MotoGP, Aprilia against Ducati: they have circumvented the regulation

Massimo Rivola explains the circumstances surrounding the protest: "I had warned Dall'Igna that we would take action if they used the 'spoon'"


The protest presented by the MotoGP manufacturers, with the exception of Yamaha, against Ducati didn't exactly come as a surprise.

In recent days in fact, the CEO of Aprilia Racing, Massimo Rivola, had called Ducati's Gigi Dall'Igna to warn him that, if the GP19 took to the grid with the so-called "water deflector", the official name given to the device mounted under the swingarm, he would be forced to make an official protest.

But what are we talking about?

The device in question is a sort of spoon, mounted in front of the front tyre. It was originally tested by Yamaha in late 2018, then Ducati brought a developed version to the track that, according to its competitors, also involves an appendage mounted on the fork and that envelopes part of the brake discs. It is meant to keep water away from the rear wheel in case of rain.

The device was therefore approved in that it improves rider safety, helping to reduce any aquaplaning.

The 'water deflector'. In reality, a diffusor, the 'spoon''s wings, used to generate load, are visible

This is the theory. But in practice, and according to those protesting, it serves to generate aerodynamic load.

"On 19 February, clarification arrived from Danny Aldridge (the championship's technical director) confirming that this could be used on case of rain - begins Rivola - then on 2 March, further clarification explained that the device could not have any aerodynamic effect".

Something that is hard to prove, but that Aprilia has in fact attempted to do, showing Aldridge computer analysis and air flow diagrams.

"We have shown that, in that zone, or rather in front of the rear wheel, air travels very fast and the faster the air, even a small wing is enough to generate load".

Wing? But isn't this more of a 'spoon'?

"In reality, inside there are three wings inside the 'spoon', and why three?".
The question is rhetorical, as any aerodynamic engineer can tell you this is done to generate load.

"They tried to tell us that it's not only used to deflect water, but also to cool the rear tyre, something Petrucci, a heavier rider, was suffering with  - smiles  Rivola - Then the device was used by Dovizioso, a lighter rider. Also, using a device to cool the tyres in Qatar, where the problem is the opposite, with temperatures dropping at night, is nonsense".

So the protest didn't just come out of nowhere at Qatar following Dovizioso's win over Marquez.
The manufacturers have talked and prepared a technical report, also including the exchange of questions between Aldridge and the teams, and his responses.

"We knew they would reject our protest. This is why we'd prepared the appeal but do you want to know something? It shouldn't be us having to prove that what Ducati is using is an aerodynamic device able to generate load. They should be the ones to demonstrate that this is not the case, with data. The decision to reject our protest was political of course. The fact is that the new aerodynamic rules were made to reduce project costs. This is the spirit of the rule. While this decision takes things in the opposite direction. lt allows you to circumvent the regulation, finding any loophole by which to improve performance. And if one manufacturer has 20 aerodynamic engineers and another only one, many solutions can be found".

"I've been in racing for years and you don't even add 1.5 grams if this doesn't improve performance. I don't want to be seen as the guy who comes from F1 and tries to teach how rules should be set out. I'm not a technicians, but we need greater professionalism".

We can only agree. For the record, no written communication reached the GP press room until 2.23 am on 11 March, the FIM and Dorna preferring the 'oral tradition', perhaps because verba volant, scripta manent (spoken words fly away, written words remain)?

The only reason Yamaha did not join in with the protest is that they were the first to present a 'water deflector' (albeit very different in conception), used in the last race of 2018 at Valencia. In the wet.




Translated by Heather Watson

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