Chapter 2 – The Adventure Begins

– The Wind – Chapter 2 – the Adventure Begins

The MotoTechnikon design center was a most impressive place. Mostly open space, with low-wall cubicles large enough to park a car in for each staff member, the main office area was bustling with the activities of high technology motorcycle design. Windows surrounded the facility, bringing in plenty of natural light to combine with the various hues of the furnishings, creating an environment of soothing yet energetic productivity. Most cubes had large video displays tied to workstations and server farms sufficiently powerful to handle 3D design and simulation processes. The floor was divided into four quadrants, each with it’s own hanging representation of a product or concept. In each corner was a conference room big enough for an audience of thirty or more, with a massive table suspended from the ceiling so that presentations could be made in theater fashion if desired. While the walls were glass, there were powered curtains which could insulate the rooms from outside distraction. Each room was equipped with video conferencing and full access to the computer network. Rod was impressed.

Jan Kitterman, the newly appointed head of the VR1 design section (Signor Chiatarini had adopted Rod’s moniker for the new bike) was guiding him toward the opposite corner of the center. ‘This way Signor Ehrlmeir. This quad is ours.’ he told Rod with great pride. It was that moment when Rod noticed – there, above the VR1 quad, was a huge graphic representation of his bike, the VR1, taken straight from the report. The primary difference was it was now clad in the livery of the MotoTechnikon factory team – a brilliant pearl yellow with black and deep green trim – the number ‘1’ emblazoned on the tail section in anticipation of success. Rod fairly bristled with pride.

Kitterman led him to an elevator and they rode up to the mezanine level where the senior staff had their offices. Rod saw the nameplate before Jan said anything. Rod’s personal office was in the corner of the building, with glass walls giving him a view not only of the design center; but of the surrounding countryside. This particular center was located just a half-kilometer from the testing facility known as Circuit Mosini on the outskirts of the village of Cosinia, near Capri on the Tyrrhenian Sea. The lush green rolling hills were an inspiration.

‘Your office suite, sir’ Jan said, opening the door with the key that had been inserted and waving him inside. The efficient furnishings were well suited to the mission of the facility. Rather than the lush hardwood desks and credenzas in the executive suite, Rod’s ‘quarters’ had a working suite which wrapped around about two-thirds of the 4×6 meter office. In one corner was a workstation, complete with ergonomic keyboard/mouse accomodations and a color laser printer built into the unit. Opposite this was a full-size drafting table fully equipped with digitizers linked to the workstation. A door on the only opaque wall led to an intimate conference room sized for groups of six or less ‘for confidential conferences’ with his team.

After giving Rod ample time to take it all in, Kitterman spoke ‘Is it satisfactory Signor?’ he asked.

Rod gave him a nod and a smile. ‘Yes, quite sufficient I would think. Thank you‘ he replied, taking a seat in the only furniture with an eye on luxury, the very comfortable and adjustable leather chair. He turned to take in several perspectives, noting that the controls for the built-in shades were at his fingertips on the arms of the chair. Holy cow he thought, this is very damned cool.

Then he rose and walked toward the door. ‘Where will my associates be located?‘ he asked, referring to Rando and Pete, who would be arriving at the end of the week.

‘Oh yes of course sir, right this way’ Jan replied, leading Rod to the next two offices, whose doors were directly adjacent to each other. ‘Here sir. We considered that you might want them in close proximity for efficiency’ he added.

The offices, while not as spacious as his own, were just as well equipped. Peter’s office in particular was laden with multiple workstations and two large high-definition displays. Built-in to his work surface was a high-resolution color plotter equipped for 2×3 meter renderings if required. Perfect for a man with his particular mission. He would be attempting to model dynamics which had defied the best in the business up to that time. The interaction between man, a machine, and a multitude of racing circuits was no small set of relationships. An integral part of their proposal had been the development of not only models but of measurement and tracking equipment compact and light enough to be useful as real-time tools on the motorcycle in competition. In addition, Peter would be responsible to develop a ‘race-hardened’ processor to be carried on the bike. Rod didn’t doubt he would succeed, and was counting on the results to give them an advantage when the time came to take the track in anger against some very crafty and race-hardened foes.

Rando’s office was less impressive technically; being setup as a scaled-down version of Rod’s office complete with a small conference table and digitizing white-board. With Rando’s focus of logistics, it was well equipped for the tasks at hand.

Just as Rod was about to ask what was next, the two men were joined by a petite young Asian woman. ‘You sent for me sir?’ she asked pleasantly.

‘Yes Miranda. Signor Rod Ehrlmeir, this is Ms. Miranda Chiou, your personal administrative assistant.’ he said.

She offered her small hand which he took, and was amazed at the strength of her grip. ‘Pleased to make your acquaintance sir. You may contact me anywhere in the complex by touching star-seventy-six on your phone.’ she told him matter-of-factly. ‘I will be handling all of your administrative matters, managing your calendar, and making all of your travel arrangements as well as performing secretarial tasks and preparing meeting and presentation materials. Please don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions.’ she told him. ‘And now, if you please sir, Signor Chiatarini has scheduled you for a meeting in the executive conference room. Follow me and I will show you the way.’

Rod nodded his acknowledgment and the three of them went down the elevator and across a breezeway to the executive building. Miranda took them back to the ‘Board Room’ in which the first meeting had taken place and dropped them off. She handed Rod a small pendant that appeared as if it were some kind of remote control. ‘If you should need me urgently, you may use this. It will take me no more than ten minutes to respond in person’ she told him, then gave him a feint smile, made an about face, and returned to her office in the design center. The pendant, as it turned out, was both a pager and a GPS-coordinate transmitter. She could indeed find him, wherever he might be. She seemed very efficient, and Rod liked that in an assistant.

As his thoughts roamed to other topics related to her femininity, he felt a strong hand on his shoulder. ‘Herr Ehrlmeir, so good to see you again. I am very pleased that we have come to an agreement for this program. It will surely become another great success for MotoTechnikon.’ came the booming voice of Blanco Chiatarini himself, there to greet him personally. They walked together into the room where Blanco insisted he join in a toast with some of the fine local Cognac, which was warming in a delicate silver decanter over an open flame. He nodded in agreement and took his place at the table next to the Design Chief. At each place was a copy, under MT cover, of his proposal and report.

Pedderini tapped the cover of his copy with a manicured finger and said softly ‘really brilliant work, Signor. Most impressive. I look forward to the challenge’ he told Rod, holding up his empty snifter.

Rod nodded and returned the smile. ‘Thank you very much Signor. We worked very hard on the data and analysis. I firmly believe the VR1 to be an achievable objective in every way’ he said, raising his own snifter in response.

Chiatarini’s assistant arrived to serve the Cognac, starting to his left and moving around the large table, serving him last. She then replaced the decanter and extinguished the flame. Each man had several ounces of the strong liqueur in his glass, clearly this was a celebration as well as a serious business meeting.

The Chairman stood, quieting what little conversation was taking place, and lifted his snifter high. ‘My friends and associates, today we embark on the most significant and complex challenge in the history of our company. We have gained the services of the finest technologists and designers in order to defeat all who would challenge us when the new FIM rules go into affect in two years’ time. I am 100% confident in these people, and in the team of support resources at their disposal. We shall spare nothing in our quest.’ he said, then raising the glass even higher, he exclaimed ‘SALUT’ indicating the time had arrived to toast.

In unison the men raised their snifters and repeated the toast, each taking a small swallow of the distinctly tart but powerful brandy. Chiatarini then took his seat as everyone placed their glasses back on the ornate porcelain coasters.

‘Well gentlemen, first I would like to express my gratitude and respect for Mister Rodney Ehrlmeir who has agreed to join us in the development of his proposed racing machine for Formula Endurance. His proposal has been studied and analyzed by our own engineering team and found to be both sound and quite innovative. The principles used as the basis for each of the machine’s systems and structures expand the envelope of current capabilities and knowledge, which is exactly what I was looking for when I submitted the request for these proposals. A toast to – we shall call him Rod’ he said, raising his glass.

Rod was stunned for a moment; but recovered and raised his snifter with the others. Again each man had a sip. Again each snifter was returned to it’s coaster before the Monsignor continued. ‘With that, I will turn the meeting over to Signor Pedderini who has some additional concepts to review with us’

After a brief pause, Rialto Pedderini rose to his feet and acknowledged the attendees. ‘First I will agree with all of our Chairman’s comments regarding this report’ he said, tapping the cover as he had earlier. ‘The physics and engineering that went into this proposal was both sound and very forward-thinking. The design concepts as well are most interesting and completely workable – with a bit of effort and some amount of risk. What my team has done over the past two weeks is to scour this report, ask further questions, and perform additional analysis of the proposal which I will share with you in a moment.’ he began.

A projection screen lowered silently at the back of the room, and all eyes turned toward it as Pedderini began his presentation. ‘With Rod’s permission we took the data and presentation and have moved it forward a few small steps in the interest of momentum and cycle time.’ He deftly controlled the presentation and moved to a slide titled ‘Formula Advantages’ about 30% of the way into the report. ‘One of the most interesting things about Rod’s teams approach to this project was in the definition of the key areas where the formula could be exploited to our advantage. This slide summarizes the key areas where the VR1 will have opportunities to best the competition.’ he began. ‘The first bullet here is a topic that our feasibility team had frankly overlooked’ he said, referring to the powerplant Rod’s team had proposed, a very compact, 660cc V6. ‘The keys to this V6 are it’s extreme compactness and light weight. As Rod’s data suggests, this engine can be built to be quite robust as a chassis member, saving any extra heft we would have needed in the chassis itself. The vee angle of 75 degrees is what allows the small size, and at the same time provides good overall stiffness. Also key is the small displacement, actually 655 cubic centimeters, which places the machine in the smallest category allowing the lowest minimum weight of 120 kilograms. Specific output of an estimated 240 brake horsepower, while perhaps optimistic, is thoroughly documented along with assumptions in Rod’s report. The only thing I will say about this is that the fundamentals, very high brake mean effective pressure and high RPM, are both within the realm of current technologies. An excellent job of analysis and preliminary design.; he said. A brief pause was filled with murmurs of quiet comments amongst the attendees.

‘The next bullet was perhaps the most controversial’ the Chief Engineer continued, highlighting the ‘DACS’ (Data Acquisition and Control System) line. ‘We at MotoTechnikon have a proud history of being the leaders in the area of what I will refer to as ‘conventional’ DAS applications. We were the first to employ full-race capture of on-board data and the first to develop technology, along with our friends at Siemens, which enabled our teams to capture data via telemetry while the machines circulated the courses at racing speeds.’ he said, pausing to let that sink in. ‘What Signor Salzberg, Rod’s associate, has proposed is a significant leap ahead of what we have done in the past. While there is still some skepticism amongst our electronics team regarding the feasibility of such a system, Peter has provided sufficient details to justify its pursuit. If even partially successful, it will give us a large advantage over our competition when it comes to machine setup in advance of race meetings as well as analysis of the machine’s performance – both positive and negative – in the interests of developing ongoing improvements to performance.‘ he said.

He moved to the following slide, which showed an ‘exploded view’ of the VR1 revealing the more than 100 sensors of twelve different types which measured and reported every aspect of the bike’s performance, reporting and storing it real-time to an on-board processor, a server really, in a very purpose-built network. Also shown were the four dedicated RISC processors which handled data of the three primary ‘types’ – one each for engine, suspension, and chassis performance. Oooo’s and Ahhhh’s filled the room as they all tried to take in the sheer scope of the system. ‘ As you can see, this array of sensors is far in excess of anything we have used before. You will also notice that, aside from the multiple processors and fibre-optic network intrinsic to the system, there is a very sophisticated wireless telemetry system at work here as well. One of the most innovative features being that there is a doppler-based ‘preset’ system which provides a capability to capture the most data possible at a given speed and location for ‘flash’ downloads during a race. On shorter circuits, a full lap may be captured in one transfer. Longer circuits may be solved either by multiple captures or by selecting a capture point at which the bike is travelling slower – providing a longer capture window.’ he told them, waiting for another long moment before getting to the really interesting part.

‘Now gentlemen, I wish to point out the big differentiator between this superb design and all others in my experience‘ he said with a flourish, moving to the next slide in the report, entitled ‘DACS Integration’. ‘This diagram is an over-simplified representation of what is essentially a closed-loop motorcycle development system. All the sensors collect data, which is analyzed and compared with very complex models of the various systems in the machine. This comparison can be used in two ways. If there are flaws in the way the machine works, the comparison with the models can be analyzed to produce changes to the machine – whether to the ECU, the suspension components and settings, or the chassis configuration and/or setup – which will improve performance to more closely match the simulations. If the machine performs better than the models predict, the data can be used to analyze flaws in the models themselves, improving them to provide more accurate results for the other case. It truly is a self-evolving system which, when it is mature can truly produce dominating performance on any track, under any conditions, with – and I must emphasize this – with any rider.’ Pedderini paused once again and looked around the room. Most of the faces were still, trying to fathom what he’d just said within the narrow realm of what they thought they knew. ‘Pretty amazing is my thinking’ he said, ‘and most innovative. Now my computer and simulation experts tell me that while this might seem far-fetched with what we know, it is within the realm of possibility for someone with the talents of Signor Peter Salzberg, whose mind seems unrestrained by the limits that inhibit us mere mortals. We have placed the achievement of these lofty objectives in the hands of Peter and the team he selects personally.’ he added.

Rialto Pedderini then proposed another toast to Rod and his team, which was enthusiastically joined by the meeting attendees in a standing ovation led by Signor Chiatarini himself. Rod stood with them and acknowledged the honor in an appropriately dignified fashion, with a bow from the waist with his snifter held high. Pedderini then continued with the presentation, moving on to the chassis detail – another extremely innovative aspect of the machine. ‘ Now we see another very unique and innovative piece – the variable-thickness carbon-fiber monocoque frame. This is both the backbone of the machine and a participant in its tuneability and performance. Some of our competitors have long spoken of ‘controlled flex’ when referring to their chassis’. MotoTechnikon, thanks to the foresight and freedom of Rod’s team, shall have the first ‘programmable-flex’ motorcycle chassis in existence. My understanding of this is somewhat limited today; but I am led to believe that once the development cycle is complete, we will be able to fabricate chassis’ – or chassis elements – specific to individual racing circuits. Chassis compliance will provide uniquely tailored handling characteristics, enabling greater speed with lowered dependence on rider and tire variability.

Again Pedderini paused, allowing his audience to absorb the words. Blanco himself began the applause, and was quickly joined by the others in the room, then he stood and encouraged the others to do the same. After a solid minute of the ovation, Blanco stopped and held his hands up. ‘My friends and associates. We now begin in earnest the processes of developing the mighty midget – the VR1. I would like to offer Rod an opportunity to speak.’ he said, taking his seat.

Rod stood before his new associates, cleared his throat, and thanked everyone for their confidence. A few brief comments on the highlights of the early schedule and he returned the floor back to Signor Chiatarini. Blanco adjourned the meeting with his usual flourish, and Rod turned to Jan. ‘I believe I have an appointment to see our new home?’ he said. Kitterman looked at him quizzically, his eyes darting between the telephone on the credenza and Rod’s pocket.

Rod got the message. ‘ Oh yes, I must get accustomed to my new tools’ he laughed, picking up the telephone receiver and dialing ‘star seventy-six’. On the first ring Miranda picked up. She seemed to have ESP. ‘Are you ready to see your new home sir?’ she asked without a normal greeting.

‘Um, yes Miranda I am.’ he responded.

‘I will pick you up in five minutes. Is that okay?’ she replied.

‘Yes, that will be fine’. Rod hung up the phone as her end of the line went dead.

Jan spoke up, understanding Rod’s disbelief. ‘I’ll show you where she will be for you’ he said, leading Rod down a long hallway to an exterior door at one end of the long narrow building. As they approached the glass door, a champagne-colored Mercedes SL drove up. Rod looked at his companion. ‘That will be Miranda sir. I will see you tomorrow morning‘ he said, pushing the door open for his new boss.

As he walked toward the car the roof began it’s retraction cycle, revealing his assistant in the driver’s seat. She had a broad smile on her face as she leaned over and pushed his door open.

Rod slid into the plush leather seat and pulled the door closed. He turned to Miranda and returned her smile as she flipped the paddle-shifter into low gear and wheeled the Benz out the winding drive and onto the access road. ‘Where are we going?’ he asked, not really caring at this point.

‘We have three properties for you to look at for your local housing during the project signor, I hope that we can have a decision today so that the arrangements for your friends can be made. They will arrive next weekend I believe?’ she responded.

‘Which one is closest to the Center?’ he asked, wishing to shorten the task as much as possible.

‘There is one just a few kilometers from here. Very nice little villa in the middle of a vineyard owned by Signor Chiatarini’s family’ she replied, adding ‘shall we go there first?’

Rod nodded, taking in the beautiful scenery of the rolling hillsides as his assistant expertly and swiftly chauffeured him toward their destination. A few minutes later they turned onto a narrow road and beneath a very tall stone and iron archway, the single word ‘Chiatarini’ wrought in iron over the top of the arch. Another kilometer winding through the vineyards brought them up a rise to an elegant brick and masonry villa, complete with a large circular drive with a fountain at it’s center. Miranda stopped the car directly in front of the entrance to the house and shut off the engine. Rod looked around at the old country charm surrounding them. ‘Whew. We may well have just made the decision Miranda. Let’s have a look’ he said, opening his door as she did the same. He walked around to her side of the car, and enjoyed the sensations when she took his arm as they walked toward the door.

The main entrance was typical of old world Italian villas, with a huge wooden double-door with ornate carvings and massive iron hardware. Miranda pulled out a key and deftly unlocked and opened the door. Rod made his decision at that moment, his mouth agape in awe at the enclosed garden entry that lay inside. Another fountain graced the middle of the ‘foyer’, with lush flowering shrubs around the edges of the stone walk. ‘This is it Miranda. I will look at the others if necessary; but this is it.’ he declared.

‘Very well sir. I think this is the best choice in any case.’ she replied. ‘Now there are four individual living areas here, one for each of you – plus a guest. Each has it’s own entry from this garden.‘ she told him, indicating the four entry doors with her delicate hand. ‘There is also a common area which is accessible either directly through that door’ she said, pointing to another rather large entry door ‘ or from an interconnecting hallway inside’ she said. Again she took his arm. ‘ Shall we go inside and have a tour?’ she asked, smiling at him from her place at his side.

‘Of course.’ he replied.

They entered through the main door into the common space, and Rod was once again enamored with what he found. The foyer here was decorated in Italian elegance, with marble floors, teak moldings, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with the classics. Several very comfortable-looking chairs with reading lamps were positioned about the room. At the end opposite the entry door was an even larger room with comfortable seating for a dozen or more people. A wet bar and large fireplace on the two sides of the room made it clear this was the ‘entertainment center’ for the villa. Large picture windows and ‘french’ doors into another garden graced the back wall. Also on each side of the room were doors to the adjoining hallways to the living quarters. It would be perfect for the three men to share while working over the next two years. ‘Incredible Miranda, simply wonderful. How do we make the rest of the arrangements?’ he asked.

In her usual efficient fashion she replied ‘consider them done sir. You can move in tomorrow, and your friends can come directly here when they arrive’

After selecting his personal quarters the two departed Rod’s new home and headed back to the design center, Rod enjoying the company of his new assistant more with every moment that went by. She seemed willing to flirt on a level compatible with Rod’s approach, and that worked for him. He genuinely used a bit of personal fun as a part of his daily regime, and Miranda would be a good match. She drove him back to the small hotel in town. ‘I’ll see you in the morning Rod.’ she said, giving him a warm smile. He couldn’t see it because of her dark glasses; but she gave him a wink as well.

Rod picked up his key at the desk. ‘Signor Ehrlmeir, you have two messages.’ the clerk told him, handing him two envelopes.

Grazi.’ Rod thanked him, heading up to his small but comfortable room, opening the first envelope. It was from Pete, who was in his last phase of preparation for his trip. He just wanted to make sure Rod didn’t need anything different from their last discussion. Rod would call him later in the evening – after Pete had his first cup of coffee. The second message was from Jan Kitterman, asking if Rod wanted to join him for a late dinner. Rod opened his phone and called Jan’s number.

Kitterman’ Jan answered.

Jan, it’s Rod. I got your message, and I would love to join you for dinner. What time?’ Rod asked.

I’ll pick you up at eight-thirty and we’ll have a drink on the waterfront before dinner.’ Jan replied.

See you then.’ Rod said, closing the call.He went into the bathroom and had a brief hot shower to knock the dust off, then dressed in suitably casual khaki’s with a light cotton shirt. He had another hour to kill, so he took his laptop out onto the small balcony and poured a glass of the fine Chiatarini Chianti complimentary to the room. He reviewed the status of the design elements and sipped the light wine. The hotel was several blocks from the sea; but he could hear the waves and see the gulls and other shorebirds making their last rounds before darkness fell. He would miss this aspect of the hotel; but the villa was a perfect semi-permanent home.

At eight-thirty on the button Rod’s room phone rang. ‘Ehrlmeir.’ he answered, closing the computer.

I’m in the lobby.’ Jan said.

On my way.’ Rod replied, hanging up and heading out the door.

The two men climbed into Jan’s Lambo spyder, Kitterman selecting low gear and moving smartly from the curb. Rod loved the sound of the V-12, loved even more the thrust provided by the thoroughbred powerplant in the relatively light two-seater. Jan was a skillful pilot, pitching the car into corners and controlling the drift with the throttle on the exits. The short drive to the waterfront seemed like moments, and they pulled into the lot. They climbed from the car and walked straight to the outdoor lounge, escorted to a table right over the water. Jan ordered two cocktails; but he spoke in Italian, giving Rod a grin. ‘You will like it, I promise.’ Jan said.

Minutes later the waiter arrived with two coffee drinks, the liqueur topping them aflame. Rod’s eyes opened wide as the drink was placed in front of him.

It is coffee – with a splash of a very good – and highly flammable liqueur.’ Jan told him. ‘Try it Rod, I am sure you will like it.’ he added.

The flames extinguished themselves and Rod gave the liquid a few minutes to cool, then he picked up the glass and took a sip. As Jan had suggested, it was delicious. ‘Superb!’ Rod said. ‘Absolutely delicious.

The waiter appeared with a complimentary basket of deep-fried calamari, zucchini, and stuffed mushrooms. He asked (in Italian) for their order, and Jan Kitterman responded. Rod didn’t like being out of control of his own dinner order; but as good as the coffee drink was, he allowed it. The calamari was excellent and very fresh, with just the right amount of crunch to the batter.

Jan finished with the waiter and returned his attention to Rod. ‘So Rod, I wanted to get your view of the project as you see it now. I know the work has not yet begun; but the foundation has been laid and I need to know if you think we have areas to address in that foundation.’ Jan said.

Jan, I think our foundation is sound. Of course you realize we won’t know how sound until we have erected some framework. We will begin that process next week, after my associates arrive from America. Within two weeks of their arrival I expect to produce an accurate assessment of the foundation – and I’ll be able to make my preliminary recommendations at that time.’ Rod responded. ‘So far, so good.’ he added.

Fair enough Rod. This program is the most important single focus for Moto Technikon, and it will be for the next three years. The chairman brought me here to help guide the technology development for his company, and our studies indicated that the Formula Endurance series would drive sales for the company well into the next decade. But we needed a very high degree of innovation with this motorbike, far more than was employed for the Swallow superbike. That is the reason Signor Chiatarini chose your concept over the other submissions.’ Jan told him.

I am glad to hear you say that Jan, and I am very proud of the work that has been applied to our conceptual design. Peter has been involved since the very first thoughts I had more than a year ago. His approach to the use of data and mathematical models is unique in the world – certainly unique to motorsports. If we assume that his principles are sound – and I think you will agree they appear so – then the resulting product will stun the world of motorcycle racing.’ Rod replied. ‘I will even go out on a limb here and predict a victory within our first full season of racing.’ he added.

Jan whistled. ‘I’ll wager a good meal – right here – on that.’ Jan said, chuckling. ‘And I will hope that you win.

Rod held up his nearly-empty glass. ‘To winning.’ he toasted.

Winning!’ Jan responded, clinking his glass to Rod’s. Both men emptied their drinks with their next swallow. ‘Another?’ Jan asked.

Rod waved off the offer. ‘After dinner.’ he replied. Jan nodded his acknowledgement, motioning to the waiter who came over and collected the empty glasses.

A minute later the waiter returned with the polenta board, grating fresh parmesan atop the simple wheat appetizer with marinara sauce. The waiter poured them both a glass of Chianti – from Chiatarini Vineyards, of course, and they began to enjoy the wonderful cuisine of the region. Rod had never had Italian food from the Mediterranean coastal area, and it was quite different than the more traditional cuisines – and quite delicious. The food was good enough that the men found it difficult to pause for conversation except between courses.

By the time they had finished the polenta, the waiter arrived with the traditional Caesar salad. Accepting the fresh grated parmesan and cracked pepper, the two men dug in to the delicious and spicy salads. They were entertained by several small boats on the calm waters of Cosinia Bay, the occupants enjoying the last of the sunset. Jan looked at Rod for a few moments, as if studying his face. ‘My racing background does not include any endurance competition, as you know.’ Jan began. ‘So I would like your help to understand your approach to such races.’ he continued.

That will be an interesting discussion Jan. I don’t necessarily see endurance races any differently than other kinds of races. It’s about maintaining the highest average speed for the duration required.’ Rod began his response.

Of course, of course; but maintaining that faster average involves different elements, does it not?’ Kitterman asked.

I guess it depends on your perspective. Generally speaking, a sprint race – like MotoGP or Superbike – does not include pit stops of any kind. If you have to come in, you will not win.’ Rod said. ‘Other than that, the complexities with regard to getting the bike to work for a team of riders rather than a single pilot is the biggest difference.’ Rod replied. ‘That is one of the intrinsic features of the VR-1 concept.’ he added, taking another bite of his salad.

I guess that is where I am missing something.’ Jan responded.

Okay, let’s see if I can clear that up.’ Rod said. ‘One of the fundamental differences – at least initially – between our bike and all of the others is Pete’s DACS system. Because we will be doing a lot of testing with the primary goal of establishing what we call ‘rider response’ parameters, we will then be able to merge those parameters into our setup for each track and chassis configuration.’ he clarified.

I see, so rather than an engineer listening to several riders and trying to get the bike to work at the track from subjective inputs, we will be applying data gathered ahead of time to the setup. I guess the objective here is to begin an event with a motorbike that is closer to being optimum for all of the riders, is that correct?’ Jan asked.

Exactly correct. In addition to the data gathered ahead of time, we gather data during every session at each track to refine both the rider response parameters and those specific to the bike’s components.’ Rod added to the explanation. ‘We make chassis dynamic changes and may in fact fabricate new chassis components for each track; but once at the track the chassis itself will not change. What we will do is make fine adjustments to everything from the engine management system to shock rates, spring rates, and even the interaction between the rider controls – throttle, clutch, brakes – and the bike’s systems.’ Rod said.

Jan shook his head. ‘Very complex. Very complex indeed.

Rod chuckled, finishing his salad and taking a sip of his wine. ‘Well yes; but really the changes that are made at the track are no different for us than for everyone else. The big difference is the starting point.’ Rod clarified. ‘We need to make that payoff.

Their main course was served, a delicate leg of lamb served in a manner Rod had never experienced. The meat was sliced very thin, and topped with a light cream sauce and scallions. Accompanying this entrée was a serving of crispy garlic potatoes and a local green bean sautéed with onion in butter. It was good enough that neither man cared to interrupt consumption with conversation. No knife was required to cut the lamb, and it melted in your mouth. Rod was informed it was a locally-contrived dish not found in many restaurants in other regions, and that the name of the dish loosely translated to ‘Lamb of the Gods’. He would have to bring Pete and Rando here, and Miranda as well.

They elected to wait for dessert, deciding on a local Port to settle things. Then Jan got back into his brain-picking. ‘Okay, so that’s what we do technically. But there are other aspects of racing that have nothing to do with the hard parts I think.

I’m not sure where you are going.’ Rod said.

You have achieved quite a lot of success racing motorcycles – particularly in endurance competition. That takes not only skill; but a mindset that drives you to winning. I would like understand more about your mindset.’ Jan pursued.

Ah. Well that’s a question I don’t know that I can answer; but I will try.’ Rod began. ‘My focus at the beginning of any season will be to win a championship, and I never lose sight of that goal no matter what happens. Obviously I have to break that down into individual races – the goal being to win that race. Then you break that down into individual sessions – practice, qualifying, and the race itself – and the goal is to win, or be the fastest, in each session. Then you break each session down, with multiple riders. In my case I have always tried to make lap times as consistent as possible among the team of riders, as this will almost always result in a faster average for the team – and ultimately a race win.’ Rod explained. ‘Does that help?

Yes; but I think there is still something missing.’ Jan replied, sitting back and staring into the ether.

Rod laughed, taking a sip of his port. ‘Well I guess there are an infinite number of layers to peel back on this onion. I’m not sure it is productive to do that without more definition to the question.’ Rod said.

Alright, I think I understand that. Let’s just enjoy this lovely evening. Are you ready for your friends tomorrow?’ he asked, changing the subject.

Yes we are. Miranda was a big help, making arrangements for our temporary home in the villa at the vineyard.’ Rod replied. ‘Rando and Pete will be arriving in Rome tomorrow morning, then a short commuter flight to Palermo, and we have a car picking them up early in the afternoon.’ Rod replied.

I know that villa. It’s a really nice location, and a beautiful place.’ Jan said.

Indeed.’ Rod replied. ‘This is my last night at the hotel, so all three of us will spend our first night together in the villa tomorrow.

Jan held his glass up. ‘To a long and successful relationship.’ he toasted.

Hear hear!’ Rod replied, touching his glass to Jan’s before finishing the drink.

They decided to forego the dessert course, and headed back to the Lambo and the quick trip to Rod’s hotel. Tomorrow would be a busy day for Rod, moving to the villa and preparing for the arrival of his friends. Jan bid him a good evening and headed back to his home in the country, the Lambo making its music into the night air. Rod headed up to his room to pack. Miranda was coming by at eight o’clock to take him to the villa and help him get settled before they drove the hundred-odd kilometers to Palermo.

Rod looked at his watch, noting that Pete and Rando would now be in the air somewhere over Canada. He checked his messages, listening to one from Pete letting him know he and Rando had hooked up and were boarding their flight. Another one from Miranda just saying hello and reminding him she would be there at eight. The third message was from Rialta Pedderini asking for an hour of Rod’s time on Monday for a brief planning session. Rod made a note to have Miranda schedule the meeting, then hit the sheets and was asleep within minutes.

** The Villa move – Rando and Pete arrive in Cosinia **

The music from the clock radio awoke him gently, Rod’s eyes fluttering open at seven o’clock as planned. He had only to shower and shave before Miranda arrived, as the only packing he needed to do was the few clothes and personal items he brought to the hotel. He had a trunk and two medium-sized boxes stored at the Design Center; but Miranda would be bringing those with her. He showered and shaved, then carefully packed his things in a small bag. He was ready with fifteen minutes to spare, and headed down to the desk to checkout. He thanked the young lady at the desk, paid his tab, and walked out to the street into the bright sunshine. As usual, Miranda was a few minutes early, pulling up in one of the Benz sedans supplied by Signor Chairman. Rod climbed in, tossing his bag to the back seat and giving Miranda a smile. ‘Good morning, beautiful’ he said, letting that compliment slip inadvertently.

Wow. And a good morning to you, mister Ehrlmeir!’ Miranda replied with a giggle. ‘I have your trunk and the two boxes in the trunk. We can head over to the villa and unload – should have plenty of time to settle a bit before we head to Palermo.’ she told him.

Okay, sounds good.’ Rod replied. ‘Lovely day for a drive, eh?’ he added, glancing around at the little village as his assistant skillfully maneuvered the big Benz through the narrow lanes. It was a quaint and very old-world sort of town, most of the buildings being a hundred years old or more. He imagined the place had quite a lot of history from the two wars in Europe in the early and mid twentieth century. It would be an interesting place to vacation.

Miranda wheeled the Benz up the winding road to the villa, parking with the back of the car close to the gate. She gave the horn a toot before she hit the trunk release and climbed out. By the time Rod was out and had joined her there were two of the men from the villa’s maintenance staff ready with a good-sized dolly. They had the trunk and one of the boxes on the dolly in moments. ‘Lead the way.’ one of them said, in perfect English. Miranda walked through the gate, leading the men and the dolly to the private entrance to Rod’s suite. Rod took up the rear of the small train as his assistant opened the French doors to allow passage of the trunk.

They stopped just inside the door and looked to Rod for direction. ‘Anywhere is fine. I will need to unpack them first.’ Rod told them.

The carefully set the box on the floor, then pulled the dolly out from beneath the trunk and headed back out to get the other box. Minutes later Rod and Miranda were alone in the suite. ‘What time do we need to leave for Palermo?’ Rod asked.

I think noon should be fine. The drive is only about seventy-minutes, ten for parking, another five to the gate. That should give us fifteen or twenty minutes to spare. I’ll call the airline and track things of course.’ Miranda replied.

Of course.’ Rod said.

So how can I help with this… stuff?’ Miranda asked, smiling at him.

Rod pulled out his key and unlocked the trunk, opening the large storage bin for the first time since his arrival in Italy three weeks earlier. ‘Let’s see….’ he began, looking at the contents he had packed back in California. ‘I guess you can just start putting stuff where you think it should be. I can find it later.’ he told her. There were very few personal items in the trunk. Most of it was office products, notebooks, a small portable printer/scanner, an alarm clock, and a few of his favorite knick-knacks.

Okay!’ she replied, bending down to begin the unpacking process. She removed an item and studied each one before taking it to its destination, working efficiently as Rod opened the first box and began stowing clothes and other ‘soft’ items in his bedroom and wardrobe. Miranda was finished with the trunk before he emptied the first box. ‘Can I help with the other box?’ she asked, touching him gently on the shoulder.

Uh… sure.’ Rod replied, then he thought about it. ‘Look Miranda, you don’t really have to do this. I mean… I can take care of this if you have something else you could be doing.’ he told her.

Hmm… well… I don’t, actually. I had planned for this day to be helping you move then picking up your friends and helping them move in later.’ Miranda said. ‘Honest. There’s nothing else I need to be doing sir.’ she added, opening the second box.

Okay; but please, when we’re at the office the ‘sir’ is acceptable. When we’re not in the office I would prefer you just call me Rod.’ he suggested.

Okay… Rod.’ Miranda said, smiling as she picked up a pair of boxer shorts. ‘Any particular place you would like these?’ she asked, laughing. He returned the laugh. The ice was broken. The next hour was spent putting away everything from the two boxes, eventually breaking the boxes down to store them in the ‘dry shed’ out back along with his trunk. With an hour to spare the two took a short tour of the suites to be used by Rando and Pete. They were essentially identical to Rod’s; but each had a touch of unique character in the appointments and furnishings. He decided that Rando would prefer the more modern of the two while Pete would like the continental surroundings. Then Rod and Miranda walked through the common area and out to the garden.

She noticed his far-away look. ‘A penny for your thoughts, Rod.’ Miranda said.

Rod smiled at his lovely new friend. ‘Oh, I was just thinking how much different this is. I mean… different in every way from anything I might have imagined.’ he told her. ‘To be living here in this beautiful place, surrounded by so much history and the essence of life.’ he added. ‘I guess it’s just going to take some getting used to.

Miranda put her hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. ‘If there is anything I can do to help you get settled, please just let me know. Anything at all.

Thanks Miranda. You’re the best.’ Rod told her. ‘How about a drink?’ he suggested. He watched her get up and walk into the house, headed for the kitchen. His male focus locked his gaze on her fine, lithe form as she walked away. She was not only an efficient assistant and a good friend, she was a very attractive woman. He glanced around the beautiful garden, taking in more of the small details that he had missed on his earlier visit. There was a coy pond, complete with water lilies. It looked completely natural; but obviously had some high-tech pump and filter hardware. Water flowed into the pond from a waterfall, a classic statuary fountain at the top. Surrounding the pond was lush and colorful foliage, maintained impeccably by the grounds keeping staff.

Miranda appeared from the house carrying two tall glasses with something tropical in them. She walked over and handed him one. ‘Mango juice.’ She said.

Thank you!’ Rod said, taking a sip. ‘Mmmm. Wonderful!’ He looked at his watch, it was eleven forty-five. More than enough time to relax a bit and just enjoy the company.

So where do you see this taking you?’ Miranda asked him, crossing her jean-clad legs.

To a world endurance championship.’ Rod replied frankly. ‘I mean, what other purpose does this project serve? Moto Technikon has tried to do it before with a modified superbike and failed. Signor Chairman recognized that he needed to do something different than everyone else, and the FE formula gave him the opportunity. I’ve been working on this concept for two years, with no real objective other than to design an advanced platform. The FE rules fit my concept perfectly, and I was able to convince the Chairman to give me a chance to prove the concept. It was just a matter of things coming together really. I am – well – to use an American euphemism, stoked.’ Rod told her.

Well… I am really glad.’ Miranda replied. ‘Glad that you have what may be the opportunity of your lifetime – and glad for me because it brought you here.’ she said, giving Rod the smile. He returned the smile as best he could, then finished his juice and stood up.

We should probably get rolling.’ Rod said. ‘I hate being late.’ He held his hand out, helping Miranda to her feet. She grabbed his glass and headed for the house, giving him another look.

They climbed into the big Benz and Miranda brought it to life, wheeling down the narrow lane to the main road and turning left to head for the highway. A few kilometers down the road and they made a right turn and merged into the light traffic. They passed a sign that indicated Palermo was one hundred and six kilometers down the road, and Rod settled in for an hour of scenery-watching. Most of the trip would be along the coast, and there are few places on the planet more scenic than the Mediterranean coastline of Italy. Small villages go by every few minutes, the old buildings brightly painted in stark contrast to the sand, seaside foliage, and the sea. He would have to bring a motorcycle down this way some time, as there was a winding road along the coast, running basically parallel to the highway they were on.

You’re thinking again.’ Miranda said, laughing softly and patting his thigh.

Not at all. I’m just enjoying this spectacular scenery.’ Rod told her. ‘It is so beautiful.’ he added, trying to ignore her hand – for the moment.

Fifty-eight minutes after they merged onto the highway, Miranda guided the Benz smoothly off toward the Palermo airport. While technically an ‘international’ port, the Palermo field was not much larger than an average general aviation field. The aircraft flying in and out of the place were no larger than Boeing 737 and DC-9 class machines. The terminal was similarly compact, with only a few ticketing counters and two baggage claim carousels. Rather than battling customs and immigration here, Rando and Pete had cleared in Rome and flown ‘domestic’ down here. It meant an extra hour of delay in Rome to clear, claim and re-check their bags; but it was ultimately worth it.

Miranda parked the Benz in the half-empty lot, then she and Rod walked into the terminal and checked the display. The flight was actually a few minutes ahead of schedule, and would be arriving in less than ten minutes. ‘Good call Rod.’ she said. When he looked at her funny she clarified. ‘Leaving a little early.

They found the gate and awaited the arrival. Pete came through first, perhaps the tenth passenger to come out of the gateway. By the time he got to Rod, Rando had also emerged. ‘Rando, Pete, this is my assistant Miranda Chiou.’ Rod told them.

Pleasure ma’am.´Pete said, shaking her hand gently.

Nice to meet you Miranda.’ Rando said, doing the same.

The pleasure is mine guys. Let’s get your bags and hit the road, shall we?’ Miranda replied, pivoting on her heel and heading for the baggage claim. All three of them enjoyed walking behind her. They waited about twenty minutes before the bags came down the steep ramp to the carousel; but within a few more minutes they had their bags. There would be two large boxes arriving via cargo carrier in a few days; but the two new arrivals had clothes and toiletries to survive until then. Miranda had grabbed a cart, and the foursome headed for the parking garage. With the bags safely tucked away in the trunk, they clambored into the car and headed to the highway.

So did you guys have a good flight?’ Rod asked the obvious question.

Way too long; but other than that it was fine.’ Rando replied. Pete agreed. ‘So how long is the ride to the house?’ he asked.

About an hour.’ Miranda answered.

But it is a beautiful drive. Just look at that ocean, and those villages.’ Rod said.

Oh my god, this is like… artists heaven!’ exclaimed Pete, who had not a single artists bone in his body – but he was right.

Just wait until you see where we’re living guys.’ Rod said. ‘It’s a two-hundred year old villa that is impeccably maintained and fully staffed.’ he added.

And a fifteen minute ride from the office.’ Miranda added.

Man, what a place to ride a good bike.´Rando said. ‘Speaking of bikes, will we have ours shipped over here, or what?

The factory has a large stable of bikes for you to choose from, so I wouldn’t bother shipping one here.’ Miranda told them. Before they could ask, she added ‘Ducatis, Aprilias, all the Japanese makes, Beemers, Triumphs, and of course the street version of the MT Swallow.

What, no Harley’s?’ Pete laughed.

I think they have three, and a Buell or two as well.’ Miranda replied. ‘Take your pick.

Show us the way, dear lady.’ Rando said.

Would Monday be okay for you?’ she asked, chuckling. Then she gently applied the brakes, turning off at the regional road which would take them past the villa. ‘Almost there guys.’ she said. ‘Over there to the right is the factory, just beyond that is the design center and Circuit Mosini.’ she told them. ‘I can give you the two-bit tour tomorrow if you’d like.’ Then the Benz left the regional road and passed under the archway, passing amongst the rows of vines as they wound their way up the hill.

Damn.’ Pete whispered.

She skillfully wheeled the car around the circular drive, stopping in front of the entry without so much as a small lurch. She reached down and popped the trunk latch, then opened her door and walked to the back of the car as the men climbed out and looked around. Miranda gave instructions to the staff and they carried the bags to the correct rooms. Then she turned her attention to the new arrivals. ‘Nice, huh?’ she said, laughing at their looks of wonderment.

I’ll say. I’m not even sure I would have believed pictures.’ Rando said.

And you haven’t even gone through the big gate yet.’ Rod said. ‘Come on guys, let’s go in – at least into the garden.’ he added, walking through the gate. ‘Welcome home, gents.

Holy crap!’ Pete exclaimed. ‘No way!

Rando was speechless.

Miranda came out of the house with a tray of champagne flutes, following her was one of the maids with the ice bucket and bottle. ‘Compliments of Signor Chairman.’ she told them. ‘Welcome to Villa Cosinia di Chiatarini gentlemen!’ She set the tray down and took the bottle from the maid. She held the bottle up, reading the label. ‘Vintage two-thousand, Chiatarini Estate Reserve.

Perhaps the best champagne from this area.’ Rod told them, taking the bottle and expertly stripping it and popping the cork gently. Miranda took the bottle back and poured four glasses, handing one to each of the men before raising hers.

To future successes.’ Miranda toasted.

Hear, hear!’ Rando seconded. They all touched glasses and had a sip.

Rod held his glass up. ‘To good friends, both new and old.’ he toasted, nodding to Miranda.

Friends.’ Pete seconded. Again they drank.

I need to get back to feed my cat and freshen up; but if you all don’t mind I would like to join you for dinner later… say…. Seven?´ Miranda suggested.

Rod nodded to her. ‘Seven it is dear lady. I will show the guys there rooms and we can relax a bit.’ With that she was gone, leaving them with the remainder of the wine in the garden.

Damn man, she is a cutie!’ Pete told him, clapping him on the shoulder.

And a damned fine assistant.’ Rod said. ‘Good driver and tour guide as well.

Okay, okay. Didn’t mean to sound pushy; but she does seem to have an interest.’ Pete added.

I noticed; but I really need to get the professional side of things handled before I let personal things get in the way. Trust me dude, I noticed her.’ Rod said.

Rando stood up. ‘So where do we go from here?’ he asked.

We can go into the common area, and from there you can get to your suites; but it is easier to use the private entrances from this garden.’ Rod began. ‘Rando, yours is right there.’ he pointed to a dark green entry door twenty meters away. ‘Pete, that would be yours just to the right of Rando.’ he told them. ‘Looks like Miranda left the key in the door for you. Your bags will be in the main room. Feel free to relax, unpack, wander around, whatever. This will be your home for a long while.

Rando and Pete went to their respective rooms and Rod went into the common area to find out about dinner. When the chef told him the main course would be prime rib of beef, he knew there was no reason to pursue the rest of the information. Rod was certain that the choice would suit his friends perfectly. He glanced at his watch. Two hours to kill before she would be back. He walked to his suite and went inside, sitting heavily on the supportive recliner and gathering his thoughts. He drifted off thinking about the days and weeks ahead, the challenges he would face both personally and as a team member. He didn’t really hear the knock at his door.

Hey boss.’ Rando greeted him. ‘Fantastic room – er – quarters. We were just wondering how we go about getting some refreshment.’ Rod was awakened.

Oh, yeah.’ Rod said, shaking himself awake and standing up. ‘I’ll show you where the kitchen; but there’s almost always someone from the staff around. Any of them can help you if you can’t find something.’ He walked out his door and headed to the right down the corridor, Rando and Pete in tow. They crossed the ‘main’ room of the common area and passed through the double-doors into the large kitchen. ‘And…. Here you are gents.’ Rod said with a grand gesture. ‘And this is Denise, one of our staff. Denise, this is Rando… and Pete.’ he introduced them.

What can I get for you, signors?’ Denise asked.

Rando and Pete looked at each other, then at the young woman. ‘Perhaps some iced tea?’ Rando suggested.

I have just made some sun tea this afternoon, is that alright with you?’ Denise asked, pointing to the large glass container on the table next to the outside door.

Great!’ Pete replied.

Perfect!’ said Rando.

Denise pulled two tall glasses from the cupboard and turned to look at them again. ‘Crushed or cubes?’ she asked, referring to their preference in ice.

Cubes is fine.’ Rando replied. ‘For both of us.

She popped several small cubes into each glass and dispensed the tea. ‘Sugar or cream?’ she asked.

Nothing for me.’ Rando answered.

Two sugars.’ replied Pete. ‘If I may ask… would it be alright if we got our own tea – in the future I mean?

Rod laughed. ‘Of course. Denise is just trying to make sure you feel welcome. Once you know where everything is you are free to help yourself. This is your home, not a hotel.’ he told them. Denise confirmed with a nod and a smile, handing the two men their tea.

Thank you Denise.’ Rando said, giving her a wink and a shallow bow.

You are quite welcome… Rando.’ she replied, returning the bow. Then she left the room to proceed with her preparations for dinner.

Wow.’ Pete said softly. ‘This place is really something.

Rando sniffed the air. ‘Is that….?

Prime rib of beef? Yes indeed it is.’ Rod said. ‘With all the fixin’s.’ he added. ‘Speaking of dinner, I’m going to go freshen up before Miranda arrives.’ Pete gave him the look. ‘Now don’t get any ideas – at least not yet.’ Rod reprimanded him, chuckling. ‘It is only polite to not stink when you have guests.’ He spun around and headed back to his suite, leaving his friends in the kitchen sipping tea.

Rando and Pete took Rod’s lead and did some ‘freshening’ of their own, the three men finding their way to the garden within minutes of each other. ‘I’m thinking this is a freakin’ dream guys.’ Pete said.

Think again, my friend.’ Rod replied. ‘This project is huge for the Moto Technikon people. They are investing more than twenty million US just for the design phase.

Actually I was talking about this villa.’ Pete responded.

It’s probably cheaper for them to put us up here than anywhere else.’ Rando speculated. ‘Isn’t this place a part of the family’s property? That archway down at the road said ‘Chiatarini’ I think.

Good eyes Rando, and yes, this villa is in the middle of twelve-hundred acres of Chiatarini grape vines.’ Rod replied. ‘But it was also the nicest of three places they offered us, and I didn’t see any reason not to choose it.’ As those words came out, Miranda arrived in her SL. The three men walked out to greet her, Pete opening her door and giving her a hand.

When she said she was going to ‘freshen up’ she was not kidding. She was wearing a beautifully colorful sundress cut low in front and in the back – just above the hip line, the hem of the skirt a couple of inches above her knees. The bright colors complimented her skin, and she had her hair pulled back into a pony tail, tied with a brightly colored scarf. Rod could barely keep his eyes off of her, and neither could Rando and Pete. Then she smiled. ‘Hey guys. Nice afternoon?

Uh… great, thanks.’ Rod replied, trying to avoid staring. ‘Shall we get some wine to prepare our pallets?’ he suggested.

A fine idea!’ Miranda replied, heading into the garden and from there into the house. She returned a few minutes later with a pitcher of Sangria and four glasses. She set the tray down on the stone table and poured four, handing them out to the three men. ‘To a fine evening in Cosinia for the latest members of the team!’ she toasted.

Cheers!’ Pete responded, liking this gig more with each passing hour. He kicked back and put his boots up on the low stone wall, sipping the fruity wine and taking in the fresh and fragrant air. ‘This is real nice.’ he said, mostly to himself.

Rod chuckled. ‘Relax while you can, data-boy. We get to work Monday at oh-eight-hundred hours sharp.

Uh… try tomorrow; but I’ll let you sleep in until ten.’ Miranda chimed in. ‘We have to give you guys the tour of the design center and get you settled in your offices before Monday.’ she added with a smile. ‘I think Jan and Sergio wanted to come by tomorrow late afternoon too; but I’ll check with Jan later.

Um… who are Jan and Sergio?’ Rando asked politely.

Jan is the program chief for our bike, and Sergio is the chief engineer for MT Racing.’ Rod replied. ‘They probably just want to have a leg up on Monday’s program meeting.’ he added.

We have a program meeting on Monday?’ Pete asked. ‘What on earth will we have to discuss?

Oh relax guys. Rod is just trying to stir things up. The meeting on Monday is mostly a meet-and-greet thing for the Chairman.’ Miranda said. ‘And I think Rod will be presenting a preliminary schedule.’ she added, laughing. ‘So you might want to pick his brain before the meeting.

Oh great.’ Rando said. ‘Here for two hours and already we’re behind schedule.

Rod sat in silence, letting Miranda work his friends over as only a pretty woman can. He enjoyed watching them squirm, and watching her work. He finished his wine, and by the time he set the glass down she had filled it again, leaning close. ‘Hope you don’t mind.’ she said with a wink and a smile, ‘I thought I’d let them get to know me this way.’ she added. Rod nodded and returned the wink, with a quick glance at her cleavage to spice up the moment. When he looked back up at her eyes she wrinkled her nose. Damn she’s cute when she does that! he thought.

Pete watched the banter between Rod and Miranda with interest, especially since her fine little butt was sticking straight at him at the time. If Rod doesn’t go after that, I sure as hell will. he thought, a smile growing on his lips.

Easy now bud. I think Rod has her on the line.’ Rando whispered to him. ‘But I know what you’re thinkin’.

Pete just nodded and continued to smile.

The four continued the small talk for an hour, then Miranda reminded them she would be by to pick them up at ten. Rob walked out to the car with her after she bid the newcomers good night. ‘You were brilliant Miranda, thanks. Really loosened things up.’ Rod said. ‘Drive safe, sleep well, and we’ll see you in the morning.’ he said, giving her shoulder a squeeze. ‘And thanks again for everything.

See you at ten boss. And you’re welcome.’ Miranda replied, smiling as she climbed into the Benz. He waited until she was down the drive and out of sight, then returned to his friends in the garden. ‘So… what do you think?’ he asked.

About Miranda?’ Pete asked. ‘She’s hot dude!

Yeah, I know that. I meant what do you think about – this.’ Rod said, waving his arms to indicate the villa.

This is a sweet pad Rod. Can’t wait to have a bike here.’ Rando replied. ‘Certainly won’t hear any complaints from me.

Yeah, it’s nice enough. What were the other choices?’ Pete asked.

Oh, there’s a house in Cosinia a few blocks from the beach, and another one up the hill a few clicks. Neither of them had an established staff, they aren’t as big, they’re farther from the design center… In other words, they just weren’t the right place.’ Rod replied.

Well jeez, just the staff is worth a ton. So how much are we paying here?’ Rando asked, always the frugal one.

That is the other major advantage to this place. The house is staffed anyway, and there’s a guest house a half a click further up. Because this place is owned by the Chairman’s family and is on their property, it costs us exactly zero.’ Rod told them.

NOTHING?’ Pete exclaimed. ‘Not even for the staff?

Rod held his hands up. ‘This place is ours rent free and complete with a five-person staff to take care of cooking, cleaning, laundry and maintenance. The Chairman himself told me that they would be staffing the house anyway, although it might be four instead of five, so why not let us stay here? Besides, it keeps us close to the center, more convenient for his people too.’ Rod said.

I can live with that.’ Pete said, getting up to refill his glass.

Okay, so what about that schedule Miranda mentioned?’ Rando asked. ‘Any surprises there?

No, I don’t think so. I mean we have to get into the swing of things here – the way the Chairman wants us to work. It’s a new life for us really.’ Rod told them. ‘I have one hundred percent confidence in what you guys add to this thing. I cannot do it without you, and the Chairman agrees – that’s why you’re here.

So… he asked for us?’ Pete queried.

Yes. He did. I explained to him the importance of the data, modeling, and simulations as they affect the potential of the system, and the importance of the tie-in with the high-tech side of manufacturing, which is where you come in Rando.’ Rod explained. ‘We are a team – along with more than a hundred folks here in Cosinia. They are good people, and they want us to succeed. They are dedicated to seeing the VR-1 succeed.’ he added.

Cool.’ Pete replied. ‘I guess we’re here for the long haul then.

The three musketeers.’ Rando said, raising his glass.

Hear hear.’ Rod confirmed.

The sun had gone down, and it was beginning to cool down. The three men went inside and were met by Denise. ‘Can I get you something before I turn in?’ she asked.

Coffee?’ Rod suggested, looking at his companions.

Espresso, Cappuccino?’ Denise suggested.

Cappuccino!´ Pete replied, getting a nod from Rod and Rando.

Ten minutes sirs.’ Denise replied, turning and heading back to the kitchen.

Freakin’ awesome.’ Pete said.

Try to get used to doing some things for yourself, will ya dude?’ Rando said, laughing.

Hey… you’re not my mother.’ Pete replied, chuckling in response.

Okay kids.’ Rod said, laughing. ‘We don’t want the help to know how bad we are – at least not just yet.’ he added. As he said that, Denise came from the kitchen with a tray of cappuccinos, along with both kinds of sugar and a plate of biscotti. She set the tray down on the table, then looked at Rod.

Will there be anything else, Signor Ehrlmeir?’ she asked politely.

No, thank you Denise. Sleep well.’ Rod replied.

Thank you sir. Good night.’ she said, heading out through the kitchen toward the staff quarters.

She have a room here?’ Pete asked.

Yes, the entire staff does actually. There’s a building out back, kind of a dormitory for them.’ Rod replied.

Okay. So back to the schedule. I would like to get a peek before the meeting if I may.’ Rando asked. ‘Not that I don’t trust you Rod; but I like to know what I’m committing to, you know?’ he added.

No problem lad. We can go through it tomorrow some time. I’ll print out the Gantt tomorrow when we get to the office.’ Rod responded.

That’ll work, thanks.

Rod turned the conversation to other things, talking about the design center, the test track, the fantastic technology they had access to, trying to get them ‘up’ for the tour. He knew they wouldn’t need any alarm to get them up tomorrow, not with all the new things running through their heads. They stayed up for another hour, then bid each other good night and headed to their rooms. All three were sound asleep within minutes, their bodies resting for the busy days ahead.

Rod awoke without an alarm at six-thirty, climbing out of bed and taking a shower. His usual morning ritual was quick, and by seven he was in the kitchen pouring his first cup of rich Italian roast. Rando joined him a few minutes later. ‘Morning boss.’ he said, getting himself a cup. ‘So.. we’re heading over to the Design Center this morning?’ he asked.

Yeah, and if you have things intended for your office, bring them. We’ll be handing over the keys today, you may as well get comfortable while we’re there.’ Rod replied. ‘We can show you the track too. It’s pretty nice I think, although I haven’t ridden it yet. Jan took me for a cruise around it in his Lambo last week. Very fast circuit. There’s only one really tight spot, the Vineyard Hairpin, and you approach it on a bike at close to two hundred – downhill.’ he added.

Rando chuckled. ‘Bet there’s some puckering going on there, eh?

Oh, the first few times I imagine there will be. Lap times are in the low one-forty’s on a bike for almost five and a half clicks.’ Rod responded.

Holy crap, I guess it’s fast!’ Rando exclaimed.

Denise came into the kitchen, dressed in her ‘Sunday casual’. ‘May I get you some breakfast?’ she inquired. ‘We have pretty much anything you might like.’ she added.

I think I would like some fruit and a pastry of some kind if that’s okay.’ Rando replied.

Same here Denise. We’ll be out in the garden.’ Rod said. Denise nodded her acknowledgement and began her preparation as the two men walked out to the garden. It was a beautiful morning, sun shining brightly just over the hilltops as they set their cups down on the stone table.

Think maybe Miranda could show us the bikes today?’ Rando asked, eager to get back on two wheels.

I’m sure she could if we asked. We’ll see about timing bud.’ Rod replied. ‘We should have a little free time after lunch I think.’ he added, taking a sip of the strong coffee.

The three men took their time with the continental breakfast and coffee, then finished getting ready for the day before rejoining in the garden. At nine-fifty-five they heard a car drive up, and as expected it was Miranda. ‘Good morning gentlemen!’ she greeted them. ‘Ready to head out?’ she asked, holding the gate open. Rod grabbed his briefcase, waving his two friends through the gate. They climbed into the Benz and Miranda skillfully wheeled the sedan down the narrow lane, under the arch, and onto the road that lead to the factory. It was new scenery to Pete and Rando, and they sat in silence as the beautiful old buildings slipped by outside the windows. When they turned off the country road and went beneath an almost identical archway, the two looked at each other. Miranda noticed the look. ‘Signor Chairman and his family own most of this area for several clicks in any direction, and his grandfather was very fond of those stone archways.’ she told them.

You’ll see several more over the next few days. Let me know when you want to hear about the differences between them.’ Rod said with a chuckle. Moments later Miranda swung the Benz into the parking spot marked Reserved for VR-1 Team Leader. It was technically Rod’s spot; but she knew when she could use it and obviously today was one of those times. Next to Rod’s space were two more reserved spots, for VR-1 Data Specialist and VR-1 Logistics Chief for Pete and Rando, respectively. Rod noticed them looking at the labels and laughed. ‘Yes, those are your spaces; but the motorcycle parking is closer to the door.’ he told them.

The four disembarked from the Benz, Rod and Rando with their briefcases and Pete with his backpack. Miranda led them up the path toward the building housing the MotoTechnikon Design Center, Rando and Pete gazing in awe at the glass exterior of the place. They could not see inside, as these ‘windows’ were essentially one-way mirrors with the reflective side facing out. The landscaping around the building was trimmed low enough that the view of the surroundings from inside was not obstructed. Miranda swiped her access key and the outer door opened allowing them into the ‘air lock’. Once the outer door had closed the inner door opened with another swipe of the key. ‘I will get you guys an access key right now. I have them at my desk.’ Miranda told them, leading them into the outer lobby.

Pete and Rando continued their awe inside the facility. While the furniture in the lobby was in perfect condition, it looked old and was beautiful rosewood and slate. ‘Wow!’ Pete said quietly.

You won’t actually need to come in this way once you’re up to speed, I just thought it would be good to show it to you this time. I’m sure Rod can show you the other entrances later.’ Miranda said, leading them through to the office area with another swipe. She proceeded to describe the ‘quads’ as well as the common areas as she led them to the VR-1 section. She pointed out the large hanging ‘sculpture’ of their bike hanging above, with the associated ‘Oooo’s and ‘Ahhh’s. Then she pointed up toward the mezzanine level. ‘Your offices are up there.’ she told them, leading them to the elevator. They stepped inside and were instantly greeted with a view of the grounds outside the center. As with the grounds around their villa, the center was surrounded by vineyards.

The elevator stopped and Miranda waved them out first. Stepping onto the ‘hallway’ they looked out over the VR-1 Quad cubicles below. Miranda had stopped by earlier, slipping their keys into the doors. ‘Here we are guys. Pete, this is you… and Rando, you’re here.’ Miranda told them. Rod unlocked his corner office and walked in, setting his briefcase on the desk before heading back out to check on his friends. Pete was already figuring out how to get his computer up while Rando played dumb and had Miranda showing him the basics.

Rod walked into Pete’s office and sat down on one of the guest chairs. ‘So what do you think?’ he asked.

Ahhhh… one moment….’ Pete replied, his fingers manipulating the keys. ‘There we go.. okay… good… Now, what do I think?’ he asked himself. ‘It’s good so far. I mean it looks like I’ve got the right tools here. What’s behind the terminal?’ he asked, referring to the hardware he would be running on.

It’s a quad-processor Sun with forty gigs of memory, five terabytes, and three separate video engines.’ Rod told him. ‘More of anything is a phone call away.

Pete nodded, again focused on his display. He was pleased to find the system running Linux, as he was something of an expert on the robust OS. His fingers flew around the keyboard, bringing all manner of techie info up. ‘Not the right kernel; but that’s easy to fix.’ he mumbled, opening his pack and pulling out a USB drive and slipping it into the machine. More flying fingers and he pushed the keyboard in an himself back, spinning around to give Rob a grin. ‘Sorry boss, gotta be ready for everything ya know.’ He laughed.

No problem dude. I may have you take a look at my system when you get some free time – not today.’ Rod said. ‘So you think you’ll be okay with what’s here?’ Rod asked. ‘I mean… for now?

Oh yeah, it’ll work I’m sure. I have some tools and data to load; but it doesn’t have to be now.’ Pete replied, glancing behind Rod.

Rod turned around to find Miranda at the door. ‘I think I’ve managed to get Rando started, so you guys want to continue the tour, or….?’ she asked. Rando joined her, standing behind.

Rod looked at his friends who all nodded. ‘Sure, let’s go. What’s next?’ he asked her.

I figured we’d grab a cart and go down to the track. The bikes are in one of the barns down there anyway, and I know you’d like to see ‘em today.’ Miranda responded. Rod nodded and she spun around and headed out the door. ‘You guys should close things up before we go. Security will do it if you don’t; but then Jan will be on your butt for leaving things open on a weekend.’ she added. Pete turned and executed a shutdown as Rando returned to his office to do the same. The three men locked up there offices then followed Miranda back down to the main level and out through the ‘utility vehicle’ exit. She pulled out her master key and checked the battery condition on the carts. Not liking the first one she ‘tagged’ it so the maintenance guys would know to plug it in. The second one was fine, so she hopped into the drivers seat and looked at the men. ‘Hop on boys, let’s roll!’ she told them.

Five minutes later after a slow cruise down the access road they were parked at the ‘roadbike barn’. After they all climbed off the cart Rod held up his hand. ‘I’d like us to take a walk around the track before we go in there.’ he told them. ‘I may never get you two out of that barn.’ he added with a laugh.

Miranda unlocked the gate to the pit lane and waved them through, closing and locking the gate behind them. ‘Keeps the riff-raff out.’ she chuckled.

Rod led them on the tour, pointing out as many of the track’s features as he could recall. Not only the circuit details; but the details regarding data capture and observation. The track had three towers where observers could see large sections of the circuit, and in fact could see about two-thirds of the track from any one of the three. The three-plus miles took nearly ninety minutes at a reasonably brisk walking pace, and it was time for lunch when the returned to the pit lane. ‘We can go pick up something in town, or I can see if the cafeteria is staffed; but I’m pretty sure it’s not. Or I can call up to the house and have one of the maids bring us something.’ Miranda said.

I vote for option three.’ Pete replied. Rando and Rod both nodded their agreement.

Okay. Next question. What would you like?’ Miranda asked. The three men looked at each other then back at Miranda. ‘I’ll have them put together some good old Italian subs, how’s that?’ she suggested. All three nodded, and Miranda opened her phone and hit the speed dial. She spoke to whomever answered in fluent Italian, and was finished with the conversation in less than a minute. She smiled at them. ‘Denise will be bringing a three-foot sub with salami and provolone and a box of potato fries, we can get sodas in the machine down here.’ she told them. ‘Okay, okay, let’s look at bikes; but I gotta tell you two, Rando and Pete, you’ll have to wait until I can set you up with Italian driving permits before you can operate a vehicle on public roads. Rod has his, and I can have yours by Tuesday.’ Miranda told them, slipping her key into the door of the barn.

Inside the barn were twenty-eight motorcycles, all with the keys in the ignition and fuel in the tanks. Three Ducati’s, two Bimotas, four MT Swallow triples, two Benelli’s, three Buell’s, two each of the Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Yamaha liter bikes, three Triumph Daytonas, and three Harley’s were there for them to choose.

Rando went straight to the Honda Fireblades, as he had a similar bike at home in Canada. He three his leg over the bike and settled into place, a smile growing on his face as he felt the familiar position of the controls. ‘I’ll take this one.’ he said to Miranda, who jotted down the ID next to his name and nodded.

Pete looked around, then back at Miranda. ‘No beemers?’ he asked her.

The chairman doesn’t like German bikes.’ Miranda replied with a laugh. That really wasn’t the reason; but she could fill Pete in on that later. Rod gave her a wink which she returned.

Pete settled on one of the Suzuki’s and declared his choice which Miranda noted. Rod sat on one of the Swallow’s and she made a note. Then she heard the car drive up outside. ‘Lunch is served boys. Let’s go get a drink and have a seat.’ Miranda said, walking quickly out the door. The three guys followed obediently, all three watching her lithe form in the snug jeans and MT Swallow t-shirt as she made her way efficiently to the car. Denise opened the door and handed Miranda a large bag, said a few quick phrases in Italian, and was off before the three men got there.

The four enjoyed more banter about the bikes, the center, the track, and the villa as they devoured the delicious sandwich and the crispy potato snacks. The weather was again perfect, and the two new arrivals, while fighting jet lag, were becoming accustomed to the environment. Miranda stopped eating before any of the men. ‘Gotta look after my girlish figure and all.’ she said with a giggle. ‘So… I don’t need any more of your time, so I can leave you here – or at the center – and come back for you later, or…’ Miranda offered.

I told the guys I would print the gantt for tomorrow’s meeting; but I think there’s a printer at the house and I put the file on a USB drive that I have with me, so we could just head back to the house if it’s okay with you guys.’ Rod said. Pete and Rando nodded, slowing down their eating long enough to listen.

Miranda held up her hands and smiled. ‘No rush guys. I’m not in a hurry. Take your time, enjoy your lunch.’ she said. ‘Ah… I said I would find out if Jan and Serg wanted to come by later….´Miranda said, opening her phone and tapping the speed dial number. She got up from the table and walked a few feet away, speaking softly into the phone. When she turned back around she was smiling. ‘Well… Jan and Sergio are on Sergio’s boat right now, doing a little fishing. He suggested they come by with fresh yellowtail this evening at about six for dinner. If that works for you guys, I’ll call Denise and let her know to be ready for it.’ she told them. She got three nods and keyed up Denise on the speed dial. A few phrases in Italian and she closed the phone. ‘Okay guys, if you’re ready to get back I’m ready to take you.’ Miranda told them. Without answering verbally the three men walked to the cart and climbed on.

Miranda wheeled the Benz up to the villa, turning to Rod as she pulled to a stop. ‘I’ll be back for dinner if you don’t mind. I’d like to be up on whatever discussions you have.’ she said with a smile.

Don’t mind at all Miranda. See you at six.’ Rod responded, returning her smile. The three men climbed from the car and returned Miranda’s wave as she pulled away. They walked through the outer gate and into the garden. ‘I’ll run in and print three copies of the gantt so we can go over things and you can pick my brain.’ Rod told them, walking to his private entrance and leaving Pete and Rando in the garden.

Do you believe this?’ Pete asked, shaking his head as he sat on one of the stone benches. ‘Living in Italy in this beautiful spot… and we get to do stuff we’ve wanted to do all our lives… damn…

Rando chuckled. ‘Well Peter, you worked your butt off for twelve years in school to learn how to do what you do. Why does it surprise you that you’re being rewarded?’ he asked. ‘I’m the one who should be surprised.’ Rando added.

Denise came out the main entry door carrying a tray with three glasses and a large pitcher of tea. ‘Thought you might be thirsty gentlemen.´ she said softly, setting the tray down on a shaded table and giving them a polite bow before heading back inside. Pete caught Rando’s eye and shook his head, reaching over to pour two glasses. They toasted to their mutual opportunity and soaked in the warm Italian sun. Ten minutes later Rod appeared, carrying the three printed charts and his laptop. He set things down on one of the larger tables and grabbed himself a glass of tea.

Okay guys, here’s what we have so far – and Rando once you’re up to speed I’ll hand off this schedule to you if that’s okay.’ Rod said.

That’s what I’m here for boss.’ Rando replied.

Rod gave them a few minutes to look over the schedule before he began. ‘Okay, well the first thing we’re going to climb all over is the test instrumentation for the first phase of model development. Pete, I’m giving you a month to come up with the final definitions. Rando, I have you in charge of implementation beginning two weeks in, and I give you a month from then to complete the instruments Pete needs and get them installed on an MT Swallow superbike.’ Rod began.

Then you ride and we collect data?’ Rando suggested.

Exactly. Two weeks of ride, download, analyze, and repeat.’ Rod answered. ‘Then Pete crunches data for a week to come up with preliminary models which we then use for another week of testing. This time we use simulations to try and predict performance after a change to the bike. I ride with the changes, we collect data, and compare the results to the sims, revise the models, etc.

Sounds right boss.’ Pete told him. ‘Then there’s two weeks of testing with other riders?’ he asked, looking at the chart. ‘Then another week of crunching… Okay…

Right, we basically have three months to do that stuff and come up with our first iteration of the models and sims we’ll use for the new bike.’ Rod said. ‘Then we do a dog-and-pony for the Chairman and his team. Once they give us the nod we go to work defining the instrumentation for the real thing.

That’s when things really start to get exciting.’ Pete said with a grin.

Actually, things will be exciting enough the whole time. Rando and I will be involved with powerplant and chassis design – with your inputs of course – beginning basically tomorrow.’ Rod answered, going back to the chart. ‘While you’re crunching data, developing models, and running simulations we’ll be working with the designers and the supply chain partners to build a motorcycle we can plug all your brilliant stuff into.’ Rod laughed. ‘And as you can see, we don’t expect to have that motorcycle until next spring; but there’s plenty of work to keep us all busy until then.

Rando laughed. ‘Yeah, no shit!’ he replied. ‘So when do I fly to England to visit Williams?’ he asked, referring to his initial meetings to prepare for the chassis fabrication.

Well I think we have to have at least Rev 1 of the chassis design done before that meeting, so we’re looking at December some time.’ Rod replied. ‘First fabrication cycle will be in January.’ he added.

Pete looked up thoughtfully. ‘There’s not a lot of testing going on between early December and.. like… Memorial Day?’ he asked. ‘Sounds like a lot of dead time to me.’ he said.

Rod chuckled. ‘Trust me man. It doesn’t show up on this schedule yet; but it will. Once we have those preliminary models and have incorporated the initial instrumentation into the chassis and powerplant designs I’ll be pressing you to keep developing the models and sims using the superbike and as many riders as we can get. I’ve sent a note to Wallace to see if he can spring free for a few weeks here to add to the data pool, and I’m sure we can get some of the MT guys as well. I think you’ll agree that the more riders we have the better your models will be, right?

Pete smiled and finished his tea, nodding his response in the affirmative. ‘Any chance there’s a beer around here?’ he asked, standing up.

Yeah, I could use one too. Rando?’ Rod queried. Rando passed, and Rod and Pete headed inside to find the beer, returning with two bottles from the local micro-brewery. Rod had a quick taste and smiled. ‘Nice!´ he said. ‘Crisp and refreshing.

Pete concurred after his first sip, then downed several swallows before he spoke. ‘Yeah, like a combination of Heineken and Corona.’ he said. ‘Good summer beer.

Alright, alright. I’ll have one.’ Rando said, rising from his seat.

Kitchen fridge on the second shelf.’ Pete told him. ‘Bring a bucket of ice and three more.’ he added, turning to Rod. ‘Okay, so I have a bunch of intense code to work on like…. Right now!’ he said, smiling. ‘Gotta love it when I can bury myself in code.’ he added.

Rod nodded. ‘Actually, you’ll have a whole team to help you with the code.’ He said. ‘We’ll get together with the department heads and choose team members in the next few days.

Rando returned with the requested ice bucket containing three more beers plus the one for him to start with. He set things down and popped his first one open. ‘I overheard you telling Pete he’ll have a team for software. What should I expect for logistics?’ he asked, taking a long pull on the brew.

Oh man… I completely forgot about that dude!’ Rod replied with a straight face. Pete winked. Then both men laughed. ‘Just kidding man. You’ll have at least two more on your team, plus Miranda when you need her to light fires under people.’ Rod told him. That brought a smile back to Rando’s face.

Pete sat next to Rod, a serious look on his face. ‘So what do you think of that track?’ he asked. ‘Looks pretty tough from that walk we took.

Rod hadn’t been around the circuit at speed yet, only a few laps on a street bike; but he’d been coached by a couple of the factory’s test riders. ‘Yeah, it’s got it’s tricky spots for sure. I’ll probably get on the track for some serious learning next week.’ Rod said. ‘I need to learn it before we start testing your theories in a month or so.’ he added, smiling.

I’m sure we’ll be ready for that boss. I did some preliminary work on that over the past month, and as soon as we put my team together we’ll have some initial designs in a week.’ Pete responded.

I have to figure out how to do the procurement stuff from here; but this schedule looks workable.’ Rando chimed in, catching up with his beer. ‘So… we’re shooting for Daytona year after next?’ he asked.

Yep. First race with the new rules.’ Rod replied. ‘If we make it, it’ll be a major milestone, to be sure. Even though this preliminary schedule has plenty of rework built in, we need to be on top of everything, all the time.’ Rod added.

Like everything else then.´ Rando said, chuckling. ‘No worries boss. We’ll take care of it.’ he added, taking the last drink from his first beer.

The men shared new information and finished the second brew just as the clock made it to four straight up. ‘Time for a shower before guests arrive.’ Rod said, getting up from the table. Rando and Pete followed suit, and the three of them cleaned up in their separate quarters.

Six-thirty came around and one of the Benz luxury vans, a small bus really, rolled up the drive carrying Jan Kitterman, Carlo Selantini, and Sergio Menza and their wifes. Miranda was right behind in her SL. Denise and her charges had setup a reception bar and buffet in the garden, where Rod, Pete, and Rando waited for the arrival of the guests. ‘Remember guys, this is a meet and greet. A social gathering to get acquainted.‘ Rod told them as the gate swung open.

Miranda was first through the gate, dressed ‘business-social’ as would be expected. She introduced everyone around and suggested everyone grab a drink and a plate of the appetizers and find a seat. Once she was sure everyone was happy she found Rod and joined him. As his assistant she could justify remaining by his side as the evening progressed, and she knew he wouldn’t mind. The women who were there she knew pretty well, and they would be fine with it.

The evening went quickly, the meal was delicious as always, and everyone had a pleasant visit. Rod was glad when the crowd departed, Jan cautioning everyone that his ‘star’ needed to get his rest for the busy days ahead. Miranda, ever aware of the need to remain discrete, left with them.

With the guests out of their hair, Rod requested cognac for the three of them and pulled out a small humidor. ‘Jan left these for us to enjoy in peace.‘ he told them. ‘Call it a housewarming gift from the boss.‘ he added. The three of them enjoyed the rich flavors of the South American cigars and a snifter of the Monsignor’s finest blend before they headed to bed. The next week would be almost solid meetings as they fired up the modeling and design efforts, and they needed to be ready.

*** VR-1 Design – Project Kickoff ***

Jan Kitterman called the ‘kickoff’ meeting with his senior design staff, Rod, Pete and Rando to make sure that all questions were answered or on the table before resources were commited to the tasks. The VR-1 project was sufficiently different from anything they had worked on before, and the best way to get things off the ground quickly was for the concept team to launch the design effort. Rod agreed, and the time was alloted for a day-long session. Miranda had the materials and logistics handled, and met Rod at his office at seven-thirty.

Okay, Jan sent me his presentation for the day, basically just an agenda, and I have our notes from the other day. This sounds like it is basically a long Q&A session, am I right?‘ Miranda asked.

Yes, actually that’s the gist of it. Jan just wants to make sure his design leads are on the right track. We provided all the design schematics for them to start with, so it’s pretty straightforward in the beginning.‘ Rod replied, grateful that his assistant was so perceptive. ‘As long as the team leads are on the same page – and it’s the right page – we’ll be off and running with the design next week.‘ he added, putting his laptop in his meeting case. ‘Let’s do it!

Jan met them in the corridor outside the VR-1 conference room. ‘Are we ready?‘ he asked, knowing the answer.

Just waiting for the troops sir.‘ Miranda replied with a smile. ‘Coffee?‘ she offered, catching his nod as she walked to the credenza. The cafeteria cart had been there already, with an assortment of bagels and pastries plus the usual fresh fruit and two large canisters of coffee plus one of hot water. She chuckled to herself at that one, as she knew of nobody in the building who drank tea – at least not at the office. She prepared a cup for each of the men and one for herself, then put them on a small tray and carried back to where they were standing. ‘Your plasma, sirs.‘ she quipped.

Within a few minutes the design leads had arrived, followed by Rialta Pedderini, and Jan called the meeting to order.

Miranda brought up the agenda slide, to which there were several audible chuckles. ‘This meeting is really a Q&A to make certain that the design tasks are properly focused.‘ Jan began. ‘Because this design has so many new and dramatically different components I thought it best we stay very close throughout the process.

That is a very good idea I think.‘ Pedderini told them. ‘I for one have several questions about how we go about designing a motorbike to take advantage of – and make use of – the modeling and simulation tools.‘ he added, getting nods of agreement from the design leads.

I would like to stress one thing about today’s meeting.‘ Rod began. ‘We will have in depth discussions about the modeling projects separate from this meeting, over the next few days. I want us to remain clear that today we need to talk about the physical design of powerplant, chassis, and suspension components.‘ he clarified.

How do we keep them separate?‘ Julia Simonoli, the lead on the chassis design team asked.

Julia, the tools you will be using to design the physical elements of the chassis are nearly identical to those you have used in the past. I think you will agree with me there, yes?‘ Rod responded, waiting for her acknowledgement. ‘The primary difference is in the actual format of the data generated by those tools. The visualization aspect is identical to what you are accustomed to. For the early part of the design phase, that is all you need to worry about. As you learn about the modeling techniques and the simulation algorithms, you will also learn about how these new design tools enable you to encorporate the ‘hooks’ you want to put into the design to utilize the other – external – features.‘ he added.

I see, so this applies to the other major components – suspension and powerplant?‘ Pedderini suggested.

Exactly.‘ Pete answered. ‘What we need to end up with is a machine design that integrates everything good about what you have done before with some new technology that we will developing alongside your efforts.

So you see folks, this is truly new technology. All of our math and analysis suggests that it will work. It is our job to see that the end product – the VR-1 motorcycle – possesses the advantages we believe this technology will provide.‘ Rando spoke up.

The Q&A session went on for several hours, running through lunch and up to Pedderini’s hard stop at two pm. Miranda also had another appointment with the head of administration to learn some of the new tools the company would be installing, so Rod invited the design leads to join himself and his two mates upstairs for more discussion until they were all comfortable.

This part of the day focused on Pete’s tools, showing them how the models would integrate with the designs they produced, and for Julia, the capabilities of the Williams fabrication facility. All four of the designers were well and truly excited when five o’clock rolled around. They broke up with ideas flowing through their heads, eager to get back to work on this new machine.

*** DACS Model Development – Phase I ***

The six engineers from the MT SBK team had joined Pete, Rod, and Rando in the VR-1 conference room to discuss the first phase of the Model Development program for the new system. It wasn’t a trivial matter to come up with a mathematical representation of human response, and the DACS concept relied on this as a fundamental performance enhancement. Pete had formulated a process which used a fairly well known quantity – the MT Swallow superbike – as a baseline machine. Multiple riders would put in hundreds of hours of seat time at the Mosini circuit as dozens of sensors recorded the responses of both men and machines under a variety of circumstances. Then the engineers would deliberately ‘detune’ the bikes in ways which would evoke different human response – the sensors recording it all for Pete’s math machines to digest.

Pete knew that there was a good opportunity to screw up this part of the work, as – for the most part – this was not yet truly science. He had done as much research as he could reasonably do; but ‘real time’ modeling of human response at this level was not yet acknowledged as technically possible. They would begin with bikes which were setup to the liking of one very cognizant and savvy rider; but that didn’t make the setup perfect for the others. The tuning process to get the bikes setup individually would have to be done carefully.

With everyone seated at the table, Pete brought the meeting to order. ‘Okay guys, all I can really tell you at this point is that this is going to be a huge challenge for all of us. I have done what research is possible on the topic of RTHM, or Real Time Human Modeling; but there isn’t much out there yet. We’re on new ground here.’ He began, gauging each persons response individually by catching their eyes. He noted that Julia Simonoli, in particular, looked both enthused and confused. She had been on the design team for the Swallow, responsible for chassis tuning and stability enhancements, and had thousands of pages of notes she kept from post-test debriefing sessions with riders and crew chiefs. A lot of empirical data had been collected and utilized to improve the bike; but there was much human interpolation of the data before changes were made. She looked forward to moving that process toward automation.

First, I’d like to make some preliminary assignments for this team…’ he said, turning on the projector and revealing the first slide.

Chassis Modeling Team

Julia Simonoli – Team Lead Engineer

Chaz Gregorio – Fabrication Engineer

Randy Karlsen – Data Management

Rod left the slide up for a few moments, then spoke. ‘Julia, I am pleased to have you on this team. I’m very much aware of the value you brought to the Swallow team, and we all know about the success of that program. With the VR-1, you will be asked to apply the same principles; but at a much more rapid pace. You’ll work with Peter to automate the chassis dynamics within the models we will use on the bike for chassis tuning.” Rod began. “Also on the team will be Chaz Gregorio, who is best known for his fabrication skills on the MT MotoGP team. Randy Karlsen will be tasked with managing data – and will take this role on all of the teams as an interface with Peter Salzberg.” Rod pressed the remote and the next slide came up.

Powerplant Modeling Team

Max Ciardani – Team Lead Engineer

Jiorgio Guardo – EEMS Engineer

Jon Calmanieri – Dynomometer Engineer

Randy Karlsen – Data Management

Again he left the slide up for a few moments before speaking. “I am also pleased that Max Ciardani has accepted the role of lead engineer for the powerplant team. His experience with the MotoGP powerplant will give us a leg up on the VR-1. His right-hand man is also joining us, Jiorgio Guardo, as the Electronic Engine Management System engineer. These two gentlemen will interface through Rando and communicate the results of the dynamometer testing. One significant difference with the VR-1 program is that we will simulate dyno runs as well as running the real thing. Jon Calmanieri will be heading up that effort.” Rod told them.

Suspension Modeling Team

Riki Bartini – Team Lead Engineer

Angelina Bot – Damping Specialist

Randy Karlsen – Data Management

Rod smiled as he brought up the slide for the suspension team. ‘I know that many of you have looked on suspension as something of a black box, and with the VR-1 it will be brought closer to the front line in a big way. Modeling the performance of the suspension, simulating that performance and its affect on overall speed, and controlling the suspension elements in the way we plan to do it on the VR-1 is no small undertaking. We have recruited Rikik Bartini from the MotoGP team, and none other than Ms. Angelina Bot from Ohlins, to do this development for our bike. I am very happy to have both of these people on the team. He pressed the remote one more time.

Modeling Integration Team

Rod Ehrlmeir – Team Lead

Pete Salzberg – Simulation Engineer

Julia Simoni – Chassis Specialist

Max Ciardani – Powerplant Specialist

Riki Bartini – Suspension Specialist

Jan Kitterman – Program Chief

Last but certainly not least is the team who will integrate all of these complex models into a single system that defines the VR-1 motorcycle as a unit. The members of this team are the technical leads for each component with the addition of Signor Kitterman representing the executive staff.‘ Rod said, looking around the room. ‘That’s all I have to present, and I appreciate everyone’s time. Let’s open the session for questions.

The Q&A lasted another hour, with questions prompting further discussion. In most cases Rod postponed the discussions to the individual team sessions scheduled later in the week. The meeting was adjourned with Rod’s promise to publish the minutes for review.

*********************************

** Integration Team Kickoff Meeting **

Rod called the meeting to order, all members having arrived with minutes to spare. He appreciated that kind of respect, as always. ‘Thanks for being prompt everyone. I thought it best to call this team together before the others, as it is the team leads who will drive individual team results and there are several aspects to this project which are different from anything you’ve worked on before.’ he began, getting nods of acknowledgement around the table. ‘Very good, let’s get started.’

He brought up a slide which showed the’integrated model’ concepts, with the rider at the center of the diagram and the bike’s components interacting with the rider and with the other components. ‘This diagram should explain why this idea is so different and so complex. My contention is that a motorcycle which is easy to ride for all riders will be both quicker and less stressful on virtually everything. Powerplant, gearbox, chassis components, tires, and the riders themselves will have more performance margin at a given pace. That is the fundamental concept of the DACS system.‘ Rod began.

‘It sounds simple on the surface, yet really complicated from an implimentation standpoint.‘ Jan suggested.

Rod nodded. ‘Exactly correct Jan. It is a simple idea to understand on the surface, to be sure. I think everybody in the room will agree with that.‘ he looked around and smiled at the unanimous nods. ‘And yes, it is vastly complex from the standpoint of actually making it all work together.‘ he continued. ‘Pete?‘ he turned the meeting over to his data junkie.

Really it’s just a matter of measuring everything that is relevant to the work a given element is expected to do.‘ Pete began. ‘The engine is expected to produce power with particular characteristics, and in order to do that it needs fuel and spark. But controlling those two basic power components will dramatically alter the characteristics of the power that engine produces.‘ he continued. ‘The suspension components have just one job – to keep the tires firmly planted on the pavement to give the rider the best control over the machine. But doing that job involves at least a dozen different variables which can be controlled. We need to first measure what those variables do for vehicle performance, then apply that knowledge to providing improved control.’

Okay, so where does the chassis come into the picture?‘ Julia asked.

Ah… this is perhaps the most dramatic departure from the conventional aspects of motorcycle dynamics.‘ Pete began, bringing up one of the slides from Rod’s ‘pitch’ presentation which showed the stress models he had done. ‘One of the keys to making a bike easy to ride is reducing – or eliminating – the tendencies all motorcycles have of ‘winding up’. This windup is what results in wiggles, wobbles, weaves, and in the worst cases, violent crashes. A good rider knows how to control the bike, perhaps avoiding a particular bump, or reducing his speed at a specific location, but the net of any of these avoidance tactics is a loss of speed and a lower degree of confidence in the bike.‘ Pete told them. ‘So what we strive to achieve is a set of models that will enable us to design a chassis which can be tuned – for each track – to remove the instabilities caused by the characteristics of that track. We tune it by changing the relative stiffness in specific areas of the monocoque, thereby changing the resonant frequency of the chassis for the track without reducing its stability.

All Julia could say was ‘Wow.

Rod and Pete went on to describe the importance of the interactions between the motorcycle components, and therefore the need for a very close integration of the models they would develop. The meeting went on for two hours, with the last forty minutes for a Q&A session. Rod adjourned the meeting, telling everyone that they needed to be comfortable bringing any and ALL questions they had to himself or Pete, as soon as they came up.

Next up was the Chassis Modeling team, another meeting that would consume several hours. Because the chassis was so unconventional, the modeling and design concepts would take a great deal of discussion. Rod had confidence in both Julia and Chaz; but neither had worked on anything as dramatically different as the VR-1.

Miranda had lunch brought up to the conference room for the three men, and joined them to take some notes about the morning’s session as well as the schedule for the remainder of the day. She was her usual efficient self, making an audio recording of their conversation as they consumed the light lunch of chicken salad and pita bread. She would transcribe the ‘voice notes’ in the afternoon and send it to the men for comments. She knew Rod had alloted only a half-day on Thursday to prepare for the senior staff briefing which would be held on Friday morning, and she must make sure he had all the information he needed ahead of time.

** Chassis Team Kickoff Meeting **

Chaz Gregorio arrived ten minutes before the scheduled meeting time, finding Rod and Pete in the conference room making final preparations. ‘afternoon Signors’ he greeted them. ‘know that I am early, and hope you will excuse the intrusion.’

‘No worries Chaz. Always make time for team leaders.’ Rod replied.

‘I’ve read through the design proposal several times, and believe I understand the principles fairly well.’ Chaz began. ‘I am struggling with the idea of making changes to the carbon matrix to alter the resonant frequency of the chassis. What am I missing?’ he asked.

‘Don’t know without some additional information; but I suspect it’s the more global parameters that connect the steering head and swingarm pivot.’ Rod replied. ‘we’ll go into some depth during the meeting. I have no doubt that you’ll have a much firmer grip on these fundamentals before the end of the day, and if not then we’ll spend more time this evening.’ Rod responded.

Julia Simonoli had joined them, listening in on the discussion. ‘No problems Chaz. I struggled with that same thing at first; but thanks to Peter’s excellent analysis I understand it now.’ she said. ‘key is a full comprehension of three basic formulae used in the calculations for chassis stiffness. It’s all there.’ she added.

‘Right on, Julia!’ Pete said. ‘you have it exactly right. Those three mathematical representations are all you need to understand; but they are pretty complex if you’re looking at them from the fabrication perspective.’ he added.

‘I hate to interrupt such an engaging discussion; but let’s convene the meeting shall we?’ Rod suggested. Rando joined them and the five team members found a seat, ready to dig in. ‘we can alter our discussion a bit once we get into it; but for the sake of remaining on track we’ll begin at the beginning’ he told them, bringing up the appropriate slide.

‘Before we launch back into that discussion I wanted to give you an overview of this process as I see it. I am always open to suggestions on ways to improve how we approach things; but we will always keep the end point in mind.’ Rod told them. ‘this is the flow as I see it today.’ he continued, moving to the next slide.

The meeting, as expected, was a long one. Just before five pm Rod adjourned the meeting; but not until he was sure that Julia, Chaz, and Pete were on the same page with regard to the chassis modeling and other design fundamentals. Without those fundamentals the project would not succeed. He thanked them for their time as Miranda arrived for the end-of-day wrap up.

The evening was quiet for a change, with the boys relaxing together around a warm fire at the villa. The design process was underway, so the pressure was on the three of them to ensure the program remained on the fast track. Rod retired to his suite ahead of the other two, bringing up the notes that Miranda had sent as well as the meeting plans for the Powerplant and Suspension teams. He was hoping to wrap both of them up early in the day tomorrow; but was leaving sufficient flex in his schedule to utilize the entire day if needed.

** Powerplant Team Kickoff Meeting **

Rod had elected to have the Powerplant kickoff next, and called the team of three engineers for a breakfast meeting on Wednesday. Miranda arranged for the buffet, with scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, and sausage as well as the usual fruit, yogurt and pastries available. The team consisting of Max Ciardini, Jiorgio Guardo, and Jon Calmanieri arrived ten minutes early, and were at the table enjoying their food and conversation with Rando and Pete when Rod walked in.

Good morning guys. Thanks for being prompt. We have a fair amount of material to cover, so I’ll give you an overview while you enjoy your breakfast.‘ Rod said, bringing up the overview slide. ‘I know you’ve all been through engine development before; so I’ll just cover the elements of the VR-1 which may be different than what you’ve seen, or perhaps unconventional compared to other projects.‘ he added, stopping to take a sip of his coffee.

I think the VR-1 powerplant is fairly straightforward in its basic characteristics. Narrow angle vee, five valves per, and we’re going with pneumatic valve actuation as has been used in F1 for many years to enable very high RPM without the constraints of mechanical actuation.‘ he began. ‘The only elements I would like Max to focus on are the strength of the crankcase and transmission housings as they are integral to the strength of the chassis.‘ he explained, making eye contact with Max Ciardani. ‘For the modeling process we will need to have data on the strength characteristics including torsional stress deflections.

The real keys to the tuning capabilities we have planned for the DACS models are the electronics components, with the dynomometer being our baseline measurement tool.‘ Rod said. ‘Jiorgio, I believe the MotoGP machine has a four-channel capability in the core, is that correct?‘ he asked.

That’s correct, although in its current form we are only using three of the channels.‘ Jiorgio replied.

Our plan for the VR-1 is six channels, with all of them in use – at least for testing.‘ Rod told him. ‘The ECU and TCU (traction control) are a fully integrated, closed-loop system on the VR-1.‘ he added. ‘And the primary reason for that is the ability it gives us to simulate the performance based on parameters we have control over.‘ He could see the lights beginning to illuminate.

The dynomometer has always been the tool the engine guys use to evaluate their work, and that will remain the case with the VR-1, but…‘ Rod paused. ‘in our case we will again have a closed-loop system, so there will be some development work with the equipment as well as the work being done on the engine itself. That same work will include the transmission as well, and again the key advantage will be accurate performance simulation.’ he told them, glancing around for questions. When there were none he moved on to the next slide.

The meeting then keyed on the elements within each of the three model sources, and how those elements would integrate with the chassis and suspension models to yield a complete machine model. By the end of the session the three engineers had plenty to go away and digest, and Rod put his presentation away to allow for their questions. It was clear they grasped the importance, if not the details, of the work they would be doing. That was his objective with these kickoff meetings, and Rod was satisfied with the results. As always, Miranda stopped in to take a summary for the staff’s daily post, then insisted Rod join her for lunch in the DC cafeteria.

** Suspension Team Kickoff Meeting **

After their lunch, Miranda accompanied Rod back to the conference room to ensure that the maintenance staff had attended to the room and freshened the water and coffee supplies before returning to her office. ‘Boss, I’ll see you before the end of the day, right?’ she asked. Rod nodded in the affirmative and gave her a wink.

Riki and Angelina arrived together and right on time, already engaged in a discussion about the suspension models. ‘I’m pretty sure that you can’t really model a shock absorber in a way that allows you to do predictive dynamic simulations. I’ve never seen it done.’ Riki was saying.

Angelina responded quickly ‘You’ve never seen it done before now Riki. We were actually beginning a project at Ohlins to do exactly that when I left. We may not even be the first to do it; but it’s our job to make sure we’re the best.’ she told him, garnering a big smile from Rod.

‘I knew there was a good reason to hire you for this project, Angie.’ Rod said, giving her a high-five. He looked at Riki to get a feel for his state of mind before speaking. ‘You’re here because I wanted you here Riki. The work you’ve done on the MT GP bike is excellent and we’ll make use of every bit of that expertise on the VR-1. But the guts of the damping systems is Angie’s responsibility and her expertise. I’ve worked with her many times over the past five years while she’s learned the ropes at Ohlins, and she really knows her stuff.’ Rod told them. Then he took his place at the table and flipped on the projector as Pete and Rando joined them.

The overview slide appeared, and much as in the previous sessions the slide showed the key elements of the suspension models and how they interacted with the other components on the bike. ‘What will be new to both of you is the same thing that’s new for everyone else, and that is the closed-loop nature of these models. What we need to do is to create models which allow us to run dynamic performance simulations that accurately predict performance on the track.’ Rod began. ‘remember, the primary goal of this effort is to make the bike easier to ride for every rider, and to have it that way at the beginning of the first session at every track we go to.’ he went on.

Angelina spoke up first.‘What we were doing at Ohlins was a bit different, in that we weren’t trying to come up with models that would interact with the other systems; but rather models that were specific to a damper we manufactured – and beyond that to a set of dampers including the steering damper. But the bike and tires were assumed to be ideal.’ she explained.

‘Right, and we’re taking those other elements into account with the VR-1’ Pete commented.

‘Now keep in mind that these models will be a work in progress indefinitely, and in fact the first iteration of the bike and all of the components will not have all of the control elements in place.’ Rod told them. ‘We will be measuring a lot of things, and closing the loop through the simulations; but the many of the controls will be manually effected changes, much as they are on conventional machines. We hope to have some of the software-driven controls in place by the first race; but if it doesn’t happen it isn’t a disaster. We’ll have the models and simulations, and can make changes quickly enough.’ he added.

They went on to discuss the measurement and control concepts for the suspension systems, and the theory behind the models they would be developing. Both Angie and Riki were engaged, and both had productive inputs and insightful questions. Rod was pleased with the progress, and adjourned the meeting with the usual commitment to distribute the minutes and his review by the next day. Then he and his two key assistants went for a walk around the grounds to clear their heads and refresh their bodies. When they went back inside, Pete and Rando headed up to the mezanine while Rod stopped in for a visit with Miranda to go over the summaries and prepare a schedule outline for the next set of meetings with the design teams. For the next two weeks he would get precious little seat time; but it was necessary to get all of the technical programs launched and making measurable progress.

‘… can you join me for an early dinner – my place?’ Miranda asked with a smile.

‘Uh… sure, I guess we can do that.’ Rod replied, feeling a little bit awkward.

‘Nothing special really, and it isn’t a date – at least I don’t think of it that way.’ Miranda told him.

‘Damn… I mean… okay.’ Rod laughed. ‘if you say so lady.’ he added. ‘Can I follow you?’ he asked.

‘Of course.’ she replied.

‘I’ll run up and let the guys know they’re on their own this evening.’ Rod told her, standing up. ‘I think it’s probably better if I tell them in person.’ he added.

‘You mean better than if I called them and told them?’ Miranda laughed.

‘Yeah, better than that.’ he agreed, sharing the laugh. He walked briskly up the stairs, popping his head into Pete’s office where he and Rando poured over the latest simulation results. ‘I am going to join Miranda for dinner at her place. Won’t be late. I’m sure Denise can throw something together for you.’ he told them.

‘Oh sure, you go on a date with that hot babe and we on our own. Nice.’ Pete laughed.

‘Uh… yeah… ciao, chumps.’ Rod chuckled, heading to his office to grab his gear and shutdown his workstation. Five minutes later he was on his bike and following the SL out the main gate. It was a pleasant fifteen minute ride to the small cottage on a spacious acre that his assistant called home. He pulled in behind her car, shutting down the engine and seamlessly setting the bike on it’s sidestand as he pulled off his helmet and gloves.

‘Home sweet home!’ Miranda said, waving her arm in a sweeping motion. ‘not as fancy as your villa in the vineyards; but it’s mine.’ she smiled and winked. ‘Come on in boss.’ she added, walking up the short steps onto the porch before unlocking the front door and calling ‘Momma’s home Captain!’

‘Captain?’ Rod queried.

‘Yeah, that’s my cat. Captain Jean Luc Picard actually.’ she replied, looking around the place. ‘He’s a little shy with new visitors. He’ll be around later, no worries.’ she told him. ‘Make yourself comfortable Rod. Care for a beer?’ she asked.

‘Absolutely!’ Rod answered, taking a seat on the only single-cushion chair in the room, watching her walk into the kitchen. Okay, so she is a hot babe, Pete is right he thought.

Miranda returned with two bottles of one of the local brews, one he had not tried yet. ‘Miraje Ale’ she told him, handing him a bottle. ‘I’m gonna go change into my house comfies, be right back.’ she told him.

By the time Miranda returned, the Captain had found Rod and made himself comfortable on Rod’s lap, purring gently as Rod stroked his back and belly. She giggled.‘Told you.’ she said. ‘he seems to like you, that’s a good sign.’

‘Yes he does, and the feeling is mutual.’ Rod replied. ‘He’s a sweet man.’ Rod was admiring her ‘home comfies’, that being an outfit consisting of form-fitting jeans and an equally snug sweatshirt. He didn’t realize he was staring as he absent-mindedly stroked the cat.

‘<ahem> excuse me sir. Should I go put something else on?’ Miranda laughed; but made no move to change. ‘that’s sweet Rod, I’m glad you approve of my comfie clothes.’ she told him. When he didn’t say anything, she added ‘you do approve, don’t you sir?’

‘Sorry Miranda, it’s just… I mean… yes of course I approve.’ he stammered, unusually disturbed by the interaction. He held up the bottle to change the subject ‘good brew.’ he said.

‘I’m glad you like it. What say we go in the kitchen and you can watch me throw us something together for dinner.’ she suggested, standing up.

Fortunately the Captain responded to Miranda’s move, hopping down to follow his mistress wherever she might be headed, allowing Rod to do the same. They both followed her into the kitchen, the Captain making it clear he wanted to be fed before she moved on to other tasks. Miranda prepared the cat’s meal with all the care and detail he expected to see her use for their dinner, cutting up pieces of chicken, combining them with cat food, then heating it in the microwave. His purr was loud enough to hear across the room as she set it down on his personalized mat and began to eat.

Rod chuckled as he watched the spectacle; but understood completely. ‘He’s really a great cat Miranda.‘ he told her. ‘Any time you need a sitter you can count on me.

Well thank you sir; but I don’t often take vacations, and he usually goes with me when I do.‘ Miranda replied. ‘I do appreciate the offer though Rod, and it looked like the Captain would be fine with it too.

Rod watched her as she moved efficiently around the small kitchen, unable to take his eyes off of her lithe form. Miranda was chopping vegetables and meat, tossing them into a pan with seasonings, adding a sauce of some kind, and boiling the water for pasta. Thirty minutes later they sat at her small dining table, faced with a delicious entree, garlic bread, and a bottle of the Monsignor’s famous table red.

So… I guess what we are doing now is a bit of everything, right?‘ Miranda suggested between bites and sips.

I guess that’s one way of putting it, yes.‘ Rod chuckled. ‘The preliminary design work on both the powerplant and chassis is underway, and Peter has already submitted his phase one designs for the instrumentation we’ll use on the Swallow test platforms. Once those have been installed, which we are planning for about two weeks from now, I’ll ride as many laps as I can at Mosini to gather data, and we will install the instrumentation on ten other bikes. We have three phases of instrument development planned, with the final testing and analysis producing the first phase of instrumentation for the VR-1 test mules.‘ he explained.

And the plan is to have those bikes…‘ Miranda lead his answer.

In late May next year.‘ Rod completed the sentence.

That sounds like an incredibly tight schedule.‘ Miranda said. ‘What’s your confidence level in that time frame?‘ she asked.

Oh I’m pretty confident we can do it, based on the progress to date compared with our detail schedule. Peter is a week or so ahead on the models, which are in the critical path. The design teams are right on the targets so far, and Jan has committed to maintaining that compliance. I know it’s not going to be easy; but we have one heck of a team here lady.‘ Rod responded, trying to fit bites and sips between sentences.

It’s good to hear your confidence is high. I know the senior staff is watching carefully, because this is the most important project the company has pursued in quite a long time.‘ Miranda told him.

I know, and it shows in the level of commitment I have from the management team. It’s clear we have the support of the executives, and everyone is working at a hundred-fifty percent to make it happen.‘ Rod said.

They finished the meal amongst small talk and some very reserved flirting, until Rod finally suggested he needed to get back to go over the following days’ meeting plans with Rando and Pete. He thanked Miranda for the meal and the company, gave the Captain a friendly scruffle, and donned his gear for the ride back to the villa. ‘Thanks for coming Rod. It was an informative and very pleasant evening sir.‘ Miranda said, watching him depart with a wave.

Rod walked through the garden, surprised that nobody was out there on such a nice evening. When he walked into the commons he realized why – Pete and Rando had a laptop and projector, and were going through the test presentation. ‘Evening gents, just gonna go drop off my gear and I’ll be right back.‘ he told them, receiving nods and grunts in response. The three men spent another ninety minutes refining the presentation, updating the progress, and preparing themselves for the session that would take place the following day. By eleven pm they were all in their beds, Rod having e-mailed the updated presentation to Miranda to prepare for the meeting.

******************************************

The guys rose almost simultaneously, taking their showers and preparing themselves for a busy day. Arriving in the kitchen within moments of each other, Denise was ready with their coffee and had breakfast on the way. The morning was a bit chilly, and they gathered around the massive dining table to discuss the plan for the meeting as they sipped the rich java.

So today’s meeting is the big guys, huh?‘ Pete asked, never all that confident when meeting with the executive level.

Well yes and no.‘ Rod replied. ‘Jan will be there of course, and Rialta Pedderini, Carlo, and the three team leaders.‘ he added, referring to Julia Simonoli, Max Ciardani, and Riki Bartini. ‘The idea is to make sure everyone understands the testing process, how we plan to approach it, and what we’ll need from each of the attendees.

So… we’re telling them what we need?‘ Rando asked.

Yes, that’s it exactly.‘ Rod responded, taking a long swallow of coffee as Denise set the large tray of morning consumables on the table.

The three men finished their food and coffee, then grabbed their gear and headed to the office, taking the car as it had begun to rain.

They arrived to find Miranda already hard at work, printing and binding the presentation copies for their meeting and making the final arrangements for the conference room. Rod popped his head inside her door. ‘Good morning Ms. Chiou!’ he said cheerfully.

Morning boss. I trust you slept well?‘ she replied, looking up to give him a smile.

Yep. Slept fine, thank you for asking. So are we ready?‘ Rod queried.

Just about. I’ll have coffee and water in the room, anything else we need other than the meeting materials?‘ she asked.

I think that should do it. Thanks lady.‘ he replied. ‘You going to be there to keep the minutes?‘ he asked.

I was planning on it. Monsignor will want his reports by the end of the day, so we’ll need an hour or so later in the afternoon if that works for you.‘ Miranda said.

Should be fine. See you at nine.‘ Rod said, chuckling at the rhyme. He headed up to his office, even though the meeting would be in the VR-1 conference room on the main floor. He needed to double-check that the updated presentation was available to the projector on the network, check his e-mail, and gather some notebooks for reference. Being prepared was the only way he knew to hold efficient meetings.

Rod had replied to a couple of e-mails, confirmed that Miranda had copied the presentation to the network, and was about to gather the reference books when Rando knocked. ‘Got a message from Jack Voight at Williams.‘ he said.

Oh?‘ Rod replied.

They’re looking forward to the project. He asked if he could stop by next week to talk about it. He’s going to be at Ferrari anyway, and they’re a nice train ride from here.‘ Rando added.

Sure, just let me know when. I’d like a chance to discuss it with him as well.‘ Rod said, putting the last notebook in his case.

Rod, Rando and Pete were in the conference room when Miranda arrived with the presentation, distributing them at each position around the table. She efficiently checked out the projector, loading up the presentation before confirming that it operated correctly. Then she sat at her place on the room’s periphery, ready to record and take notes.

Jan Kitterman was next to arrive, bidding all a good morning before pouring his first cup of coffee and grabbing one of the pastries Miranda had ordered. The others arrived within a few minutes, and they had a quorum with five minutes to spare. Rod gave them all a chance to grab refreshments before calling the meeting to order.

This will be a full session, so I’m going to get right to it if there are no questions or comments to begin with.‘ Rod said, glancing around the table. There were none, so he pressed the remote to bring up the first slide, which was essentially a copy of the schedule.

VR-1 Test and DACS Model Development Elements

This is an excerpt from the Master Schedule, showing the development of the models and test components for the VR-1‘ Rod began. ‘As you know, we’ve already begun the development and procurement for the first phase instrumentation we will be installing on the Swallow test platforms. We plan to be begin collecting on-track data next week, and to have the first phase models within three weeks.‘ he continued, glancing over to see if Pete caught that little ‘acceleration’. He had, nodding his acknowledgement.

It looks like you have plenty of slack in this schedule, am I reading it correctly?‘ Rialta asked.

Yes, you’re reading it correctly. The reason there is so much slack shown is that this is the very first time anyone has ever tried to accomplish this kind of closed-loop system. We really don’t know how long it will take – but we do know when we MUST have the first models ready to begin testing the VR-1 prototype. Once we have begun testing, going through the iterations of collect, analyze, simulate, and revise we will no doubt have a better handle on the actuals here, and a better schedule.‘ Rod replied.

Pete spoke up to clarify ‘I am the one who came up with those schedules, and I am shooting for the dates shown. If we make them, it just gives us more time to refine the models further, to design and procure improved instruments for the real bike. If two or three of those tasks take longer than I would like, we will still have the instruments and models ready for that first prototype.

Rando added ‘That’s right, and some of this instrumentation has never been built to be fitted to a motorbike before, so we may have two or three trials before we have exactly what we want.

Right, and rather than just building arbitrary do-overs in the schedule, we just allowed sufficient time for them.‘ Rod said. ‘Okay, now that you’ve seen the schedule, let’s talk about the phases of testing and what we will accomplish in each phase. He continued. He brought up the next slide, titled ‘Phase 1 Test Objectives’.

Phase 1 DACS Instrumentation Test Objectives

Evaluate performance of the instruments:

  • ECU throttle position and motion vs. time
  • Suspension position and motion vs. time
  • Steering head stress vs. time
  • Swingarm pivot stress vs. time

Create base models for machine performance

  • ECU throttle position and motion vs. time
  • Suspension position and motion vs. time
  • Steering head stress vs. time
  • Swingarm pivot stress vs. time
  • Integrated machine model

Create base simulations for machine performance (all nodes)

Evaluate accuracy of base simulations

Rod gave everyone enough time to absorb the content of the slide before continuing. ‘Now, as you can see here, we will be attempting to accomplish this set of objectives within a period of roughly five weeks. This period began about two weeks ago, and we are on track at this point to achieve all objectives.

Pete took his queue. ‘Yes, and I’m pleased to report that we have so far completed the first two primary objectives for all nodes, and I am in the process of creating the simulations. We will return to the track next week to perform the evaluation step, and we have sufficient time to tune those simulations – a step I expect to be necessary.‘ he told them.

The second round of tests will involve at least two different machines equipped with a second generation of sensors, should our analysis show we need to make modifications. This second round will be roughly two weeks, with at least ten hours of on-track measurement on each bike.‘ Rod continued. ‘Then we move on to the much more comprehensive third phase, involving as many different riders as we can round up, and at least four different bikes.‘ he added, looking around the table for signs of any questions.

The meeting continued, going into technical details of the different sensors and their purpose. Three hours of presentation, including the technical specifications of each sensor, were followed by lunch brought in from the cafeteria, and another two hours of Q&A. At the end of the session, every attendee was comfortable with both the plan and the progress reported, and Rod thanked them for their time.

After everyone departed the conference room, Rod looked at Miranda. ‘See you at three-thirty?‘ he suggested.

Okay boss, see you then.‘ she replied, closing her notebook with its twelve pages of hand-written notes and heading back to her office with her recorder in hand. She would transcribe the recording using an application on one of her computers, and have printed copies with her notes inserted ready when Rod arrived.

Rod walked back upstairs, feeling good about the way the week’s meetings had gone. The team leaders had a solid grasp of where they needed to go with their individual pieces of the complicated puzzle that was the VR-1. The senior staff also seemed to understand what he and the team would need from them. Now all he had to do was keep everyone on the same page. Thank God he had Miranda.

For nearly an hour Rod responded to voicemail and e-mail messages, most of them from peoplel involved in the project who had not been present in any of the meetings. One of the e-mails was from Julia Simonoli, a message she’d sent during the meeting earlier in the day. She thought she had a good idea for the chassis sensors, and she wanted a few minutes with he and Peter to discuss it. He replied with a quick message that he would get with Pete and let her know when they could set aside an hour with her, then tapped his desk phone to call Pete.

Yo boss.‘ Pete’s answer came.

Julia said she has a great idea for the chassis sensors, and would like some of our time to go over it. Is your online schedule up to date?‘ Rod asked, knowing Pete’s habits.

um… yeah, and if it isn’t I’ll deal with the conflict. Probably any time early or late tomorrow. Hell even over the weekend if that’s cool with you.‘ Pete responded.

Tomorrow won’t work, I’ve got sessions with the big boys tomorrow pretty much all day. I’ll see if she’d like to join us for lunch on Saturday, get Miranda to join us to take notes. I have a feeling she’s on to something we can use.‘ Rod replied. ‘Thanks man.

Rod tapped the phone to dial Julia’s office, getting her voice mail, and left her a quick message with their suggestion. He went about his administrative tasks to get ready for the meeting with Miranda, and got Julia’s enthusiastic reply before he grabbed his laptop and a notebook and headed down.

Hey lady, you ready?‘ Rod asked, sticking his head in Miranda’s office.

I’m always ready boss, you know that.‘ Miranda laughed.

Hey, before I forget, are you available for lunch on Saturday?‘ he asked.

Yeah sure, something going on I should be prepared for?‘ she responded.

Julia Simonoli is coming over to discuss an idea she had with Pete and I, and I wanted to capture the meeting.‘ Rod told her.

Okay, sure. I’ll be there.‘ Miranda said. ‘But let’s get you ready for tomorrow.‘ she added. ‘Here are the transcribed notes from today, and I have some comments as well.

They spent almost two hours going through the document, adding some notes which Miranda captured real-time as they talked. She would have the final version ready for Rod’s review by the time he got back to the villa, and he could add that to the presentation for the senior staff meeting.

After the long day he thanked Miranda for her help and went up to grab Pete and Rando for the car ride home. It had stopped raining after showering on and off all day. He was pleased they hadn’t planned track time for the day, although they would need to get in some wet sessions before too long. The three wrapped things up and headed back for a relaxing evening, with only a few small details for any of them to work on.

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