Saddlemen

Onboard Technology and AMA Pro Road Racing

| 10 June 2013 4:31 pm

GEICO AMA Pro Road Racing
Rounds 3-4: Road America

Story and Photos by Larry Janssen
ELKHART LAKE, WI, JUNE 1-2, 2013

Is onboard technology a useful tool in AMA National Guard SuperBike, GoPro Daytona SportBike, Motorcycle Superstore SuperSport and the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Racing Series?

Jason DiSalvo’s Daytona SuperBike dash on lap two, with a running lap time of 1:58.0 and his Lap Time Predictor time of 2:20.0.

Jason DiSalvo’s Daytona SuperBike dash on lap two, with a running lap time of 1:58.0 and his Lap Time Predictor time of 2:20.0.

A year ago, I attended the Subway doubleheader at Josh Hayes’s favorite racetrack, Wisconsin’s Road America – “America’s National Park Of Speed.” I was enjoying my day, taking the usual 500-plus photos, when I captured photos of bikes at race speed on which I could read the information on the bikes’ dashboards. I just assumed it gave the rpm and mph and maybe the temperature at which the bike was running.

Melissa Paris’s dashboard while she’s at speed at Road America in 2012.

Melissa Paris’s dashboard while she’s at speed at Road America in 2012.

Then, last October, Scott Casber and Tony Wenck had Jason DiSalvo on Pit Pass Radio; Jason was one of the riders whose dashboards I’d captured. I quickly found a photo I had of him and posted it so I could ask the question: What information is on there for him to see and use? At first, Jason’s reply was what I had expected, but then he went on about a feature he called “Lap Time Predictor.” He explained how, by using past lap times, it would predict how fast the lap you were on would take you to complete. The active live current time would be displayed, and if he had a bad drive off a corner, it would adjust to show that his lap time was going to be slower, but if he had a really good drive, it would say that his lap was going to be faster. Jason also said the information displayed on the dash could be changed by his crew in the pits at any time during the race.

With this question kind of bugging me, I set out to the GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Racing Subway Superbike doubleheader at Road America to find out if the smart box would help out or hinder a rider’s race.

Jake Gagne’s dashboard, also from Road America in 2012.

Jake Gagne’s dashboard, also from Road America in 2012.

Jake Gagne prepping before the race.

Jake Gagne prepping before the race.

My first interview was with someone with whom I was familiar from his Red Bull rookie days – Jake Gagne, when he raced with my nephew Jake Cunningham. Gagne is the rider of the GoPro Daytona SuperBike number-32 Red Bull RoadRace Factory Yamaha.

Larry Janssen: When analyzing a lap, do you go by how you feel on the course, and does the onboard computer help you analyze each corner?

Jake Gagne: Yeah, the data definitely helps. It’s kind of half-and-half. Like, you kind of have to go by rider feeling sometimes, because it helps you feel more comfortable. But we definitely look at the data. We look at how far the suspension travels, throttle position, rpm – all that kind of stuff. It can definitely help with all those things. It can help with suspension settings, gearing, looking at the rpm – it’s definitely helpful.

LJ: Are you able to use the information from both the long-sweeping Carousel and the sharp-right Canada Corner?

JG: Yeah, we will look at that information for both corners, the throttle, the suspension. It’s crazy what information you can get from the thing.

Jake Gagne (32) comes down the front stretch at Road America.

Jake Gagne (32) comes down the front stretch at Road America.

Jake Gagne (32) powers his way to victory in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Jake Gagne (32) powers his way to victory in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Tomas Puerta (12) showing the way en route to winning the MotorcycleSuperstore.com SuperSport race at Daytona this year.

Tomas Puerta (12) showing the way en route to winning the MotorcycleSuperstore.com SuperSport race at Daytona this year.

Next up was Tomas Puerta, Jake’s teammate and another past Red Bull rookie and rider of the Red Bull number-12 RoadRace Factory Yamaha. Tomas races in the Motorcycle Superstore SuperSport class and was the winner at Daytona this year.

LJ: Are you able to use the onboard computer to analyze the track after a race or today’s practice, and does it make a big difference for you on the track?

Tomas Puerta: We actually do not run a lot of electronics on the track because we are riding in SuperSport, but we use an ECU and a dyno to set the bike for each track. We use it a lot, and we plan on making several changes to the bike before tomorrow, and we’ll see how it goes and adjust from there.

LJ: So you do not get the information from each corner at your level of racing in SuperSport?

TP: No, we do not; running SuperSport, the AMA rules do not allow it. I will test with my teammate Jake and J.D. [GoPro Daytona SportBike number-95 rider J.D. Beach], who race SportBike a lot, and that is helpful. Hopefully next year I can race with them.

Tomas Puerta (12) takes a hard left-hander during the Subway Double Header at Road America.

Tomas Puerta (12) takes a hard left-hander during the Subway Double Header at Road America.

Martin Cardenas on his championship-winning Daytona SportBike in 2012.

Martin Cardenas on his championship-winning Daytona SportBike in 2012.

Martin Cardenas (36) takes his victory lap at this year’s Daytona National Guard SuperBike race.

Martin Cardenas (36) takes his victory lap at this year’s Daytona National Guard SuperBike race.

Further down Pit Row was 2012 GoPro Daytona SuperBike Champion Martin Cardenas, rider of the number-36 Yoshimura Racing Suzuki AMA National Guard SportBike. Martin moved up a class this year and started the season with a big win at round one at the Daytona AMA National Guard SportBike Championships.

LJ: Martin, how does onboard technology help you on the track?

Martin Cardenas: Yeah, it’s a very important, very sophisticated information-management system, and it helps you a lot. Every place the you ride, like entering the corner and exiting the corner, these bikes put out a lot of power, and the tires cannot handle all the power these bikes have, so the electronics, they work, say, to help apply the power to the ground so there is less spinning [of the tires].

LJ: So, with this information, can you adjust the suspension or the shocks?

MC: The shocks, well, it’s all complementary. The shocks – we have data that shows how they are working, if they are working bad or good. We work based on that, and also rider feedback. So it’s a combined thing.

LJ: So when you come to the pits, do you try to remember everything that you did on the track, and they will talk to you as to how it felt in a corner and what kind of adjustment could be made?

MC: Sure. You do not have to remember anything, so it’s only like the stuff that –what’s the word for – that stands out, how do you feel, and then they check it on the computer, and if it’s bad, you try to make an adjustment.

AMA National Guard SuperBike points leader Martin Cardenas (36) showing the way early on in the Kink at Road America.

AMA National Guard SuperBike points leader Martin Cardenas (36) showing the way early on in the Kink at Road America.

Eric Stumpf with his umbrella girl during the fan walk.

Eric Stumpf with his umbrella girl during the fan walk.

Continuing on my journey, Eric Stumpf – rider of the number-77 OPR Level 10 Racing 1200cc Harley, who contests the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Racing Series – was next. His is a familiar face for me, as I have been covering AMA Pro Flat Track as a photographer the past two years. Eric ended his race season last year with a horrendous crash at the IMDA Springfield Mile’s fall flat-track race. Eric first thanked God for his being able to be here today and to race, and also his doctors and trainers, who helped him recover.

LJ: What is the difference between road racing and dirt-track racing?

Eric Stumpf: I mean, there is a lot of differences, and then again, you can compare a lot of things to each other – like you need the auto control, you need…  Well, actually, the way I look at it is, dirt track is the most competitive sport there is on two wheels. No one understands; everybody thinks, ‘oh yeah, flat track, you just go around in circles.’ Yeah, like you go around in circles, like, four wide, banging bars, with people sideways, and you see how competitive that gets. Road racing is more just flowing: You have good lines, you have to be a smart racer to be good. I mean, in a way, it’s a little bit harder to be faster at road racing just because you have to be more mentally strong than physically strong.

Eric Stumpf (77A) battles Cole Anderson (12L), Jake Cunningham (94L, behind Anderson) and Michael Bickerton (28P) in turn one at the Springfield Mile.

Eric Stumpf (77A) battles Cole Anderson (12L), Jake Cunningham (94L, behind Anderson) and Michael Bickerton (28P) in turn one at the Springfield Mile.

LJ: With road racing, there are so many curves. Can you remember how you handled the curve on one lap and when you come to that curve on the next lap, can you remember how you handled it last time and how you want to handle it differently this time?

ES: Oh yeah, of course. I mean, that’s how you set up how you flow. You put your line together to meet the track’s maximum flow. How would I put it – pretty much on every lap, I’m using the exact same line, and that’s why I get such consistent lap times. It’s just all about being mentally strong. Like I said: You have to put it together and then lay it down.

LJ: Do you wish you had the technology the other bikes had so you could figure out the suspension and other things?

ES: You know, I’m pretty happy with the way the bike handles. It’s decent. Hey, I’m happy I’m even here, you know? It’s been a pretty rough end to last season, and coming into this season, I was unsure of what I was doing, and thank God Level 10 OPR Racing came through and hooked me up with a Harley ride at Daytona. I did surprisingly well with having some malfunctions, but I’m glad to be here and racing Harleys. They’re fun, and they’re definitely a different beast to race.

LJ: Good luck today!

ES: Thank you!

Eric Stumpf gets ready to race at Road America.

Eric Stumpf gets ready to race at Road America.

In the winners’ circle at the end of Sunday’s GoPro Daytona SuperBike race, I asked race winner Jake Gagne about how technology helped him win the race. Summarizing his first reply, he said, “Technology? That race was so close, I had no time to look! I had to rely on rider instinct for most of it. How about from yesterday? Definitely, we changed a little bit of things from yesterday, but mainly it was more laps. The bike was really good, though.”

On the Road America podium, (from left to right) Cameron Beaubier, Jake Gagne and Jake Lewis all sport smiles and their hard-won hardware.

On the Road America podium, (from left to right) Cameron Beaubier, Jake Gagne and Jake Lewis all sport smiles and their hard-won hardware.

Josh Hayes (1) and Martin Cardenas weave the race line through the Kink at Road America.

Josh Hayes (1) and Martin Cardenas weave the race line through the Kink at Road America.

I caught up with Josh Hayes, two-time and defending National Guard SportBike Champion, after his big win on Sunday, capping off his second weekend sweep at Road America. He is now the winner of a record five races in a row at this track. During the postrace interviews, he said that he knew that Martin Cardenas was catching him by about a second per lap, and I was wondering if he was getting that information from his onboard computer or if it was from his pit board.

Josh Hayes: We have a pit board, and the guys are giving it to me from the wall, and sometimes it’s dated information, so the guys have to give it a little bit of time, because a lot can happen in a lap, and I don’t get to see it until that lap, and if I’m lucky I’ll have a spotter close to the last turn and they can give me the most accurate time gap, but we did not have that, and the guys were looking at the screens [in the pits], and they can only see the previous lap and could see that he’s closing ground, so they have to make an estimate and then give me some kind of an estimate. So, in this time in particular, it was kind of scary. I had a two-second gap, and he gained a second, and they weren’t sure if he’d gained another second, so to be safe they said he was, so I went from a plus-two gap to a plus-zero gap, which is very, very rare. Things usually happen in a half-of-a-second-a-lap increments.

Josh Hayes’ crew meets him after Friday’s practice run.

Josh Hayes’ crew meets him after Friday’s practice run.

After a short celebration, Josh Hayes and crew members did a postrace debriefing on how the bike handled.

After a short celebration, Josh Hayes and crew members did a postrace debriefing on how the bike handled.

LJ: Do you think it was probably because of the length of this course is why it was happening?

JH: It’s more exaggerated here than it is at other racetracks, and I don’t like to turn around and look behind me, so I really rely on that board to give me good information.

LJ: How does it feel now that you have won two races in a row here?

JH: It always feels good. I was very nervous during today’s race – actually, a different kind of nervous. I was nervous while the race was happening because I didn’t want to lose, you know. I had a lead and I wanted to keep it going.

LJ: Congratulations, Josh.

JH: Thank you.

Sharing the SportBike podium were (from left to right) Josh Herrin, Josh Hayes, Martin Cardenas… and a big lizard. Of the four races so far this season, Herrin and Cardenas have won apiece, and this weekend’s Subway Double Header was a double for Hayes.

Sharing the SuperBike podium were (from left to right) Josh Herrin, Josh Hayes, Martin Cardenas… and a big lizard. Of the four races so far this season, Herrin and Cardenas have won one apiece, and this weekend’s Subway Double Header was a double for Hayes.

I wonder – at 200 mph – if Josh Herrin (2) is just sneaking a peak at Josh Hayes’ onboard computer…?

I wonder – at 200 mph – if Josh Herrin (2) is just sneaking a peak at Josh Hayes’ onboard computer…?

Onboard technology can make you faster, but riders (like Josh Hayes, shown here) still rely on the old-fashioned pit board to receive information from their pit crew.

Onboard technology can make you faster, but riders (like Josh Hayes, shown here) still rely on the old-fashioned pit board to receive information from their pit crew.

Larry Pegram checks out his pit monitor, reviewing his onboard data.

Larry Pegram checks out his pit monitor, reviewing his onboard data.

Josh Hayes and Larry Pegram discuss the track after the time trials, in which Josh set fast time for the third year in a row.

Josh Hayes and Larry Pegram discuss the track after the time trials, in which Josh set fast time for the third year in a row.

In summary, the onboard technology helps riders win races by allowing you to prepare the bike by using past rider experience and recorded information from the onboard computers. Up and down Pit Row and in every Victory Circle, each time a bike came to a stop, riders were met by technical experts waiting to debrief them about their time on the track. One could tell that each technician was proud of their rider’s accomplishments and was proud to know they’d had a hand in the team’s success. Seeing what adjustments make you slower and the ones that make you faster is what onboard technology is all about. I found it helps the rider create a smoother race line – but as you can tell, it’s a fine line when it comes to being the first to the finish line!

Josh Hayes at Daytona.

Josh Hayes at Daytona.

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Category: Interviews, National, POV, Riders, Riders All, Road Racing

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