Not all manufacturers used winglets, or used them in the same way, or even used them consistently. Even Honda used them on Marguez’s bike but not Pedrosas, even on the same track – likely a way to test and optimize the technology.
But the angry Italians refused to abandon their research into aerodynamic enhancements, and all the money and staff they have invested into them, and are back this year with yet another radical, winglet-based design. Now, Ducati’s factory race bike bears an unusual fairing with winglet-like fins joined by a bridge, creating an integrated loop with a similar aerodynamic effect that the winglets alone created.
The new design, debuted at the Brno round of MotoGP two weeks ago, drew outrage from fans and from the other manufacturers. Externally, it still looks (and works) like a winglet, and the assumption was that Ducati was stubbornly looking for a way to cheat their way around the winglet ban.
The truth, however, is that Ducati’s new design is the result of months of development and multiple iterations submitted to Dorna for approval, until an agreement was finally reached on what would be allowable under the new rules. The reason the radical Ducati fairing is legal is, in fact, due to the way the rule itself was written – specifically, the section addressing winglets states: “it is not permitted to add any device or shape to the fairing or bodywork that is not integrated into the body streamlining (e.g. wings, fins, bulges, etc.) that may provide an aerodynamic effect (e.g. providing downforce, disrupting aerodynamic wake, etc.)”
Careful readers will notice that there is a glaring loophole written right into the rule – the words “any device or shape…that is not integrated into the body streamlining.” Ducati simply decided to create an aerodynamic device that is integrated into the body streamlining (albeit, just barely), the result of which is this radical new design.
Under normal conditions, it is unlikely that Ducati would have been able to stretch the rules this far and get away with it. But part of the problem with strict enforcement of the ban lay with the fact that Ducati was actually not the only one developing this type of “wingless winglet.” Yamaha is, again, not far behind Ducati in developing the technology – their new fairing design also is focused on integrated aerodynamic devices. While their design is less obvious, Dorna is hesitant to ban it because the manufacturers are clearly interested in developing this technology. In addition, Dorna now cannot use the guise of safety to ban this new design, as the closed loops pose no apparent safety risk to riders.
Now, we are in a new generation of development of this technology – and in the absence of yet another ban, the story of aerodynamic devices in MotoGP is only just beginning. While they create a measurable performance advantage, engineers of aerodynamic devices now have to not only design them to function optimally, but to sneak their way in through the rules – not to mention, take into account the reports that the aerodynamic effects create other unintended effects, such as increased rider fatigue and even unpredictable aerodynamic wake effects for riders riding behind them!
While the new crop of bikes may not be the prettiest to look at, winglets – and the resulting ban on them – have opened up a Pandora’s Box of new technology that is sure to make MotoGP a lot more competitive, not to mention unusual-looking, in the years ahead. Click Here…