MotoGP: The Aerodynamicist’s Dream- Ground Effect in Motorcycles


Side skirts as an aerodynamic element were first introduced to Formula 1 by Lotus in the 1977 World Championship, being the first car with ground effects and practicing Bernoulli’s principle.

British engineers designed a sidepod with an inverted floor on the wing surface.
With this tool, you can achieve significant downforce. A “skirt” was used to keep the bottom of the car well visible on the ground.

This helped to better seal the asphalt surface at the bottom of the wing of the single-seater. Clearly separating the airflow between the underbody and the outside of the car, creates an enhanced venturi effect.

Even if someone has tried in the past, this level of motorcycling has proved impossible in racing. (after experiments by the privateer Corrado Tuzii, thanks to the technician Masrio Ciamberlini, Even Franco Uncini at Suzuki).

MotoGP: The aerodynamicist's dream- ground effect in motorcycles
MotoGP: The aerodynamicist’s dream- ground effect in motorcycles

Simple reasons and concepts

The reason is simple. The wheel is a pendulum that swings from right to left, and the belly of the fairing only touches the ground for a split second. Also, until yesterday we were just looking at fairing aerodynamics and looking at forward drag and trying to reduce Cx and Cz as much as possible.

For several years, however, MotoGP has been searching for the philosopher’s stone that, according to legend, could turn lead into gold. The concept is simple. Even the brief moments when the rider and bike are close to the ground can steal thousands of their seconds. The better grip supports the rider.

Ducati ‘ears’ at the bottom of the fairing draw air underneath and (presumably) avoid a bit of lift. Or Aprilia’s odd chest shape on fairings, which was quickly copied by Honda and Ducati.

In a graphic designed by Highslideshow readers, we can see an interpretation of how ocean currents work on Aleix’s Aprilia fairing in Espargaro at Sepang’s circuit. Instead, the Desmosedici GP23’s diffusers (or “ears”) seem to be something else.
In this case, the blow seems to help avoid air buoyancy under the fairing belly. 

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MotoGP: The aerodynamicist's dream- ground effect in motorcycles
MotoGP: The aerodynamicist’s dream- ground effect in motorcycles

F1’s historical problem

The primary driving force is the answer to the age-old problem of managing wake vortices generated by leading vehicles and their impact on trailing vehicles. In 2009, the Overtaking Working Group (OWG) was tasked with finding ways to mitigate this problem. But this time they ran out of time and resources at FOM’s disposal.

This led to a solid but rather broad approach that the team quickly decided to overcome, and both technical and political will erode this effort. Another reset of the car’s aerodynamics took place in connection with the introduction of the turbo-hybrid power unit in 2014. But the plan for 2022 was far more comprehensive. It had not only tasked with redesigning the car’s platform by a larger team. But the regulations were also rewritten from the ground up.

To strengthen these efforts, changes were also made to the rules of the sport, altering the balance of power between teams. And while current regulations aim to contain the issues raised. There is an inevitable point where teams will always find ways to scale back their efforts, requiring another reboot.

Knowing this, 2026 has been set as a transit point for the implementation of surgery. But this is painful considering that the current generation of turbo-hybrid powertrains that have graced the sport since 2014 will also come to an end.

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