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Jul 8, 2012

Superbike Electronics: AMA Pro Team Managers Talk About What Rules Should Be For 2013 And Beyond, Part Six

Kneedraggers.com/Motul/Fly Racing Team Owner/Rider David Anthony (right). Photo by David Swarts/Roadracingworld.com.
FIRST PERSON/OPINION

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 retail for less than $3500 including wiring harness. Examples include Suzuki's EM Pro system for GSX-R1000s or 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 admitted 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 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?

Part Six:

Aussie Dave Anthony
Team Owner/Rider
Kneedraggers.com/Motul/Fly Racing
Riders, David Anthony, Jordan Burgess, Johnny Rock Page
Electronics, Suzuki EM Pro

"That's the question that just keeps going around. My first thing would be for my own benefit, and I would say just standard electronics and a kit ECU, like a Yoshimura EM Pro, for each brand.

"Number one, it doesn't make a difference to me cost-wise because I'm never going to have enough money to run full electronics, but I would think it would even things up a bit. Each box has got its own parameters, but you can still go in and tamper with them anyway. Basically, I feel it would be more equal, more even and no one would have to invest in a bunch of electronics."

What about people who say they need a year's notice on rule changes?

"They would need a year to prepare for it? I would say I don't understand that at all. There's lots of people out there who know more than me, but with what I know I can't understand why it would take that long, no.

"If we were going to spend a bunch of money I would rather spend it on cool forks and bits like that, stuff that people could actually see rather than electronics. The electronics are hidden. You have all that money invested in them, but the people watching can't appreciate them."


To be continued...