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MotoGP, A freeze on engines and aerodynamics does not slow Ducati’s development

Anyone who thinks that the recent 'Covid-19' rules will stop the evolution of MotoGP bikes in 2021 is wrong. All the manufacturers are hard at work on the details and, as always, Ducati is leading the way

MotoGP: A freeze on engines and aerodynamics does not slow Ducati’s development


One not secondary effect to the Covid-19 disease, in addition to the fact that we have not yet seen a MotoGP Grand Prix, is the freeze on engine and aerodynamic development until the end of 2021.

The reason behind this intervention, of course, was to contain costs, but this clearly does not mean that the manufacturers will not continue to improve their prototypes. Instead, they will try to intervene in other details within the paragraphs of the regulation.

One example has already been provided by Ducati, which initially developed its 'holeshot' device to improve starts, and then realized that with a few other small changes it could also improve acceleration when exiting corners.

Today Ducati is ahead in this field, but Yamaha is also studying it and so are the others. As always, those who start something or discover a positive effect get a head start, and in fact in Borgo Panigale they have not stopped there. As the ex-rider and designer of the 70s world championship Eric Offenstadt pointed out in a recent interesting post on Facebook, changing the ride height of a motorcycle also has other effects.

"As is well-known, Ducati uses a device that allows the depressurization of the rear suspension; by lowering it, it is said to improve acceleration, even when starting from a standstill. It may seem like a contradiction since engineers have always been committed to perfecting the electronics to improve performance when cornering, by preventing the shock from sinking.

The Ducati holeshot works like an airplane trimmer

Actually, not really, because even if the electronics limit the sinking of the shock when exiting from the lean, you have to allow the rear wheel to be flattened on the ground.

The rider then presses the lever later, once almost out of the corner, when he accelerates.


With or without? Here is the effect of the device: on the left the suspension is flattened, on the right it is not






When exiting a curve, therefore, this device almost has the effect that the trimmer has on the ailerons of an airplane: it physically reduces the wheelie, so that it is not necessary to activate the anti-wheeling system managed by the control unit. And that's where it's helpful, because when you activate this it reduces the torque available to the rear wheel, which hinders acceleration.

Suspensions and trim adjustments with electronic assistance were prohibited in 2010 by the MotoGP regulations. For this reason, the Ducati mechanism is wired and hydraulically operated through an auxiliary unit that works in parallel with the shock absorber. When the rider presses the switch, the auxiliary unit compresses the shock absorber.

Mobile aerodynamic devices are prohibited in MotoGP, but nothing prevents you from adjusting the height of the bike

This is the main function, but there could also be another one, which Ducati must have "forgotten" to tell us, which could be even more important than the use that the factory claims for its device.


Rider-designer Eric Offenstadt on his BUT prototype in the mid-70s

Mobile aerodynamic devices - which increase downforce when cornering and reduce it on straights - are prohibited in MotoGP. But there is no rule against adjusting the height of the entire bike and therefore lowering the bike by a few millimetres and changing the aerodynamic angle (the so-called 'attack angle') by a few degrees to increase the top speed.

Could this explain the impressive top speed of Ducati, which went from 351.6 km/h at the Qatar GP last year to 355.2 km/h in the pre-season tests?

Ducati's ingenuity and willingness to decipher the MotoGP regulation in such an intelligent way is impressive, but will there be protests if rival manufacturers decide that aerodynamic adjustment actually plays the key role?"

In a nutshell: there is no doubt that Ducati's mechanical device improves acceleration when exiting corners according to the principles outlined above but changing the height of the bike also improves aerodynamics. Read here the interesting technical article already covered by our engineer Stefano Aglianò.

In the end, the discussion is the one that has already been made about the notorious 'spoon': does it just cool the tyre or increase, even if only slightly, the load on the rear wheel?

As always, the answer is a matter of little or no importance...



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