AMA RULE OF THE WEEK: WHERE ART THOU, TRACTION CONTROL?

January 19, 2011
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The following AMA rule is so poorly written that it doesn’t actually ban much of anything. Read it carefully. Part 1.14 a says that “electronic devices specifically designed for traction control are prohibited.” Does that mean that an electronic device that monitors fuel and the ignition and also has traction control would be legal? After all, it isn’t specifically designed for traction control?

The second half of part a says that “This includes sensors that can determine front wheel speed, and any electronic control to the brake system.” In fact, most traction control systems don’t measure front wheel speed, but try to determine wheel spin at the rear wheel. They do this by monitoring rear wheel speed or runaway revs at the ignition box. The 1997 Honda CR250 had traction control installed stock in its black box. Honda touted it in their 1997 press literature. When it was pointed out to them that admitting you had traction control was a no-no, they never mentioned it again. But, do you think they removed the microprocessor that monitored runaway revs every 1/35th of a second and haven’t used it, or improved it, over the last 14 years?

Traction control is banned because allowing it will raise the cost of racing and put the privateers at a bigger disadvantage. NASCAR has banned most electronic trickery…and to solve the problem, NASCAR supplies the black boxes to each team on race day (and the teams can’t touch the black boxes). The AMA could pass a rule similar to this by providing each rider with a stock black box (plus a spare) each week and only allowing its limited electronics to be reprogrammed at the track. The black boxes would have to be returned after the race. This is the NASCAR method?but does the AMA or MX Sports have the gumption to do this?

It should be noted that data acquistion is not illegal…only transmitting back to the pits is not allowed. It can still be gathered and downloaded later. The modern electronics use GPS data to measure everything from speed to the height of jumps and all the data can be overlaid on a map of the track along with rpm, gear, fuel amount, throttle position and a myriad of others bits of info.

Additionally, rev limiters…even rev limiters that can be activated at the start to limit rpm at launch are not technically traction control…thus, holding the rpm down to 8000 rpm on the start and kicking it back to the normal map after the first shift is just a rev limiter. Perfectly legal under the AMA’s porous rule book (which was only been weakened since it was written for the 1986 season?never strengthened).

Having different ignition and fuel maps for each gear is not illegal. The 2008 Honda CRF450 had different maps for each of its first three gears. Maps are not traction control…and if they have traction control built in, it is the AMA’s job to sort that out. Good luck with that.

As far as the spirit of the law goes, most factory teams cheat (for example, they have neutral cut-off switches that retard their ignitions during sound test to keep their bikes quieter…but, in fact, the 2011 Yamaha YZ250 comes stock with this switch, so its not just on works bikes). However, the teams aren’t cheating under the letter of the law because the AMA rules are subject to interpretation. History has proven that the AMA will not stand up for its rules…or if they do, it is only until someone powerful, like Ricky Carmichael, gets caught?then the punishment and eventually the rule itself are neutered. It’s funny how fuel tests and sound tests mysterious disappeared in the last year or so?

So there you have it in a nutshell: (1) No one is cheating. (2) Everyone could get away with cheating if they wanted to. (3) The AMA rule is a third grade attempt to stop expensive technology from getting out of hand. (4) We have provided a solution that works. (5) No one will do anything because that is how they do things. (6) If the teams persist with their electronic tricks, you can expect rule 1.14a to fade into the sunset…unless we have the AMA and MX Sports confused with someone else.

The AMA rule as written:

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