Much has been said about the aerodynamic appendages that Ducati was the first manufacturer to introduce in MotoGP, but few people know that the Borgo Panigale brand is thrown into the future in terms of the development of the desmodromic engine, its crown jewel. That’s thanks to its technical partner AVL , the world’s largest independent company dedicated to engine development, simulation and testing.
The company based in Graz (Austria) is a giant in the field of engineering services in the automotive industry with 11,000 employees and is distinguished by a strong sports vocation. It has a presence in 15 championships, including Formula 1, NASCAR, DTM and MotoGP with Ducati, and works with all automotive companies worldwide.
“What we do with Ducati is unique,” says Gianluca Vitale , an electronic engineer who has been working on artificial intelligence and virtualization for 19 years at AVL Racing after leaving Naples at 26, where he worked at the Istituto Motori CNR. “The collaboration with Ducati was born four years ago almost for fun and from my great passion for motorcycles and Italian excellence after having left Italy many years ago.”
“The core business of our division is artificial intelligence and virtualization of power unit development. This is something that has been done for a long time in the four-wheel sector, while in a way it is a pioneer in the field of two wheels. In fact, unlike cars, motorcycles roll over and cornering is difficult to simulate. AVL Racing wanted to learn more about the world of two wheels, while the Ducati racing department had access to our technology avant-garde”, explains Vitale about the birth of Ducati’s collaboration with AVL.
“The world of motorcycles is relatively simpler than that of cars, budgets are tighter and therefore the approach to engine development tends to be more pragmatic. This has led manufacturers to use traditional methods, while Ducati has embarked on exploring the ins and outs of artificial intelligence and virtualization.”
The advantages are obvious. In competition, the time spent on development is very valuable, and cutting it down significantly also allows you to optimize budget as well as performance.
“What used to be done manually is now fully automated. And not only that, the possibility of having reference models and testing new ECU maps, even when the engine is not in the test room, using automatic tools, allows you to make calculations and estimates at any time”.
What is the difference between the traditional method and automation?
“The engineer in the test room moves from point to point on the map. Instead, to use the engine as short as possible, we move slowly taking all the measurements at intermediate points. From this data, we create models which are then used for the different assignments”.
The innovation is the automation of the test, the speed of execution (approximately a third faster than the traditional method), and a great model on which to map. We are talking about very powerful data evaluation tools that allow us to give immediate results. The performance benefit is also significant, as with all the intermediate values collected, engineers are able to more accurately map the torque delivery.
How long is an engine in the test room?
“We talk for hours, so optimizing time means budget savings, but it also allows for better performance because by proceeding by ‘ramps’, we have a very large amount of data and therefore simulations.”
At Ducati, Gianluca Vitale’s team interacts directly with the Reparto Corse engineers: “This year we focus on the speed of the mapping process. We don’t interact directly with the riders on a technical level, but my dream would be to meet Pecco bagnaia one day
From the test room to the track, the desmodromic engine is a gem and the results are showing: three Ducati finished the championship in the top five, with Pecco Bagnaia runner-up in the world fighting for the title with Fabio Quartararo, and Jack Miller and Johann Zarco, fourth and fifth respectively.