MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
To wing it or not, that is the question
Are Ducati’s MotoGP winglets a good idea? Many think not. Which is why they may soon be banned.
Motorcycle racing exists for various reasons, but primarily because people want to race bikes. As Valentino Rossi’s long-time engineer Jeremy Burgess once said: “If you’ve got a bike, two kids, a stopwatch and a piece of dirt, you’ve got yourself a race.”
At a grander level, racing exists because people want to watch it, because people want to make money out of people watching it and because manufacturers want to show off their engineering prowess and learn things that will help them build better road bikes.
Will Ducati build a better road bike thanks to its work with MotoGP winglets? Possibly. Of more concern is what might happen in the meantime.
Winglets, or strakes, to give them their correct aerodynamic name (a strake is longer than it’s wide; a winglet is wider than it’s long) have been around for ages: Mike Hailwood’s Suzuki RG500 wore them when he won the 1980 Senior TT.
The strakes used by Hailwood and by fellow RG rider Barry Sheene gave more downforce to increase front tyre temperature (sometimes useful, sometimes not) and improve high-speed stability, at a small cost to top speed. Suzuki’s strakes measured about four centimetres in width and 30 centimetres in length and didn’t stay around for long. Yamaha experimented with similar-sized strakes in the 1990s, again in the early days of MotoGP, and is having another go now, though it doesn’t seem that convinced.
Thus Ducati is the first factory to work seriously in this area, with the latest Desmosedici sprouting four massive strakes. The main idea is to reduce wheelies, which cost both time and effort, without involving the anti-wheelie electronics that work by dialing out much-needed torque during acceleration. It’s a clever idea, especially in MotoGP’s new era of lower-tech rider aids.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.