At Assen, MotoGP’s Grand Prix Commission announced that aerodynamic winglets will be banned from 2017.
The downforce generated by winglets helps resist the natural tendency of a motorcycle to wheelie under acceleration, which means less use of anti-wheelie electronics and more engine output.
However safety concerns have been raised about the possibility of injury if a winglet strikes a rider during an accident, while the downstream turbulence has caused some instability issues for following competitors.
All five manufacturers now have winglets available, in various stages of refinement, but the ruling means they cannot be used beyond the Valencia season finale.
Here we take a look at the factors leading up to the ban and why Ducati is angry at the decision.
‘The riders rang the alarm bell’
Ducati debuted the latest generation of MotoGP winglets at the 2015 Qatar pre-season test. The devices were modified during the season, while its rivals began playing catch-up behind closed doors.
Yamaha gave their winglets a grand prix debut at Misano in September, with Honda waiting until winter testing. Aprilia and Suzuki showed their designs at Jerez in April.
But by that time discussions were already underway about banning the devices.
“The alarm rang because in the Safety Commission the riders complained about them,” MotoGP’s director of technology Corrado Cecchinelli commented. “With this input from the riders, the FIM cannot just go on like nothing.
“They had to say ‘ok, we have a complaint, so we have a concern. Which doesn’t mean an issue, but you manufacturers need to tell us we should not worry’. The manufacturers could not do that.”
An MSMA proposal never materialised
Given the safety concerns raised by the riders, plus the secondary issue of cost, the FIM had asked the manufacturers’ association (MSMA) to draw up a unanimous proposal – agreed by all MotoGP manufacturers – for the future of winglets.
This proposal was expected to include aspects such as limits on the size, shape, location and materials, plus assurances over safe detachment in the event of an accident.
“The FIM asked MSMA to make a unanimous proposal; make them safe and officially accept them,” Cecchinello confirmed. “They gave MSMA some time, which was extended until here [Assen]. But this proposal didn’t come and so the Grand Prix Commission decided to ban wings from next season.”
What happened in the MSMA?
“It was impossible to reach an agreement with the other factories,” stated Ducati team manager Davide Tardozzi. “If the MSMA had reached a unanimous agreement and it went to the Grand Prix Commission, this proposal would have gone through. But not having a proposal, the Grand Prix Commission did what they thought was in the interest of the championship [and banned wings].”
No proposal = no wings
It is clear that the only way winglets could continue in MotoGP was if the manufacturers reached unanimous agreement on a proposal.
But if there was no proposal – as turned out to be the case – the Grand Prix Commission [FIM, Dorna, MSMA and IRTA] would hold a straight ‘yes/no’ vote on banning the devices.
And if the manufacturers themselves couldn’t confirm the safety of their winglets, via a unanimous proposal, there is no way the Commission would vote to keep them.
“The FIM were starting from a position that was in favour of banning because of the safety concerns and cost issues,” Cecchinelli said.
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