MO­TOGP TECH SPE­CIAL MCN gets to the bot­tom of the new aero­dy­namic phe­nom­e­non hit­ting Mo­togp to dis­cover ex­actly what Du­cati, Yamaha and Honda are try­ing to achieve

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Sport - By Si­mon Pat­ter­son MO­TOGP RE­PORTER

Few things have cre­ated more con­tro­versy in Mo­togp in re­cent years than the in­tro­duc­tion of wings, winglets, strakes or vanes.

Fol­low­ing a trend started by Du­cati and de­vel­op­ing into the mas­sive ham­mer­head shark wings the GP16 ma­chine has now sprouted, Honda and Yamaha are also jump­ing on the band­wagon, with Jorge Lorenzo tak­ing his winged M1 to vic­tory in Qatar, and both Dani Pe­drosa and Marc Mar­quez test­ing the fea­tures on their Rep­sol Hon­das.

But with the whole area of aero­dy­nam­ics still rel­a­tively new to mo­tor­cy­cling, it’s been a prom­i­nent and long-stand­ing piece of tech­nol­ogy and devel­op­ment in F1. So to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of ex­actly what the lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers in Mo­togp are try­ing to achieve, MCN sat down with Sauber F1 aero­dy­nam­i­cist Ali Row­land-rouse.

Ac­cord­ing to Row­land-rouse the ob­jec­tive for the teams is sim­ple, a two fold goal of re­duc­ing drag and creat­ing downforce to keep the front wheel pinned to the track un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion.

“When you come out of a cor­ner on a Mo­togp bike, if you don’t have anti-wheelie elec­tron­ics to rely on, riders use the back brake to keep the front wheel down, and logic says that brak­ing isn’t the best way to get down a straight as fast as pos­si­ble.

“Work­ing like the wing of a plane (ex­cept up­side down) the tar­get is to gen­er­ate down­ward force; some­thing that’s even more im­por­tant since new con­trol soft­ware for 2016 has re­duced the role of ad­vanced anti-wheelie elec­tron­ics.

“If you can cre­ate some kind of down­wards force that’s stop­ping that ro­ta­tion around the back wheel, then nat­u­rally you’re go­ing to get to the end of the straight quicker.”

But big wings on the front of a bike means greater sur­face area and more drag, some­thing teams are al­ways try­ing to re­duce. And that’s where teams are get­ting into deep wa­ter; by us­ing vor­tices of ‘dirty’ air that both counter the drag and draw com­plaints from other riders.

“Right at the edge of the wing, there’s air with en­ergy that will try and spill over the side of the wing, and cre­ates a whirlpool ef­fect. If you di­rect these vor­tices down the side of a bike, it can act as a seal­ing de­vice; it acts al­most like dou­ble-glaz­ing.

“When the riders are com­plain­ing that they’re fol­low­ing some­one and get­ting a vi­bra­tion, that’s them hit­ting the vor­tices com­ing off the bike,


and it’s not as smooth as fol­low­ing a nor­mal bike. You’ll get a bit of a weave on; if there’s high-pres­sure air on one side and low pres­sure on the other, it’ll pull you to one side.”

But, Row­land-rouse is quick to dis­miss that this is an in­ten­tional tac­tic to ham­per the op­po­si­tion, ad­mit­ting that de­lib­er­ately steer­ing air in such a man­ner is be­yond the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of even teams in high-bud­get F1.

“I’d go so far as to say that creat­ing dirty air on pur­pose is ab­so­lute non­sense. Ac­tively try­ing to make a bike hard to fol­low is ex­tremely hard to do, even F1 teams don’t try to do it! To ac­tu­ally say that a Mo­togp team are ac­tively designing around that idea is shock­ing. That’s proper high-level stuff!”

But while safety grounds is one of the rea­sons many teams and riders are so op­posed to wings, there’s an­other key fac­tor that could speed up their demise in Mo­togp and that’s cost.

With some car rac­ing teams spend­ing up­wards of a mil­lion pounds a month to run both com­puter sim­u­la­tions and wind tun­nel tests, there’s a fear that aero­dy­nam­ics could turn into a black hole for cash.

“If they do man­age to ban wings, I don’t think they’ll be able to ban aero devel­op­ment. You’ve got a very clever man work­ing at Du­cati, and he’s not go­ing to lose his job just be­cause they ban some­thing. He’ll just be pushed into work­ing in a more re­stric­tive area; at the minute, he’s turned up and said ‘oh, there’s no rules – I can do what I want!’

“Once you’ve learned these things, you can’t un­learn them, and you’ve got big teams with big bud­gets who will find ways around the rules. It all de­pends on how you word the rules; F1 teams have en­gi­neers em­ployed purely to read the rules and find loop­holes! There’s no putting the ge­nie back in the bot­tle, as long as you have en­gi­neers push­ing for it and the money to de­velop it.”

With that in mind and with Dorna and the FIM com­mit­ting to sta­bil­ity on tech­ni­cal rule changes for five years, it may come down to safety grounds.

“With safety, they can just veto any­thing a team turns up with, and then it be­comes risky to in­vest £100,000 into a de­sign to be told to take it off at the first round. If they re­ally want rid of it, that’s how it’ll be done – and it is more of a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion than a pure safety de­ci­sion.” First de­buted by Du­cati on the no­to­ri­ously hot-run­ning GP10 ma­chine, the pur­pose of Mo­togp’s orig­i­nal wings wasn’t strictly for aero­dy­namic pur­poses, but rather to help with cool­ing. Po­si­tioned just in front of the ra­di­a­tor ex­haust, the vor­tices they cre­ated on ei­ther side of the bike acted like a giant fan to suck hot air away from the ra­di­a­tor and in­crease cool­ing


‘Creat­ing dirty air on pur­pose is non­sense, even F1 teams don’t do it’

Best demon­strated by the cur­rent Du­cati, the huge wings on the GP16 ma­chine are there to help glue the front wheel to the ground by act­ing like the re­verse of an aero­plane’s wing. Creat­ing downforce rather than lift, they act to help re­place the ad­vanced wheelie con­trol elec­tron­ics the team has lost with the in­tro­duc­tion of con­trol elec­tron­ics for

this year. Ini­tially seen by many as a gim­mick, adding wings to Mahin­dra’s Moto3 ma­chine may make com­plete sense; not to add downforce, but to re­duce drag. Di­rect­ing air more smoothly over both the riders hands and feet, it could add a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on long straights. In­ter­est­ingly, it’s a di­rect copy of an idea first seen two decades ago on Aprilia’s 125GP


Per­haps the clever­est de­sign seen so far, Do­minique Aegerter tested a set of vanes hang­ing from the seat unit at Qatar, only to have them banned be­fore

the race. De­signed to di­rect the air be­hind the bike to a point rather than

a dead end, they help close the vac­uum a bike cre­ates; a vac­uum most no­tice­able when used by a

ri­val dur­ing slip­stream­ing.

Fit­ting wings, Du­cati have traded the Des­mosedici’s looks for a large slice of speed 1. FOR COOL­ING

2. FOR DOWNFORCE 3. FOR DRAG RE­DUC­TION 4. TO CLOSE THE BIKE’S ‘ BUB­BLE’ Wings keep Lorenzo’s M1 planted

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