Winglets are to be made compulsory in MotoGP from 2017, we can exclusively reveal, using a spec design to be implemented much along the lines of the current unified software introduced this year in the premier class.
The decision was taken in response to concerns over costs spiraling out of control should all of the factories become engaged in a winglet war.
The marginal gains to be had from increased spending on CFD computer modeling and wind tunnel work were a red flag for Dorna, who have spent the last seven seasons since the start of the Global Financial Crisis tweaking the rules to reduce costs and raise grid numbers.
With the grid now healthy, and set to rise to 24 in 2017, Dorna and the FIM feared all their hard work could be undone, and teams would once again be forced out of racing by rising costs.
Though Ducati was strongly opposed to any form of intervention – which went against an agreement by Dorna not to interfere with the technical regulations for the next five season, the length of the current commercial agreements with the factories – they eventually gave in when the proposal for a spec winglet design by committee was put to them.
Under the proposal, leaked to us, the spec winglet would be designed using input from all of the factories in MotoGP. Those proposals would then be forwarded to a technology partner, who would test and refine them, based on the factories’ design parameters.
It was the identity of the technology partner which persuaded Ducati. Dorna has struck a landmark deal with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus to design and test the winglets, ensuring a generic design which will work with all of the bikes in MotoGP.
The deal includes access to time in the wind tunnel Airbus uses at Filton, which is also less than an hour from Rassau, Ebbw Vale, part of the new Circuit of Wales project.
The prospect of being able to test designs in the wind tunnel, then take the bike for a short trip across the Severn estuary to try it in practice at the Circuit of Wales was too tempting to resist.
The deal offers Airbus technology advantages as well. Aircraft, like motorcycles, are dynamic vehicles, with a wide range of motion in three axes. While managing airflow at altitude is more straightforward, the problems come during landing and take off, the most dangerous part of any flight.
MotoGP bikes bear an unsuspected resemblance to a landing aircraft: they are traveling at comparable speeds with varying attitudes. This in turn affects airflow between the body and wings of the plane and the ground, just as the changing shape of a motorcycle during cornering radically changes airflow.
Airbus believes this could provide valuable data towards helping make plane landings smoother and safer.
The deal was originally meant to stay secret until Silverstone, with a spectacular display at the former airfield to include the landing of an Airbus along the appropriately named Hangar Straight before the start of the MotoGP race. This leak puts an end to that.
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.