After much debate and controversy in the two seasons they have been in use, the use of aerodynamic winglets is to be banned in all three MotoGP classes from 2017 onwards. At Assen, the Grand Prix Commission met and decided on an outright ban on aerodynamic wings, after the MSMA had failed to reach an agreement amongst all the manufacturers involved in MotoGP on a joint proposal.
There has been much discussion on the pros and cons of winglets over the past few months. Some have cited the risk of slicing injuries in the case of a crash. Some have cited an unfair disadvantage to the riders behind trying to get a tow as the winglets leave a great deal of turbulent air in the wake of the rider upfront. Ducati in particular used the wings to great effect, having introduced and then been at the forefront of developing the wing technology to reign in the fearsome Ducati horsepower. As a result, winglet design was pursued by all the major manufacturers and introduced at Jerez this year by Suzuki and Aprilia. With the introduction of the common ECU software, winglets are one of the important ways of reducing the amount of wheelie MotoGP bikes had.
However as the manufacturers, especially Ducati gained more performance with the winglets, the winglets grew larger and longer, raising safety concerns over the effect of an impact during a crash. Action had been expected to be taken at the previous Grand Prix Commission meeting in Mugello, but the parties failed to reach an agreement.
Dorna, IRTA and the FIM had presented the MSMA manufacturers with an ultimatum: if the MSMA could produce a unanimous proposal to regulate and restrict the size and shape of the winglets, it would be adopted. If they could not, then winglets would be banned. The manufacturers failed to arrive at a conclusion with Honda on one side and Ducati on the other. The outright ban on winglets will shift the focus on fairing design to achieve the same effect.
The rules will need to be explicitly written to define what a winglet actually is, and Ducati have already hinted that they will be searching for loopholes in the rules.
“Like in Formula One, we will have to look very carefully at the future rules,” Ducati boss Davide Tardozzi said. “Every single word will be important, because everything which is not forbidden will be allowed.”