Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why Ducati’s GP20 is the opposite of a smart phone 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.


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The comment that Ducati is always looking for holes in the rulebook could also be replaced by the observation that Ducati is creative enough to look at neighbouring sports (like motocross/mountainbike/car racing) too get solutions for their problems, while other manufacturers are not willing to leave their existing holes

It has been wonderful to appreciate the Italian exception excell in their own Red fashion. So refreshing!

4 Stroke era:
Honda on top, the rest bumping around for scraps. Other than awe of the V5, and appreciation for some riders, I have never been a fan of Honda in GP's. Likely never will.

Then Honda vs Yamaha, 4 Factory bikes can win, focus on rulebook manipulation. Meh.

BOOM, Casey Stoner, Bridgestones, "Ducati power!", so on. A second blossoming with Gigi.

Awaiting a third now, believe it to be about "that next rider" in Red. Will cheer them on against the Japanese norm, and want it very much. Orange rider maybe? Or a next kid? I see two.

Suzuki makes the best Yamaha on track. Via conventional means. The opposite of a Ducati? Is a Suzuki.

And along comes Austria...and S Africa of all places. With in house Suspension and new-oldschool frames Yes!! With the mighty mite escapee from you know where, to spearhead development of a garden grown Honda. Watered with Red Bull, their Orange tree is flourishing. KTM is to Honda as Suzuki is to Yamaha.

Yes, given the greater structural context, and complex interrelated nuance, I LOVE Honda in its own rut of a gutter. And appreciate the whole circus immensely as it is.

Glad Ducayi shed the Fokker triplane, but it is still ugly as sin. In a cool digital way. Like my childhood friend Steve rocking his Casio calculator watch and big dirty blonde mullet. He used a soldering gun, talked about calculus, and had MTV the first week it came on cable. No seamless eyebrow, but all the rest of it.

One perspective could also be that the Duc IS the smartphone one. Their electronics have been amazing. They are ALSO innovating to optimize. I would assert that it is Suzuki that is the un-smartphone. A fully conventional GP bike.

Warm wishes to our Italian friends at this most difficult time.
Viva Bologna not-smartphone-smartphone!