TRICK TRACK ELECTRONICS:
For the ultimate one-to-one instruction which includes everything from initial bike checks to video playback and on/off track tuition tailored to suit all abilities from a former WSBK racer, check out Dean Ellison Rider Coaching at www.Ellison42.co.uk
enough, the damage is minimal. If not, a new engine may be potentially needed.
A potentiometer monitors movement and sends this signal as a measurement to the ECU, the Data Logger and, in some cases, an actuator or motor.
A signal could be in mm for suspension or degrees of rotation for the fly by wire throttle system.
Either way, these need to be calibrated to perfection so that the end result is safe and allows everything to work in sync.
Suspension potentiometers are the most commonly used measurement when setting up the handling of a bike. Each potentiometer is calibrated to measure the full stroke of the front forks and rear shock, so from zero-max travel. And because the suspension is altered so much, these potentiometers need calibrating regularly, after every suspension change. Suspension data is also shown over time, and this allows engineers and suspension technicians to understand exactly what is happening at each section and quickly interpret the rider feedback. Datalogging is an amazing tool, but rider feedback is crucial.
Throttle potentiometer measures the twist of the throttle grip; again, it measures from zero-max and if not calibrated correctly, you’re in for some scary moments. If suspension measurement isn’t calibrated, you will get false readings and maybe not quite the perfect setting, but if the throttle isn’t in sync you could be getting full throttle halfway around the corner or not shutting off when you actually want it to. Although a modern bike has a throttle cable, they are completely independent of mechanical movement, so when you are max throttle coming out of a hairpin, the actuator (motor) on the throttle bodies might only be 80%, which is likely going to be the safest way to exit that particular corner.
As briefly mentioned in the throttle example, an actuator takes orders from a potentiometer and acts on the measurements given. You would think that a throttle would just be 1:1, but with all that torque, power and limited grip levels, you need to have the ability to adjust the connection ratio, otherwise the rider will be wheelieing and wheel spinning out of certain corners, and that’s not the fastest technique.
When it comes to slowing down, this technology really makes a difference. When a rider snaps the throttle shut and grabs a handful of brake, they risk locking up the rear wheel; this would make it harder to slow down. You ideally want the rear tyre to grip and the slipper clutch to engage. That would then allow the engine brake to assist with the slowing down. But with fly by wire, even though the throttle grip is fully closed while the rider is braking, the ECU can tell the throttle actuator (motor) to keep the throttle open, and this prevents the rear wheel from locking up. This same actuator will be controlled by the ECU for clutchless down shifts. It actually blips the throttle between each downshift, making for a smoother gear change, and allows the rider to hold a more consistent brake pressure.
All race machines have GPS sensors fitted now. They’re really accurate and used for measuring speed and whereabouts the bike is on track. The information taken from a GPS sensor gives valuable data used for making adjustments to traction control (not at BSB), fine tweaking your gearing, or simply confirming the data from both wheel speed sensors.
To finish off the package, you really need to replace the standard switchgear with some hardwearing race products. You won’t be needing your ignition key anymore and the indicator switches aren’t much use, so invest in some quality switchgear so you can confidently change between engine maps, turn on the rain light and operate the pit lane speed limiter.
The handlebar mounted kit is normally machined from aluminium billet and anodised for a harder wearing finish, plus each button will be easier to see and reach when wrestling the bike around during a race.
If you want the best, then this is what you’ll have to do, but you need to have a good budget for the kit, knowledgeable staff and lots of development time to make sure you start out the season with a good base setting. Approximate prices:
ECU – £2,000.
Logging – £1,000.
Dash – £1,500.
Loom, Sensors & Switchgear – £6,000.
But what will all this give you per lap?
Well, I’ve tried to get a reasonably fair comparison, by taking the fastest Superstock 1000 race time from Donington Park BSB in 2020, which was set by a Kawasaki ZX-10RR, and then compared it to the fastest race time of the equivalent manufacturer in the Superbike Class (the fastest Kawasaki ZX-10RR using Motec). This compares a like-for-like machine. The actual fastest BSB time was set by the Yamaha R1 at a 1:29.1. STK – 1:31.1 (Kawasaki ZX-10RR – Danny Kent). BSB – 1:29.5 (Kawasaki ZX-10RR – Lee Jackson).
So, this shows an improvement of around 1.5 seconds per lap.
But then consider the other modifications to the superbike, such as a higher state of engine tune, less overall bike weight, slick tyres, more RPM, bigger brakes, better suspension, £10,000... how much of that 1.5s is down to the ECU?
Yes, it’s worth the money if you aspire to be the best, and these small improvements really mount up over a race distance. They could be the difference between just featuring in the race or winning the race… and we all race to win!