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Updated 4th March 2024 to account for the 2024 concession rules.

Aerodynamics in MotoGP has been of growing importance since 2016 when fans first saw purposeful aerodynamic additions to Ducati on the grid.

the 2016 ducati with winglets

The 2016 Ducati with winglets

Following this arrival of downward force aerodynamics MotoGP banned the use of the ‘protruding’ style wings or winglets for safety reasons in 2017.

The original design was too wing like and dangerous in the event of a crash or contact with another rider.

Regulations are worded to allow for fairings and ‘integrated wing’ attachments to be allowed.

In 2019 the argument was raised again when Ducati began to use the Swingarm mount (aka spoiler/spoon/chin) at Qatar.

ducati swingarm qatar 2019

The MotoGP Court of Appeal deemed the swingarm attachment legal and the regulations were again refined to include – any other areas of the bike with ‘aerodynamic effect’ – now fall under Aero Body rules and must pass the Homologation with the technical director, Danny Aldridge prior to the start of the season.

Thereafter it remained stable in the world of aerodynamics until recent times when what is considered an all-out war began with all five factories lining up on the grid in 2023 with F1 style aerodynamics hoping to gain any advantage possible.

It is one of those topics that has created heated debates with some riders and teams vehemently against it and others all for it.

Let’s have a closer look at what aerodynamics are and why it is so contentious in the paddock.

What are Aerodynamics additions?

motogp winglets aerodynamics

Image courtesy of Joe McGowan on Flickr

We all hear the commentary on this when we tune in but what actually are aerodynamics in MotoGP?

In short, aerodynamics is the study of the resistance force created by the air as it moves over both the bike and rider, it is this resistance that prevents them going faster.

Managing aerodynamics and making additions to change this resistance is not only about faster top speeds on track but better stability and cooling effects on the bike.

It has been stated by Factory Ducati that aerodynamics may also be able to help with the aerodynamic load on the wheels – this is especially important in regards to the front tyre.

This has a big impact on wheelie control and stability at high speed.

How do aerodynamics help in MotoGP?

On one level aerodynamics may provide the last remaining area teams have to gain some advantage over other teams since all areas of MotoGP are so heavily regulated such as sole tyre provider, number of engines, cylinder diameters, unified Ecu and IMU and so on.

Technically as far as the rider and bike are concerned aerodynamic additions can help with the following:

  • Cooling
  • Stability/wheelie control
  • Speed
  • Grip

What are the different types of Aerodynamics?

Wings (winglets)

They create the all-important downforce that allows the bike to maintain contact with the road. Most importantly the front wheel.

The wings seen on the front play a big part in wheelie control and overall safety of the bike.

It also helps divert air in an upward direction rather than horizontal in the case of Ducati, to help create less wake left by the bike.

These also siphon air into particular directions through a series of louvres and other design innovations including under the bike.

This is all designed to take that air through the wings and distribute it to help cool parts such as the engine, brakes, oil and water.

In the case of the spoon attachment this is bring in air to cool some are designed to keep air away, diverting hot air away in order to maintain optimal temperatures.

The amount they can protrude from the bike are limited by regulations.

Spoon or swingarm attachment

This is located under the bike, right in front of the rear wheel.

Initially placed there to help cool the rear wheel by bringing fresh air in between the swingarm and rear wheel but also has the benefit of helping with traction.

Diffuser

Diffusers clean up the air flow making sure it goes where it is needed and that it does so in a stable way.

They also use this to create exit ducts which take flow from the air intake and fire it over the rider’s shoulders to smooth airflow, reducing turbulence and drag.

Creating the right aerodynamic diffuser will actually help with grip when turning.

These ground effect diffusers first used by Ducati are F1 inspired aerodynamics which creates low-pressure area pushing the bike into the track by creating airflow between the fairing and the ground at full lean.

This is called aerodynamic grip as opposed to mechanical grip.

motogp winglets and aerodynamics

Image courtesy of Box Repsol on Flickr

Which are the Teams for and against Aerodynamic development?

It goes without saying Ducati is leading the way in the MotoGP aerodynamics war, with Aprilia close behind.

This is in part thanks to the consultation of F1, namely Ferrari, specialists in aerodynamics.

Red Bull KTM has made no secret they prefer if aerodynamics was banned from MotoGP.

However they have since changed their stand on this and have started to use Red Bull F1 team aerodynamicists to help the MotoGP team catch up.

Honda and Yamaha have also started to go down the aerodynamics path.

However Yamaha is the only team not to hire a specialist in the area, rather going it alone for now.

Are there any disadvantages to aerodynamic additions to the bike?

Straight up the aesthetics are sometimes ruined and the bikes can start to look a little strange up close.

However we must keep in mind these bikes are not built for road users or even sale in any form.

They are purely about racing so the appearance overall is not the most important consideration.

The tight regulations for aerodynamics are in place partly because it is an extremely expensive part of racing, to help alleviate some financial pressure on teams, especially non-factory and newer teams.

There are of course, some technical down sides to playing around with the aerodynamics.

The one is weight and at times the power gained is outweighed by the pressure on the tyres or engine and therefore is impractical in race conditions.

What are the Regulations for MotoGP Aerodynamics?

As with most regulations in MotoGP they are not neatly outlined somewhere we need to look in a couple of places to understand the rules.

First, we need to understand the term Aero Body. The regulations use this term to refer to aerodynamic additions.

In the regulations the MotoGP Aero Body is defined as:

The portion of the motorcycle bodywork that is directly impacted by the front airflow while the motorcycle is moving forward, and is not in the wake (ie. aerodynamic “shadow”) of the rider’s body or any other motorcycle body parts

The regulations then go on to outline a whole lot of rules regarding this within the Bodywork Section (Art. 2.4.4.7).

To simplify matters, the main points to be aware of for 2024 Aerodynamic regulations are as follows:

  • The fairing design (or ‘aero body’ areas) Aerodynamic fairing upgrades on the front of the bike are limited to one change per season. One design can be homologated for the start of the season by teams, and a second allowed at another point during the year. Only these two designs can be used on track raced during the season. However, see below regarding the new concession rules.
  • Aerodynamic additions can only protrude a limited amount
  • ‘Moving aerodynamics devices’ are prohibited. This means anything that can move independently of the bike

Due to the changes in the concession points system from 2024 manufacturers in Ranking D will be able to access two aero updates per rider per season.

However, they must discard one existing aero specification when choosing to utilise the second update. Rankings A, B, and C are allowed only one aero update per rider per season.

So far for 2024 both Yamaha and Honda are in Ranking D. For more on the new concession point system see our article on MotoGP engines where this is explained in more detail.

motogp winglets aerodynamics

Image courtesy of Box Repsol on Flickr

Taking the rider into consideration

The rider plays a huge part in aerodynamics and teams go to great lengths to study each of their riders through a series of 3D renderings and the use of CFD (computational fluid dynamics).

According to ScienceDirect.com CFD is a science that, with the help of digital computers, produces quantitative predictions of fluid-flow phenomena based on the conservation laws (conservation of mass, momentum, and energy) governing fluid motion.

Which to many of us doesn’t mean too much but when we look at this Ducati factory video showcasing their air flow analysis we can see in this case it means simulating air flow over the rider and bike and making the needed adjustments to the aerodynamics until they are satisfied with the result for each rider.

Aerodynamics in MotoGP have evolved a lot in recent times and exploded over the last couple of seasons.

Regulations are the only way to rein it in as far as some riders and teams are concerned, while others such as factory Ducati continue to push and evolve on this level.

Whether you agree or disagree, it will certainly be interesting to see the future evolution in seasons to come.

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