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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > Issue 326 > WINGED WONDERS

WINGED WONDERS

Ducati have already proven they know aerodynamics and this year the Japanese are showing they know a thing or two about interpreting a rulebook, says Neil…

MOTOGP AERODYNAMICS

I can’t imagine the Japanese enjoyed the 2016 MotoGP season at the back of the engineering class, can you? Even though they were all taken to aerodynamics school by Ducati last year, Yamaha came out (s)winging early on in 2017, but it wasn’t until the recent Phillip Island test that Suzuki and Co. showed their aerodynamic prowess and likewise ability to interpret the MotoGP rulebook.

Driving on the ceiling

We all know that aerodynamic down force has long been a critical design feature on race cars. Formula 1 cars are covered in wings, aerofoils, spoilers and air dams. The well-established urban legend insists that if you were to drive an F1 car upside down in a tunnel at 150mph, its wings would keep it firmly stuck to the ceiling. As no F1 circuits feature a tunnel where this could happen, we should assume all those carbon-fibre bits on F1 cars are there for another reason – and that reason is grip.

Race cars use wings to generate down force to push the car onto the tarmac. This extra downward pressure forces the tyres onto the road harder, generating extra grip. Infact, tyre gripis proportional to how hard it is pushed on to the road surface –double the downward force equals double the amount of grip… simples. So why not fit a couple of huge down force wings to motorcycles, then? Well, it’s just not that simple for us. To get the benefit of extra tyre grip from aerodynamic down force, the tyre needs to be forced down squarely at 90°. This is simple for a car, they sit more or less at the same angle to the road regardless of whether they are accelerating, braking or cornering.

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