A 'very big' upgrade to the new Open class ECU software was made available for this week's final Sepang MotoGP test.
However the teams are not yet using it.
Speaking exclusively to Crash.net
during Thursday's second day of testing, MotoGP director of technology Corrado Cecchinelli, who has overseen the introduction of the new Magneti-Marelli control ECU, explained:
“We brought here a very big step. But it is so big that we made the software so that you can still use it the old way, because it is very difficult to understand all the features of the new software.
“So we asked the teams to just run it in background mode to gain experience and monitor it, but not to really use yet.
“We also brought here a new inertia platform. To explain, the hardware package that we are giving the Open riders consists not only of the ECU, but the buttons on the handlebars - which doesn't change performance - and an inertia platform.
“The inertia platform is a special box that includes gyroscopes and accelerometers that tells the ECU the position of the machine compared to the ground. So the lean, the pitch and so on. This is a part of the hardware package so if you chose to be an Open rider you have to use this sensor. Now we have brought a new one here that is better.
“It is a very complicated sensor so it has a problem of signal drift, vibrations and so on. So it is better in that respect, but more than that it is redundant. It is like the same box having double circuitry, so that if you have one problem you switch to the next one and the strategies still work.
“This is one other thing that the Open riders are trying here because it works with both the old and new software.
“Of course the new software, when it will be switched on and not only in background mode, will need the new inertia platform to give the top performance. But still you can use the old software with both platforms. You are not forced to make a choice.”
When do you think teams will start to move to the new software?
“This is more depending on the teams than us because the software is ready to be switched on now, but it is complicated and needs a lot more [data] tables to be filled in.
“We are giving it with a sort of standard calibration, but of course this is very high level software so it needs you to put exact numbers for your machine. Otherwise you do not get the advantage.
“This is why we advise the teams, 'if you are not sure, continue to run the old one'.
“We made the software so both can run at the same time, which is a technical nonsense because you load the ECU with unnecessary calculation load. But it makes sense when you understand that the new one is very difficult to use, so you want to leave the choice of the old one.
“If we just brought the new software here, nobody would have used it because nobody can be familiar in one event.”
Forward Yamaha's Aleix Espargaro has put the new Open class firmly in the limelight by challenging for the top of the timesheets throughout 2014 testing. Espargaro set the fourth fastest lap at the first Sepang test and led much of Thursday at this week's test, eventually finishing second on the timesheets.
“We are very pleased with the Open class performance in general and of course Aleix in particular,” said Cecchinelli. “But I have to say that they did a very good job and he is a very good rider. This is not because we introduced the new software. I have to be honest.
“Aleix is one of the riders who is running the new software in background mode I think. So he is not really using the performance step. His performance now is with the same software as he used at the Sepang 1 test - and he got a good result there.
“I'm sure the new software is better, but I also think we are in a 'good range' already, so I cannot say what the actual difference in lap time will be.
“For me, now we have done a huge job to get a small improvement. We will not gain one second. We are getting close to what a normal factory is doing - working a lot to find hundredths of a second.
“As you see the previous software version was good already, because of what Aleix did at the last test. I think this week he looks faster because Marc [Marquez] is not here, so the other strong riders are not pushing at their maximum. This is my understanding, but there is room to improve of course.”
Entry to the Open class - and access to benefits in terms of race fuel, engine changes, engine development and a softer rear tyre - simply requires use of the full control ECU system.
Factory class entries must also use the standard ECU hardware, but can continue with their own unique software development. Open class riders all have access to the same software.
Strong rumours suggest that Ducati is poised to announce a switch from Factory to Open, with Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone confirmed as trying the Open software on day two of testing.
Does Cecchinelli think Ducati will move to the Open class?
“I think so,” he replied. “But we will all find out tomorrow [Friday, the final day of testing]. Everyone has to choose which class by tomorrow.”