11 are all taken in the 60-120kph range, and these are also the corners where the majority of high-sides occur at PI when an excited rider grabs too much with the right hand on corner exit. How is that not applicable to road riding?
  19. Can't agree at all Paul...

    If I'd had ABS I probably wouldn't have bits of metal still in my arm from a sub 40kph crash on oil. I'm pretty sure traction control may have stopped several people I've known from crashes - at much lower speeds than Hornet is thinking of too :? .

    There's some good riders here (and some bad ones :roll: ) - but even the best of us is not a Rossi or Doohan and there's always going to be occasions where a little help doesn't go amiss.

    To my mind the sensible answer is have it on road bikes but make it able to be turned off - like ABS is on the GS BMWs. That way those of us who don't object to some reasonable assistance sometimes can have that and the heros who want to slide their rear end through a corner at speed can do that as well. I'm happy to take all the technology support I can get (says he whose current ride is one of the lowest tech bikes on this forum :roll: )

    As for its use on the track - at the top levels racing IS always as much about technology as it is about the riders. Think of Honda's early efforts and the marvellous machinery they entered in the 50cc and 125 classes. machines that almost needed a watchmaker's skills to put together. Does anyone believe that racing was the poorer for those or should the 50cc class have stuck to 2 stroke Kreidlers and the like?

    The obvious solution is make the support class a TRUE production classs - like the old 6 hour race was. Keeps the cost down and makes it very rider dependent - it will never happen though since it would be a much more interesting and relevant spectacle than a procession of identical looking MotoGP bikes - and a lot more embarassing for the losing manufacturers.

  20. All I see is MotoGP becoming like Formula 1. And in my mind that's a fate worse than death.
    A race bike shouldn't have any rider aids in my mind.