MotoGP has taken its first step towards the formal introduction of a standard ECU. Today, Dorna announced that they have reached agreement with Magneti Marelli to supply an electronics system to MotoGP teams for the next four years, starting from the 2013 season. To support the electronics system, Magneti Marelli will set up a MotoGP R&D center at their base in Bologna, Italy.
The system to be supplied is complete, and highly sophisticated. The system will comprise an ECU, a complete sensor package, data logger and all of the various wires and switches to make the system. The ECU on offer is described as being Magneti Marelli’s “highest technological option”. More importantly, the Italian electronics firm will supply full support for the ECU, both on and off the track, helping teams develop and set up the system. The system will be supplied free of charge to any team that requests it.
The system on offer will be supplied on a voluntary basis for 2013, with the teams free to continue to develop and use their own systems should they so choose. To allow teams to compete with the teams electing to use proprietary systems, the Magneti Marelli system supplied to the teams will be fully functional for the 2013 season. The Magneti Marelli system is the de facto standard in the paddock, with both Yamaha and Ducati already using a very similar system on their factory prototypes.
Though the press release does not mention it, the announcement marks the first stage on the way to the introduction of a spec ECU for all MotoGP entries. This same system, with a rev limit and restricted functions, will be made compulsory for all MotoGP entries. The spec ECU will be very similar to the system used in Moto3, where teams are allowed to change fuel maps, but not develop their own algorithms. Some level of traction control will still be available, but the parameters for applying it will be greatly restricted.
The argument currently is when the spec ECU is to be imposed. Dorna wants to impose a spec ECU on the series from 2014, but the factories are resisting. The MSMA, however, is split on the issue: Ducati is willing to accept a standard ECU, however begrudgingly, and Yamaha is prepared to accept standard hardware, but not standard software. Given that the hardware being introduced by Magneti Marelli is almost identical to the system being used by Yamaha, this should hardly be seen as a concession.
The fiercest resistance is coming from Honda. HRC have threatened to leave the series if a standard ECU is imposed, and given Honda’s massive influence on the series, this is a risk. Honda’s argument is that they use MotoGP as a platform for developing their electronics systems for use on road bikes, while Dorna points out that other manufacturers seem to develop their electronics system just fine without a MotoGP program. Whether Honda’s threat to leave is genuine or just bluster will come down to their judgement of the marketing value provided by MotoGP.
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.