Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano is convinced that the new breed of MotoGP fairings with ‘integrated winglets’ offer a performance advantage, as the factory works on its remaining update for the 2017 season.
With external wings now banned, manufacturers have been forced to incorporate downforce devices within a ‘normal’ fairing profile. An initial design was allowed alongside a standard fairing for the start of the season, with one further upgrade available.
Aprilia, Suzuki, Yamaha and KTM (exempt from the upgrade limit) have already used a special fairing during a grand prix weekend, but the reception from the riders has generally been lukewarm at best.
Maverick Vinales took victory with the Yamaha device at Le Mans, but the other races have all been won with standard fairings. Honda and Ducati are yet to even homologate a ‘downforce’ design for use in a GP.
“It looks like now the fairing is not of so much interest to anybody. But from a theoretical point of view, it’s surely a good point. An advantage,” said Albesiano, who worked as a aerodynamicist earlier in his career. “So we have to make this thing accepted by the riders, like [the wings] were last year. I believe in this concept and we will keep working on it.”
Of the RS-GP riders, only rookie Sam Lowes has put in serious track time with Aprilia’s special fairing. Team leader Aleix Espargaro is yet to be convinced the extra stability is worth a potential loss of top speed (which canned Ducati’s radical design) and ‘heavier’ feeling.
Asked if the Aprilia upgrade would be an evolution of the current design or a step in a different direction, now that other manufacturers have unveiled their concepts, Albesiano replied:
“We believe [our] concept is very good. The results in the wind tunnel are very good, also when Sam tested back-to-back this device he always wanted to keep it.
“So we need to work. Of course the priority has been reduced because only one rider of the two uses it, so we push less, but we have something to test [in Catalunya] in order to understand more about the concept and we will keep working on it.”
“I’ve used it since Jerez at every track,” Lowes confirmed. “Maybe we will have something to try at the test, the same principle, but not affect the top speed as much. It’s only maybe 1-1.5km/h anyway.
“I feel the benefit on the exit of corners, especially long corners. It’s a little bit heavier to enter the corners, which is what Aleix doesn’t like. But Mugello you need to get into all the corners and it wasn’t too bad. I think that shows we can use it everywhere. Maybe not Phillip Island, with the wind. We’ll see. It might look a lot different by [October] anyway…”
Albesiano also confirmed that creating efficient downforce is much more complicated under the new rules.
“Before you could just design a couple of winglets, wing profiles, and once you had understood a little bit the flow in the front of the fairing… it was cheap and easy. Now you have to make CFD [Computational Fluid Dynamics, software that simulates air flow] calculations in a quite complicated way,” he said.
“Honestly the wings that we had last year were quite dangerous. I agree. Because it was so easy to ‘hang’ another bike. That could have been fixed in another way. But anyway…”
Aprilia has a best finish of sixth so far this season, but the team felt Espargaro had the pace to fight Lorenzo for fourth (the RS-GP’s best ever result) without an engine failure in the Catalunya race.
It was a bitter disappointment to both team and rider, but Albesiano managed some humour when asked what had gone wrong:
“It was an electrical problem! You know the story? Many years ago when the conrod exited the crankcase and cut the wire, it was an ‘electrical problem’!
“No, it was a problem with the pneumatic system for the valve spring. We’ve had this problem a couple of times before so we have to fix it definitely.
“It’s not a matter of re-designing, it’s a matter of small points in the valve train that we have to maybe re-consider. These parts have worked for a long time, so now something new is happening that we have to understand.
“The system is the same as last year and we never had this problem.”