MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Is Ducati using ground effect for more grip in MotoGP?
Ducati unveiled its latest aero at the Qatar tests – is the Italian factory using downforce to increase cornering grip, a new area of MotoGP aerodynamics performance?
Ten years ago I interviewed revered Formula 1 engineer John Barnard about what he would do to MotoGP design, given a big, fat, F1-style budget. The man who introduced the carbon-fibre composite chassis and semi-automatic gearbox to F1 had recently completed several years working on ‘King’ Kenny Roberts’ MotoGP project, where he never had the resources to explore the areas of performance he wanted to explore.
MotoGP aerodynamics was an area that particularly fascinated him because the science was so advanced in F1 but at that time had hardly been touched upon in bikes.
F1 cars get much of their staggering corner speed from aerodynamic downforce, sometimes called ground effect, which uses low pressure between car and racetrack to suck the car into the asphalt, generating massive amounts of grip.
Barnard was already wondering if he could use ground effect to create more grip in MotoGP.
“When you’re talking about 60 degrees of lean you’ve got a lot of fairing close to the ground, so what’s that doing and what could it do is a big question,” he said.
I thought this was somewhat fanciful, because a section of bodywork on a two-wheel vehicle could hardly be more different than the underside of a four-wheel vehicle. Then I remembered chatting with Team Roberts engineers Mike Sinclair and Warren Willing in the 1990s. I asked the pair – two of the brightest minds in motorcycle racing at the time – if motorcycle traction control would one day be as clever as F1 traction control.
No, they said: motorcycles are much more complicated than cars because they lean, pitch and yaw, plus the size and shape of the tyre contact patch constantly changes, sometimes the front wheel is in the air, sometimes the rear wheel in the air and so on. Willing told me, “A racing motorcycle is more like a jetfighter than a car”.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.