MotoGP™ teams are always busy working behind the scenes at improving their machines and looking to eke out any advantage they can on track. It's always fascinating to see what they've come up with out on track, and these are some of the latest innovations from Ducati, Honda and Yamaha that we've spotted to date in 2022.
Ducati’s year started out with a little bit of concern. After bringing their full-spec GP22 to the track at the Sepang Test they found that some of the parts they had previously tried with their GP21/GP22 bike at the end of last season didn’t work the way they wanted them to. One of those parts was the new ‘didgeridoo’ exhaust. After they tried it, they found that it made the Ducati’s already rampant engine just a little too difficult to control and so, all the riders ditched it and went back to the shorter lower exhaust by the time Qatar came round. But the biggest thing was that factory Ducati riders Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller went back to a slightly older spec 2022 engine instead of the latest 2022 engine spec that Prima Pramac riders Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco continued to use.
For 2022 one of the biggest upgrades that Ducati made was aerodynamical. Throughout 2021 they struggled with the agility of corner entry of their machine. The 2021 spec wings, seen here, were very large and created a huge amount of downforce but also, due to their shape, Ducati struggled a little on initial corner entry and that was the area they tried to improve for 2022.
Here are the 2022 wings. You can see how the top wing is smaller but still very large overall. But the key change was the lower sidepod wing. Its lower half slowly turns inwards to connect to the fairing now, compared to the 2021 sidepod wing that went straight down and then turned at a right angle to connect back to the fairing. We think it’s this change which has helped Ducati on corner entry, allowing them a smoother transition from full downforce when the bike is stood in a straight line to the wing losing a lot of its downforce as it tips into full lean angle.
You can see their front ride height system here. The hydraulic cylinder sits in front of the right fork leg and has a rod that extends all the way down to the fork bottom where it attaches. The Ducati riders tested it in pre-season testing and we saw from external shots just how much it was lowering the front end coming out of the corner. It worked by activating the system coming into the corner and then when the front fork was compressed in the middle of the corner, it would stop it from extending on the exit to hold it down. In doing this it lowers the bike’s centre of gravity helping to reduce wheelie. But while all the Ducati riders tried it, only Zarco has continued to use it throughout the season, with the others stating that they didn’t like the feeling it gave when they got to the next corner and the front end was really low as they hit the brakes.
Finally, we saw a glimpse of 2023 at the Catalan Test. Zarco tested this chassis and it really is quite an interesting thing. It has large areas of material cut out of the frame around the swingarm pivot. It’s quite a radical solution and Zarco was largely quite tight-lipped about what Ducati were aiming for with this but he did admit that it’s a development piece for 2023.
In 2022 Honda’s RC213V has been constantly evolving. To look back to where it all started we need to go back to the Jerez Test at the end of last season. There we saw this bike. This was the initial 2022 chassis that we saw and it was Honda’s first hope for a bike that they thought would take them back to the top straight away. Honda’s 2022 machine is their biggest redesign ever in the modern MotoGP™ era. Their new bike has been centred around the rear, to help them find grip and turn there, but as we know now it hasn’t quite worked out how they hoped. Perhaps the indications that things could be a little more complicated than first thought were there from the start as even at the Jerez Test there was another chassis that was totally different.
Above is that chassis. The beam thickness was very different to the original 2022 chassis and as we were soon to find out, it was this one that would be the basis for the main 2022 bike that we’d see three of the four Honda riders use throughout much of the first half of 2022.
When we arrived at Sepang for the first pre-season Test, that chassis had been updated slightly. It looked largely the same but it now didn’t have the carbon bonded on the main beam anymore. However, Honda were still exploring the other avenue and that had an update too.
LCR's Taka Nakagami is the only Honda rider using the other chassis as his main one, which you can see below. However, at recent races and Tests we have seen Alex Marquez start to use it too.
There's also another chassis and at Mugello we saw it for the first time. It's not a huge change but Honda changed the swingarm pivot area of the bike with them switching the way that the pivot bolt goes through the chassis itself. When asked about it, Marc Marquez commented that it was a change to help them find some turning.
And then to the latest idea from Honda and it’s almost gone full circle. At the Catalan Test, Stefan Bradl was using this chassis. It had carbon bonded to the main beam in a place that isn’t too far from where it was on one of the original 2022 chassis. Check back to the second picture and you can see the similarities.
So as you can see, Honda are working hard to try and find the correct formula to their 2022 RC213V. It’s been a tricky process so far and it’s only been made harder thanks to their star man being out and on the mend from another operation. If this latest chassis can give Honda the direction they need, you know the engineers will already be working on the next step.
At the pre-season Tests, Yamaha were seen trying an updated chassis to what they had last year. It was actually first seen at the Jerez Test at the end of last season. The area that changed was the cutout area on the main beam. That top line of the cutout had been changed but when the riders tried it they said that they didn’t feel the big difference they were expecting and wanted.
Yamaha obviously had already thought of that and so this was the chassis they brought as a possible further step. Factory riders Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli tried it but their comments were less than enthusiastic as both thought that overall it was too stiff and it wasn’t the step in the right direction that they needed.
In the end, what ended up happening was that Yamaha went back to their 2021 chassis and have used that for the season so far. It’s not necessarily a backwards step, it just shows that the 2021 chassis was of a good enough standard that the direction thought Yamaha would improve it turned out it wasn’t and that they need a little more time to figure it out.
One of the big things Yamaha riders have complained of is a lack of top speed. While Yamaha did bring a new and more powerful engine, all riders said it wasn’t enough and that they needed more. So, with their engine spec set for the year, Yamaha went about improving in other ways and one of those was exploring the aero side.
They brought a new aero fairing for the first time in a few seasons and it was the biggest one they’ve ever designed. More downforce has certainly helped them in the tight and twisty bits but it left them even more vulnerable on the straights. To counter this they brought an aero update.
Speaking of corner exit, if you talk to three of Yamaha’s four riders they’ll tell you that Yamaha’s biggest problem is its rear grip. However, Quartararo is adamant that the bike does have rear grip, it just takes a little bit to find it, with the World Champ maintaining that the biggest weakness is their lack of top speed. Yamaha are working on their rear grip problem though as we have seen two new swingarms. The first, pictured below, is their new aluminium swingarm which Quartararo has used for the last 3 or 4 races. But they also have a new carbon one which both riders have tested but not raced.
Yamaha’s 2022 has been a strange one. They started the season in a place where many thought they would struggle and for a while they did. Their first few races weren’t promising, but then Fabio seemed to find another gear. However, he’s the only one that can get that M1 to the front at the moment and so it raises a real worry for the Iwata factory. Do they address the wants and wishes of the one rider that can take their bike to the top, or address the wants and wishes of the other three riders all asking for the same thing?
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