Motocross enthusiasts are well acquainted with the concept of the holeshot. In the Motocross World Championship and AMA Supercross circuits, the holeshot rewards the rider who makes the best start after the first turn of the race. The rider with the most holeshots at the end of the season receives a cash prize. In 2021, Jorge Prado claimed this prestigious award in MXGP with an impressive 18 holeshots out of 35 motos participated.
However, in MotoGP, the holeshot takes on a different meaning. It is directly related to the objective of making a good start, which is why this device has been aptly named the holeshot device.
The Basics of the MotoGP Holeshot Device
Introduced in 2019, the initial version of the holeshot device aimed to lower the front of the bike during maximum acceleration at the start. This acceleration is determined by the force, the height of the center of gravity relative to the asphalt, and the horizontal distance from the tire contact point to the vertical of the center of gravity.
The device improves acceleration capabilities by reducing the front wheel’s tendency to lift. As acceleration increases, the front wheel rises. To regulate this, electronic control systems such as anti-wheelie systems were implemented, which affected acceleration and penalized the start.
Inspired by motocross, where simple systems were used to compress the front suspension on the starting gate, MotoGP engineers sought a similar solution. In motocross, the system involved engaging a pin on one of the fork legs into a slot in the fork guards. As the first braking occurred, the compression of the suspension lowered the bike’s height and released the pin, allowing the suspension to return to normal operation.
Implementing the Holeshot Device in MotoGP
Since active suspensions are prohibited in MotoGP, the holeshot device had to be manually activated by the riders. They would compress the suspension using knobs or buttons before starting, effectively lowering the front suspension and the bike’s center of gravity. As the fork fully compressed during the first braking, the pressure would disengage the device, allowing the suspension to regain its full travel.
Originally, the holeshot device was only applied to the front suspension, but it was later implemented on the rear suspension as well. Lowering the bike’s height at both ends had a more significant effect on improving acceleration efficiency due to the significant reduction in the center of gravity.
Beyond the Start Line
MotoGP engineers soon discovered that the benefits of the holeshot device extended beyond the start of the race. Lowering the bike’s height during corner exit acceleration proved to be a significant advantage. Formula 1 had previously discovered this with active suspensions, but MotoGP regulations prohibit automatic systems that work with electricity or hydraulic impulses.
Implementing the device on the rear axle improved acceleration efficiency, which is crucial for achieving top speed. While riders constantly demand more power to attain greater speed, excessive power can lead to the front wheel lifting, resulting in wasted acceleration. Therefore, optimizing acceleration efficiency becomes paramount.
The responsibility of activating the holeshot device fell upon the riders. While traction control and anti-wheelie systems automatically intervened when necessary, their intrusiveness depended on the settings configured by the rider and their technical team.
In addition to focusing on throttle control, gear shifting, and turning, riders had to carefully manage the bike’s height. Lowering the bike at the wrong time, particularly during the lean phase, could lead to dangerous lean angles close to 60°, potentially resulting in rubbing or loss of control.
Due to the physical and mental strain on riders, the Grand Prix Commission decided in March 2022 to prohibit the use of the front holeshot device during races. This was done to prevent further performance improvements and development costs. However, the rear holeshot and starting holeshot devices are still permitted for the 2023 season.
While some wonder why active suspensions are not allowed when they are present in many street bikes, the reasoning behind this decision is to maintain a level playing field and prevent escalating costs. The open regulation in MotoGP has led to thrilling championships in recent seasons, and allowing active suspensions could disrupt this equilibrium.
In conclusion, the introduction and evolution of the MotoGP holeshot device have revolutionized start performance and acceleration efficiency. The device not only enhances the race’s initial moments but also aids corner exit acceleration, ensuring riders can make the most of their powerful machines. As MotoGP continues to push technological boundaries, the future holds exciting prospects for further advancements in the world of motorbike racing.