Safety, cost to determine winglet future
Jerez was a strange weekend in the world of MotoGP winglets.
Just as Suzuki and Aprilia made it a clean sweep of all five manufacturers now using the technology, meetings were taking place to discuss killing-off the aerodynamic devices.
The main benefit of winglets is to counter wheelies by loading the front of the bike on corner exit. This helps acceleration by reducing the need to bring the front-wheel down by cutting engine output.
MotoGP’s unwritten principle is not to ban new (legal) technology once it is already in use, since this is unfair to the manufacturer that invested time, money and effort in creating and developing the concept. Especially in a ‘prototype’ class.
An example of this is seamless gearbox technology, first introduced by Honda and now present in some form throughout the grid.
The clear exception when evaluating the future of new MotoGP technology is safety, with ongoing development costs a longer term consideration. Especially once all manufacturers are using a particular technology and there is no longer a significant advantage to those that created it.
So what is the future for winglets – and will there even be one?
With questions raised over safety in the event of an accident, should the edge of a winglet strike a rider, plus reports of unsettling downstream turbulence, the MSMA (manufacturers’ association) are due to submit a proposal outlining their vision for the future of the devices.
But exactly when that proposal will be made, and what it will contain depends on the manufacturers reaching an agreement.
That will be no easy task, with those at the forefront of winglet technology – Ducati and later Yamaha were the first to race the devices – are likely to view them far more favourably than the likes of Honda, Suzuki and Aprilia, which didn’t have winglets until 2016 and are playing catch-up.
In a written response to Crash.net and Motomatters.com, MotoGP Director Of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli said: “They [the manufacturers] didn’t submit any proposal here at Jerez. We don’t know what will happen before Le Mans. For sure the matter will be addressed again there, I am not sure it will be finalised, as it takes lots of considerations. There is no official commitment from MSMA to submit a proposal at Le Mans, anyway,”
Cecchinelli confirmed that, in his view, it would be unfair to immediately ban winglets unless the manufacturers conclude there is a safety risk.
“It is true that the winglets, as they are now, are allowed by the present regulations, and so it would not be fair to ban them with immediate application, if not on safety grounds,” he said.
“There are of course different reasons in favour of winglets, as well as against them, but only safety shall be considered when it comes to the immediate/short period. I assume manufacturers are now investigating the actual safety issues that winglets may bring into the game, and potential solutions. But it takes some time.” …