Which projects are currently taking up most of your time, as Director of Technology?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
My future-oriented projects are the Moto2 ECU and engine.
Have the features of the 2019 Moto2 ECU been agreed?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
That is not settled at the moment. Marelli won the tender, the model is decided, it will be a lower specification than the MotoGP of course because it is more cost oriented. And the software will be derived from the MotoGP software, by removing a lot of stuff that cannot fit or we think is not appropriate for Moto2.
Do you have a rough idea of what will be kept for Moto2?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
Yes, the plan is to take the MotoGP software and remove more-or-less all of the chassis control strategies. Like traction control, to mention one. We will start like that, but then re-introduce some of them in a simplified mode during future years.

So in year two it will not be the same as year one.

We want to make it very simple at the beginning. As an example, reasonably we will start without traction control in year one. But, reasonable again, we will introduce it in year two. This is the plan at the moment.

There is a block that we have to put in from the beginning and that will compensate for 90% of the technical gap between Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP. The basic block handles the ride-by-wire and a proper engine braking strategy. Those will be in from the very beginning.

All the rest, the plan is not to put them in from the beginning; anti-wheelie, traction control etc.
What kind of difference will having a ride-by-wire system make?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
The main difference to me with ride-by-wire will be in 'schooling'. Because the technical guys in Moto2 will learn a new technology. Now they are using a very 'vintage' cable system - in Moto2 and Moto3 - so they miss out on a big point of modern racing.

Even with the most basic ride-by-wire setting you can at least smooth out the torque curve of the engine. The most obvious thing you can do is introduce a difference between the amount the rider twists the throttle and the amount the throttle body opens, for different gears.

For example, in the lower gears 100% twist of the throttle by the rider could result in only 50% of the throttle opening on the engine. This most basic thing is already useful. Just by removing the physical connection between the hand and throttle body you have an advantage over the present cable system because of this process, called torque mapping.

The second immediate advantage of even a basic ride-by-wire system is much better control of engine braking. At the moment engine braking in Moto2 is just controlled by opening of a very basic bleed, bypass circuit if you like. This is based on RPM when the throttle is closed. Very basic.

The engine-braking strategy for the future - using ride-by-wire - can be track position sensitive, gear sensitive, lean angle sensitive, RPM sensitive. Even if we remove some of these features for Moto2 it will be a big improvement in performance. And the quality of the braking is better because by opening the throttle you can adjust fuelling so that combustion is still okay.

After these basic steps, you can go on to use the ride-by-wire technology for chassis control strategies like anti-wheelie and so on.
The racing in MotoGP has been very competitive again this year, are you happy with the technical rules?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
Yes. For me I would do something else, but we are very happy and to be honest, being unlucky with the weather makes us lucky with the show! So for sure, last year and this year, MotoGP has made a big step in how good the show is but I want to be honest and say that not everything is based on what we did, which is tyres and ECU. Things like the weather and number of riders that are so good has nothing to do with us!
You said you would do something else, is there a next step?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
I'm not thinking of this as a next step, because this is something that is already forgotten. But for me, we should work on things like an RPM limiter and reducing corner speed by smaller wheels for instance, things like that.

But these are not next steps, these are things that have already been proposed in the past and not accepted. So in this sense, I'm not exactly where I would like to be. But these are not things we are considering for now.
Is MotoGP still a long way from getting agreement on a rev-limit among the manufacturers?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
It's not under discussion.

But one thing that maybe in the present scenario is not as crazy to do, is go to a single IMU. Inertial Measurement Unit. Which contains the gyroscopes etc. This is something more practical and relevant to the present situation.

Introducing an RPM limit now is another world at the moment. But moving to a single, which means compulsory, IMU is a practical step that can be done now.
How would it help the sport?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
It would introduce a cost difference for sure. Even only because the production numbers would be higher. This would be one benefit, but to me the main benefits is that it's another factor to close the technical gap. Because I think at the moment the reason some manufacturers are resisting to unify the IMU is because they have a better one. And if they believe so, it's true!

Another thing is that the IMU is actually not a sensor, but a box full for sensors and there is firmware in it that applies maths. So there are calculations made and there is the chance of cheating with it.
In what sense?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
To me the IMU should be considered a remote part of the ECU.

In fact the ECU has an inbuilt IMU which is not used because it's not accurate enough. This is the only reason why we have an outboard IMU, but conceptionally to me the IMU is a part of the ECU and so to me it should be unified, like the ECU.

Because there is a 'brain' inside it. It is not just a sensor, if you see what I mean.
So teams programme the IMU?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
They do, yes.

Very basic example: People believe the IMU is a package of sensors that measure the lean angle. This is not true. The IMU measures the lean rate and then by mathematical integration it calculates the lean angle, which is not what it directly measures.

But if, in this calculation, you don't just perform mathematical integration of the signal but also make an 'elaboration'... Imagine if I take the lean rate and I take the tyre temperature. I put them together and so I output a 'doped' lean angle to the ECU, which is not the real lean angle and changes differently depending on if the tyre is hot or cold. Now I have a traction control that works differently to yours.
So you could manipulate the IMU to send a different output to the ECU for performance reasons...

Corrado Cecchinelli:
Yes, because it is unavoidable that you programme the IMU to do its legal job. So I cannot stop you connecting to your IMU with your PC and doing something. Because this must be done to make it work. But then I don't know what you actually do. There is room for cheating there.

The IMU is actually a computer and as it is connected by a CAN line to all the rest it could, in theory and out of our control - this is clearly forbidden - receive a number of inputs that it's not supposed to and so 'dope' the output.

Just imagine, you think that we made a mistake in how the lean angle is considered in the traction control with the unified software. So you programme your IMU to set a fixed lean angle for instance. This is not a sensor, it's a computer.

The IMU is upstream of the unified software in the ECU. So if you dope the IMU outputs you are actually altering the logic of the unified software. Only by a marginal amount, but still.
Are you a long way from getting an agreement on a unified IMU?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
Yes. I don't think we'll get an agreement. It is in theory an 'open' item, that is never discussed. When I spoke about an RPM limit, this is not even an open item. There are manufacturers that would be happy if we have the power to enforce the single IMU and others that would threaten to leave.
Are you happy with how the rules on aerodynamics have worked following the wing ban?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
I think we have found a reasonable compromise, because we had to put a limit on two main things: One, a crazy cost and investment in aerodynamics. Two, safety raised by the Safety Commission, which means the riders, which was passed onto us by the FIM.

We had to try and hit both targets and I think we hit the cost by reducing the amount of evolution you can do, which is basically one-per-year for everyone but KTM, as a new manufacturer. And we introduced a better wording and a lot of discretion for the Technical Director to decide if something is compliant [with the ban on external wings] and safe or not.

I think this is a good compromise, which doesn't mean you cannot design your fairing to have downforce. Because that is against the spirit of racing in a prototype series. So you can do whatever you want, but not so often and not with protruding and dangerous bodywork. This is the compromise.

It is not correct to say people should not design their fairing to have an aerodynamic effect, because this is the job of the fairing. That is not what we wanted. I'm saying that because sometimes we have critics that are against everything and they say; 'you ban the wings but still they have downforce using different things'.

Okay, but we didn't ban downforce! We have nothing against aerodynamics, we have something against too much money being spent and something against it being dangerous.

Also for me there is a side-effect of this which is what they are doing now, or what I expect they will be doing, is much more road relevant than horrible wings. This is a good by-product of the new regulations.

These fairings could be used in a high-end road machine, but not the wings. Anyway, this was not the goal, but nonetheless it is a useful side-effect.
Is the balance right with the concessions system in MotoGP?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
I think so. It is not under discussion. No-one is complaining about that. Of course, every time someone is doing something wrong, they complain that without freezing the engine etc.

The concept of concessions and the numbers we put to it are not under discussions.
No plans to change fuel limits?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
No. At the moment I think we have a good package so we should aim for stability, more than moving from good to perfect.
Moto3 down to two manufacturers, anything to encourage more, like the concessions system in MotoGP?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
I think it's possible. I think that if someone new comes and asks for concessions to enter Moto3 I think it would be considered. Which is not the case at the moment, but why not? If someone asks for one year of engine evolutions, to me that is reasonable. I personally like the concept of concessions. I would even go beyond that, which means I am even in favour of performance handicaps. Which is the symmetric of concessions.
There's recently been an announcement about replacing the Honda Moto3 engine valves?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
What they proved is that the valve manufacturer, that is not themselves, used a change in the manufacturing process and this change is unfortunately affecting valve life. Everything about the design is the same but the manufacturing process, the way you make it, has changed without telling [Honda].

This was proven, because they showed a letter from the valve manufacturer to them, saying 'yes it is true, we changed the valve manufacturing process without telling them'. And the new manufacturing process - I don't know what the difference is - is affecting reliability. So there is a potential safety issue because a valve intruding on a piston is normally a catastrophic failure. It is not the worst, the worst is always conrods and gearboxes, but if you know that it will more-or-less happen it is safe to take counter measures.

So under FIM supervision they will be allowed to open just what they need to open, change the valves, prove that the valves they are putting in are exactly the same weight, size and everything else. Close the engines again and that's it.
It won't affect the number of engines used?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
What can you tell us about the proposed electric bike championship?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
What I can say is that we are not considering an electric engine for any of the three grand prix classes we have now. We are considering a separate, single-spec series, to be held at a small number of MotoGP events.

We are in the process of investigating if it is practical to do that. And, if so, who could be the partner.

But first we have to realise if there is even the chance to make a reasonable race with an electric bike, in the targeted timeframe, which is a couple of years. So we are talking about more or less 2019. Is there a chance to be on track then? It looks like yes.
Why start an electric bike series and why make it single spec?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
We are interested for a number of reasons. One is because we have to live in the real world and realise what is going to happen [within the motorcycling industry] and it is sensible to start in the simplest possible way, which is a spec series.

I would consider this the 'less dangerous' test possible of something that we must do.

We hope that if we start with a spec series this would encourage other players to come and knock on our door so we can make an open category after, for example, three years. Even the potential winner of the [spec bike] tender may be happy to have competitors.
Have you ever ridden an electric bike yourself? What did you think of it?

Corrado Cecchinelli:
I've ridden some electric bikes. Not of the kind we could consider [for racing] because they were in the dual-sport category. A reference production model would be something like the BMW 1200GS.

I was really surprised. I really enjoyed it. It was surprising to me how easy it is and that you don't feel that they weigh a lot.

What I liked most was the connection between the throttle and the torque, actually the handlebar grip and the torque because there is no throttle! I liked that and I liked the acceleration from zero. That is unbelievable.

Not only the 'push', which is strong, even in the bikes I tested that were not even close to the strongest possible. But the quality of the torque delivery was for me surprising. Something completely different.

How 'ready' it is. From 0 to 20 away from traffic lights is a point where an internal combustion engine is normally not at its best. So you really appreciate the quality of the delivery in that situation.

As for myself, I really don't enjoy the electric bikes being so quiet! That's my personal taste and I think it will change in the next years. The future generation of racers will not like noise, because they will not be used to it.

By Peter McLaren

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