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GP Week : Issue 168
23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The fight over a control ECU promises to continue for some time. The three remaining factories have differing public positions, while the governing bodies appear unanimous in their determination that this become law. The need for electronic measures isn’t up for debate among the riders in the MotoGP paddock. These are riders who were raised on MotoGP equipment which did much of their thinking for them. Where there’s a difference is among the current stars and those of the past. In a time of belt-tightening, Yamaha’s three-time 500cc World Champion Kenny Roberts doesn’t believe the very expensive electronics-much of the cost is in personnel-are necessary. Roberts won his championships on motorcycles with flimsy chassis, violent power, and tyres with increasingly diminishing adhesion. To Roberts, traction control was all in the wrist. When told that modern riders believe electronics are necessary, Roberts had a one-word answer: “Bullshit.” Roberts’ protégé Wayne Rainey is more expansive: “I don’t believe you need traction control,” said Rainey, also a three-time 500cc World Champion. “You would ride them differently than what you’re riding them now. Using the power of the bike to get it to turn. Where now you use the lean angle to get it to turn. At maximum lean angle with help from the electronics every millimeter you pick the bike up the electronics are adjusting. Where if no there were no electronics, you would be using the power to adjust.” It follows that the best riders would adjust, the less talented would suffer. Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo disagrees with his elders. The Majorcan who’s having a dream season believes that “without the traction control 260 horsepower is a crazy thing. Maybe Kenny (Roberts) would like to try my bike with traction control. Maybe he will change his opinion.” Not likely. Yet even Lorenzo doesn’t believe the current extent of the electronic measures is necessary. What he calls for is an “inter-medium.” Anti-wheelie could be taken away, but “traction control to take completely would be dangerous.” Lorenzo famously crashed at Laguna Seca in 2011 when he failed to execute the proper sequence to arm the traction control before a practice start. Lorenzo went barreling into the Turn 5 left, and as he tried to turn in found himself in low orbit. Lorenzo admitted it was his fault, but he also believes there will be more crashes without electronics. Here Rainey disagrees: “I think you could take electronics off and just the characteristics of the four-strokes, the torque range is so long and it’s more of a flat torque that that’s much more easy to work with. Like riding a 250 two-stroke motocross bike compared to a 250 four-stroke. I think they would have a wonderful time riding without the electronics.” And how would Rainey propose to do this? “There could be rev limits,” which are anathema to the factories, “things like that, ECU or something that everybody has. It’s kind of like they do in F1 and that’s what the engine can rev to and they can adjust to. They would have to work with the power, get it to work harder, sooner because of less revs. I think it’d be a better show. I think the bikes are so sophisticated, such awesome weapons, it’s just, it’s all artificial. It’s not really reality.” The reality is that electronics are here to stay. But dumbing them down may be a smart idea. (Michael Scott is on holiday) OPINION HENNY RAY ABRAMS Guest columnist THE ECU GENERATION GAP OPINION