Motor sport

MotoGP’s Looming Battles – Motor Sport Magazine

So far this year there has not been a single last lap overtake for victory, although four races have been won in less than a second (Losail: 0.3 seconds, Termas: 0.8 second, Jerez: 0.3 seconds, Mugello: 0.6 seconds and Assen: 0.4 seconds). It tells the story of MotoGP as it stands – you can get close to the rider in front of you but it’s almost impossible to overtake unless you’re considerably faster.

If Dorna executives want the money to keep flowing, they need to do something about this situation, because the fans want battles, not processions.

And they are aware of the dangers of less than thrilling races.

“It is a concern for us and sooner or later we will make a proposal to the manufacturers”, explains Corrado Cecchinelli, Dorna’s Chief Technology Officer. “The aerodynamics of the bike is not our concern, but having a lot of people happy to watch the race and happy with the show is our concern.

Many riders, engineers and factories believe that MotoGP could help solve the problem by banning shapeshifters (also known as ride height devices) and at least reducing the amount of downforce aerodynamics.

Right now, it seems only Aprilia and Ducati are keen on keeping the aero where it is. No surprise as the two Italian factories have created by far the best aerodynamic systems on the grill. As for the shapeshifters, everyone besides Ducati would rather they disappeared.

The five factories Dorna will discuss possible rule changes with: Alberto Puig (Honda), Francesco Guidotti (KTM), Paolo Bonora (Aprilia), Massimo Meregalli (Yamaha) and Paolo Ciabatti (Ducati)

MotoGP

Again, no surprise here, as both of these technologies were pioneered by Ducati, who can only be praised for their innovations. A race engineer’s job is to make the bike faster on the track, as simple as that. And Ducati has done it with incredible creativity and clever engineering, transforming its Desmosedici into a super-handling bike that has won the last two constructors’ championships.

Factory rider Jack Miller summed it up well last month at Sachsenring.

“This year’s bike works really well, especially in the first sector,” said the Australian, who finished the German Grand Prix in third place. “I remember a few years ago I rolled the Ducati down the hill towards turn 3 and it was like trying to turn a London bus. Now it feels more like a Mini Cooper, so it’s good.

Shifter malfunctions have become the most common cause of Technical DNFs

So, would it be fair for Dorna to punish Ducati engineers for their creativity by banning their designs? And can Dorna really do that?

Well, Dorna has already taken matters into her own hands. Usually the MSMA (the manufacturers association) has to ratify all technical regulations, but earlier this year Dorna bulldozed that convention by unilaterally banning front shapeshifters (introduced by Ducati for the 2023 championship), from the end of this season. Ducati complained loudly, but to no avail.

So, presumably Dorna is now free to repeat the process and unilaterally reduce aero and ban rear shapeshifters?

Especially since Dorna could play it safe. In recent races there have been several accidents and incidents caused by riders trying to brake while in the vacuum created by machines carrying a lot of aero. And shifter malfunctions became the most common cause of technical DNFs, with Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales nearly losing control when his shifter got locked during the German GP. (It should be noted here that it’s the other manufacturers that usually suffer from metamorphosis issues, not Ducati.)

Fabio Quartararo in front of the MotoGP Sachsenring crowd

Quartararo at Sachsenring – crowd numbers at some 2022 MotoGP rounds have been impressive

MotoGP

So Dorna should be able to get rid of these technologies, right?

Maybe not.

Ducati has spent a lot of money transforming its Desmosedici from mid-range contender to title contender via aerodynamics and shapeshifters, so the company won’t want to give up its hard-earned performance.