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MotoGP 'virtual pit boards' get green light

"I would think some riders will be using it in qualifying and the race this weekend" - Mike Webb, MotoGP Race Director.
MotoGP riders will be able to receive text messages from their team for the first time during a race, at this weekend's Sachsenring round in Germany.

The technology, known as a 'virtual pit board', has been available during free practice but now been given the green light for the full weekend by the riders' Safety Commission.

Use of the virtual pit board will be optional, however text messages sent by Race Direction, will continue to be mandatory.

The messages sent to riders will be selected from a specific list of agreed options. In other words, teams cannot write whatever they like.

"The Grand Prix Commission approved the use of the 'virtual pit board' messages," MotoGP race director Mike Webb told on Friday at the Sachsenring.

"From the beginning of the year it was approved for teams to try during free practice. But it wasn't allowed in qualifying and the race until such time as it was available to everyone, the software was all working and we'd proved everything was okay.

"The key thing that happened was on Friday at the Safety Commission at Assen, when the riders said they were fine with the [virtual pit board] messages.

"I'm told that, even for the riders that don't want to use it, they basically feel they don't have to look at it if they don't want to.

"Once the riders said they were happy enough, that was the final piece in the puzzle, because the 'virtual pit board' technology was always ready to go.

"So at the Grand Prix Commission last Saturday, when we were approving the exact list of official Race Direction messages to be used from 2018, they also took the opportunity to say 'teams can now go ahead with 'virtual pit boards' on race day '.

"It is not actually a rule change, because there was no rule banning it. It was just that from the timekeeping side the technology was previously cut it off for qualifying and race day."

As Webb was speaking, rain was lashing against the side of his office, overlooking the main straight at the Sachsenring. The bad weather is expected to continue throughout the weekend and could produce a repeat of last year's flag-to-flag race. The timing of bike swaps is crucial in such situations.

"This is exactly the weather conditions where they would want to use it, so I would think some riders will be using it in qualifying and the race this weekend," he said. "To be able to use the system they will just have to be running the latest version of the timekeeping software."

Reacting to the 'virtual pit board' decision, Pramac Ducati's Scott Redding said: "I don't think they can really give you too much more information than what we get on the pit board already.

"You can't really communicate things like 'what about this? Or, 'try something different there?' The team can just tell you when to pit in a flag-to-flag race, or if we need to drop a position. Stuff like that."

The Englishman added that the main change will probably be less riders getting the timing of their bike change badly wrong.

"Take Zarco for example last week, he took a gamble [to change bikes] but it didn't work. But if he would have had a message from the team to say 'don't pit' he would have been in a different situation at the end of that race.

"I get that MotoGP should be less like Formula One, where they wait for someone else to make a decision for them. But you might also see something on your pit board and think 'f**k, what was that' and then you've got it there on the dashboard. So it's a bit more reassuring."

The use of a specific menu of messages for the 'virtual pit board' will help ease some fears that riders could be 'coached' from the pit wall, as in Formula One.

In terms of the official dashboard messages already in operation from Race Direction, these cover: Red Flag, Black Flag, Black/Orange Flag, Blue Flag, Change Position, Ride Through and a Track Limits Warning.

"Our messages have been running for three years," Webb explained. "All the latest GPC announcement means is there will be an agreed composition of the words to be used for each message from 2018.

"We wanted a common system, so each rider would receive the exact same message in the case of a red flag, yellow flag etc. We wanted to do that from the beginning but the dashboard manufacturers said 'give us time'.

"They've now had enough time and so from next year they have to use our specific text for each of the messages. That's the only change. The downside of the way it is now is that a rider switching teams has to get used to a new display.

"From 2018 the display has to read the same, no matter which team you are in.

"The main thing to remember is that the 'virtual pit board' is completely separate from Race Direction dashboard messages. 'Virtual pit board' is happening in races from this weekend and Race Direction messages have been up and running for a number of years."

By Peter McLaren

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Tagged as: board , virtual

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June 30, 2017 12:29 AM

What a load of garbage, all messages should only be from race control, black flag, caution, red flag. What's next? Race strategy messages from a team strategists to downgrade MotoGP to F1 levels of excitement?


June 29, 2017 8:43 PM

This is the type of thinking that is going to ruin MotoGP. Leave texting to the twelve year old girls. I imagine the manufacturers are behind this thinking they will dupe motorcyclists into buying cycles with streaming advertising on the dashboard. "why not stop in and have your fluids checked Mr. namegoeshere at your factory-run dealership today!"

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