Ever since Ducati debuted MotoGP’s first winglets in 2015, the brand has led an aerodynamics arms race. Over the past seven seasons, rivals have protested the brand’s radical appendages, but eventually, every manufacturer unveiled their own aero package in response. Even as firms pour more resources into research and development, Ducati continues to define the aero era.
This year, Ducati’s Desmosedici GP22 sports no less than six aerodynamic elements. The bulky winglets may not be the most aesthetically pleasing bodywork additions, but they serve multiple functions on the racetrack. At corner exit, the fairing additions help generate downforce, which keeps the front wheel planted under heavy acceleration. However, introducing more wings also introduces additional drag, so manufacturers must balance the package to maximize advantages and minimize disadvantages.
Not all aerodynamic pieces directly affect straight-line speed, though. Smaller additions such as caliper air scoops and rear wheel “spoons” divert air to critical braking components and tires. Keeping the Michelin rubber at an operable temperature and the Brembo carbon brakes cool is critical. Both factors help determine how fast and hard a rider can push throughout the race.
While these parts are widely adopted throughout the paddock, constructors continue to push the envelope, looking for the slightest advantage wherever possible. For instance, both Aprilia and Ducati have introduced new tail-mounted aerodynamic winglets in 2022. Aprilia first unveiled its tail spoiler at the Italian Grand Prix on May 27, 2022. Ducati wasn’t far behind either, pulling the covers off its “Stegosaurus” winglets at the British Grand Prix on August 5, 2022.
To some, the new rear aero elements are unsightly additions to Ducati and Aprilia’s MotoGP machines, but their function justifies the form. As braking forces shift weight onto the front wheel, the rear wheel tends to lighten or even lift off the ground. The extra winglets should help stabilize the bucking bikes in the braking zone, preserving chassis composure just before tip-in.
Of course, we expect Ducati, Aprilia, and other manufacturers to fine-tune the new aero elements in the future, because one thing is for sure—aerodynamic packages will only become more complicated in the years to come.