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Ducati outline importance of aerodynamics

Ducati outline importance of aerodynamics

Ducati outline importance of aerodynamics

MotoGP is the world's fastest motorcycle racing series, so it's no surprise that aerodynamics are a crucial factor in machine development, along with engine, chassis and tyre performance.

That is why Ducati Corse invests heavily in constantly evolving the aerodynamic performance of its Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici. So far the company has spent around 1100 hours doing wind-tunnel tests with the 990cc V4 four-stroke, which has a top speed capability in excess of 340kmh.

Despite the fact that improvements from these tests are often tiny, every small step forward helps. "The advantages gained through improving aerodynamic penetration may not be huge," explained Ducati Corse technical director Filippo Preziosi. "But an advantage of five hundredths of a second per lap, which is so small and difficult to quantify, becomes an advantage of one second during a 20 lap race, which can mean finishing in front of or behind your rival."

Of course, aerodynamics isn't just about increasing straight-line speed, it's also about improving fuel consumption, high-speed stability and cornering performance. Principally it is these four factors that concern Ducati Corse engineers whenever they travel to Britain to use their preferred wind tunnel. Ducati has experimented with various different wind tunnels over the past decade or so, but favours this tunnel even though it has taken a while to achieve good results with a motorcycle. On average, Ducati uses these facilities once a month, with aerodynamics consultant Alan Jenkins always in attendance. Jenkins began working with Ducati before the MotoGP project, having previously worked with a number of F1 car teams, including McLaren, Stewart and Prost.

During each UK visit new bodywork parts, produced by a fast-prototyping 3D machine, are fitted and evaluated. Most tests are conducted with Ducati Marlboro Team test rider Vittoriano Guareschi on board as a rider is a vital part of the aerodynamic package, although sometimes a dummy is used. Ducati Marlboro Team MotoGP riders Loris Capirossi and Carlos Checa join the tests a couple of times a year.

Although the Desmosedici has incredible straight-line performance, this has never been the project's primary goal. Improving aerodynamic penetration may increase top speed but it also improves fuel consumption, a vital consideration - especially since MotoGP fuel limits were reduced at the start of this year. However, Ducati Corse engineers are aware that improving aerodynamic penetration can compromise the machine in other areas. Preziosi continues: "Designing a bike only with top speed in mind forces you to produce aerodynamics that can penalise you in other areas, e.g: going through chicanes, sensitivity to side winds and front-end stability."

Infact, achieving excellent cornering performance through aerodynamics is arguably more important than bettering straight-line performance as an increasing number of MotoGP tracks are more about corners than straights. This is why the science of cornering aerodynamics has become increasingly important. "The developments we are making now, which will be seen on the Desmosedici GP6, are aimed at reaching a compromise between straight-line and cornering performance," Preziosi added. "But we always keep one eye on the dynamic behaviour of the bike, rather than on top speed."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2005

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