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BMW Motorrad Motorsport
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Munich, Germany, 05/10/2016, BMW Motorrad Race Trophy

On-site with HP Race Support

An HP Race Support Engineer’s view of a race weekend

Passionate about their work: every weekend from February to December, the HP Race Support Engineers are in action around the globe to provide on-site support for the BMW Motorrad Motorsport customer teams as they prepare and set up the BMW S 1000 RRs at the racetracks. Traction control, engine brakes, chassis tuning and much more - everything must be checked, right down to the last detail. Our technology feature shows you how a race weekend looks for an HP Race Support Engineer at a WorldSBK round.

The degree of the possible support the race engineers can provide is defined in the different regulations of the championships worldwide.

The work starts long before the engineers head for the racetrack. The days building up to the weekend are filled with the “pre-event jobs”. This includes analysis of specific data for that circuit from the previous year. If a new circuit has been added to the calendar, they compare data from tests and championships that already use that racetrack. This comprehensive pool of information is just one of the advantages of belonging to a large, global racing community. And on those rare occasions when no data is available, the engineers also make use of Google Maps to create an accurate layout of the circuit.

“We then define transmission settings based on this information. So, we define which gear is used for which bend, which final drive ratio we should use, or which gears to use - every gear, first to fifth, or second to sixth. To make maximum use of torque and power is always our goal. Then we do a simulation,” explains engineer Marc Bongers, who works in the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship.

Another important pre-event job: making adjustments to the user interface for electronics, the Race Calibration Kit Pro, for each circuit. “We enter the track length and the position of the pit exit and then split the course into sectors. We can then set the specific parameters for each bend in order to improve the performance of the bike, such as torque levels, traction control and engine braking. In the Race Calibration Kit, we use the defined ratio to make the base setting for these torque levels. If there are corners that require extremely hard braking, we can adjust the basis of engine braking for this,” explains Bongers.

In each race series, the teams can use a set number of engines during the season. So engine allocation is on the to-do list for the HP Race Support Engineers: “We try to allocate the available engines in the best way possible throughout the season, dependent on mileage and wear. Settings have to be adjusted for each engine - fuel injection, for example. We do all of that before we travel to the racetrack.”

Prep day at the racetrack

On Thursdays, nothing is in motion yet at the circuit. But there is plenty of activity in the pit lane. Thursday is “prep day”, which the teams and the HP Race Support Engineers devote to preparation. The first step is to transfer the prepared settings to the ECUs (electronic control units).

Then they turn to the motorcycles: “If a new engine has been mounted, we have to adapt the transmission to ensure that speed-shifting works perfectly. As the motorcycles are often dismantled and rebuilt between races, everything is checked down to the smallest detail. We check whether all sensors in the control unit are working well. These include the sensors for wheel speed or for suspension travel. Once all of this has been checked, we calibrate all the sensors on the motorcycle and set them back to zero - for suspension travel, brake pressure, oil pressure, leaning positions, throttle valves, and so on. Then we install a spare ECU so that we can switch them immediately during a session if the rider has a crash and damages something, for example. In that case, for example in qualifying, every minute saved can be really important.” The replacement ECU is also updated regularly to ensure that it has the same status as the ECU being used.

A further task on prep day: preparation of data recording. New folder structures are created on the network used by HP Race Support and the team they are supporting for storing the collected data over the weekend. The lap time recorder, or lap trigger, provided by event organiser Dorna in the WorldSBK, that also records pit entry and exit as well as sectors, also has to be checked. The maximum time of riding through pit lane is saved as a count down visible for the rider on the dashboard, in case of a flag-to-flag race. All settings that the rider can make on the motorcycle are also tested.

“If that is all OK, we start the motorcycle and check that everything moves - wheels, suspension, and so on,” explains engineer Bongers. “We check the speed-shifting, and make sure that all parameters of the engine work properly when warming up, whether the oil pressure is right, the lambda is correct, the funnels are moving and whether the fuel pressure is correct and so on. Then we know that everything works when the motorcycle leaves the pit lane on Friday morning.”

In addition, the engineer and the supported team talk through all the details of the chassis set-up and compare these settings for the respective track with the previous years and/or previous events. Also the setting of the chassis can have a massive influence on the electronics, for example regarding the tendency for wheelies.

Fine-tuning

The teams and the HP Race Support Engineers have already completed plenty of tasks by the time the action starts in the first session on Friday morning. Now it’s time for fine-tuning. From data recording, all data about speed, rpm, pressure, and so on are checked. Feedback from the riders is also important.

“Until the first laps are complete, everything we do is based on data from the previous year,” says Bongers. “Now we can start to optimise the set-up from this basis, working through the data corner by corner for the rider. We optimise the electronics by working on traction control and engine braking. We also support the teams with data analysis. We prepare the data and create graphics that the team can use to decide, together with the HP engineers, which changes have to be made to the chassis.”

“These modifications are made based on data from data recording and riders’ comments,” he continues. “For example, if the rider notices that the soft tail feels hard and the graphic shows that the damping speeds are too low, we open up the damping, make it softer. Or if we see that the maximum suspension travel is not reached, we install softer springs. If there is a lack of grip or bike stability, several geometric modifications can be done, depending on the regulations of the respective championships, in order to help the team provide the rider with a bike that perfectly fits his needs. A bike, he has confidence in and can be fast as a result.”

And that is how we optimise everything, from session to session. We also perform a load of smaller checks: “We check regularly whether all the sensors are working correctly, whether the pit speed limiter is working, whether the lap times show up on the dashboard, and so on.” And we continue right up to the chequered flag on Sunday.

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