One thing is for certain, MotoGP will never stop evolving. Nothing has made that more evident than the recent pursuit of downforce. Last year we saw the introduction and eventual demise of wings in all GP classes. But it was too late, The damage was done. The bikes were faster with them, and that is all that matters. Now, the manufacturers of MotoGP are in an all out arms race to see who can come up with a better ‘aero’ fairing.
This last round of MotoGP had many talking points. Yet one of the biggest had to be Jorge Lorenzo’s massive fairing. Look at this thing:
That’s it. That’s Ducati’s solution to the wingless era. Lorenzo’s bike no longer has wings, it now has gills. Those massive air ducts on both sides of the bike are doing exactly what the winglets have done in the past. But now, they are built in. Which is evidently better for…. reasons. And Ducati isn’t the only one that happens to be using this, although like a true Italian theirs is the biggest. Even still, testing after the Czech Grand Prix saw all of the major manufacturers testing prototype
winglets aerofairings in some capacity. But if winglets are illegal, why aren’t these new fairings?
The answer is, it’s complicated. The wings came under heavy controversy for numerous reasons. First was because only Ducati had invested the time into them, giving themselves a leg up on the competition. MotoGP sometimes runs just like Formula 1, meaning the teams started complaining that Ducati stole their lunch money and called them names. All jokes aside there was a lot of concern aimed in Ducati’s direction. The GP16 machine already sports the most powerful engine on the grid, combine that with the insane downforce from 747 wings jutting from the fairing and you end up with a shit ton of turbulence when at speed. This is for anything trying to follow directly behind the GP16, in other words, the Yamahas and Hondas. Not who you want to piss off in the paddock.
Riders started to voice their concerns over the amount of head-shake their bike would produce when sitting in the slipstream. It was rumored to be so bad that the bikes were incredibly unsettled when exiting the draft to pass. At 210mph the last thing you ever want is head-shaking while getting on the brakes. I’m scared just writing about it. With the biggest of concerns aimed at the winglets there were still plenty of reasons to backtrack the aero movement.
Once again waggling a finger at Ducati, we have to point out how big those wings are. By midseason, the wings were big enough to have their own Fast and the Furious movie. It may make for a great punchline, but also makes for some sketchy moments during tight racing. Riders voiced their concerns once again, with several riders claiming they were clipped by the wings almost causing a crash. With Andrea Iannone at the helm, I have to believe them. The guy doesn’t get the nickname ‘The Maniac’ for nothing.
Lastly, the winglets came under heavy fire in the looks department. Much like the current controversy with the Halo in F1, there are people that think looks are important when it comes to premier racing. They’re not, but that’s another article for another day. Either way, the wings didn’t impress. And just like that, 3 strikes and you are out. The wings didn’t even make it a full season before the ban was set. Teams were allowed to run them the rest of the year, and then they were gone. The MotoGP beauty Nazi’s thought they had won. I only wish that I could see their face as they lay eyes on Lorenzo’s goofy looking Ducati for the first time. That moment must have been priceless.
But now teams are still trying to arm themselves for a new aero race. Once again led by Ducati. While Honda Suzuki and Yamaha are testing small streamline systems built right into the fairing, Ducati was out strapping a biplane to theirs. It’s as if they want the wings banned? Because they have now constructed the wings to have a definite end it is somehow part of the fairing, thereby totally legal.
The question then becomes whether the same concerns will be present with this fairing in full effect. While I think even with the new design the fairing still poses a risk of greater contact, considering the GP17 is now wider than a Hummer. But will this new design eliminate the turbulence that was such an issue? For that we will need more testing. Currently of the two Ducati Riders, only Jorge Lorenzo has elected to race with the newest setup. With his current pattern of racing for last, we won’t get much data from the riders behind him. His teammate Andrea Dovizioso has found incredible success on the ’17 chassis without the aero aids, and has said he is planning on riding without them for the foreseeable future.
Yamaha’s riders are currently split on who will and will not use the new upgrades, with Vinales jumping in and Rossi electing to go without. Rossi claims the aero fairing robs the M1 of too much top speed, something the underpowered Yamaha already struggles with. Both Honda riders are electing not to use the aero fairings for the next round as well, instead focusing on electronics to improve performance. With the paddock split it will be interesting to see how the new and improved
winglets aero fairings will play out.