MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Why Ducati’s GP20 is the opposite of a smart phone
How Ducati’s free-thinking engineers have substituted MotoGP’s lower-tech spec electronics with an array of mechanical gadgets. Also, why holeshot devices should eventually be banned
A smart phone is a small box of electronics that replaces any number of physical and mechanical gadgets. It takes the place of a camera, a videorecorder, an alarm clock, a typewriter, a compass, a tape recorder, a radio and so on. The best smart phones are so clever that you’d need the back seat of your car to carry around all the bits and pieces they’ve made obsolete.
Ducati’s Desmosedici GP20 works very cleverly in the opposite direction. The machine features a number of mechanical gadgets that take the place of the little black boxes of tailormade electronics that Dorna regulated into history at the end of the 2015 MotoGP season.
The spec Magneti Marelli ECU, introduced in 2016, features lower-tech anti-wheelie, launch-control, engine-braking and traction-control programs, which made MotoGP bikes much more of a handful.
Ducati’s Gigi Dall’Igna was the engineer who realised that the best way to allow his riders to regain some of their 2015 speed was to think backwards, not forwards.
Since 2016 Dall’Igna’s MotoGP development programme has involved plenty of reverse engineering, by helping the lower-tech Dorna software via various mechanical gadgets. It’s back-to-the-future thinking.
First came anti-wheelie aerodynamics, designed to do the job of the anti-wheelie program. Anti-wheelie works via sensors: when the front forks top out and front-wheel speed slows (because the wheel is in the air) the program reduces torque delivery to the rear wheel.
But the Dorna software is so basic that it reduces torque too aggressively, so riders are better off using their own throttle-control abilities to control wheelies. Downforce aero helps by offering consistent assistance in keeping the front wheel down.
Next came the holeshot device, used by Ducati since the last few races of 2018. This contraption lowers the bike by pumping down the rear suspension to reduce wheelies when riders accelerate away from the grid. The holeshot-device assists the Dorna launch-control program – which is basically a start-only version of the anti-wheelie program. Once again, electronics have been replaced by the combination of a mechanical gadget and rider skill.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.