When we mentioned the report of the AMA potentially allowing traction control on Superbikes (something the AMA now says will not happen), there was a bit of feedback on both sides of the issue. Some of you say traction control is great, hard to police anyway so why not allow it? Others say it's another step in the direction of technology taking over and leaving less for the rider to do or leaving less of the performance difference between bikes to depend on rider input. There really isn't a right or wrong here, it's all opinion, but what about that?
How do you construct a set of rules for a motorcycle race series that means the winner is the better rider? If you manage to do that, will the race still be exciting enough for spectators? If all racers were confined to 125cc bikes, rider skill (and small size) would mean a lot, conserving speed at all costs and making sure you never made a mistake. Riders would certainly matter, but how many spectators watch 125cc races? High power and high speed make races much more exciting to watch and as riders gain skill and mature they're able to do things with those bikes many of us find unbelievable. But high power motorcycles quickly become high tech and now the problems begin.
You could have a one manufacturer race series where everyone rode the same bikes but then the excluded companies would be understandably upset. Even then, unless you provide sealed engines and prebuilt bikes, how do you keep the technology from determining winners?
In auto racing, the IROC series gave racers identically prepared racecars and everyone drove around as you watched the Camaro passing the Camaro and then being overtaken by the Camaro. Long strings of cars, all bunched up, proving nothing. Yawn!
Without spectators, you can't have a profitable race series of any sort. Do the spectators care more about the rider or the motorcycle? Do they even care at all as long as the racing is exciting?
Drag racing is one area where technology means almost everything. Except for driver or rider reaction time, much of the rest is up to the machine and every time you hear the winner interviewed in any drag race they always keep thanking the clutch guy and the engine guy and the tire guy, ... let's face it, on a percentage basis, the technology is the high contributor here. Fans still love the race so is that bad?
Look at Formula One auto racing, about as high tech as you can get, still lots of fans. So what does this all mean?
From the perspective of the rider, technology is two edged, if you don't have it you'll complain about the other guy who does, if you do have it you might wonder how good you are compared to the guy without it, even though you smile while you stand on the podium (after all, you deserve it, right?). The questions might arise in the minds of the rider but I don't think the spectators care at all, and they buy the tickets.
In the "old days" which is before the advent of computers in everything, this question never arose, or at least not as frequently, because the technology was a lot less capable of altering performance to the degree it does today. Now, allowing all of the technology means gradual lessening of the rider's contribution. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Should motorcycle technology or rider skill make the bigger contribution in the outcome of the race? It will always be a combination, but where do we draw the line? Thoughts?
The Kneeslider: Traction Control for AMA Superbikes