MotoGP: Hidden Wings and Black Boxes

Ugly wings are gone but what is in the box?

THE BLACK BOX OF DUCATI. Kelly Stoner’s brother delivers. MR PAOLO SCALERA

With the ugly, dangerous, but effective fairing winglets banned this season in MotoGP, part of the fun of observing the three-day test Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at Sepang would be the solutions teams devised over the winter to obey the ban while still providing coveted front downforce to aid turning and prevent wheelies.

Yamaha unveiled the most clever solution, with winglets affixed to the fairing covered by bodywork. The “internal winglets” are a time-tested aerodynamic solution in Formula One car racing, called “ducted vanes” by wind-tunnel dorks in that sport.

Valentino Rossi praised the new-look aero, saying it still was effective and much more beautiful than the hideous proboscis hanging off fairings last season that looked like they could have sliced cotto salami at just the right angle, not to mention a rider’s appendages.

It’s a pretty safe bet other factory teams already are working on similar solutions or will hastily cobble together internal winglets for their fairings for the last two tests of the preseason, at Phillip Island and Qatar.

The bigger mystery among new-look bike attachments at Sepang was the carbon-fiber “black box” mounted under the seat of the Ducati Desmosedici GP17.

No one at Ducati was talking about the piece. No shocker there. Speculation ranged the piece included weight to better balance the bike, which is odd because high and in back usually isn’t the optimal place for extra weight on a racing motorcycle, to a gyroscope to help keep the front wheel of the Ducati on the ground. Others thought maybe the box contained a special damper to reduce tire chatter or more electronic gizmos.

Maybe Ducati test rider Michele Pirro had the ultimate explanation for the black box: He said it contained a hot dog and some sodas, almost like a carbon-fiber version of The Partridge Family or Peanuts lunch boxes carried by thousands of American kids in the early 70s.

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