Thursdays With Vitto: Conversations About Motorcycle Electronics Part Four: Bikes Versus Those Four-Wheeled Contraptions

Vitto Bolognesi, who works for Marelli, is contracted by the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing team to work as a data engineer for the team, primarily with Garrett Gerloff, who notched his first career MotoAmerica Superbike race win at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend.

As we wrap up this four-part series, we want to thank data engineer Vittorio Bolognesi for taking the time to share with us some of his vast knowledge and deep insights about motorcycle electronics.

While we were attending the MotoAmerica Championship of Monterey last weekend, we had a chance to talk with former AMA and World Superbike rider Eric Bostrom, and we asked him about working with Vitto on two different race teams during his career. As expected, EBoz was effusive in his praise of Vitto and said that he is a terrific data engineer and an equally terrific human being, and that both qualities were critical factors in the success that Eric had during the two times when he and Vitto were teammates.

 In this series-concluding Part Four, we asked Vitto about motorcycle electronics versus automobile electronics, telemetry, and more. Below are his answers.

Vitto, let’s compare the electronics that are on a road racing motorcycle versus a racecar’s electronics. You have experience in both areas. Obviously, in a car, I guess it does pitch and yaw a little bit, but a bike leans way over in the turns, and a car doesn’t. So, in that way, a motorcycle seems to be a lot more complicated that an automobile. Are there more or fewer sensors in a racebike wiring harness than there are in a racecar?

Well, racecars have four wheels, so for sure, it’s got more sensors. In fact, it has four of everything: four speed sensors instead of two, four suspension sensors instead of two, and so on and so forth.

When Vitto was an employee at Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. a few years ago, he would sometimes confer with Marelli staff, including Stefano Perotta (pictured). Note the open-wheel racecar graphic on Perotta’s sweater. Marelli manufactures electronics systems for vehicles with four wheels, as well as two.

Also, in cars, they have strain gauges and since cars don’t lean over like bikes, they can use laser ride-height sensors to constantly measure exactly how far the car is from the ground.

IndyCars and Formula 1 cars also make great use of telemetry systems. These systems are on-board radios that transmit real-time data from the car to the pit, which is very important because it enables the technicians to closely monitor those very expensive engines and, hopefully, avoid catastrophic engine failures, which obviously saves money.

Telemetry systems would be great for motorcycle road racing, too, but we still don’t have affordable systems or radio transmitters that are small enough to be installed on motorcycles and are durable enough to reliably do the job.

I thought at one time, on the GP bikes, you could remotely change the suspension settings while the bike was out on a track.

Yes, they had telemetry in cars and in bikes, too. The technology has been available for a while, but cost controls put a stop to using it in bikes. Even today, in MotoGP, they don’t use telemetry because it is so expensive.

So, cost is the limiting factor, then?

Yes, telemetry is not a new technology and it’s readily available but it’s not reliable unless you have the right infrastructure. The infrastructure is what makes telemetry very costly.

The MotoAmerica teams don’t need telemetry. Right now, MotoAmerica has some great electronics packages in place for the Superbike teams, with very limited cost/benefit. The systems cost around $10,000, and let’s dispel the old notion that a factory electronics system costs $300,000 per bike because it doesn’t. The current systems being used by the teams are a great value.

Two years ago, when the new rules forced the factory teams to share with the privateer teams the same level of electronics technology that they were using, we’ve seen these privateer teams hiring the right people, using these new tools appropriately, and rising to the challenge by winning races and reaching podiums.

 

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