A few pit stalls away, I visited with Tom O'Kane, an engineer who also targeted training in motorsports. O'Kane, like Griffith and Dosoli, was fortunate enough to "know what he wanted to do", going on to become crew chief for Suzuki's rider Chris Vermeulean under team technical director Shinichi Sahara, who set up the interview. As a riding enthusiast himself--Ducati twins being a favorite--O'Kane also shares a holistic view of man and machine when approaching his work.
Like the Kawsaki and Yamaha models, the Suzuki bikes are fully loaded with GPS, 3-axis accelerometers, 3-axis gyros and "30 plus" sensors over three CAN busses, all used for a mix of quick setup optimization and later, more detailed data analysis. 2D Systems is a repeat vendor to Suzuki for dashboard electronics, system sensors, and datalogging, while Mitsubishi supplies the ECU technology.
O'Kane was more direct on the question of location-based engine management. Knowledge of on-track position and the details of track characteristics can, in theory, allow for better autonomous control approaches and O'Kane went so far as to say that transponders around the track could be combined with time-distance interpolation to figure out bike location. However, he also said 6-axis monitoring (3-axis gyro + 3-axis accelerometers) "describes how things are moving, but is not used for inertial positioning" due to off-axis noise and drift in the sensors. Discussions of control system implementation and data sampling/filtering in use at Suzuki soon moved into the realm of "don't print that" but suffice it to say that things are getting quite scientific in places.
image to enlarge.
In the realm of traction control, O'Kane's comments mirrored the others', citing the "lower power/easier to correct" notion for 800-cc race bikes versus previous 990-cc machines. Still, the ECU counters fluctuations of the engine power curve to deliver linear and predictable response for maximum pilot confidence, all while leaving enough room for riders to get some rear wheel slip when they want it.
Despite all the technology being thrown at winning, O'Kane--like Griffith at Yamaha--said sometimes the data doesn't show the differences and they have to go by rider feel/input. Similar to Kawasaki, Suzuki also employs a "half-and-half" ride-by-wire system to retain a conventional throttle feel and give the rider a strong sense of connection to the machine. There is a constant pull between "feeling" and "measurement" and back-room sharing of knowledge between Suzuki's otherwise separate MotoGP and Superbike teams is one of several methods used to try and sort it all out.
2D Systems sensing sensibility
My last stop was with Dirk Debus, German co-founder of 2D Systems, major supplier of sensory, cockpit and data-logging systems to the MotoGP world. A club racer and computer science major from Hertz alma mater Universität Karlsruhe, Debus built a tinkerer's monitoring effort on his own racebikes into a business with co-founder Rainer Diebold.
As the man behind much of the sensory gear, Debus spoke of the monitoring challenges in an environment where 30-G levels of vibration noise risk overshadowing the 1-1.5-G signals of interest.