The MotoGP Court of Appeal has issued its verdict in favour of Ducati, declaring that the disputed part fitted to the machines of Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller during the Qatar season opener was legal.
Dovizioso is thus confirmed as the winner, with new factory team-mate Petrucci keeping his sixth place, while the device can be used by Ducati in future races.
Pramac’s Miller failed to finish after a seat problem during the grand prix, which saw Dovizioso hold off a final turn attack by Honda’s Marc Marquez to win by just 0.023s.
But the result was later thrown into jeopardy when the factory Aprilia, KTM, Honda and Suzuki teams protested the new device fitted to the swingarm, in front of the rear wheel, on the GP19 machines.
The FIM MotoGP Stewards Panel rejected the protest, unsurprising given that technical director Danny Aldridge had allowed the part, but the four manufacturers then lodged an appeal with the FIM Appeal Stewards, who referred the case to the MotoGP Court of Appeal.
“The protesting teams considered that the device was primarily an aerodynamic device and therefore not compliant with the MotoGP technical regulations,” said a statement announcing the Court of Appeal verdict.
The MotoGP Court of Appeal is made up of three judges belonging to the FIM International Commission of Judges.
At the heart of the issue was whether the device is designed to provide an ‘illegal’ aerodynamic effect (in this case downforce) – as the rival manufacturers claimed – or whether, as Ducati insist, its purpose is to cool the rear tyre.
Most probably it did both, causing the regulatory controversy.
The protesting manufacturers – which had made their intentions clear to Ducati before the race, should the device be used – insisted they were not seeking to strip Dovizioso of victory, but wanted clarity from the technical rules.
“By filing this protest we are forcing them to evaluate, to judge, and to clarify the principles of the rules, the regulations, and the guidelines. This is the main purpose of our actions: to clarify what we can and cannot do,” said Suzuki team manager Davide Brivio.
Ultimately, the MotoGP Court of Appeal found in favour of Ducati by rejecting the appeal, confirming the provisional Qatar race results as final and the device under question can be used in future races.
No explanation was provided for the Court’s decision, only the verdict.
However use of the words ‘primarily an aerodynamic device’ to describe the protest, suggests Ducati was able to prove to the Court of Appeal that the main purpose of the device was to cool the tyre and any downforce gains were secondary.
But this may not be the end of the matter.
The four manufacturers can still lodge a further appeal at the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS), the last stage in the protest/appeal process, within five days of the decision.
Meanwhile, with Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna indignant at the decision to protest, rather than solve technical matters within the MSMA (manufacturers’ association), the Italian has suggested Ducati could file its own protest against the Honda fairing design…
The Ducati swingarm ‘tyre cooler’ seems to work in conjunction with the front wheel aero part, which presumably helps direct or optimise air flow to the rear device.
By mounting the ‘cooler’ on the swingarm, Ducati avoided the MotoGP ‘Aero Body’ rules, which limit each rider to one fairing update during the season.
Aprilia, which says it was told such a device should not have an aerodynamic purpose, has indicated it could restart development of its own swingarm spoiler.
“We still hope that the guidelines will be applied and this device will be banned for the future. Otherwise, if it is allowed, we could do something [similar] based on our experience,” said technical director Romano Albesiano, before the verdict.
Round two takes place in Argentina this weekend (March 29-31).