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Monday, December 20, 2010

MotoGP like NASCAR? Yes please!

In the January issue of Roadracing World magazine the 'motogp mutterings' column by Mat Oxley talks about the inagural season of the Moto2 class and the way in which the series 'marks a fundamental shift of philosophy in a sport that had operated with the same mindset since 1949', due to the institution of spec engines and spec tires which allow a grid (and podiums) populated by a wide variety of teams and riders, the opposite of the previous domination of the class by the only 2 factories that put engineering development into the bygone 250cc 2 stroke GP motor.

In the article, he mentions the amusing comment of a noted 2 stroke tuner describing the 2 stroke GP bike as a racehorse and the Moto2 bike as a donkey, and further alludes to the displeasure of racing 'purists' who "suspect the new class to be at the thin end of the wedge - the transformation of a once elitist sport into a form of low-brow entertainment, a motorsport Gladiators, a two-wheeled NASCAR."

This is not the first time that NASCAR has been used as a negative example of what a high level racing series can turn into, but with all due respect to Mr. Oxley, this kind of negative association could not be more misguided, at least as it relates to motorcycle racing. We should be so lucky as to have high level motorcycle racing classes like MotoGP that mimic the rules set of NASCAR. In fact, a NASCAR-like rules set is something that the top MotoGP riders have been publicly wishing, in vain, that the sport could return to. How is that, you say? Well, here is what NASCAR has that every MotoGP rider, fan, journalist, EVERYONE, except for the factories, wishes the class had:

1) Cable operated mechanical throttle
2) Larger displacement than anything that is available to the public in the same platform

With just these 2 things, cable throttle and large engine displacement, the list of 'non criticals' becomes much less relevant, and it is no accident that these are things that racers, fans and journalists are NOT excited by, which I suspect no one would miss if their impact was greatly reduced:

First, electronics - without engine control module (ECM) access to the throttle plates and with large engine displacement, the level of control authority given over to electronics becomes much less, because the 'air' part of the air/fuel ratio cannot be regulated by the ECM, it can only be regulated by the riders' right wrist. With only fuel and spark timing able to be controlled, and with the very fat torque curve of a large displacement engine, development of both the engine and chassis will need to focus primarily on the relationship between mechanical grip and rider feel, without the bandaids afforded by allowing the computer to determine the optimum throttle angle (engine output) for the given situation, which might now depend on which corner of the track they're on, the lean angle, lateral/longitudinal accleration, gear selected, amount of relative front/rear wheelspeed, suspension travel(s), and fuel level. Oh, and almost forgot, throttle position.

Now of course we know that even getting rid of onboard sensors like wheel speed sensors and gyros, and with a cable throttle, a fuel injected bike can utilize a rate of change based control strategy to control wheelspin, but this level of ECM intrusion into rider controlled inputs is infinitely less intrusive than what is allowed now, where torque output is referenced to specific corner and lean angle. Further, while wheelspin is reduced, relative yaw (or slip angle), is still primarily rider controlled, and wheelie control is 100% rider.

Second, fuel capacity - when every bike on the grid can easily have too much power at every rpm, and with limited means of torque truncation due to the lack of electronic throttles, power output does not need to be artificially governed by restricting fuel capacity. Instead, power output, and the shape of that curve, would be functionally governed by rideabilty, traction and tire life. As on the Aprilia Cube MotoGP 990cc effort it may be possible to build a monster motor with huge output, but harnessing that power, making it rideable often means reducing the output, not because of the rules, but because the bike works better with less.

All of the top level riders, Rossi, Stoner, Hayden et al, have lamented the move to the small 800cc displacement and the increasing level of control authority given over to electronics. And for sure the most exciting racing from the 800cc era, with maybe a few laps where lead positions change, is nothing compared to the exciting racing from the 990cc era, where there were often mulitple lead changes in one lap, with those same leaders relegated to lower positions as tires wore. Today's MotoGP machines that depend so much on corner speed allow fewer chances for overtaking, deviation from the inch perfect line and giving up midcorner speed cannot be made up for with corner exit drive. As a result,we receive our reward in the racing, or lack thereof, that we see.

Ask any MotoGP rider whether they would prefer NASCAR like rules as propogated by the big OEM auto manufacturers with cable throttles and big engines, or the current motorcycle manufacturers (MSMA)/Dorna rules package, even with the rules limited return of the 1000's, and see if they regard NASCAR as a negative example of rules making. Colin Edwards certainly would have some expletives handy to explain what bikes like that would be like to ride. My bet is that Rossi on a Barilla sponsored 1200cc, carb and cable throttle powered 'Ducati', with Stoner and Lorenzo on essentially the same bikes except for their sponsors, would make for some exciting racing.  Maybe I am a dumbed down NASCAR loving American but I make no excuses for my appreciation of seriously wide, gooey, and long black lines out of every corner...

The Aprilia Cube, when way too much is...way too much.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

WRC Mexico 2004 - A look back

Some pictures from WRC Corona Rally Mexico, 2004.   These are in chronological order as shot over the course of the event.  Pic quality is not so great, but even though this was in 2004, the only camera I had access to used floppy discs.  So, these pics represent a few pounds worth of memory...  I have the route book, maybe I will scan some relevant sections and post some samples some other time.  Enjoy.

The service area was inside a convention center, luxurious...
 Even in gravel trim, the cars run a relatively low ride height
 Underbody protection, rally consumables.
 Honeycomb, billet and composite construction.  How may hours to build, how many minutes to destroy...

 The Ford Rallyesport service truck, like a roach coach full of unobtanium
 I think they put the tarps down out of habit only...
 Ford Focus WRC engine shot, note the surprisingly long exhaust manifold tube lengths (wrapped) as well as the extreme engine layback on the crank axis.
 The less well heeled teams were outside.
 Sandals Resort Rally Team, Ya Mon!
 Citroen rear suspension detail, strap is because the damper/spring is off for servicing.
 Front view of the Mitisubishi front suspension, dampers out for service.
 The Sebastien Loeb's WRC Citroen almost ready to sleep for the night.
 Petter Solberg's WRX almost ready to sleep means SWRT almost ready to head back to the hotel.  Drivers and co-drivers had some late nights ahead going through their pace notes, however.
 The Petronas team, not factory, but with the resources that oil wells provide, for sure.
 This privateer EVO started as a caged shell at the beginning of the event out of the crate.
 Very cool Volvo S series recce cars used by the Ford Rallyesport team.
 Mitsubishi EVO recce car.
 Goodies come out of the crate.
 Gigi Galli's Mitsubishi
 The privateer EVO the next morning, lots of progress overnight!
 Factory Ford Rally Team and Ford Privateer share space
 Rental car recce!  Stopping for some refreshment.
 The locals hanging out, waiting for the rally crowd.
 Toyota Corolla wagon flat towing a Dodge sedan through the mountains.  The tire tied to the rear hatch of the tow car was for slowing BOTH cars down.  This was a tough pass to make...
 The privateer EVO, ready to run!
 Ford Ka recce car for a privateer.
 The Ford Rallyesport service truck, tasty bits...
 Air management for the Ford Focus WRC, twin outlets for the intercooler/fans, with engine air inlet snaking between the two outlets and back to the filter box.
 Care for a pedal box, rotors, some impacts?
 The Mitsubishi RalliArt service truck.
 The Citroen service area.  I think they were watching naughty French movies in there...
 Guanajuato, Mexico.
 Bread anyone?
 The Europeans in town all commented on how similar Guanajuato felt to Spain or Portugal.


 The town center preparing for the opening ceremonies, sunshine for now...

 The opening ceremony, the downpour started towards the end of the ceremony.
 Waiting for the bus in the tunnels underneath the city.

All of that for this!  You wander all over for hours, for a chance to see this for a few seconds.  And it's worth it!  Amazing...
 Guanajuato is uphill, then downhill, then uphill, then downhill...
 1565 A.D.  Proper.















When the dune buggies are all delayed on the exit to a stage, you know something happened...














...and there it is, the privateer EVO that was built from a shell overnight, crashed again.  There is a madness to it...














Here we finish with two videos, they took up lots of space on the floppies : )  It took a few hours of driving, hiking and waiting to get these videos.  The first is the privateer WRC Focus, then the Mitsubishi of Gigi Galli.  I can say with confidence that as the cars came through, the crowd did, in fact, go wild...


video
video

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A little bit of DRZ and alot of stripping in Ypsi

Well, first the not so fun stuff, the endless stripping continues, one wall done:

















One wall to go:


















Now, something a little more fun, the DRZ motor back together.  It had been a stock stroke, 95.5mm bore (447 cc) engine with +1 mm valves and Hot Cams, now it is a +4mm stroke, 94mm bore, for 461 cc's, stock size valves, Hot Cams intake and stock 'DRZ 400E' exhaust cam.  I also threw in Web Cams valve springs and titanium retainers, in case I go to something like the RHC 187 cams or something else in the future. 

Bottom end coming together, the piston is JE, skirt coated by Swain Technologies.  I have done their Gold coating on piston tops in the past, but I've seen more than a few SAE papers now that measured a slight volumetric efficiency loss due to the additional heat in the chamber as a result of the coating (perhaps too effective?).  So we'll give this a try as is:

















Head is from a spare motor, stock sized Vesrah valves (nitrided), mild clean up work in the ports, chamber opened up slightly to unshroud the valves with the bigger bore:

















Checking cam timing.  Not adjusting, but just making sure, they were both at 106 deg:

















Got the bike buttoned up and took it for a ride today, and did some accel/decels to seat the rings.  Feels very nice and torquey, over a small hump at an intersection it pulled the front wheel up in 3rd inadvertantly doing an accel : )  Changed the oil, nothing to note, so now the bike can sit for the winter : (