Ducati has earned a reputation for developing innovative, cutting-edge components for its MotoGP teams. From bi-plane winglets to rear-wheel spoilers to holeshot devices, the Bologna brand has been at the forefront of most MotoGP tech advancements. For the 2022 season, Ducati not only introduced a new V4 engine in the Desmosedici GP22, but it also equipped its race rigs with front ride-height devices.
Similar to the holeshot mechanism, ride-height devices lower the bike’s center of gravity in order to increase acceleration and reduce wheelies. The only difference between the systems is that riders initiate the holeshot procedure while at a stop on the starting grid while squat devices are enabled in motion. Riders trigger the device on corner entry and the rear suspension lowers at corner entry.
In order to circumvent MotoGP’s rule against electronic suspension, the systems utilize mechanical and hydraulic components. Despite many MotoGP teams already adopting rear ride-height devices, Yamaha, KTM, Honda, Suzuki, and Aprilia all protested Ducati’s front ride-height system. Predictably, the Motorsport Manufacturers Association couldn’t reach a unanimous decision, with Ducati opposing its five rivals.
As a result, the rule-making Grand Prix Commission stepped in to officially ban the new innovation starting in the 2023 season. Alongside the protesting manufacturers, many MotoGP riders also support the new regulation in the name of safety.
“We’re always trying to increase runoff areas, and now we’re arriving faster to the brake points, we’re braking later because with the holeshots we can brake later,” stated six-time MotoGP champ Marc Marquez. “For the future, it makes no sense.”
Of course, Ducati can continue using its front ride-height device in 2022, but without a future in sight, further developing the system would serve little purpose. However, that can’t take away the time and money that Ducati already poured into development, which has also impacted the team’s pre-season preparations.
“I think the ban is unfair, in my opinion,” stated Ducati Factory rider Jack Miller. “Ducati have spent money and time, more time than anything, developing this system, to make it work, to have it there. And when you go and do all that, it takes resources away from other areas of the bike that you could have spent the time and energy developing instead.”
Understandably, the ruling seems unfair to riders and fans that believe the Grand Prix series should push the technological limits. On the flip side, such advanced tech may not suit the manufacturers’ ability to create such a device for production models.
“I can really understand the position of Ducati,” admitted Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro, “... but I can’t see people on the street with this height device because it makes it very difficult to control the bike and every time you brake it changes the stability of the bike.
“If you see the new RSV4, you can see many things the same. The dash is very similar, we have the wings, many things. (MotoGP) is a test place, but for sure the front and rear ride-height devices don’t have a place.”