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Old 09-16-2015, 04:21 AM   #1
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MotoGP spec ECU for 2016: Not quite the same spec for everyone

Common ECUs, yes; standardized electronics, not yet. This is the state of affairs regarding the intended equality of electronics between all MotoGP teams that was to be introduced in 2016. Unfortunately, problems with the ECU software have delayed this format until 2017.

A bug—that computer term used to describe an error or fault in a computer program or software system that triggers an unintended result—is what Honda and Yamaha have seized upon in order to try and neutralize the plan to introduce standardized electronics that Dorna had slated to place in MotoGP next season. The Japanese engineers detected a bug in the standardized program that, according to them, "could compromise the safety of the riders." It was a statement that caused a lot of consternation between Honda, Yamaha, and Dorna.

When Carmelo Ezpeleta announced the introduction of standardized electronics in MotoGP, he explicitly stated that the only cases for which it would be amended would be by consensus among all factories or for "security reasons." It is this small window of opportunity that the biggest critics of the single ECU mandate (Honda and Yamaha) exploited, warning of the possible consequences that adopting such a move would pose. Shuhei Nakamoto and Kouichi Tsuji, the heads of Honda and Yamaha GP divisions respectively, announced that they were not willing to use the program on their bikes without it being studied by their own engineers. "Who will take the responsibility if something happens to a rider?" was the position of Honda and Yamaha. This forced Dorna to take a step back and let them have a detailed look.

The bugs detected in the Magnetti Marelli software have allowed Honda and Yamaha to temporarily freeze what seemed inevitable. In Misano, meetings between the Marelli people and teams were intense. While in the hospitality building of one of the factory teams, we saw four Marelli engineers—perfectly dressed as such—enter to discuss the issue with the chief technical representatives of the factory.

The "inertial platform"—similar to the IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) found on the latest Yamaha R1 and top-shelf Ducatis that uses gyroscopes and accelerometers to measure a bike's movement and acceleration/deceleration through various axes—was also a point of contention within the MSMA (Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association, representing the motorcycle manufacturers involved in MotoGP). During the negotiations with Dorna, Honda and Yamaha wanted the regulations to allow at least one sensor "open," that is, not standardized. Gigi Dall'Igna, general manager of Ducati Corse, strongly objected, saying that what Honda and Yamaha called a "sensor" was actually a sort of second "camouflaged" ECU. Honda and Yamaha denied it at first, trying to assure them that it was just a "data collector" to send information to the standardized ECU. "It's not just another sensor”, Dall'Igna told us. “It is a second computer with its own intelligence."

Ducati’s position, which Suzuki and Aprilia later joined, led Honda to an unprecedented move: to offer the sensor to the other factories—but at a price. In other words, it offered to sell its technology. The offer was swiftly rejected, and then Dorna decided to make the inertial platform open to homologation, meaning that any type of inertial platform is legal as long as it has been approved and made available to other factories at the same price. The freedom to use any homologated inertial platform means that the ECUs will be standardized in basic hardware only in 2016. And if the Honda and Yamaha and Marelli engineers cannot work out the bugs in the standardized software, they may temporarily remain even more individualized still.

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