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GP Week : Issue 214
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: There was something special about the last race of 2014. It was the last of the old-school – dominated by factory bikes, with the rest of them making up the numbers. That’s the intention, anyway, although the actual transition might take a little longer to accomplish. If ever. Next year also will see similar results from the same riders on the same dominant machines, no doubt. But there will be a subtle difference. No longer will Honda, Yamaha and Ducati be competing in the vital virtual world of electronics. Instead, like old chums rather than old rivals, by then they will be sharing all their cleverest and most intimate secrets. Honda’s superb pro-active throttle controls will be available to all; Yamaha’s adaptive programmes – adjusting to changing conditions in the course of the race – likewise. Unless they decide to stop using these cutting-edge systems, to avoid having to share them with their new best friends in the next-door pit. Taming runaway costs has been Dorna’s main thrust of the past ten years or more. Stopping rivalry in developing ever- cleverer software is one area where they have taken some ground. This year saw the introduction of one-for-all hardware, with everybody obliged to use the same Magneti Marelli ECU. ‘Open’ bikes also have to use control software from the same source. ‘Factory Option’ machines were still free to develop their own. This software had developed in leaps and bounds from the first exhaust-stuttering traction control, cutting sparks to avoid wheelspin. Fly-by-wire throttles play a much more sophisticated game. It is the most important area of development. With bikes shoving well over 270 horsepower through that little fist-sized rear contact patch, while leaned over at up to 60 degrees, measuring the power better than the human wrist is vital. Of course that’s not the whole story. Some human wrists are better than others, and can then exploit those electronic capabilities. Those are the wrists that wave at the crowd from the top step of the podium. Factories can continue to develop their own software in private until the 30th of June next year. From the first of July, they have to share everything. Will they open their hearts to one another? A three-way press briefing from Yamaha, Honda and Ducati two days before the Valencia race was typically mealy-mouthed. Of course they would: it would be a pleasure! They were jointly even reluctant to admit that without the element of competition, there would actually be little point in continuing R&D on electronics. The car industry, not to mention aeronautics, is in any case way ahead of bikes; while the stuff developed for MotoGP riders like Marquez is of little relevance to street bikes. They agreed on one other point. While cutting costs for R&Dispurepieinthesky–all factories will continue to spend as much as they can afford in this area; reducing the need to include electronic research would certainly free up part of the overall budget to be spent elsewhere. Progress, and the evident improvements already wrought in rider safety – well, that’ll have to stay where it is now. Or, given the factories’ propensity for being secretive, probably a few steps further back. wHEN ENEMIES BECOME FRIENDS OPINION OPINION MotoGP MICHaeL SCott