So we have a vehicle that looks very simple but whose actions are actually very difficult to monitor. And where understanding exactly what is going on makes a really big difference to the ability of the team to maximize the bike's performance on the race track. But before we can understand what the bike is doing, whether it be right or wrong, we first need to record accurate details of its current performance in a repeatable fashion, so we monitor the effects of any changes that might be made. In other words: acquire data.
At a MotoGP round the bikes are on track for four, one hour practice sessions over two days, before the race, the fourth session is slightly distorted as it is the official qualifying session and, at some point during that, a little time has be set aside to make sure a decent qualifying lap is set.There is also room for final adjustments and checks during warm-up on race day but if you are still making big adjustments at this point, you really are in trouble. There are a lot of things to fit into four-and-a-bit hours of testing. Final choices have to be made on tires, chassis and suspension settings need to be fine tuned and the throttle, gearbox and clutch need to be set up.
This makes time a very precious commodity. You not only need to know what the bike is doing, you need to present the data in such a way that it is easily digestible by the engineers responsible for tiring to improve its performance. This enables the necessary changes to be made during each one hour session and also bigger changes to be made between each of those sessions.
So the requirement is for a quick-to-access, easy-to-use data recording system, designed to allow the team to get better understanding of what is actually happening on the racetrack and provide accurate data to back up the rider's comments about what he feels his bike is doing underneath him. In a two rider team there is the added benefit of being able to compare the performance of one rider against the other.
It's important to understand that any datalogging system is intended as an aid to the crew and the rider. With current technology levels it is not used to change suspension settings in any way automatically but, what the system does provide, is an accurate factual recording of the movement of several variables at various points in the circuit. Over the course of the last five years, the sophistication has improved. Even basic systems use GPS for locating themselves on the circuit.
In 2002 most MotoGP motorcycles had two wiring systems, one for the ECU and one of the datalogging system. It quickly became apparent that this encompassed a lot of excess weight. At about the same time, the datalogging system started to provide active engine management data. Most bikes now send data straight from the sensors to the ECU and from there to a recording unit.