The Transfiormers machine uses an alternative front suspension system based on that used by Claude Fior in the eighties The Transfiormers machine uses an alternative front suspension system based on that used by Claude Fior in the eighties

Andrew Trevitt's Blog: Transfiormers - Daring to be different in a sea of Moto2 uniformity

Written by  Andrew Trevitt on Friday, 08 July 2016 16:31

Last month, Spanish rider Ricard Cardus won an FIM CEV (Campionato Espagnolo Velocita, a European Championship) Moto2 race at Catalunya in Spain. That in itself is not overly surprising; Cardus has been racing in the Moto2 World Championship for several years with a handful of top-10 finishes to his credit. What's more noteworthy is the motorcycle he was aboard: Transfiormers.

Yes, that's spelled correctly; the bike, constructed in France, uses an alternative front suspension similar to that used in Grand Prix racing in the eighties by Claude Fior (hence the Fior in TransFIORmers). It's a refreshing change from the standard fare seen in the class at both the CEV and World Championship levels.

The TransFIORmer was designed by Christian Boudinot, a former 250 Grand Prix rider that rode for Claude Fior in the class at one point, and his Team Promoto Sport. The Fior front end utilizes two A-arms attached to the frame, with a lightweight upright holding the front wheel. The upright connects to the A-arms with ball joints, allowing it to turn as the A-arms rise and fall. A fairly standard shock absorber is connected to the bottom A-arm, completely disconnecting the suspension from the steering (i.e. the shock does not move with the steering, only with the A-arms). This potentially gives lighter steering than with a traditional telescopic fork, and the upright can be made very stiff for braking but less so laterally for better cornering performance.

Another benefit of the Fior setup is that rake, trail and anti-dive characteristics can be designed into the layout and made easily adjustable. For example, trail can be made more constant over the suspension's travel than inherently decreasing as it does with a telescopic fork. A specific amount of anti-dive can be designed in, with more at the bottom of the travel than at the top - just where you want it. On the downside, the separation of suspension and steering does give rise to bump-steer, an issue that causes the steering angle to change over the suspension's travel, even if the bars are held in the same position.

There have been several iterations of this type of front end over the years. Norman Hossack is generally credited with the original use in the late seventies, basing the design on his work in car racing - the layout is very similar to a car's front suspension turned sideways. Claude Fior campaigned Yamaha TZ-250 and Honda RS500 racers in the eighties with the "wishbone" front ends (and obviously is the inspiration for Boudinot and his team). John Britten used the layout on this V1000 racer. And BMW's Duolever is based on the concept.

The Transfiormers team is bringing other new technology to the class as well. The top wishbone of the bike's suspension is 3D printed in titanium, which the team considers to be the first use of 3D metal printing for a functional, structural component in the Moto2 class. The single titanium part weighs just 40 percent of the assembly it replaced, which was machined and welded from 12 individual aluminum components.

It is great to see someone like Boudinot and the Transfiormers crew try something different and succeed. With production-based racing becoming dominant practically the world over, Moto2 - even with production-based engines - is one of the few remaining classes where independent teams and "tinkerers" can showcase their ingenuity. Despite this, at the world level Moto2 has become close to a complete spec class, with almost all of the teams using Kalex chassis this year. This is not overly surprising: In any race class, riders and teams typically gravitate toward what works, be it a bike (like the Yamaha YZF-R6 in MotoAmerica Supersport and Superstock racing), suspension and brakes (Ohlins and Brembo respectively in MotoGP) or tires (Dunlop in pre-spec AMA road racing). It's hard to break from any of this de-facto spec racing when everyone uses the same kit; over time, a huge knowledge base and support system builds up, with a resulting increased pace of development that outsiders and small teams have difficulty matching. So, for example, if you were going to race an R6 in CSBK Pro Sport Bike, a few well-placed phone calls would net you a front-running machine ready to go, requiring little in the way of development. Start with an MV Agusta F3, however, and it's a totally different story.

This is why we haven't seen anything like the Elf or Fior racers of the eighties in MotoGP for a long time. Nor are we likely to see the entire World Championship Moto2 or MotoGP grids switch over to alternative front suspension systems any time soon, despite the success - and potential - of the Transfiormers. That said, if the team's success continues, other teams and the factories will have to take note and we may begin to see more variety on the grids

For more information about the Transfiormers bike and team, visit www.transfiormers.com.

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Last modified on Friday, 08 July 2016 16:55
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