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Doping the ECU – MotoGP Technical Director Claims Teams Can “Cheat”

Corrado Cecchinelli, MotoGP Director of Technology

Every participant in MotoGP must use the same ECU, so the playing field is level when it comes to things like traction control, right? Wrong. In an interview published on, MotoGP Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli, formerly an engineer with Ducati, states independent control over the IMU by teams can allow them to influence traction control settings, for example, which theoretically are the same for all teams.

Here is a quote from Cecchinelli in the article:

“Very basic example: People believe the IMU is a package of sensors that measure the lean angle. This is not true. The IMU measures the lean rate and then by mathematical integration it calculates the lean angle, which is not what it directly measures.  

But if, in this calculation, you don’t just perform mathematical integration of the signal but also make an ‘elaboration’ … 

Imagine if I take the lean rate and I take tire temperature. I put them together and so I output a ‘doped ‘ lean angle to the ECU, which is not the real lean angle and changes differently depending on if the tire is hot or cold. Now I have a traction control that works differently to yours.”

If you read the article, you can see Cecchinelli’s dreams of equality among bikes, including control of rpm limits, etc. Currently, even with the spec ECU, the better funded teams continue to have a technical advantage. Is there no way around this? Would true equality even be desirable? Let us know your thoughts.

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  1. Gerry says:


  2. scorza says:

    Its MotoGP or Nascar??? free developpers and dreamers!!!

  3. krissrock says:

    I can see limiting the money they can spend so that new teams, or teams have done kind of fighting chance in the season. However motogp if supposed to be the prototype class… This is where me tech and ideas are supposed to be created. It’s really shitty to see them neutered in their ability to develop their bikes. Ducati is the only one attempting to advance the sport, while dorna and the rest of the mfr’s want the sport to stay stagnant.

    • Dave says:

      Actually, it was Ducati who was instrumental in bringing the rules to where they are. Honda was the one who threatened to leave if they weren’t allowed to continue to out-spend everyone else.

      Innovation is great, but nobody wants to watch 10 bikes with very little chance of actually racing against each other circling a big track. If nobody wants to watch it then nobody will pay for it.

      The motorcycles themselves actually matter very little. Moto2 and Moto3 are usially better races to watch and the difference is that the bikes are more closely matched. Dorna had to neuter WSBK to prevent it from becoming the premier class.

  4. Jeremy in TX says:

    So if any team can do it, that seems fair enough to me.

  5. Don says:

    I hope they leave it like it is.
    Changes like this will make it as boring as circle racing. UGH!!!!

  6. Gary says:

    I am glad I grew up during a time when I was an active participant rather than a passive observer. I like the idea of controlling things directly, without digital modulation. I know it’s naive to think that we can go back. We can’t. Autonomous cars are inevitable, and I think motorcycles, which can’t be fully automated, probably will be outlawed as a result. Pity, that.

  7. orbit398 says:

    Too bad they even use computers. Riding at the highest level with the twist of the wrist control was great back in the day. Sure thing have progressed along and in the later part of the 2000’s, computer’s came into play and are great for normal folks due to the safety aspects and not having the throttle control of the professionals. I’d like to see the GP rider’s ride the motorcycle without traction, wheelie,…..control. Just the man and his bike.

    • Tyler says:

      Bah, take your modern technologies like FI & disc brakes and bin ’em, I’d rather see riders have to use manual spark advancers and engine oilers like back in the good old days, like real men!

      Seriously, new technology will always leave the old stuff out in the hay, that’s the point of prototype racing. I think its fascinating that modern racers have to know how to manipulate their rider controls differently lap to lap because of live changes to fuel levels, tire conditions, track temps, etc. Whoever can use the technology the best deserves to win.

      • Fred M. says:

        Racers have always had to “manipulate their rider controls differently lap to lap because of live changes to fuel levels, tire conditions, track temps, etc.” And in prior times, they did it without the ‘helping hands’ of computers.

        You wrote: “Whoever can use the technology the best deserves to win.”

        That’s like saying that whoever can use chess computers best deserves to win a chess match.

        What happens when something like Yamaha’s Motobot is able to compete at the highest levels? Should we then permit teams to field bikes with no human riders?

        • Tyler says:

          “they did it without the ‘helping hands’ of computers”

          The riders are manually manipulating the rider aid settings while racing, to me that adds another level of complexity above and beyond simply modulating their throttle/clutch/brake inputs due to changing race conditions. Casey Stoner was a master of this, long before other riders figured it out.

          “That’s like saying that whoever can use chess computers best deserves to win a chess match.”

          If the purpose of said match is design the smartest computer best able to ‘think for itself” then yes, that programmer deserves to win. Kasparov doesn’t play exhibition games against Deep Blue in an effort to prove he is the best human chess player, he does so to help move forward the development of computers.

          “Should we then permit teams to field bikes with no human riders?”

          If the series was solely interested in developing the techology of the bike then yes, absolutely. Luckily that is what DARPA is for and is infinitely cool stuff. MotoGP however is a racing series where the engineers are tasked with developing a bike utilizing technology with which a rider is then trained to use in order to go faster than his competitors and thus win. Combine the right tech with the right rider and viola’, you win.

          To me, racing is about going faster than the guy or next next to you on the grid. Prototype racing is about doing ANYTHING within certain boundaries to achieve that goal. Taking the rider out makes it solely an engineering exercise. Take the technology away and you are just running barefoot in the jungle.

          • Fred M. says:

            You said: “to me that adds another level of complexity above and beyond simply modulating their throttle/clutch/brake inputs due to changing race conditions.”

            Valentino Rossi said: “Having the traction control system makes riding the motorcycle much easier, and allows me to open the throttle more rapidly without launching me into a highside. Unfortunately, it takes away from the rider’s natural ability and feel for the motorcycle, and makes it easier for people to compete with those who they couldn’t before having this rider aid. It is basically cheating.”

            I hope that you don’t take offense, but I’m going with Valentino Rossi’s assessment of rider aids in MotoGP.

  8. edbob says:

    Racing is about innovation, and makes our very own bikes better. Yes, people cheer for certain riders, but in the end it’s what the machines can do that we love the most. Making all bikes equal will be the death of racing and eventually the death of the industry.

    • Fred M. says:

      Then why have spec tires, spec ECUs, etc.?

      It’s not about “making all bikes equal.” It’s about balancing technology with human skill. I think most of the people cheering for Valentino Rossi were rooting for him, not the Aprilia, Honda, Ducati, or Yamaha bike he rode. We have been marveling at his skill as a rider.

      • edbob says:

        Agreed, Fred. I don’t think they should have spec anything. Racing is about innovation. And the riders are incredibly important. But to the general public who buys motorcycles, the racing is what makes our bikes better.

        • Fred M. says:

          We don’t agree. I am in favor of spec tires, ECUs, etc.

          I don’t want MotoGP to be a series in which riders matter less than electronics. I don’t want MotoGP bikes with cameras, accelerometers, and ECUs that perform the perfect launch with never a jump start. I don’t want AI systems choosing the best line around the track based on machine learning during the race. I don’t want overtakes to be repeated gas-it-and-see-if-the-computer-kicks-in maneuvers.

          I want riders of lesser skill to be slower and less consistent. I want them to lose.

  9. Pete says:

    How about same bikes with an ECU that is controlled by Dorna from the sidelines. If say Marquez is out front by 3 seconds and Rossi got a bad start and is in 6th then you take hp away from Marquez and give Rossi some extra until he catches up. Of the parity it would create. I can see 10 way ties every weekend. It would be great 😉

    • Fred M. says:

      They tried a manual version of that. When Rossi was ahead of Lorenzo in the points battle in 2015, Marquez, although not as fast as Rossi, repeatedly and aggressively blocked Rossi.

  10. KenLee says:

    It would be interresting to see Totally Open Class with just two rules:
    1. Vehicle is rolling on two wheels placed in line.
    2. Accelerating, decelerating and changing direction is operate by human rider.
    No matter, about weight, engine type, cappacity, fuel, electronics, tyres etc. No matter, if you go with traditional engine, gas turbine, or nuclear powerplant- you just need to be as quick and reliable as possible. That could be real kick for motorcycle industry, that hits the wall and looks into only one eco-electric direction with more disadvantages, than some green oriented people wants to see at all.

    • Stuki Moi says:

      A bike with wide, flat tires and a sailing dinghy like trapeze for _really_ “hanging off”, would dust the field. Even more so if the bike w/trapeze was made so wide that all it needed was pole position, and noone could get around it…… Kind of where F1 is going btw, were it not for weird videogame like buttons and rules aimed at making passing more possible.

      Size restrictions could help reign in the latter kind of obvious abuses, but you’d still end up with F1*1000 dependence on aero foils pushing the bike through turns and keeping wheelies/stoppies in check, rather than tire traction, lean angle and weight distribution/COG. IOW, not really a “bike” anymore. With aero surfaces and unlimited horsepower engines, you’d then possibly move towards fighter plane style g-forces, which would put the rider to sleep….

    • Dave says:

      “That could be real kick for motorcycle industry”

      Before the current rules were changed to what they are, MotoGP struggled to have 12 bikes on the grid. It was a sad joke. Unlimited racing kills classes because people want to watch people race, not wallets.

      The industry has already hit a wall. The high performance bikes that are readily available now are too fast and almost nobody wants to buy them.

  11. Norm G. says:

    re: “Corrado Cecchinelli, formerly an engineer with Ducati, states independent control over the IMU by teams can allow them to influence traction control settings”

    i’m going to allow it.

    differences in chassis, rider weight, s’pension settings, circuit grip levels, the latest crap Michelins, etc warrant some degree of manipulation by teams/crew chiefs to optimize the performance of their individual package. to NOT allow this would be “uncivilized”.

    re: “Now I have a traction control that works differently to yours.”


  12. Brian says:

    I remember reading about this kind of thing before the spec ECU rule went into effect. People were essentially saying, “Yeah, the top teams will still have an advantage because they’ll be able to squeeze every last bit of potential out of the thing…but it won’t be night-and-day, like before.”

    Unless I’m missing something, I think the word “cheat” is misleading. And anyway, it seems like most people agree that the last couple seasons show that things have changed for the better.

  13. Tom R says:

    Perhaps they should use only one rider, cloned many times, to keep things “equal”.

    • Fred M. says:

      That misses the point. Most of us root for the rider, not the bike. We don’t want the best rider hobbled by a sub-par bike or a second tier rider to be catapulted to wins by a superior motorcycle.

  14. Whitesands says:

    At some point it’s going to be considered cheating to train harder or be a better rider than someone else….Communism meets MotoGP….

  15. arrowrod says:

    The next thing you know, working harder, longer and smarter beats, not.

  16. Fred says:

    Equality means there’s no point in manufacturers taking part – why build a motor if your not ” allowed ” to be better ? and if everybody has to use the same engine why bother at all ?
    Do we really want the top racing class to be Moto2+ …

    • Vrooom says:

      They do use the same motor in lower classes of GP racing, and it doesn’t seem to discourage manufacturers, though I get your point.

      • guu says:

        Only in Moto2. Moto3 is not a spec-motor class. And I guess it depends on what you consider a manufaturer. It does discourage the large OEMs and encourages the small cottage industry types.

    • Dave says:

      Without equality there is no reason for manufacturers to take part. Everybody will quickly figure out who’s willing to spend the most and the rest will leave to seek other opportunities. Before the rules that everyone is complaining about were implemented, there were 12 motoGP bikes on the grid, that’s 6 teams who were able to attract enough sponsorship to show up, even they all knew only two teams had any chance of winning. It almost died.

      Meanwhile, in Moto2, there were 40 bikes on the line, all funded by sponsors, without any help from the major manufacturers.

      WSBK was also providing some of the best racing that you could watch using the manufacturer’s street bikes.

  17. azi says:

    Debates such as these are mostly pointless without defining what “equality” means and what the institutions want to “equalize”. Is it design? Engineering function? Rider physiology? Funding? The values need to be clear. Otherwise everyone ends up going in circles until an autocratic decision is made by someone in authority.

    Legality and ethics may overlap, but they aren’t the same thing.

  18. Lynchenstein says:

    What’s the point in having more money if you can’t spend it to get an advantage?

    • guu says:

      Replace “money” with “know-how” (of course you need money to get that). And no, there is no point in prototype racing if it doesn’t advance the state-of-the-art.

    • Fred M. says:

      Perhaps MotoGP races could be run as auctions, with the highest bidder being awarded the race win, second highest bidder getting runner-up, etc.

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