Jul 15, 2012
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Yamaha Racing Division Manager Keith McCarty (left) with Monster Energy Graves Yamaha Team Owner Chuck Graves (right). Photo by David Swarts/Roadracingworld.com.
By David Swarts
In January, AMA Pro Racing announced that it will implement a hardware price cap of $18,000 per motorcycle for engine control and data acquisition electronics in the Superbike class, beginning with the 2013 season and continuing through 2015. The only previous restriction required that hardware be homologated and approved for use by AMA Pro Racing Technical Director Of Competition Al Ludington.
But teams say that hardware cost is not the biggest concern, with the cost of buying or developing software and hiring qualified technicians to run the complicated systems making up the bulk of the expense.
Yoshimura Racing admits to spending $300,000 per season on electronics hardware, software, development, testing and personnel for its two-rider effort in AMA Pro Superbike. Yoshimura uses Magneti Marelli Marvel 4 systems and employs multiple technicians to run the systems. Monster Energy Graves Yamaha also runs Magneti Marelli Marvel 4 systems on its Superbikes and employs multiple technicians, but says one technician is assigned to run the Magneti Marelli SRT systems on its Daytona SportBikes.
Jordan Suzuki and National Guard Suzuki use Pectel systems run by multiple technicians, while KTM uses Magneti Marelli SRT systems run by a technician who flies in from Italy for each AMA Pro Superbike round.
Most of the other teams use much-less-expensive, much-less-capable, readily available race-kit black boxes (a.k.a. Engine Control Units, or ECUs) that sell for less than $3500 including wiring harness. Examples include Suzuki's EM Pro system for GSX-R1000s and Yamaha's YEC system for YZF-R1s. The BMW kit box for the S1000RR sells for about $4000 and plugs into the standard wiring harness. The Kawasaki kit box and wiring harness for the ZX-10R sell for less than $1500. A KTM kit box and setting tool for the RC8 R sells for under $1200. An EBR kit box for the 1190RS sells for $750.
Meetings held as recently as last month between AMA Pro Racing officials and team representatives have revealed a deep divide in the paddock, with the majority of teams wanting to switch to kit boxes across the board, with a few notable holdouts. AMA Pro officials have openly stated that they established the 2013-2015 rule now on the books based on one winning team's threat to quit the series if it wasn't allowed to continue using the Marvel 4 system currently fitted to its racebikes.
To check where the top-10 players in the AMA Pro Superbike class stand on electronics rules, we posed the following questions:
1. What should the AMA Pro Superbike electronic rules be for 2013-2015 and why?
2. What do you say to someone who claims they need a year or more notice to get ready for any rule change, including switching from the currently allowed advanced electronics to kit boxes?
Keith McCarty, Racing Division Manager, Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A.
Team: Monster Energy Graves Yamaha
Riders: Josh Hayes, Josh Herrin
Electronics: Magneti Marelli Marvel 4
"First, I wanted you to make sure you let everybody know as you portrayed our team with multiple technical guys, we don't have that. We have one. So that's the first thing I would like to clear.
"The second thing is, with regards to all the stuff that you're asking questions for, I think there's a rule in place for 2013. There was a big discussion with all of the same group of people long before that rule came into play. So as far as I'm concerned there's a rule in play, and that's what we're going with for 2013."
So do you agree with that rule? Because the question I asked everyone was what do you think the [Superbike electronics] rule for 2013 should be?
"The rule is the rule. I gave my input to the AMA. That's what I would like it to be."
And I asked everyone why the rule should be that way. Your answer is"¦?
"That's what the AMA decided it to be. I'm not the rules committee. We didn't threaten anybody. We gave our points of view to the AMA, as everybody else did, and they came up with the rule that went on the direction that everybody thought it should go, reduce the cost for everybody, try to keep some parity out there. Nothing's really changed since that point in time. So for me this discussion is a little misguided."
Misguided? Even though a majority of the people we've polled, think the rule should be different than what it is?
"There's elections every year in our country, and not everybody agrees with who gets elected, right? But life goes on and they move on through it. I think that the worst thing that could happen is changing once the rules are made, you go in there and try to re-invent the wheel and change it again just because one or two people disagree.
"I do think it's wrong to try to be pushing that direction, and shame on you guys for doing that."
You think we're pushing by taking a poll?
"I think there's more to it than that."
To be continued...