Holeshot devices: MotoGP's rocket-launchers

“The start is so crucial in MotoGP, which has led to a new technology race”

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

You don’t need to be a genius to understand why it’s easier to overtake in MotoGP than in Formula 1. But as MotoGP machines become more closely matched – due to improving technology and tighter technical regulations – the act of executing a passing manoeuvre grows more complex.

That’s why qualifying and the start are now so crucial in MotoGP. Inevitably this has led to a new technology race, with so-called holeshot devices.

The best way to make a MotoGP bike accelerate away from the grid isn’t by adding horsepower or improving traction, it’s by reducing the amount of front-wheel lift. Racing motorcycles are tall and short, so they want to loop over backwards when full torque is applied to the rear wheel.

The concept of the first start gadget, created by Ducati in 2018, was to transform its 300-horspower Desmosedici MotoGP bike into a long-and-low drag bike for the first few hundred yards of each race.

The device pumps down the rear shock to squat the rear end, reducing the bike’s tendency to wheelie. Immediately Ducati riders had an advantage at the start, so MotoGP’s other five factories – Aprilia, Honda, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha – quickly copied Ducati’s lead.

Aprilia’s first effort lowered the front of the bike by locking the forks on full compression, an easier and cheaper solution to the problem, if not quite as effective. Now all but two factories have both front and rear devices.

These inventions may allow faster getaways, but they make the rider’s job more complicated, largely due to the fact that the gadgets are operated mechanically and hydraulically, because electronically adjustable suspension isn’t allowed.

When the rider returns to the grid following the warm-up lap he engages the front device by physically compressing the front suspension, then turns a lever to squat the rear. Finally he engages the launch-control software, which limits torque to reduce wheelies, but not very well.

“The starts now become difficult, but with these devices you go like a rocket!” says Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaró. “Before pre-season testing my engineers explained the start procedure to me and I thought, I need to go to university!”

Despite these clever contraptions the rider still plays the decisive role in making a fast getaway, firstly with his reactions, secondly in the way he controls the bike immediately after the launch.

“It’s a big work between the right hand and the left hand, with the throttle, the rear brake and the clutch,” says KTM rider Danilo Petrucci, who, like everyone else, uses the rear brake to minimise wheelies during fierce acceleration.

“You try to release the clutch as early possible and you try not to get too much wheelie or use too much rear brake and not close the throttle too much. It’s a mix between these three which allows you to do a good start – it’s like playing a musical instrument.

“It was scary towards Turn One, Two and Three, like a chopper!”

“If you make a bad start you’re starting from zero. Your race isn’t over but making a lot of passes will affect your tyres and that affects your race strategy.”

Ducati rider Jack Miller believes that good starts are mostly in the mind.

“It all comes down to reaction times,” says the Australian. “Some guys have better reactions than others. If you can get a jump on the others it’s massive!

“I generally watch the starts of the Moto2 and Moto3 races. I watch the lights and I count until they go out – one, two, three. Okay, they’re going on three, more or less…”

“I try to not get too much temperature in the clutch. As soon as the guy with the flag walks off the grid I bang it into gear and I’m just watching the lights. The lights come on, you’re revving, and it’s, one, two and… you almost anticipate it.

“Then it’s all in the clutch. I give it a handful, the bike leaps forward a few metres, I catch it back with the clutch and feather it from there, rather than screaming it out with the clutch from the beginning.”

Immediately after the launch the rider aims for the best entry point into the first corner, while trying to avoid his rivals who are all going for the same bit of asphalt.

Miller again: “I sit right up against the fuel tank and get my elbows up, so I can muscle the bike where I need to. You need to be on top of it, so you’re more in control. If you use your body to control the bike it becomes upset, so
I keep my core quite central and use my legs and head to control where the bike is going. If I need the bike to go that way I’ll use that leg to sway the bike that way.

“When I shift to second I get my feet on the pegs and then in third and fourth I start managing the wheelie with the rear brake, though I still do most of that
with the clutch.”

The start devices disengage when the rider hits the brakes into Turn One – in theory. At Silverstone in 2019 Miller’s didn’t disengage, leading to an interesting first few corners.

“It was quite scary towards Turns One, Two and Three, like a chopper! Basically I had to do a stoppie [brake so hard that the rear wheel lifts off the ground] at Turn Four to free it up.”

And at this year’s season-opening Qatar GP the same problem affected Franco Morbidelli’s Yamaha throughout the race; a disastrous start to the title contender’s 2021 campaign.


Mat Oxley has covered motorcycle racing for many years – and also has the distinction of being an Isle of Man TT winner
Follow Mat on Twitter @matoxley