MotoGP Top Speeds
If you have been following 2020 MotoGP pre-season testing in Malaysia, and more recently over the weekend at Losail, you would have read much discussion regarding new engines for the new season.
It’s no secret that for much of the four-stroke era Ducati have been consistently dominant in the speed traps and the clear leaders in the horsepower wars. That still rings true as the five quickest machines at Losail were all built in Bologna.
Honda gave the RC213V a major power boost last season though and got close to, and even bested the Ducati speeds at some circuits in 2019.
Yamaha’s lack of top speed has been a trend for at least most of the four-stroke era. A sweet chassis sees their riders regularly swamp competitors in the bends, before those hard won gains then being promptly undone as competitors walk away from them again on the straights. They also have to use a lot of edge grip from their tyres to lever their cornering advantage, which hurts the Yamaha in regards to tyre longevity.
Yamaha have made some strides forward to try and redress their speed deficit and their 2020 engine is more powerful. If we compare speed trap data from Qatar last week versus the same test last year, we can see that Yamaha’s hard work seems to have paid off. Both the factory Yamaha’s of Vinales and Rossi together scoring higher numbers in the speed traps. Vinales +7.6 km/h and Rossi +5.4 km/h respectively compared to 2019.
In fact, Vinales’ top speed of 346.1 km/h last week would have placed him joint third with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso last year.
The thing is the others have also made forward gains… As you can see from the table below, every manufacturer has made strides, which has pretty much left Yamaha in the same position as before.
The factory Ducati machines have seen a 6.8 km/h and 5.6 km/h speed increase compared to 2019. This number could perhaps have even been higher if not for the new funky aero that Ducati were testing in Qatar. The new aero package is said to produce more down-force, but that generally brings with it more drag at high speeds. Or have Ducati achieved the holy grail and scored improvements at both ends of the aero spectrum..?
Jack Miller’s Pramac Ducati didn’t run the new aero package and it was the Australian that topped the speed charts at 355.2 km/h, 8 clicks quicker than he achieved at the same test last year. Pramac team-mate Francesco Bagnaia was placed third this year at 351.7 km/h, an amazing 12 km/h up on the 2019 test.
There is another interesting angle to the Ducati top speed angle this year with the adoption of a system whereby the rider can lower the bike on the straights, improving traction and perhaps even aerodynamics. How much has this new development contributed to Miller’s top speed advantage at Losail…?
Pretty much every team has seen an increase in top speed with the exception of Marc Marquez and his factory Repsol Honda. The champ some 2.2 km/h down on his 2019 speed.
Of course, there are many other variables and factors at play, so direct comparisons with 2019 testing top speeds can only tell us so much. What the 2020 test does show is that the factory Yamaha’s are a little higher up in the charts relative to their competitors compared to last year. So at the very least it appears to be a step in the right direction for the factory Yamaha’s, whether that will be enough, we’ll have to wait and see.
The Petronas Yamaha machines were not quite as fast as the Factory Yamaha’s but did see a slight speed increase from 2019.
All other things equal, from what we have heard about new engines, and from the data, it suggests that MotoGP bikes are the fastest they have ever been. It will be very interesting when we arrive at Mugello later on in the year, as if the stars align, we can expect to see the 356.7 km/h top speed record achieved by Andrea Dovizioso tumble. Perhaps the magic 360 km/h barrier will be eclipsed. If that happens, how long will it be before officials take yet more measures to slow the bikes down…?
2020/2019 Qatar Test Top Speed Comparison