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What Happened to the “Safety Concern” That Led to the Ban on Wings in MotoGP

You may recall that wings were banned on MotoGP bikes out of a concern for safety. Presumably, aerodynamic devices would have to involve a smooth arc, with no “bulges” or “pointy ends”. This is what led to the conservative design of the Yamaha fairing described in our earlier article.

Of course, as in all racing, competitors “push the envelope”, and Yamaha’s competitors began to create aerodynamic devices less and less distinguishable from the original, banned “wings”. Now, Yamaha has responded with a new fairing design unveiled at the recent Valencia test.

This new design (pictured) hardly looks safer than the old wings. It juts out, with sharp edges, and arrives at a point (rather than a smooth arc). This has led championship runner-up Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) to comment as follows regarding the aggressive Yamaha design:

“I don’t want to create controversy, but there is only one possible interpretation: we were told that the wings are forbidden because they are too dangerous, and these fairings today are more dangerous than those wings. I agree with the current regulations, but [the new fairings] prove that the reasons taken back then were a farce. So it shows that the real reason of the ban of the wings was to limit the progress Ducati.”

What do you think? After creating the rule banning wings, MotoGP has allowed more aggressively designed aerodynamic fairings … to the point where the safety concerns have been obliterated. Was this a conspiracy to harm Ducati? We noted that the ban might harm Ducati more than any other competitors.


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71 Comments

  1. Ellis says:

    There is no way to make wrecking a MotoGP bike safe.

  2. Fred M. says:

    For people who want something with wings between their legs, Kotex makes some “feminine napkins” that might be just the ticket.

    But we don’t need wings on MotoGP bikes. Not only are they a safety concern, riders report turbulence when following winged bikes. The idea is to make your bike faster, not to sabotage the slipstream for following bikes.

  3. Mr.Mike says:

    I can see why riders are apprehensive about having what is effectively a sword or knife (particularly when rendered in carbon fiber which is very hard) attached to their and the other competitors’ bikes. Wings add the possibility of evisceration to what was “only” blunt force trauma.

    • Scott says:

      ^ This.

      If you think those wings were just some flimsy pieces of plastc, you would feel differently when a guy like Iannone comes at you like a torpedo and the wing slices through your midsection…

  4. Vrooom says:

    It’s a weird world when you ride around on 2 wheels in excess of 200 mph and your biggest worry is that plastic thing sticking out of the fairing. If I’m going to highside (or low side for that matter) I’ll worry about sliding rather than rolling, the bike hitting me, competitors hitting me, the wall, the race. The little plastic protrusions on the fairing probably wouldn’t make the top 10.

    • mickey says:

      again, it was the riders themselves that expressed concerns, not the FIM. The riders took their concerns to the safety committee and the committee went to the mgfs with those concerns and tried to broker a deal if the mfgs could guarantee the riders safety and apparently they could not so they were banned. There are not a lot of sharp pointy protrusions otherwise on a MotoGP bike.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        The riders are more likely to attempt to hinder a competitor than the bigwigs at the race teams. I don’t think Dorna had any dubious intentions when they made the rule, but I am willing to bet there were some riders concerned about their “safety” from a Ducati that not only blows them away on the straights but could potentially start turning tighter too.

        • mickey says:

          Why would competitors already being thouroughly trounced by the factory bikes worry about the Ducatis getting any faster or turning better?

          If it were just factory Honda riders or factory Yamaha riders voicing the safety concern you could bring that up, but apparently some of the factory riders were ok with the wings and some were not. Some were not convinced even after trying them that they made any difference and rejected them subsequently on their bikes. Some of the safety concerns were from back marker riders.

          If Ducati was dominating with the wings I suppose the case could be made then too, but they weren’t.

          This year Ducati didn’t have the wings and won more races than ever. Lorenzo often rode with the hammerhead fairing but was often beaten by Dovi who ran the hammerless fairing bike.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            You have up and comers like Aprilia, KTM and Suzuki as well as Crutchlow and the Tech 3 guys all looking at improving their positions. These are guys dragging their elbows sliding both tires around the corners. Do you really think they were that worried about wing safety? Since when does any racer oppose something that may make them faster? I think Ducati was ahead of the curve with development, and that is what more riders were concerned about.

          • mickey says:

            “Do you really think they were that worried about wing safety?”

            Yes..I would be

            Since when does any racer oppose something that may make them faster?

            When it may get them seriously injured?

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I wouldn’t be concerned enough about it to lose out on an advantage that might take me to the next level. I suspect all of those racers have a risk profile more extreme than mine. I’m not saying that the wings don’t present a safety issue, only that the riders aren’t truly that concerned. I could be wrong. You could be right. I don’t know. Are hammerhead styled fairings really any safer than winglets at 180 mph? Again, I don’t know, but I suspect only marginally so if they are.

            Dovi rode most races with the standard fairing, but he definitely thinks the bike is better with the wings. This is purely conjecture of course, but those wings could have been the difference between the championship this year.

  5. viktor92 says:

    Why testing something you don’t plan to use it ??. The new Yamaha fairing with those wings is every bit as dangerous as the banned last year, so if they reappear in 2018 as the pictures shows, Dovi is damn right.

  6. 5229 says:

    Limit the progress of Ducati? No way. Motogp has gone out of its way to level the playing field. They have rules in place for new manufacture’s to compete with the factory teams of Honda,Ducati and Yamaha. Look how well Suzuki,Aprilia and KTM have done. They have not had their progress limited, nor has Ducati as well. After all it’s just testing.

  7. Doc says:

    This is such a non issue and yet again it becomes a big talking point. ITS TESTING! Its the new tank seam! Speculation is a terrible thing. For many reasons, but maybe the biggest is whole lotta talk about nothing.

    • VLJ says:

      But we love talking about nothing. It’s what we do, and we’re darn good at it.

      Besides, it’s the off-season now, so what else are we going to talk about?

      “Hey, mickey, whaddya think about Kylie Jenner’s baby bump?”

      “Man, I dunno, I think she runs the risk of ballooning up and never being hot again, even by Kardashian standards. We should probably get Norm G’s take on it, though. There might be some sort of Hollywood conspiracy angle there, and we’re just not seeing it.

      “Norm? Care to weigh in?”

      “Why, glad you asked, mickey! Where that buxom little Pop Tart is concerned, it’s really quite simple. Like I always say, NAVCORB, baby! No Amount of Vacuousness Can Overcome Righteous Boobage!”

      “You do not always say that. You made that up just two seconds ago.”

      “Ohhhh, look at the big brain on Perry Mason over there! Okay then, home skillet, try this one on for size: NAMSSCOWA!”

      “Errr….”

      “Jeez, Forrest, do I have to spell everything out for you? Fine…No Amount of Mad Sleuthing Skills Can Overcome Wack Acronyms!”

      “I’m going to stab you right in the forehead.”

  8. Max says:

    I think it was bogus. As if a piece of plastic is going to make or break the collision of a human being and a runaway motorcycle. Pahleeze.

  9. joe b says:

    Remember when everyone had to use the spec ECU? Looking inside it was written by Ducati! Do you think Ducati had any advantage with that, when the others were set back trying to understand its peculiar settings? Seeing one advantage Honda had, was years developing their proprietary special software in its ECU? Here, some crybabies claim its Honda’s fault, Ducatis wings were banned. Boo-Hoo. Get real.

  10. Brian says:

    I believe race direction said during the test that the wings would be illegal for competition, but not in testing. You think Yamaha wouldn’t check with Dorna on something like that? Anyway, Dovi oughta take a look at his own bike. All the new rules did was take off the sharp edges…the thing still looks like it rear-ended a Fokker Dr.I

  11. john welch says:

    MotoGP should have half their races WITHOUT control electronics – every other race & alternate tracks each year. 1/3 of races wet every season based on real weather and use of sprinkler systems as required. Then we would know who the real world champion is.

    • wjf says:

      may as well bring back the 500cc 2-stroke while we’re at it

    • joe b says:

      … and you should by typing on a type writer.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I don’t think that would prove anything other than those currently regarded as the best riders would still be regarded as the best riders. The top riders in GP have already proven themselves in all manner of weather conditions, classes with no electronics, relatively slow bikes, the fastest bikes and even dirt tracks for some of the riders.

      • John Jacobs says:

        Going to no electronics or 2-strokes again would definitely not showcase the same top riders. Electronics give riders the ability to push the limits far beyond what the previous generations of bikes allowed. High sides are uncommon today but almost a certainty in years past. No electronics would showcase a smoother rider versus one who tries to man handle the bull.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          I still have to disagree. With electronics or without, the smoothest riders are still the fastest. While I agree that someone who is not currently considered a top rider now may come into his own with such a change, I don’t think you’d see any of the top riders change their alien statuses.

          • mickey says:

            Back in the 500cc 2 stroke era, often the guys that were the fastest were the Americans with dirt track experience, who were used to their bikes getting out of shape in the dirt ( riding the bull so to speak) It’s also why Rossi and Marquez are so fast since they do a lot of practicing in the dirt.

  12. Norm G. says:

    Q: What Happened to the “Safety Concern” That Led to the Ban on Wings in MotoGP(?)

    A: DMF, Dodgy Michelin Fronts…

    it’s just testing, but it’s the answer we’ve always known.

    • Norm G. says:

      (almost forgot)

      Q: What do you think?

      A: i think Dove should uncork a bottle of Barolo, kick back, and enjoy the holidays. Qatar will be here before he knows it.

  13. wjf says:

    Interesting, of the long list of items in the “danger” column for riding/racing single-track, two-wheeled articulating vehicles….winglets are at the top of the list……seems to be the “Kardashian” item that shouldn’t matter but is getting press anyway

  14. TonyZA says:

    Surely the winglets could be designed to break off without injuring riders?

  15. DB says:

    I think the wings should be allowed. But, I can see what is going to happen. The teams with the most money and spend the most time in the wind tunnel/testing are going to benefit the most. What’s next after this and all teams have them? Adjustable wings! Again the teams with the most money are going to benefit the most. All of this is going to drive up the cost of racing in the MotoGP class. Probably ok for some teams, not so good for other’s. Can’t wait for next season, bring it on!

    • mickey says:

      Isn’t that the way it always is? The team (be it motorcycle, baseball, football whatever) with the most money to spend gets the best product. The only way to combat that is with spending limits, but then you stifle innovation.

      As in life, there simply is no way to make things even for everybody, especially when it comes to competition.

    • MGNorge says:

      I’ve always held the view that MotoGP should follow what Grand Prix did back in the day. Aside from displacement, pretty much anything goes. This was an engineering showcase, not discounting the riders, but something I always looked forward to. Being a longtime Honda follower I got hooked as each year their engineers would seemingly push and make designs work when other manufacturers had given up or showed little interest. That not only put their engine developers to task but also chassis development and tire choice. All of it blended together to suit their riders and hopefully be the quickest way around a track.
      I understand the argument that those with the deepest pockets tend to prevail but Honda was once very much the underdog too but with persistence they prevailed. Tire manufacturers were pitted against one another seeking the right compounds, engine designers and developers not only sought peak performance but reliability and tractability to ease the rider’s job. Are we at the end of the line as far as new advancements that we grow bored with racing unless they’re all bound to some level of common denominator just to spark interest?

      • Dave says:

        The cost-no-object model almost killed the class completely. There were 12 bikes on the grid, only 2 teams that could win.

        In sport, viewers tune in to watch people compete. The machine is part of it, but the difference in speed of a couple of seconds per lap isn’t visible (unless one bike is that much faster than another in the same race).

        This year, with all of the rules helping to level the playing field, we still got to see the manufacturers contribute their part of the drama. Yamaha came out swinging while Honda struggled, then Honda got their program together and Yamaha struggled, all while Ducati won 6 (!) with Dovi and KTM and Aprilia showed steady improvement.

      • DaveA says:

        I’ve been a huge MotoGP fan for over 30 years, and the racing has never been close to as interesting or as close in all that time as it is right now. There’s nothing wrong with the rules.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I am always a bit conflicted when it comes to putting limits on prototype development for the sake of better racing, but I can’t deny that I have enjoyed watching this season more than any previously. I get the same vibe from just about every other GP fan as well.

        I was not a fan of banning the winglets. I think the teams should have been allowed to develop that further. Yamaha is just trying to establish an aerodynamic baseline here from which they hope to be able to fashion a permissable fairing that will replicate that aerodynamic baseline as closely as possible. This essentially makes “wing” development even more costly.

  16. Jabe says:

    I enjoy watching most any type of motorcycle racing, but I especially like watching Motogp. It’s a showcase of technology, the best that can be made with (arguably) the best riders. The rules surrounding the sport are a constant balancing of the scales. I will not pretend to have a better answer and I try to respect anyone’s opinion on the matter, but watching Supersport sized bikes with half the power is something I can see at the local track.

    I hope they allow wings. I hope the find ways to develop more power, more grip and everything needed to decrease lap times. I want to see the riders stay safe, but I want to see these bikes rip.

  17. MotoMaster39 says:

    I’d put my money on Dovi being right in this case. Honda did the same thing in the motocross world when the only guy who could win on their bike (CR250 two stroke) was Ricky Carmichael. The AMA implemented a complete ban on leaded race fuels, effectively killing any two strokes chances at an AMA event from that day forward. A year or two later Honda stopped making two stroke MX bikes altogether(2007) but you can still buy a brand new one from Yamaha, Husky, and KTM.

    I imagine that Honda has a hard time wrapping their heads around the wings because of marketing reasons, so they did what they could to limit others from having them.

    • guu says:

      Nice conspiracy theory… But the reality why nobody but Carmichael could win on a CR250 was that no one could beat him. On any bike, and that included the four-strokes. MX always mostly about the rider, bike is secondary.

      The rule change that killed two-strokes was giving them much larger displacement. Honda was slow to take advantage of this, Yamaha had a head start of about 5 years in both class.

      • MotoMaster39 says:

        Actually, Yamaha of Troy and KTM continued racing two strokes until the leaded gas rule went into effect. That rule went into effect right around the time that Honda stopped producing two strokes and said they didn’t want to market them anymore. This is well documented by Motocross Action Magazine, I’ll dig up some old articles on it,from them.

        The last Honda two strokes had great handling and weak engines (no torque). They finished near the bottom of most shootouts of that time period.

        • Mick says:

          The last Honda two strokes actually had top, or near top, of the class power. The magazine’s of the day all craved “hit”, meaning they actually liked poorly calibrated engines. Honda went to a servo controlled power valve in 2002 that made smooth power. People generally got better lap times with less fatigue riding the Honda. The magazines didn’t care. They complained about the power and made up silly stories like low torque or power.

          I bailed on Honda when they stopped making two strokes. I will give up my two strokes when they pry them from my cold dead hands. And I will never fogi e the FIM for the destruction of GP by turning it into a showcase for obsolete racing engine technology.

          • MotoMaster39 says:

            I owned a 2002 Cr250 for 5 years. Fastest bike on the track if the track prep was perfect. More tedious than a root canal on anything even vaguely resembling hard pack.

            Great bike for a weekend warrior. Not so good for a racer, when they can start off with a RM or YZ that’s faster and dail in the suspension.

      • MotoMaster39 says:

        For What it’s worth, here’s the article. I guess you could call the Honda connection a stretch or conspiracy theory, but I have my suslicioins.

  18. bmidd says:

    These guys are starting to sound just like whiny F1 drivers.

  19. VLJ says:

    Is it at least possible that Yamaha knows this new design is illegal, yet they used it in a test anyway just to measure its effect, with an eye towards creating another design that would meet the requirements for racing?

    I honestly don’t know whether a manufacturer is allowed to use a prohibited design during test sessions only.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “Is it at least possible that Yamaha knows this new design is illegal, yet they used it in a test anyway just to measure its effect, with an eye towards creating another design that would meet the requirements for racing?”

      Dirck if you feel inclined, you may close this thread and lock us out from any further speculation/commenting (myself included) for VLJ has provided the correct answer, and the burden is now on we the motley MD crew to “just go with it”, thank you.

  20. Blitz11 says:

    “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t trying.”

    I agree with xLaYN – just too much power. I know, I know, but at some point, the returns are diminishing. I like the idea of a cylinder/displacement envelope in which the manufacturers can play. Best brains don’t necessarily have the most money – make it more of a brains-based series.

  21. Neil says:

    All said and done, it DID hurt Ducati. With their weight bias necessarily too far rearward, they suffered without the winglet. Honda was and is able to put a much larger budget into racing and has been able to for a much longer period of time. We would certainly see Marquez struggle on the Duc as well. So many great riders have struggled on it. Dovi, hats off to him for doing so well and winning on the Duc.

  22. Bill says:

    How many years was racing limited to 500cc?

  23. xLaYN says:

    Way too much power, that’s the problem winglets are trying to fix.
    Limit to 600cc I4, 750 v- twins or 675 triples.

    Suddenly wings will not be critical.
    Tires will start to last longer.
    And bikes will be less reliant on electronic packages or as VLJ coined on the previous story electronic-intensive.

    Annnnd as a result we would start to see “smaller” bikes with better components.
    (Think CB 600, SV 750 and nakeds based on the racing platforms with the high grade suspension and brakes).

    Statement: but GP is meant to be prototyping, restricting on power is akin of defeating the purpose of the category.

    Answer: so is banning winglets, having a standard cpu and one tire supplier…

    Statement: but those are there to restrict costs… and make the technology trickle down to production models…

    Answer: that’s the antithesis of prototyping

    • Stuki Moi says:

      MotoGP is the “premiere” series, at least to a large part, because it’s where the fastest bikes race. Limiting them to where they no longer beat Superbikes, never mind the increased technological sophistication required to do so with less displacement, would put a dent in that sheen.

  24. mickey says:

    No, it wasn’t to hurt Ducati. What would Dorna possibly gain by doing that? Several competitors had concerns with getting jabbed by a wing in an accident. I think there was enough trepidation for the safety committee to determine they should be banned. It WAS getting out of hand with multiple wings on some fairings. This Yamaha fairing couldn’t possibly pass inspection could it?

    • HS1... says:

      Actually, muliple reports blamed that Honda refused to allow ratification of the wings to remove Ducati’s competitive advantage.

      • mickey says:

        If the sun didn’t come up tomorrow, there would be multiple reports blaming Honda or Marquez.

        “The alarm rang because in the Safety Commission the riders complained about them,” MotoGP’s director of technology Corrado Cecchinelli told Crash.net. “With this input from the riders, the FIM cannot just go on like nothing.

        The mfgs were given a chance to assure the Fim that wings were safe. They could not do so. THey also had a chance to come up with a standard for wings, they could not agree on that either.

        Btw Ducati may have implemented them first, but Lorenzo was the first to win using winglets on his Yamaha.

        Honda, Suzuki and Aprilia were testing their wings when the decision came to ban them.

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