Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati's cornering tool: press to turn 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.

Ducati's cornering tool: press to turn

Ducati’s fastest three MotoGP riders all use a thumb-operated rear brake, 25 years after Mick Doohan introduced the system to Grand Prix racing

Look at this photo of Jorge Lorenzo riding through a right-hander during preseason testing. He’s at the apex, or thereabouts, with his knee on the asphalt and his elbow almost kissing the kerb. He is already looking out of the corner, working hard to turn the bike as quickly as possible, so he can segue into the acceleration phase. Now look at his left thumb: he’s at pretty much full lean, but the thumb is operating the rear brake via a custom-made thumb-brake lever.

Most of us would crash if we used the rear brake in the middle of a corner, but the brake is an essential cornering tool for most top racers, who use it in many ways that everyday motorcyclists don’t.

Ducati MotoGP riders use the rear brake more than anyone, so much so that the factory’s top riders – Lorenzo, Danilo Petrucci and championship leader Andrea Dovizioso – can operate the rear brake in two ways, via a thumb lever and a foot lever.

Many other MotoGP riders – Marc Márquez, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales and others – have also experimented with a thumb-operated rear brake but currently race without. Obviously it’s a big ask to re-educate the brain into braking with the left thumb instead of the right foot; a bit like switching the throttle to the left handlebar.

It’s no coincidence that Ducati’s fastest riders have taken the time to re-educate themselves into using a thumb lever, because the Desmosedici needs all the help it can get to turn, but Dovizioso and the others can’t reach the foot lever when they’re riding through right-handers at 60deg of lean.

In fact Ducati riders use the rear brake all the way through a corner, during the braking, turning and acceleration phases, totalling more than two-thirds of each lap. And Lorenzo was using the brake so hard in Qatar that his GP18’s rear disc glowed in the dark.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


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I always thought the thumb brake was a hidden advantage, yet to be fully explored by the paddock and brembo. To read the sophistication of development, between the in series and parallel setups, set that to rest.

Knowing Dovi has run it for years, my suspicion was the Duc needed a wholatta help sucking into the line, on decreasing radius and/or off camber corners. Such a great tool, I am interested in who else would advance in the order with better trail braking control, on steep right-handers. 

Doohan fresh from crushing people at whatever he does now, upon reading this may just allow himself a quick wry grin. Maybe Stoner too.