A lot has changed in MotoGP over the last two years. Despite a freeze on engine development, and restrictions on aerodynamics development brought in at the start of the pandemic, the bikes are faster in 2022 than they were in 2019, the last time MotoGP had the same set of development rules.
Where has this extra speed come from? A huge amount has come from the introduction of ride-height devices. These contraptions, first trialed by Ducati at the end of 2018, have radically changed the way MotoGP bikes make their lap times. The devices lower the center of mass, helping to significantly reduce wheelie and improving acceleration. But they also change the way the bikes brake at the other end of a straight, changing the way the weight transfers and allowing for greater braking force.
To find out more about the way MotoGP has changed in the last couple of years, Peter Bom and myself interviewed Brembo engineer Andrea Bergami at the Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimão earlier this year. Bergami gave us some fascinating insights into how MotoGP bikes have evolved, the effect that is having on braking, and how Brembo is working to address and adapt to those changes. He also explained how he felt Moto2 was helping riders prepare for the jump to MotoGP, and the role of racing in development consumer products, which end up in the hands of riders on the street. We spoke at such length that this interview has been split into two parts.
But we started off with the influence of ride-height devices. At the Sepang test, Michelin Motorsport boss Piero Taramasso had explained to me how the changes to aerodynamics and ride-height devices were increasing the loads and stresses on Michelin's front tire, raising the importance of Michelin being able to test and introduce a new front tire with a stronger carcass.
Bergami told us that Brembo were seeing exactly the same development. "Piero described the situation very well," the Brembo engineer told us. "And this situation involved us a lot because in the last years we saw an increase year by year of the braking power and the braking energy that has been massive compared to the old years. Before, we saw some points, 1%, 2%, of increase, not an important increase in braking energy. In the last year, we saw +10%, +20% of increase of braking energy year by year."
Such massive increases in braking energy left Brembo with a lot of work to do to dissipate it. "This involved us a lot in order to redesign and to find new solutions in order to allow riders to always have good brake performance, the best brake performance," Bergami said. "Because, OK, the motorbikes are going faster, but they also need to brake more."
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