Wayne Maxwell: “Well we went though the M.A. process, it started early on (2020), obviously Craig (McMartin – Maxwell’s Crew Chief) worked for Ducati Australia & New Zealand, who were NF Importers at the time, so he went through the process, followed the directions of M.A., submitted all the paperwork, the ECU got approved, and then basically it unfolded from there.
“We came to the first official test of 2020 and obviously we had quite a good test, significantly faster than everyone else. M.A. came down with their officials to look at our ECU and stuff, and at the time we didn’t have the ECU on the bike. I think there was some concerns raised. We saw some articles via Trev covering the sport, from the official Ducati team with Ben Henry (Link back to Feb 2020 interview), saying it’s going to open up a can of worms, blow out the cost if we go to a MoTeC ECU if it’s got open software. But really if you think about it we already have open software.
“Once you nominate an ECU, basically you can have any software, if I’ve got a standard ECU and have the knowledge I can write MoTeC inside there, what stops me from flashing it with MoTeC or Magneti Marelli, or any of those. There’s no software regulation, only physical regulation on the ECU. So that part of it, the technology has outgrown the sport, and Motorcycling Australia haven’t covered that part of it.
“We went through that all last year, we were advised by M.A. that we couldn’t use the ECU just before Round One. We had a plan going forward that we weren’t going to use it at Round One anyway, as we weren’t ready to go. But we had a plan but that all got halted and there was lots of back and forth argument. Their grounds were that NFI wasn’t the manufacturer and the rules state the manufacturer must nominate the ECU. NFI was an importer, and instead it had to come from the manufacturer.
“They had accepted the homologation of the motorbike as a manufacturer from NFI for the last 30 years, so why wasn’t the ECU okay. So there was some ulterior motives there, and questions were asked by people from Motorcycling Australia about if we really needed it. That part of it is not relative, I don’t make the regulations we just follow the regulations, so that was very frustrating, I was advised that you could still have it, but it had to become an M.A. approved ECU, so we went down that process.
“They then drew that out for another three months and then said, ‘we don’t want to change the rules’, but we weren’t changing the rules. The rules were already in place. Every excuse and I thought it very unethical on their behalf. At the start, MoTeC wouldn’t even make the stuff for us, without an approval letter from M.A., which we had. They sent out a bulletin released to the public and there’s been no official rescindment, it just basically from them saying if you use that, we’re going to disqualify you. So that is the gods honest truth. That’s what happened. It’s very frustrating and you know for a small private team… all self-funded and with no manufacturer support whatsoever...”
MCNews: So update us to where are we now, as we come into ASBK season 2021?
Maxwell: “So we went through this all year, in that time Ducati went through a change, where Ducati Italy, the parent company, have taken over Ducati Australia and now distribute their motorcycles directly into our market without a separate importer. Now that they took it over, so obviously they had to find their feet here, and had to go back through it.
“Honestly the most frustrating part was that there was so many accusations being thrown around against Craig. He had the full support of the CEO of NF Importers and Ducati, it wasn’t just NFI, it was Ducati Australia & New Zealand, about doing the ECU, we’ve got those emails and documentation, got it all there in black and white. Which was good that we had that, as that gave Craig the peace of mind, because so many people don’t do their own research, they just go off whatever rumour mill they heard.
“So when I think Ducati, the current Ducati Europe people took it over, and saw that Craig had definitely done nothing unethical, had done everything as per the book, followed everything that M.A. had wanted, corresponded with everyone that was at Ducati Australia & New Zealand at the time, it was straight forward and nothing to be concerned about.
“Despite the politics we were really in the position to win the championship for them. At that stage Mike had had a DNF and he wasn’t going to be able to win the championship with the shortened year that we had. So I thought they would have wanted us to put the best foot forward, in us trying to win the championship. But there was no support really from them there, to help us get approved. They said that we couldn’t use the MoTeC stuff as it wasn’t a genuine Ducati part, which I understand that, they can’t support third party.
“So we land in the 12th hour in December and the week of Christmas that we’ve got an approved ECU, which is Magneti Marelli, which is basically the World Superstock ECU. We are very thankful to Ducati for going through the process and getting an ECU approved. Motorcycling Australia had to change the regulations so that we could use it. The Honda also required the rule to be changed so they could use their ECU, their bike was illegal at Wakefield if you look at 2020 regulations.
“And that kit comes at a cost of €15,000 Euro, so that’s when you land it in in Australia. By the time it’s landed here you may as well times that by 1.75x or something like that. So it’s quite an expensive kit. By the time you buy two kits and spare parts its well over $50,000 AUD for two bikes, we don’t have a spare parts budget from Ducati like the factory team does so going back to your article in Feb’ with Ben, its very hypocritical of him when he basically he gets his kits for free (on his spare parts budget), but how does a privateer Ducati rider compete.
“We have to buy our bikes, we don’t get free bikes, we don’t get anything. We’re just a small team as I said, it has really blown our budget. Put a big dent in it. That makes it so hard for us too, as before the year starts we’ve spent $200k on building two bikes.”
MCNews.com.au: Preferably you would have liked to have kept to the cheaper option, but you weren’t allowed to?
Maxwell: “No we weren’t allowed to. There’s three ways you can have an ECU, manufacturer nominated ECU, Motorcycling Australia approved ECU, or a reflashed standard one. Now Ducati have this standard one so locked up you can’t get into it to reflash it. With reflashing stuff can become dangerous, if it’s in the wrong hands, like you get a throttle jam because you’ve got the wrong map in there. So to us that’s not really a safe option, and Ducati spends so much on their technology, why would you want someone hacking their ECU. That’s basically what you’re doing when you reflash it. So that part of it we weren’t willing to do.
“Motorcycling Australia could have approved the M.A. approved ECU and let us use Motec, and that’s the path they guided us down, then they said it was too expensive, too hard for people to compete against, and as I said, at the start of the year, we’ve seen the official Ducati team say that the MoTeC is going to blow the costs out, and now we arrive at this point anyway.”
MCNews.com.au: The other motorcycles are obviously not going to have access to the same levels of technology with their approved ECU options are they..?
Maxwell: “Well the thing is we don’t know what’s on the other ECUs. When you nominate an ECU there’s no software, there’s no one going around checking what software you’re using. So this is the whole problem, you might have a box and they check the box, but they don’t log on and see what’s in the box. It could have anything in the box. Someone could already be using Magneti Marelli and no one would even know. At the moment the Hondas obviously got quite a good ECU, its on par with the Ducati sort of where it’s at.
“Basically we’ve got a World Superbike ECU now, like the same as you’ll see on Scott Redding’s bike or Chaz Davies’ bike. That’s what we are gonna have. So the cost and then you’ve got to add the personnel to support that, you know it just… I feel there was a better way of doing it. I’m not at all disappointed that we’ve arrived at that point, as I know I’m going to have a fantastic motorbike, but it’s just long term it’s unsustainable for the sport.
“For everyone else, they had to abide by the rules, but the Ducati Magneti Marelli ECU obviously wouldn’t work without the regulation changing with the IMU, as it has quite an extensive IMU that has to be mounted in a certain position. So the fact the regulations were changed to make the Ducati ECU work, but they couldn’t change any regulations for a cost effective ECU like MoTeC to work, there starts to be not a lot of transparency.”
MCNews.com.au: Let’s get on to a look forward to this ASBK season 2021 that is just about to start. Winning the championship, has that attracted more people who want to help support the team financially?
Maxwell: “Look, it’s a difficult time, we finished racing in December and a lot of business has been through so much in 2020, so I sort of didn’t hassle everyone. I just touched base, and said thanks for everything. I was unsure what I was doing, as I didn’t really know… I wasn’t prepared to commit until I knew we had an electronics package, because I know how strong Troy and the Honda team is.
“At Wakefield I knew that from us being a little bit closer to Troy, we were quite close, but that bit to really be able to pressure him, to be able to pressure him the way he pressured me, I needed the electronics to make the next step forward. So for us until I had a commitment of getting electronics I wasn’t prepared to commit to race. I’m not at the stage where I wanna ride out of my skin and take too many risks to finish second. I want to be on the best possible equipment, I’m in the best possible environment with the team I’m in, but I need to be at least on par with everyone else so I know I can compete.
“We’re unsure in regards to sponsors, we haven’t even finalised any of that yet, so at this stage I think we have enough budget to go forward, but a lot of the same people are going to stay on board, I’m pretty sure we haven’t lost anyone. But in the next coming weeks it’ll be firming up very similar to it was basically in 2020, where we said we were doing it, but we weren’t really 100 per cent sure we could do it. Until the start of Februrary by the time everyone gets back to work and settles down, January is normally pretty much a write-off. And we find ourselves at the end of it already.”
MCNews.com.au: Winning a championship for Ducati, has that enticed head office to offer any more assistance?
Maxwell: “For us, we’ve actually probably got less support than we started 2020 with. We had good support from NFI, so basically whatever the landed cost were for parts is what it cost us, but now we have to pay dealer cost. But look, I understand we aren’t the factory team, but also understand when you attach a name to a brand like Craig McMartin Racing, and a brand like mine, you’re guaranteed exposure, so they’ll have to see exactly what they want to get out of it.”
ASBK 2021 gets underway in under two weeks time at Phillip Island and it is fair to say that with some bad blood being aired in the lead up, the animosity and intensity levels are quite extreme. It’s going to be interesting to see if the assertiveness ratchets even higher at the season opener, or whether the protagonists will put their animosity aside and let their actions on track do the talking… We will be there, as usual, to fill you in on the action as it unfolds. Bring it on!
2021 Australian Superbike Championship Calendar
Australian All Wheels Race Fest (SBK, SSP, SSP300, R3, OJC)
Phillip Island, VIC
Feb 19-21, 2021
Winton Motor Raceway (SBK, SSP, SSP300, R3, OJC, Sidecar)
Mar 12-14, 2021
Wakefield Park Raceway (SBK, SSP, SSP300, R3, OJC, Sidecar)
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