UPDATE: After day two in Qatar, Miller confirmed he's been able to lower the back of his bike on corner exit since Buriram last year. Meanwhile, video footage of last year's races shows the middle switch is still used to lower the rear of the bike for the race start.

It had been rumoured already, but visual evidence that Ducati can now deploy its 'holeshot device' technology at will on the exit of corners emerged during day one of the Qatar MotoGP test.

The factory's standard holeshot system - to lower and then lock the rear suspension, aiding acceleration at the start of a race - has been used since the end of 2018.

The device was 'primed' by turning a big mechanical switch mounted on the triple clamp, between the forks, when the rider arrived on the grid.

But once the suspension had popped back up under braking at turn one, the device was redundant for the rest of the race.

However, by the end of last season, Suzuki's Alex Rins said that he had seen the rear of the Ducati going down on the straights during a race.

Doing so would again provide acceleration and braking benefits caused by a lower centre of gravity, plus the added bonus of less drag at top speed due to a slightly smaller frontal area.

But for such a rear-locking system to be triggered at full speed there must be a new switch, located within easy reach while holding the handlebars.

With all eyes on the Ducati controls, the switch was spotted on the left handlebar of the GP20s during day one of the Qatar test.

Interestingly, the switch now has two distinct buttons (coloured red and green on some bikes); perhaps one is to lock the suspension and the other to manually disengage the device in case the suspension does not automatically unlock under braking (as happened to Jack Miller at turn one of last year's British MotoGP).

But the old 'wingnut' switch is still present on the triple clamp and TV footage from races at the end of last year shows Miller still using it to lower the rear of his bike on the grid. Therefore the new handlebar buttons seem to be an additional feature, only for lowering and/or locking the rear suspension when at racing speeds.

Either way, TV footage clearly showed the back of Miller's Pramac machine sinking low to the ground as he accelerated on the exit of a corner, during day one of the Qatar test.

Despite the visual evidence, Ducati were reluctant to confirm the presence of the device, while its riders had clearly been warned to say nothing about it.

"Nothing, sorry!" laughed Andrea Dovizioso as he refused to comment. Likewise team-mate Danilo Petrucci smiled "I don't remember, I don't know!", while Miller did not hold a media debrief.

Ducati team manager Davide Tardozzi told the official MotoGP website:

"This [ride height adjustment] is something people are speaking about…. It's something that maybe could be on the bike.

"As usual, Ducati has innovation. We are proud to say that in the last at least five years we bring all the innovation on the bikes in MotoGP."

Regardless of whether ride height is altered just for the race start or repeatedly at full speed, it must be triggered only by the rider, using a mechanical or hydraulic switch. Electronic adjustment is not allowed by the MotoGP rules; hence the new Ducati handlebar switch is connected to a mechanical cable.

Tardozzi said that "everything on the bike" had been "shared" with technical director Danny Aldridge to ensure its legality.

Aprilia (front suspension) and Yamaha (rear) have already joined Ducati in producing a normal holeshot system. A Suzuki version is also expected by round one, while Honda and KTM are surely also experimenting.

But it looks like 'static' ride-height adjustment is no longer enough to match Ducati and such systems must now become 'active'…

 

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