Aprilia’s Romano Albesiano & Massimo Rivola Speak About Ducati’s Rear Spoiler, And The Cost of Aerodynamics

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After yesterday’s sitting of the MotoGP Court of Appeal, ruling on Ducati’s rear swing arm-fitted spoiler, no official announcement was made, and next to no information leaked out from other sources. There is still no decision, and what was discussed behind closed doors, is staying behind closed doors for the moment.

On Saturday, however, Aprilia held its Aprilia All Stars event at the Mugello circuit, a day to celebrate the fabulous machines the Italian factory has produced, and the great champions who have ridden then. Along with riders past and present, there was also Massimo Rivola, Aprilia Racing CEO, and Romano Albesiano, Aprilia Racing Manager.

That meant that they had their chance to give their side of the argument to the assembled media. In a press conference, Rivola and Albesiano explained why they had protested against Ducati’s use of its spoiler during the opening race of the 2019 MotoGP season at Qatar, and made clear that it was not their intention for Andrea Dovizioso to be stripped of the win in that race.

What’s Good for the Goose…

At the heart of their complaint was the fact that Aprilia had submitted a similar design to MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge, and had it rejected. They had sent the design to Aldridge on 19th February, but Aldridge had ruled that it violated the guidelines sent out after the Qatar test.

“We discussed about a device to be fitted in that area,” Romano Albesiano explained. “Then we learned that you can say a wing can be useful for refreshing everything, no? But we were clearly told that a device fitted in that area should not have an aerodynamic purpose, and would have been taken off if it was dry. So we stopped thinking about anything in that area.” So when Ducati turned up with a spoiler fitted to the bottom of the swing arm, they had been surprised, Albesiano said. “We were really surprised that a wing fitted in that area was allowed.”

From Albesiano’s perspective, it is clear that Ducati’s spoiler creates downforce. “In the new edition of the guidelines which was issued the day after the IRTA test in Qatar, it was clearly said that a device fitted in that location should not be designed to create a downforce,” he explained. “A downforce is one of the aerodynamic effects mentioned, and the purpose of the downforce is grip.” The triple wing fitted to the GP19 clearly did that. “A wing creates downforce,” Albesiano said.

Albesiano rejected the idea that the amount of downforce created was negligible. “It’s not one pound [of downforce]. It’s much more than one pound in the calculations we have done, it’s much more. And when the range of riders is separated by hundredths of a second, even a few kilograms of downforce can be a help and make the difference.”

Aprilia Has the Data

Albesiano gave some details from the spoiler Aprilia had designed and which Aldridge had rejected, saying that their device generated a significant amount of downforce. “We did the virtual wind tunnel testing, so called CFD, computational fluid dynamics. We simulated this device in straight line conditions, braking conditions.”

“We have figures on the downforce, the drag, and the cooling effect that this device can give. I’m not sure I can give numbers today, but from the downforce point of view, it’s not negligible, it’s something that can make a difference in performance. ”

What Aprilia wanted from the Court of Appeal was some clarification, Massimo Rivola explained, and not for the results to be scrapped. “First of all, I will say once more, we never asked for the race result to be different than it was,” Rivola said. “Even at the time of the protest and the appeal, that was clear, at least to Aprilia.”

But Aprilia did expect the rules to be clearer and applied more consistently, Rivola said. “I don’t expect something to change in the very short term, but I expect that everybody understands that there is a need for some clarification.” It was better to protest at the first race and have the rules cleared up, than to let it fester through the year, Rivola explained. “I think that the fact that we made this fuss at the first race, I think it’s better to do it straight away. Now we can say, I told you so.”

Cost Control

The real objection to aerodynamic experimentation was of costs spiraling out of control, Rivola explained, something he was all too familiar with from his time in F1.

“From my experience in Formula 1, if we decide to go to the aerodynamic field, it will cost a fortune to everybody. Probably for a very little gain, especially in the areas which are now free, like that one attached where it is. And even more, it is very difficult to police.”

“So, you spend a lot of money, the federation cannot control the rules, so far the federation allowed and gave its OK looking at the part and saying, ‘if you say it’s for cooling the tire, then I think it’s OK’.”

The level of knowledge inside the FIM, IRTA, and Dorna to police the rules needed to be raised, Rivola said. “I think we need to raise the level. When we say about professionalism? Yes, this for me is something which is not acceptable. And I think you can’t disagree, to be honest.”

While Ducati is waiting to hear whether it will be allowed to use its spoiler in Argentina, Romano Albesiano hinted that if the part is ruled legal, they could take a second look at the part which Danny Aldridge had previously rejected.

“We stopped every kind of development in that area, and we are waiting for the result of the appeal,” Albesiano said. “We still hope that the guidelines will be applied, and this device will be banned for the future. Otherwise, if it would be allowed, we could do something based on our experience.”