A Dead Fish Rots From The ECU Down?
by staff
Friday, March 01, 2013

Dorna claimed cost reduction as a reason behind introducing a spec ECU to MotoGP this season.

The Magneti Marelli hardware is optional this season and mandatory in 2014, but factory teams can continue to use their own software next season with a reduction of fuel limit to 20 liters per race and a continuation of the rule allowing only five engines per year. Teams using the spec software provided by Dorna will be allowed 24 liters of fuel per race and 12 engines per season.

But reports coming from media and teams at both Sepang tests in February indicated Magneti Marelli had done little or no development work on the software. The company simply handed the black-box kits to teams and said, "Good luck, boys."

So teams either have resorted to programming the electronics themselves or have contracted with outside firms for the complicated, vital task. Both of those solutions cost money, either through hiring additional software engineers or the fees charged by third-party software developers.

Yamaha, Honda and Aprilia reportedly are programming their respective electronics in-house. Suzuki, preparing for its MotoGP return in 2014, has contracted with Mitsubishi Electronics.

Suzuki apparently was well underway with hardware and software development for its 2014 GSX-R with Mitsubishi before the spec ECU was mandated. So new software had to be rewritten from scratch to work with the Magneti Marelli hardware - at a price.

Works teams can eat these expenses. But what about the non-Aprilia CRT teams that are using the spec Magneti Marelli hardware and supposed software in 2013? There was no Magneti Marelli software, so small teams are being forced to digest the increased costs of electronics development that the spec ECU rule were supposed to reduce.

Magneti Marelli is supplying a hardware kit - which consists of an ECU, dashboard and tilt sensor - for free to each team. But spare parts must be purchased.

Reports have indicated there's also growing friction among the factory teams that Magneti Marelli could take some of the software secrets developed by individual works teams and meld them into the spec software that Dorna will provide to the non-factory and CRT teams next season for their black boxes.

"In my view, Magneti Marelli will simply tap into knowledge and then offer the world's best motorcycle control," one paddock source told German media.

There's also tension reportedly growing over Magneti Marelli's fee of 12,000 euros for every extra ECU unit that teams want to buy. Next season, most paddock boffins think Magneti Marelli will develop spec software based on tweaks developed by the factories and simply make copies and place them into every extra black box, earning an easy 12 grand per sale.

It's almost the motorcycle racing equivalent of a kid making copies of pre-recorded cassette tapes on a double-deck boombox in the 1980s and selling them to his buddies for $5 each instead of giving them away.

The smell of decaying fish wafts over this entire situation.


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