Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Farewell to winglets?

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.


Farewell to winglets?

The subject of winglets, or strakes, or whatever you want to call the infernal contraptions, was a big talking point in the Qatari desert.

Several riders including Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith voiced their concerns; not so much their worries that a strake may hook a rider and cause a crash, but rather the scary effect they have on motorcycles following in their draft at high speeds.

It seems the dirty air behind a winged Ducati moving at over 200mph lifts the front of the chasing motorcycle, causing a severe wobble or worse.

Pedrosa had possibly the scariest moment chasing a winged Duke at Phillip Island last year, at around 211mph/340kph. “You lose front [tyre] contact and you lose control, so the front is shaking and you go into a weave. It’s not a good thing.”

Smith has also had a few frights. “The bike starts to shake, like it goes light,” said the Tech 3 Yamaha rider. “The bike actually shakes and vibrates, which at 210mph, just before you go for the brakes, isn’t the best thing. It also seems to be that when we’re braking behind a Ducati there seems to be some turbulence, like you get into a pocket of air which hits you back. It just seems bizarre.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Total votes: 145
Total votes: 99

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Comments

Helpful info from riders. Turns the corner for me. Using the draft is already such a gutsy and difficult maneuver when it is not oddly turbulent. I remember nearly hitting people from the rear as though sucked in by a vacuum (just club racing). I liked the idea of aero assist for handling but the turbulence is more important.

Let's ditch the winglets ASAP. Oh, and turn-by-turn electronics (we really could have just a bit ago, but two or three manu's said no - too bad). Honda quoting money constraints can be heard with an ironic tone, and reminds me of their hand on the rulebook. The riders preferences are important. Dorna can fulfill its role functioning MANAGING the regulations in a collaborative manner with all involved. Initiate with straightforward clarity rather than respond with multiple adjustments. Just like the turn in point for a significant corner - a single swift strong steering input, then stabilize the chassis.

Total votes: 144

At the top of the rider and technological food chain (although some might dispute the latter) should be the best of the best. The best riders and the best bikes. I know that people do not want comparisons to Formula 1, but when you constrain one variable then the teams will find a way to spend money on another variable. Formula 1 thought that changing the engines spec's to efficient and clean technology would reduce cost because there were only so many (in other words limited) configurations that would yield top performance. And it was true. Some of the engine manufacturers used different setups but the basic structure is there. And when teams started to make too much headway with the engines then what did they sink their money into? Aerodynamics. I do not know how closely people here follow F1, but there was so much money being put into the blown diffuser that the rules had essentially make it obsolete. And now they are back to engines. Welcome home Mercedes.

Now with the F1 aerodynamics somewhat constrained, where are teams spending their money? Back on the engines and the transfer of engine power to the road. Mechanical grip. Max and others (who I have respect for) and especially the riders complain or maybe believe that the aerodynamic aids are dangerous or take away from the sport or are just money sinkholes, but if they are removed I am positive that Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati will find ways of spending escalating amounts of money on something else. Let's make a spec ECM? Then I will spend money on aerodynamics. Outlaw some of that? Who knows - maybe the teams will funnel money to Showa or Ohlins for super suspension development. And what about tires? They are spec but that does not mean that money is being used to refine them. But you say that we don't want escalating costs in MotoGP! How about Michelin? Maybe we should cut them a break so they do not have to spend so much money making tires that work best for all of the bikes and especially for the show (i.e., the fans).

I could rant on this soapbox for a long time but I have work to do and usually cannot keep pace with the comments. To summarize: teams are going to spend money (maybe in only small escalating increments) where they think they can get an advantage. If these wings are within the rules then let them be. But if you outlaw them, then don't come back crying because a different technology was discovered/exploited and that is causing costs to rise.

Total votes: 145

has had wings or winglets or whatever you want to call them for how many years now? It's not like they just started using them. For there to be so much noise all of a sudden about banning them must mean they work. Not that I'm convinced of this, but why all of sudden are they an issue? They weren't an issue for the last three years. Is it because the bikes running them are up at the front now? I think so. No one cared when Ducati were running in 7th, 8th and 9th. Also, no one is complaining that the Yamaha's wings cause turbulence.

Calling a safety issue is the most expedient method to get something banned.......and that's my point. It hasn't come up before, and Ducati has had winglets since Hayden rode there. Something is going on that has less to do with safety and more to do with politics.

Total votes: 138

"But a ban will have to wait until next year... unless there's an accident", because there's money invested?
So expenses supersede rider safety; pardon me but that is just effed up.

"... unless there's an accident" is a terrifyingly ominous statement.

Total votes: 127

Mike Trimby, General Secretary of IRTA
"...but a ban will have to wait until next year... unless there's an accident."

Really?

Reactive rule making? Because that's the best way to address rider safety? After an accident or injury has already occurred?

Holy Hell. Am I the only one that sees the obvious folly of this style of rule making?

Total votes: 152

We ban the entire bike itself so that they don't pose a risk to another rider when they crash? This is just absurd. Banning in moto 2 and 3...fine... Riders have to pay for eveything. But full factory rides? Seriously? Over safety concerns? All of a sudden we are all about safety. If u can't follow another bike on the straight for whatever reason, take another Line. No rider is entitled to an advantage that can be gained from another rider. Slipstreaming happens because it is possible. If it is not possible, then don't. As for safety, we have far more dangerous things happening on the track. These guys are all riding in the same direction. Meaning relative velocity between any two riders are small. Much small to make rounded edged strakes into kangaroo leather slicing swords. As for crashes, entire bike hitting a fallen rider is simply deadly with or without strakes. Safety concerns over strakes are just simply politics. If yamaha and Honda didn't feel like ducati had an advantage with strakes, they would've adopted it. Ducati itself is a menacing presence on any straight and there is no way yamaha or Honda can chanse thst kinda straightline advantage with aerodynamics, So all the commotion. When was the last time anyone actually slipstreamed a ducati? With or without strakes, ducatis have always been bikes difficult to chase on straight. Like they are going to follow a duke down the straight if strakes are removed. What a joke...

Dirty air on track? "This ain't ballet"

Total votes: 108

Maybe the two Ducatis didn't have trouble following each other because both bikes had the winglets helping keep their front ends down. If that was the case, one could argue that not having winglets is dangerous because all it takes is some turbulent air to upset the bike at speed. I agree with Apriliarider that nobody was complaining when they were not at the sharp end of the races. Now that they're not getting laughed at anymore, people want to ban the winglets. That would be an easy way of not having to catch up with development in that area.

Total votes: 113

... of the wealthiest factory (Nakamoto - HRC) complains that the cost of developing aerodynamics is too high, you know they must elminated in this relatively fragile state of MotoGP. Let's also not forget that adding such massively expensive R&D costs to the series completely contradicts the important change the championship has just made for 2016, spec ECU. If the factory bikes start to gain substantial advantages and invest enormous sums towards aeros, we're right back in the same predicament. Except this time time the insurmountable advantage of factory vs satellite teams will be visible (hideous wings), instead of invisible (highly advanced electronics).

Total votes: 124

I would like to see the factories sit down and agree to not pursue the path of winglets/strakes/ any further.
That will not happen. I think the GPC need to put there heads together and ban the stuff before the season gets to Jerez.
On 4 wheels aerodynamic appendages are very forgiving.
Judging by the majority of comments on this 'strake' topic, trending complaints about them pertain to 'strake bashing' in a dogfight and turbulance in the slipstream.
The pro's suggest better manipulation of airflow for downforce under braking, resistance to uplift under acceleration and manipulation of airflow around the rider and direction of airflow in a way that heat generating mechanical bits can be assisted in heat dissapation.
I'm not an aerodynamicist, but this path of development looks pretty retro.
It reminds me of Moto Guzzi with dust bin full front wheel fairings on their GP racer's of yore.
Logic suggests to me that gusty, high velocity cross winds could cause catastrophic situations as a result of ever increasing number and size of wings front and rear.
This will inevitably call for more hyperspeed sensors, anticipation based algorithms managed by the ECU. NUTS!
Ban the things, if only for the sake of aesthetics. They looks so UGLY.
I cast an eye at a 1:9 scale model of Stoner's GP7 800 and it looks like a bullit and was a bullit, not a strake in sight.

Total votes: 124

Say for sure that the wings are going to hurt any rider. Specially when the Ducks have had them for several years and no one has Lost their heads yet. That's why you can't change the rules over night. Now I personally think they need to go next year. They're Too ugly to look at.

Total votes: 124