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  • Writer's pictureAdéla Pavlovská

Is there a radio communication in MotoGP?


What procedures do the MotoGP teams use to communicate with their riders? Is there a radio, like in F1, or are there different ways?
 

As it stands now, there is no radio communication between teams and riders. Several versions have been tested throughout the years, but none found beneficial.


The prevalence of riders also spoke against radio transmission for several reasons:

1) it would be too distracting

2) riders don't want teams to tell them what to do on the track

3) competitors could get an unfair advantage over others by obtaining tactical guidance


But of course, the world is not just black or white. One of the riders expressing fondness for radio communication was the now GT driver, Valentino Rossi. He saw positives in this concept, saying that the current forms of transmission have their limits. However, he is still one of the very few supporting the idea of radios being a standart part of MotoGP. Thus, the riders have to rely on their own skills and instincts.


Nevertheless, MotoGP is attempting to incorporate the radio into the sport. It's tricky as helmets are tight, and the bikes noisier. Riders also have to move freely on the bike. This year, FIM tested a new one-way system using safety-related pre-record messages from the race direction to riders. If a rider approaches an area with a yellow flag, a slippery surface, or a bike lying in the middle of the track, a warning will come on the straight that leads into the incriminated sector.


Several riders tested the system, Fabio Quartararo being one of them. The Frenchman then gave a detailed insight."It must really be only for an emergency," Quartararo said, "because it was difficult when you are riding and you hear something [in your ear]. But for safety, we can use it, especially for red flags or bikes in the middle of the track. I think it can be helpful." Another vital aspect is security and comfort. The system has its flaws in this area as well. "It was really small. It was [behind the ear]… But it was uncomfortable," Quartararo explained, "I had to put the earphone, then put the [head] band to keep it stable. It was just a prototype, and I think it was good for the first time we tried it." If the system receives yes from all the teams on the grid, it won't be implemented no sooner than the start of the 2024 season.


So, what do the team use instead? It depends on the type of message, but basically, there are two ways to provide cryptic information to the riders on the track. One of them is pit boards. Even though there are more advanced systems, pit boards are still the key tools when it comes to updates about the ongoing situation and surroundings. Because they are shown on the main straight, riders can stay focused on riding. The information shown depends on the rider's preferences, and it is usually the second mechanic, who receives information from the box via radio and sends them over to the rider.


Normally, we can find there this:

1) number of laps remaining (capital L and a number: L3); if it's a practice or qualifying session, the remaining time is shown

2) rider's position (capital P and a number: P6)

3) the distance between the rider and the next competitor ahead (a minus is in front of a number: -1.2) or behind (a plus is in front of a number: +0.8)

4) how many riders are in a group (capital G and a number: G4)

5) change of engine mapping (capital SW and a number: SW2)

6) information about a certain rival (e.g. if he had an incident or had to retire: KO, OUT...)

7) rider's best time in a session (although this is more often shown on the dashboard)


Thanks to the board, the rider can be quickly brought up to speed. The messages on the board need to be short and clear, as the riders are passing by at super high speeds. Too long or complicated messages would be impossible to read. Not to mention that it could also be a major distraction, and could end up in a crash.


When it comes to shorter yet important messages with limited duration, those are sent via dashboard. It's usually engine mapping instructions, penalties, information about pitting, alerts about drivers around, team orders, etc. The same way as with pit boards, the teams are trying to send the message while the rider is on the straight, so he can easily read it. Dashboard messages are rarely a private matter as they are often shown on the broadcast.


Race Direction use dahboard messages to inform about penalties or red flags. Although, as Fabio Quartararo admitted, the dashboard is not exactly where he often looks during the race. "The dashboard you never look at," he said, "even when you shift the gears now, I was not even looking at the lights because you know when you have to change. And especially on small tracks, to read what is on the dashboard is difficult."


MotoGP is a dynamic series that keeps growing with every passing year. However, radio communication is one of the areas that hasn't been explored further yet. There are efforts to change this, and once the tested system will be perfected, two-way communication via radio can follow in the future.


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