The ghost rider
Those who are familiar with racing video games such as the Gran Turismo saga or the MotoGP simulator for the PS4 will surely be familiar with this peculiar tool to help improve the player’s times. The ghost rider is nothing more than a visual reference of our best lap which is presented as a version of ourselves racing alongside us, inviting us to beat this imaginary opponent.
Until recently, this technology was only used in video games and simulators, but recently we have seen it being used in the Red Bull Air Race. In the fastest air competition, a system is used that allows the audience to see a ghost plane of a competitor alongside the plane flying at that moment. This allows spectators to compare the lap of the pilot who is flying with that of those who have flown before. For this purpose, a large amount of GPS measurements and aircraft data are used, as well as TV cameras that, together, allow us to create this synchronized image.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the engineer Alfred Buchi devised a system that increased engine performance by forcing air into the cylinders. This technology would allow aircraft to fly at higher altitudes and perform better. In the 70s, the turbocharger was used in competition, although only in 4-wheel vehicles. In subsequent decades it made a space for itself in road vehicles. Some motorcycles, like the 1982 Honda CX500TC Turbo, also had this characteristic, but the result did not succeed in the motorbike market.
In elite competition, we can see that turbo technology has been used in F1 for quite a few years after being temporarily abandoned in 1989. Can we imagine a turbocharged MotoGP bike?
The possibility is not so far-fetched, but it would require a complete remodelling of the engines and most of the bike’s components. One of the key changes would be the necessary reduction of displacement or revolutions that the engine can reach per minute, so that the bike does not become uncontrollable due to excess power.
The need to increase performance and explore new technologies that contribute to reducing polluting emissions has lead to hybrid propulsion systems creating a niche in the competition. These are based on a combustion engine supported by an electric engine.
This technology has been used for years in competitions such as F1 and the Le Mans 24 hours, as well as in road vehicles, but it is not very prevalent in the world of two wheels with only a few commercialized models.
In MotoGP broadcasts we can enjoy a whole selection of real-time data related to the bike. The rider can now receive messages from the team like tips or information flags from the Virtual Board. But all this is not nearly comparable with the amount of data that vehicles receive and transmit in other competitions.
In Formula 1 and the Red Bull Air Race, all vehicle information is sent and analysed in real time. This includes cylinder head temperature, the pressures of various systems, and the state of auxiliary elements, in addition to a plethora of data available to the teams.
Although today’s advanced telemetry systems are only used to collect and analyse information, at the beginning of the 21st century Formula 1 used a two-way system that allowed engineers to make on-track modifications.
Aerodynamics is a great ally in all motor sports, but it can also be a terrible obstacle to achieving the desired performance. In MotoGP, aerodynamic elements have appeared recently and have been modified according to regulations, which have adapted to include these additions. However, the aerodynamics used in other disciplines is much more elaborate and includes mobile elements.
In the Red Bull Air Race and other aeronautical competitions, an exhaustive study of the shapes and sizes is necessary to get the most out of the vehicle. The aircraft needs to generate lift while reducing resistance when travelling forward and turning. This is even more complicated when we want to handle it in 3 dimensions. In order to obtain the desired performance, the teams test a large number of parts and aerodynamic solutions such as winglets and shark skin.
In Formula 1 we can find the DRS system, which allows the driver to change the angle of the rear wing to reduce the braking force generated for a few moments and increase speed while the rest of the vehicle looks to achieve the highest possible grip on the asphalt.
These five technologies are a taster of the things that could make an appearance in this competition in the coming years, although if we get more creative, we may get to see some of the other developments we mention in this other report.