MotoGP: Wings & Things

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There is much discussion about wings in motorcycling at present.

Following the opening MotoGP round at Qatar – where we even saw a Moto3 Mahindra sprout aerodynamic winglets – the Grand Prix Commission has deemed that with immediate effect they will be banned from Moto2 and at the end of the current season in Moto3.

As for MotoGP; well, the manufacturers have to vote to ban them, and with many of the factories trying to develop them, this it is not likely.

Unless it can be proved to be a safety issue – in which case the governing body has to wait for an accident to happen, which they can then prove was related to the winglets – how crazy is that!

Shot with Canon 550D, 200mm F2.8L lens on Kenko 2x extender at F7.1 1/640
Shot with Canon 550D, 200mm F2.8L lens on Kenko 2x extender at F7.1 1/640

There are two errors that MotoGP is making here in following the path of F1. The first is that as aerodynamics have matured over the years in F1 they have ruined the racing. The second is that the Organisers/Governing Body in both series have allowed the manufacturers too much of a say in the running of the sport, resulting in the tail wagging the dog – knock-out qualifying anyone?

As veteran MotoGP journalists Mat Oxley and David Emmett have explained eloquently in their recent articles; the riders are now experiencing dangerous buffeting while in the slipstream of a be-winged bike.

There was even some discussion as to whether Iannone’s high-speed low-side out of second place was due to Dovi’s bike interrupting the airflow to Iannone’s, contributing to the loss of front end grip.

This is difficult to quantify as the factories are being very cagey about the benefits of the winglets. However, I’d have thought that because the bike is lent over 60 degrees that any downforce produced is also acting at the same angle to the track – rather than at 90 degrees in F1. As a result you’d have thought that it would cause more front end scrub than grip at high corner speeds.

The factories talk about them being there to aid anti-wheelie, but the pitch of the bike under acceleration means the wings have their lowest angle of attack in this phase – i.e. producing the least downforce. Where they have maximum angle of attack is in braking and corner entry though – but nobody is talking about this, hmmm curious, eh?

As a fan though, I feel that they should be banned with immediate effect. My reasons, well:

  1. Safety – the turbulence and chance of a rider getting snagged in close combat should be enough of an incentive to remove them.
  2. At a time when the sport is not in the healthiest of financial form the last thing the factories need is to have to invest in aerodynamics/wind tunnels – F1 has already proved this is a money pit. Bikes are a far more complex dynamic platform to attach aero to than a car. They pitch and lean dramatically meaning the research required would be extensive/expensive.
  3. Speeds, lap times and corner speeds would only increase at a time where this is trying to be limited – run-off areas at some tracks are already in need of being extended.
  4. They’re ugly. Who wants a Ducati to look like a Sopwith Camel?
  5. The reason MotoGP is great is the close and fierce racing. Aero will introduce the same problems F1 has already – if one bike can’t closely follow another the racing will suffer. The spectacle will suffer. Attendance will suffer. Revenue will suffer…

I’m no genius, but I think I’ve made my point!

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