There was plenty to talk about at the Sepang Test and aero was definitely up there, including the new front end of the all-new Aprilia RS-GP and the annual question as to what and when Ducati will reveal as their new forays into fairings. But KTM stole some of the headlines with something a little different: “serrated” edges or “saw teeth” on part of the RC16’s front fairing.
Aero – at least at this level – is a fairly new concept to MotoGP™. The Pandora’s box was opened by Ducati a few years ago and is now gaining more and more attention from factories as they look for every marginal improvement. On four wheels it’s been around since the sixties, however, from Jim Hall’s Can-Am cars to Colin Chapman and Lotus pioneering the technology in Formula 1.
Why the disparity? For one, the challenges are different, from the obvious basics onwards. One example: a MotoGP™ bike reaches – for Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) at least – up to 66 degrees of lean angle, which is a large operating window, whereas an F1 car’s maximum “lean” – unless you’ve crashed – is comparatively small and more momentary, such as skipping over a kerb.
In MotoGP™, the recent and burgeoning aero revolution started with wings, winglets and aero-fairings – with the focus more on the first part of the bike that collides with the oncoming air and with the aim of creating downforce. But KTM’s “serrated” fairing is a different example of factories looking more deeply into aerodynamics, moving away from that search for downforce and into the kind of solutions most likely to have been seen on Formula 1 cars in recent years. Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 team have some good examples on their car, such as a serrated windscreen designed to deflect air away from the driver’s helmet and another serrated component on the back of the rear wing.
So what does it do? The “serrated” edges interrupt the flow of air leaving the surface – in the KTM case, the surface being the fairing – and create small vortices and turbulence in the air behind it. That should mean the rider is subjected to less buffeting, making it an easier journey through the air. And easier should translate into faster.
If it energises the boundary layer of air around the rider as well, making it less likely to detach, that also has the same effect – reducing drag.
So will we see any similar innovations from other factories in the Qatar Test and beyond? We’ll find out soon enough, but for now it’s KTM who seem to be on the aero offensive as they prepare for their fourth season in the premier class. In the meantime, if you want more tech talk check out the MotoGP™ Tech Group on Facebook, focusing in on some of the amazing stuff we see up and down pitlane!