Aprilia sought to break the deadlock within the MotoGP Manufacturers' Association over the future of wings by suggesting they should pass the same safety test needed to put them on a road bike.
Instead unanimous agreement on the safe use of winglets could not be reached and, as such, the devices will be banned in MotoGP from the end of this season.
But the fact that MotoGP-style wings could be permitted on production bikes - with some modifications outlined below by Aprilia Racing manager Romano Albesiano - opens the door for a future debut in World Superbikes. At least under the present rules...
'We didn't agree with the ban'
|Wing on the Aprilia RS-GP (pic: Gold & Goose).|
While Ducati has been the most outspoken opponent of a wing ban
, they also had the most to lose, having been at the forefront of the technology since the start of 2015.
Aprilia along with Suzuki were the last of the present factories to debut winglets, at Jerez in April. As such, Albesiano cannot be accused of trying to protect a performance advantage.
“No, we didn't agree with the ban,” Albesiano told Crash.net
, during an interview at the recent German MotoGP. “We voted against the ban. We really tried to help find a compromise between the Japanese [manufacturers] and Ducati, which were on opposite sides. We tried to put some common sense to help bring everyone together.
“Because on one side, okay wings are a cost. But in general for the motorcycle world it is something positive. It definitely helped the stability of the motorcycle. We always say racing should help improve the product. Especially on the safety side. And [wings] are a good way to improve safety.”
The demand for a unanimous winglet proposal from the manufacturers' association (MSMA) followed concerns raised by the riders over safety
in the event of an impact between wing and rider, plus stability issues when following a bike fitted with wings.
Albesiano agreed that the impact issue should be addressed, but said there is no evidence to support claims that swirling winglet vortexes were causing following bikes to wobble.
“Some riders complained about [following another rider] in the slipstream. The slipstream argument I absolutely don't believe, because in the aerodynamic wake created by a motorcycle it is impossible to find the vortex generated by the wings.
“So the discussion [within the MSMA] had to be about how to reduce the danger of contact between the wings and the rider.”
'We proposed swept wings'
|Most current MotoGP wings project straight out, and forwards (pic: Gold&Goose).|
Albesiano's solution to the safety issue was simple: Instead of having wings sticking straight out (and indeed forwards) they should be swept backwards like on a fighter jet.
In other words, the wings would follow a similar shape to a normal fairing, which expands diagonally from the tip of the bike to cover the handlebars.
Such swept wings would be less efficient at producing downforce than at present, but given the early stage of development - F1 cars have had wings since the 1960s - it is not hard to imagine the lost downforce could be recovered.
“If we decided a rule - as we proposed - to have wings swept back, with a proper radius [to avoid sharp edges], at that point the wings wouldn't have been more dangerous than any part of the fairing,” Albesiano explained.
Pressed further on his idea, the Italian - who graduated with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and whose early career included being Aerodynamics Project Leader for Mercedes in the DTM championship - added:
“So if you do this shape [wings extending straight outwards from the bike] like we and others have now, there is a greater possibility they will 'hang' [snag] on another rider. But if you do a wing that is swept back - so like an arrowhead shape, if you look down on the bike from above - and with a safe radius on all the edges. Why should it be dangerous?
“Wings help the bike to be more stable and they also improve the braking performance. So this helps safety. It's a shame [to ban them].
“If MSMA had reached a unanimous position it would have been automatically accepted [into the rules] by the Grand Prix Commission. Now every manufacturer will try to recover the same downforce in a different way. Maybe in a more expensive way.”
Can you put wings on a Superbike?
|Romano Albesiano (pic: Gold&Goose).|
Given the benefits of wings as stated by Albesiano, at least at racing speeds, would it be possible to put wings on a production Superbike and therefore make use of them in the World Superbike Championship?
“That is a good example,” he replied. “If you want to make a wing on a production bike you can do it. You just have to comply with some rules that simulate the crash between a motorcycle and a person. There is special device that has to be rolled along the bike [from front to back] and not hang on anything.”
Indeed, Albesiano suggested this same test should be used to determine if future MotoGP winglets were safe or not.
“I proposed this same rule, as applies for a street motorcycle, to the MSMA. If it is [safe] enough for riding a motorcycle in a city, why is it not good enough for MotoGP? But it was not possible,” he said. “So, to answer your question, it is possible to put wings on a street motorcycle - and then you can race Superbike...”
Wings would be legal in WorldSBK - for now
|World Superbike action at Misano (pic: Gold&Goose).|
World Superbike technical director Scott Smart confirmed to Crash.net
that, if a production Superbike was homologated with wings, it would currently be able to race with them in WorldSBK.
That would create a slightly embarrassing situation for the technically superior 'prototype' MotoGP World Championship.
But it will probably never happen.
Smart added that 'pre-emptive' discussions will be held with the MSMA regarding wings in World Superbikes. That is likely to mean they will be excluded from the future rules - even if wings are present on the production version of the same Superbike.
Ducati: No plans for Superbike wings
|Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano (pic: Gold&Goose).|
On paper, Ducati's advanced knowledge means they would be most likely to pursue the possibility of wings in World Superbike.
But for aesthetic reasons they have no plans to do so, at least for now.
“In order for wings to be used in World Superbike, first they must be introduced on the street bike. From an aesthetic point of view however, it is difficult that the wings will be accepted on street bikes,” A Ducati spokesman told Crash.net
. “So for the moment we don't see their introduction as a possibility.”
Despite claims of an aerodynamic arms race, Ducati estimates it carries out wind tunnel work on its Desmosedici an average of once every two months.
By Peter McLaren