The War on Wings continues. At Qatar, the Grand Prix Commission agreed to ban winglets in the Moto2 and Moto3. The aerodynamic devices are banned immediately in Moto2, while they will be banned in Moto3 from 2017, as Mahindra have already fitted small winglets to their Moto3 machine to be used at some races this season. However, the ban on winglets for 2017 should stop development of them immediately.
The ban has no effect on MotoGP, however. There are powerful moves to try to ban the winglets in MotoGP, but they face resistance from the manufacturers. One of the conditions under which the factories accepted the switch to the common software was that the technical regulations would remain stable for the coming five years, the usual time period for technical regulations to last. However, the appearance of winglets and strakes on the MotoGP bikes has triggered fears of a spending war on aerodynamics between the factories.
Aerodynamics is particularly feared, as it is a field in which you can always obtain marginal gains by spending increasing amounts of money on CFD (computational fluid dynamics) modeling and wind tunnel work. Aerodynamics in motorcycle racing is relatively poorly developed, in part due to the regulations, but mainly because the dynamic nature of a motorcycle makes finding improvements that work in the many very different physical attitudes a bike can take on (leaned over for a corner, with the front wheel in the air while accelerating, with the nose dipping and the rear sliding under braking, etc) can be extremely difficult.
Any move to ban winglets must come from the manufacturers themselves. Sources have indicated to MotoMatters.com that Dorna, IRTA and the FIM would all welcome a ban, but are waiting for a proposal from the MSMA, the manufacturers association. The MSMA is reportedly split on on the use of winglets, according to veteran journalist Mat Oxley. Some factories favor them, some oppose them, with the names of the two sides easy to fill in.
Normally, the MSMA must reach a unanimous decision before submitting a proposal to the Grand Prix Commission, which the GPC is then obliged to accept. However, some members of the MSMA may choose to submit their own proposal to the GPC, which would then be subject to a free vote. That would go very much against the ethos of the MSMA, which has tried as much as possible to create a consensus on technical rules. Should some members of the MSMA decide that winglets should be banned, against the will of, say, Ducati and Yamaha, then such a ban would have a long lead time.
There is one opening for banning winglets in MotoGP, and that is through safety concerns. So far, MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge has not expressed a concern about safety, as the winglets are designed to break off before injuring someone. However, no testing procedure for this exists at the moment, something which will surely need to be addressed in the very near future. If the winglets are proven to be dangerous, then Dorna have the right to impose a ban immediately.
Below is the press release from the FIM with the decision of the GPC:
FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Vito Ipollito (President FIM), Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on 19th. March 2016 in Losail, made the following decisions:
Moto2 Class Quickshifter – Effective 01 May 2016
To reduce the incidence of missed gears it will be mandatory to use one of two approved brands of quickshifter. (Not one brand as previously agreed). It will also be compulsory to fit and use a load cell with data being supplied to the technical control data export.
Aerodynamic Wings in Moto3 and Moto2 Classes
The use of aerodynamic wings in these classes will be banned. For the Moto2 class the ban is effective immediately. For the Moto3 class, where some aerodynamic wings are currently being used, the ban is effective from 2017.
The Technical Director will continue to permit the use of fairing designs used to deflect water displaced by the front wheel that do not have an aerodynamic purpose.
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on: