Brno is a track on which neither Ducati nor its lead rider Andrea Dovizioso have ever really enjoyed themselves, as he reminded us earlier this week. Repsol Honda tested here a couple of weeks ago so they’ll have an advantage. In anything like a normal year all those statements would be born out by the first day’s times. So given what’s gone on this year we shouldn’t be surprised that Dovi was fastest today, there were four Ducatis in the top six, and the Repsol Hondas were seventh and tenth.
So let’s talk about fairings. Brnois a circuit where you want downforce on the front in Turn 1 and some serious anti-wheelie effect going up the hill. Honda and Suzuki had their side-pods with internal vanes on show. Ducati said they’d be bringing their aero firing for the first time. They then teased and tantalised until 15 minutes from the end of the second, dry session before whipping aside the screens and launching Jorge Lorenzo and the new design on an unsuspecting world. It’s radical, it’s different and it shows very little in common with the first iteration we saw in winter testing. That looked very draggy, a suspicion confirmed by reports it generated loads of downforce but at the expense of shedloads of drag.
So what have we got with the new one: Let’s take it in stages from the top. An abbreviated top section looks like a headlamp fairing and does not extend over the bars. It has stubby winglets, very like KTM’s, right where the blue stripe is for the TIM logo. If it works for KTM, let’s assume it works for Ducati. Now let’s go to the horizontal planes that form the bottom line: they look very like wings from last year. So how to make them legal? By making them part of the bodywork. So the vertical outboard plates that bend over to form the top of the two big boxes are, I believe largely cosmetic and designed to get round the regs. The verticals are very thin and have massive slots, this is not a component that is trying to do much, probably except avoid creating more drag. The top surface, slanted downwards, looks like it is deflecting airflow over the rider’s hands but probably not adding much to the downforce.
Whatever the details, test rider Pirro said he thought it would help Lorenzo, and Jorge agrees that there is more potential there than with the standard design. If it stays dry he might even use to on Sunday although he did say he definitely noticed more drag on the straight. Danilo Petrucci is scheduled to try it tomorrow as well. Dovi doesn’t seem too bothered, he’s concentrating on the championship.