What will change under MotoGP's revised aerodynamic rules for 2020?
In mid-July the Grand Prix Commission reached agreement on how to address 'grey areas' in the current regulations. Their focus had been sharpened by a rare public spat involving five of the six manufacturers over the legality of Ducati's swingarm spoiler, which went to the MotoGP Court of Appeal.
With the full 2020 amendments yet to be published, we spoke to MotoGP Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli to find out what to expect in terms of the future aerodynamic (and electronics) regulations…
Q: The unified electronics are not self-adapting, but they can still be programmed for each corner of the race track. Are there any plans to remove that capability from the software in the future?
Corrado Cecchinelli: No. We believe that once you have a good base with the regulations, stability pays off in terms of cost control and closing the technical gap between the teams.
So we believe in stability and we have no plans, in any of the categories, to make any important software evolutions. We are always changing small bits, but not something big like removing or adding track sections or traction control.
That also means the Moto2 ECU will be the same next year, so no traction control, unless in the remainder of the season we discover a problem that we need to address. The plan is always consistency.
Q: One area where there will be some technical changes next year is aerodynamics…
CC: That's an example where we did something only because we had a problem to address.
Q: How would you describe what that problem was?
CC: Basically, we had a problem of borderline interpretation of the regulations and so we had to act to narrow this border.
Honestly it wasn't that difficult to reach a better solution because the manufacturers were all very collaborative. But don’t expect that there won’t be any more loopholes in the future and don't call us stupid if it happens! Because this is the way it goes. The [manufacturers] have far more people than us and their job is to go to the extremes.
It's always a case of putting patches over the holes, just like adding a software update for your mobile phone to meet a changing situation. So the rules will need to change again one day, but I hope not very soon.
I also hope I can speak for the manufacturers when I say that they are all very happy with the measures we took, because it will be clearer for everybody.
Q: Does clearer mean adding more numbers and measurements to the jig shape [used by Danny Aldridge to ensure that fairings comply with the aerodynamic regulations] that is already in use?
CC: Yes, we have added some more dimensional constraints for instance, just to put a roof for the future. In every respect we checked the existing fairing designs and set the new, more precise limits using what exists now, so nobody has to take a step backwards.
Q: Are there new limits on the angle of the curves on the 'wing' parts, for example?
CC: Yes. This is all prescribed. There are radii, angles and everything. So there will be a much smaller grey area, but there will still always be some grey area.
Remember, Formula One has decades more experience than us with aerodynamic rules and they still have problems. Someone is smarter and then the organiser has to catch-up. It's part of the game. But I think we did a good job, meaning not bad and not perfect.
Q: And everything we see in terms of aerodynamics on the race track now will still be legal next year?
CC: Yes. Nobody has to change their designs.
Q: Including the swingarm Spoiler/Spoon/Chin?
CC: The infamous 'Chin'! Yes, it will still be legal, but now it will become a homologated part. So if you change the design of the 'Chin', including if you simply remove it completely, it will count as your one update for the season in that area.
Q: So a new Aero Body area will be added to the technical rules?
CC: Yes. As you know, we split the outside of the motorcycle into different areas that we call the Aero Body. You are only allowed to make one design update to each Aero Body area during the season.
At the moment there are two Aero Body areas: The Fairing and Front Fender. From next year there will be another Aero Body area covering the swingarm. Plus, "everything else" that has an aerodynamic effect, will also collectively fall under the Aero Body rules.
For instance, the fork leg cover will be automatically considered as part of the Aero Body. So it is allowed to be shaped, but the shape can only be changed once during the season.
Q: The words 'aerodynamic effect' have caused some debate, because everything on the bike that is in contact with moving air arguably has an aerodynamic effect…
CC: This is true. There will be a very complicated and, in some ways, still subjective wording to define 'aerodynamic effect'. But it will be much clearer than now.
It basically says that every component or part of a component that has a design that is not necessary for its basic function, such as riding or transferring power, will automatically be considered part of the Aero Body.
That means if you have a normal swingarm shape, which just connects the rear wheel to the pivot, it won't be considered part of the Aero Body because the swingarm shape is purely to carry out a mechanical function.
But if you were to sculpt the swingarm surface using a monocoque design to include the 'Chin' as one piece, then the whole swingarm would become part of the Aero Body. So be careful, because then you could only change the swingarm design once during the season.
So everybody will still have a 'Chin' that is bolted on, so that they will still be free to change the structural part of the swingarm as they wish, But they will now be limited in terms of changing the 'Chin’ design, or removing it at all, as its considered part of the Aero Body.
Q: Are there any technical changes planned for the next contract term between Dorna and the manufacturers, starting from 2022?
CC: There's an agreement to aim for technical rule stability over the term of the current contract, which expires in 2021. So we are aiming at absolute stability until then, taking into account the necessary amendments to things like the aerodynamics. But it is also our intention not to change anything significant at the beginning of the next term, starting from 2022.
So, in agreement with everybody, especially the FIM and manufacturers, because we [Dorna] are not actually the ones who make the rules, our opinion is to keep the technical rules consistent even after 2021. We are not just waiting for the current contract term to expire before introducing something big for 2022. This is not the plan.
Q: No plans to try and limit top speeds?
CC: No. It is not under discussion and not something we are planning for the next term.
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