Editorial credit: Rainer Herhaus / Shutterstock.com
Riding a motorcycle at speeds well above 300km / 186mph takes incredible concentration and trust in your machine and, of course, your own ability. How do the riders communicate with their pit crew since they have their hands full every moment of every race? Do MotoGP riders have radios?
MotoGP riders do not have radios with which to communicate to their pit crews or race organizers. The teams use traditional pit boards to provide cryptic information to the rider. They also employ limited dashboard messages to instruct a rider to take a long lap penalty, etc., where applicable.
I know that Formula One (F1) drivers receive constant messages and information by radio via their helmet’s headset, so I was battling to understand why MotoGP riders could not do the same. Sure, the riders don’t usually need to pit, but would it not be safer to send info (like which rider is following closely) by radio rather than dashboard?
How do MotoGP riders and teams communicate?
Team-to-rider communication during a race is restricted to pit boards and to pre-approved dashboard messages of limited duration that provide the rider with information such as engine mapping instructions, instructions to pit, and the notification mentioned above, which rider is following closely behind.
Should MotoGP Start Using Radios To Communicate?
Race officials and stewards have given this topic a lot of consideration, but the problems seem to outweigh the benefits at this time. In MotoGP, there is an ever-increasing number of buttons and dials around the handlebars.
Thumb-operated rear brake, engine mapping, ride-height adjustments, and other hand-controlled functions all have a place in the limited space available on these machines. Indeed, the consequences of any loss of concentration or control can be fatal.
Adding a radio button to a MotoGP bike may be impractical and unsafe, and the grid in 2020 was split over whether or not it was worth further consideration. Alpine racing director Davide Brivio says the biggest difference between Formula 1 and MotoGP is the radio communication, and the former Yamaha and Suzuki MotoGP team boss should know.
Are radios vital for urgent communication?
Brivio stated in a recent interview that in F1, “You are in constant contact with the driver, the race engineer advising him to do this, not to do that, hold off a little bit, etc. This is the biggest difference I have found since moving from MotoGP to F1. In MotoGP, the Team Boss is more of a spectator once the race starts.”
Have Radios ever been used in MotoGP?
Radios have been tested in MotoGP recently but were not found to improve safety or riding conditions.
How Did The MotoGP Riders React To Radio Contact In A Race?
Valentino Rossi is the only rider we could find who had positive views about possible radio communication. He suggested that it would benefit the rider during flag-to-flag races and felt that pit boards were limited in terms of information on display.
Most riders spoke openly against radio communication, citing that it would distract them during a race and that the voices of their crew would influence their concentration. This would be a real issue if any criticism or scolding took place during the race. These negative views have put any implementation of radio communication on ice for the moment, at least.
However, many riders have complained that they often miss the flags waved by the marshals or dash notifications issued by the race officials. The reasons are simple:
- Lean Angle – Lean angle is so great that in many cases, a flag is missed, regardless of what color it might be,
- Hanging off around a tight bend takes the rider’s head away from the dash, so the brief messages are sometimes missed, and
- Even a second or two glancing at a dashboard might prove disastrous at these speeds.
Realistically, radios may well come the way of MotoGP, despite the riders’ ambivalence. Pol Espargaro is open to the idea but has some concerns: “If Race Direction provides us with important safety info, without having the messages distract us, well and good,” he said.
“The problem will be how things develop, possibly with engineers trying to control what we do on the bike. They may tell you about tire wear and might even go one step further, telling you what to do about the situation, making the racing less human and more a recipe.
This is taking place in F1, which is one reason they have lost so many fans, and I don’t like it. I want to ensure MotoGP stays a more human sport, though safety is a concern.”
Outspoken Aussie Jack Miller feels that radios can be a good idea but adds that his response to interference from the crew will be to just tell them to ‘shut up!’ No one doubts he’ll do it, either…
It’s not only the riders who have voiced their opinion regarding radios on race day.
Ducati’s highly successful sporting director Paolo Ciabatta suggests that “On one side something that warns riders about potential hazards and dangers is good,” he said, “but from a more romantic angle, my own opinion is that a unique part of motorcycle racing is that the rider is alone out there, with the crew already having done their part.
Perhaps the engineers and crew would prefer communicating with the riders during the race, but they already have map info supplied via the dashboard and pit signals, so now it’s up to the rider to earn his – very pleasant – salary. Like the warriors of old, it’s one man against the rest. That’s MotoGP.
F1 has long been criticized for the inclusion of radios, and despite the spin doctors’ protestations to the contrary, it has lost fans in droves. MotoGP still has the excitement factor like the gladiators in the Roman forums, and nothing should swaddle that extreme emotion. If radios are introduced, the addition needs to be thoughtful and seamless.