Ram?n Aur?n was one of the first engineers, alongside Antonio Cobas, to exploit telemetry data to improve motorcycle performance at the race track.

Over the last 20 years, Aur?n has seen the the importance of telemetry grow whilst working alongside the likes of ?lex Crivill?, Carlos Checa, Alberto Puig, Sito Pons, Jorge Mart?nez Aspar, Loris Capirossi, Max Biaggi and Troy Bayliss.

Aur?n has been part of the Repsol Honda Team, working with Nicky Hayden, since the 2006 season - when the American won the MotoGP World Championship...

Q:
How did you start in the world of motorcycling?

Ram?n Aur?n:
I started off as telemetry analyst with Antonio Cobas and the JJ Cobas, until Antonio stopped racing as a brand and we went to the Honda Pons team. It must have been around 1990; with Aspar in 125cc and 250cc, and Sito Pons in 500cc.

Q:
Would you say that Antonio Cobas pioneered the use of telemetry?

Ram?n Aur?n:
I think Antonio Cobas had worked in Minardi for two years, and in Formula One they were already using telemetry, though not with bikes. He was always inventing stuff for the chassis and the rest, and thought it would be good to have all that information. The problem at that moment was that the devices we had for collecting the information - we're talking about 20 years ago, with these huge computers - were not adequate at all for a motorbike.

We had to try out a thousand different things and we had these enormous devices, which hardly had any memory either. Those inventions provided us with information that showed us things we never would have imagined at that time. From then on it started developing, because the memory was very basic, and the samples were small. It was the start. Then we only had one device and swapped it from one bike to another, the two "Aspar" -125cc and 250cc- and Sito Pons' 500cc.

Q:
How would you define 'telemetry'? What exactly does it measure?

Ram?n Aur?n:
Telemetry is based on a series of sensors spread around the bike which give us information about what's happening. This generates a curve which lets us know what's happening at a precise moment. All the information is synchronised so we can understand why things happen. You can see, for example, whether the front suspension sinks too low when braking, how far, and draw conclusions concerning what's happening and why.

Q:
What sensors do you use? What is measured?

Ram?n Aur?n:
Practically everything is measured. There are two large groups: a system which measures everything that has to do with the engine, and another which measures everything that has to do with the chassis. The engine sensors measure the detonations, oil pressure, temperature, revs, everything... Bearing in mind that with four cylinders, each one works independently and has to be measured separately. As for the chassis, we measure the movement of the suspension, brake pressure, speed of the wheels, inclination of the bike. You don't always analyse it all, a lot of it is for security reasons.

Q:
Can two riders be recognised or distinguished through telemetry?

Ram?n Aur?n:
You can't recognise them, but you can see the differences. To look at a chart and say whether it's this or that rider is impossible. If there are two riders you know more or less, you'll recognise them because of their style.

Q:
You have seen the 500cc era from inside, then the change to 990cc, and last year, to 800cc. How have these changes been reflected on a computer screen?

Ram?n Aur?n:
Everything has changed a lot. Since the 500cc category the bikes have changed a lot, but also the riders and their style. In 500cc, electronics played a very small role, or none at all. The crashes were almost always due to a loss of adherence of the rear tyre, stepping on the gas. With rain, power got reduced a lot. There wasn't much control, it was simply a kind of plug which limited power if it rained. It was very basic.

Then the four-stroke engines arrived, with more electronics and very powerful. I suppose that as it was the start, they didn't think all that power could be used. Now with the 800cc's I think we've found a balance. Though apart from the power - which is more than people think, as they are reaching speeds very close to the 990cc's- some very fast performance in bends has also been achieved, marking the differences. The enormous change the tyres have gone through is also important.

All this means these bikes, weighing 150kg, have a performance close to that of a 250cc bike, unthinkable with a 500cc. You can see the evolution and how lap times have improved, though some will say that the races and the show used to be more exciting.

Q:
Do you think it has become less spectacular?

Ram?n Aur?n:
I have to admit that yes, we have less spectacular images, like bikes skidding round the bends... Now the MotoGP bikes are very similar to the 250cc's. Before they used to brake very abruptly, with amazing skidding, smoke coming out of the tyres... and they were fast! But now they're even faster. One thing is excitement and eye-catching races, and another, efficiency.

Q:
There has been talk for some time about the pneumatic-valve engine being prepared by Honda. Is it easy to adapt to a change of engine halfway through the season? Do these changes affect your job?

Ram?n Aur?n:
It changes , because it's not only the engine that changes. The pneumatic-valve engine has different reactions to the conventional one. Apart from the difference in weight, there is also the internal momentum of the engine and all the other changes the engine transmits to the chassis. The difficult part is combining both, because there's little time, you need to find the best result, and using two different engines is like setting up two different bikes.

Q:
After becoming world champion with the 990cc, Nicky Hayden has suffered on the 800cc. In what way do you think the change has affected him?

Ram?n Aur?n:
Nicky is quite an aggressive rider, his riding style tends to make the bike skid. When there was more than enough power, and there wasn't much electronics to keep control, the lap times were good. But now, with the 800cc's, there's less power and it's very controlled. For him it's difficult to adapt to this style of riding.

If we take a look at the riders at the top now, they come from the 250cc category, and I think bikes now are very adapted to this system. He never rode a 250cc, he has always been in MotoGP, and before that in Superbikes. This change has affected him more, and now he's adapting, particularly with the more powerful engines, because with the new engine it seems he's closer to what he likes and I think he'll be confident enough again to climb to the top.

Q:
Do you think the 250cc category is now a better 'school' for MotoGP, rather than four-stroke competitions?

Ram?n Aur?n:
It's not that it's a better school. What happens is that the riders who make it to MotoGP mainly come from the 250cc category, and that's why the MotoGP bikes tend to be more similar to what they had there. As the people who develop them come from the 250cc category, they make bikes that tend to be developed following the style they had there. If they all came from Superbikes or AMA, the bikes would probably be different.

Q:
What would you highlight about Nicky Hayden?

Ram?n Aur?n:
First, that he's a hard worker. His motivation is incredible. But also, how sincere and good-natured he is. As a rider, I'd highlight his aggressiveness and passion for bikes, I suppose that just like with any other rider, motorcycling is his life, but I think that it's more than just a job to him. It's fun. He never refuses to do anything, rides as many laps as it takes, his ability to struggle to stay ahead is incredible. He never puts on a bad face when he has to try out a different setup, or listen to advice that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. The best thing about him is how open he is to input from other people.

Q:
Last year there was a big debate concerning the issue of possibility of a control tyre in the MotoGP World Championship. What do you think?

Ram?n Aur?n:
I think it's wrong. I think the debate started last year because no one expected that particular rider to win. I suppose it wasn't in some people's interest that he should win. But I think development comes with competition, and without competition there's no development, or at least it will be much slower. I think it's good to have two manufacturers, and if there were three, even better. What next? Have only one engine manufacturer because one bike is better than the other? I'm convinced that technology progresses faster when there is rivalry.

Q:
What is more important, rider feedback or the information gathered by telemetry?

Ram?n Aur?n:
It depends. With most of the parameters it's the rider who has the last word. But there are some which include the possibility of finishing a race, like consumption, which are evaluated technically. If the rider asks for certain adjustments and the computer tells us they won't let us finish the race because there isn't enough fuel for the power he's asking for, then it has the last word. Adjustments are very personal things, and we can advise on some things, but the rider decides according to the possibilities.

Q:
Before, riders had the chance to make excuses... but now, with telemetry, nothing is hidden...

Ram?n Aur?n:
Yes, you can see a lot of things with telemetry. But quite often, you reach the bike's limit, and that limit depends on the setup, so you can't accuse a rider of not stepping on the gas, because the limits of a bike with certain adjustments can only go so far. It's not always the riders who makes excuses, because you can see the limitations of the bike. Obviously, sometimes it isn't the case, and the limit is the rider himself, because he loses his concentration or is having a bad day, just like everyone else.

Q:
How many sensors does a bike have now? Are there more or less than in a 500cc or a 990cc?

Ram?n Aur?n:
I couldn't say. Maybe around sixty, but I'm not 100% sure. If we're talking about a test bike there are probably a lot more. In a 990cc bike, if you bear in mind it has an extra cylinder, there were even more sensors, but in general there would be the same amount. The 500cc bikes really did have much less than now. First, because the devices had much less capacity and you couldn't use many sensors because there wasn't enough memory to store the information.

"If you wanted a good reading, in order to get a normal sample you had to limit the number of channels, because if it was too large, the sampling rate had to be slowed down and the signals were no longer representative. For example, in a suspension, if you take a sample every half second, it's useless. You need at least 100 or 200 samples per second in order to reproduce the original signal, which is what it's all about.

Q:
How do you collect the information?

Ram?n Aur?n:
By means of an internal network. The bike is fitted with a kind of computer which has a server, and the data is sent to the computer via a wireless connection each time he returns to the paddock.

Q:
Do you think there is technical espionage in the World Motorcycling Championship? Do you have to protect your information when you send it from the bike to the computers?

Ram?n Aur?n:
It could be, but each team has their own network and this information does not get leaked. The data is protected because the files are usually different and each brand has a different system, with a particular type of file which can only be read by the brand's software, which compresses the files using a very complicated and very protected algorithm without which it is impossible to read anything. If someone really tries to pirate a signal and tries to read our data, it could be done, but it would take it's time.