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FEATURE: Could team radio make a comeback in MotoGP?

Suzuki has been a big advocate of pit to rider radio
Suzuki has been a big advocate of pit to rider radio
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Friday, 14, Dec 2012 03:55

by Chris Jefferies

Picture the scene - It's the 2009 Catalunya Grand Prix and Spanish racer Julian Simon tears down the home straight in first place. He punches the air in delight and eases off the throttle thinking that he has secured a crucial win.

It's only when Andrea Iannone zips past him at full speed that reality dawns on Julian - there is still one lap to go, and his closest rival has just overtaken him.

This calamitous error cost Simon a first-place finish on the day, with the hapless Spaniard eventually finishing in fourth behind teammate Sergio Gadea.

In the high-tech world of international motorbike racing, many were left wondering how such a basic error could happen.

As Simon explained later, it was due to a simple misunderstanding of the race boards. Had he been connected to his race crew via radio, this error could have been pointed out to him much more quickly.

Talk to me

This is just one instance that has lead many MotoGP fans to question whether or not the racing series should follow in the footsteps of Formula 1 and introduce pit to rider radio systems for the upcoming 2013 season.

In some quarters this would undoubtedly be welcomed, with the potential of broadcasting messages between riders and their crew potentially very appealing to TV audiences.

What's more, the technology has come a long way since it first surfaced back in the 1990s, with products like Autocom and Autostar both now firmly established in this burgeoning market.

Indeed, this technology already exists in MotoGP, although it is only used during testing to give quick feedback on the bike's set-up.

But could it be rolled out across all teams and for all races? Well here is where proponents of wireless comms hit some roadblocks.

For starters any team to rider communication would need to be encrypted to stop rival pit crews from eavesdropping on your tactics.

Another consideration is how clear the rider's voice would come across, since many of them wear gumshields and the sheer noise of a 1,000cc engine would be a real force to contend with.

Cost is another barrier, with rough estimates suggesting that a race-ready team radio system could cost upwards of 100,000 euros.

Return of the tech?

Suzuki could well prove to be the key players here. The Japanese manufacturers used Earshot Communications for their team radio prior to pulling out of MotoGP in 2011.

And recent reports suggest that the Suzuki team are due to make a comeback in 2014, leading many to assume that they will spearhead a new trend towards increased communication between pit and rider.

One key question remains, however: will the riders be able to keep it clean, or will they just turn the airwaves blue?

To watch Julian Simon's embarrassing showboat at Catalunya 2009, click on the video below

Comments - What do you think?

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