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Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
MSC Cradle CFD Helps Yamaha Motor be Competitive in MotoGP
Design Improvements of 0.01 Second Sought

[Vol.2] Yamaha Motors is one of the major motorcycle companies in the world. They have a long history of domestic and international racing. They have been using SC/Tetra from Software Cradle for the premier motorcycle racing class, MotoGP. This CFD tool has been effective in both complying with design regulations and securing aerodynamic competitive advantages. Its powerful visualization capabilities and robustness, plus its user-friendly operation matches the requirements for rapid motorbike design developments in a racing environment.

Picture 1: YZR-M1, MotoGP machine of 2019, and riders
Valentino Rossi (right) and Maverick Viñales (left)

Dealing with Wing Prohibitions

The shape of the bike body changes every year based on the regulation of MotoGP and trends. For example, in the early 2000s, the highest priority of the cowl was to achieve the highest speed and was made to minimize the resistance of the air for running on a rectilinear track.


Around 2015, aerodynamic trends shifted to the front cowl wing. The wing generates downforce and helps avoid wheelies. When speed reaches 350km/h, the body tends to wobble by Karman vortexes but it can be improved by pressing the front wheel. To avoid a wheelie, an ECU (Engine Control Unit) can be an option but as it limits engine output and may slow down – this is why wings are important.


However, the use of wings was prohibited in 2016 for safety reasons. All appendages that are not integrated with body streamlines were prohibited, including vortex generators.


Also, the regulation directed them to use common ECU software programs for all contestants. "Primarily we ran in-house software to have the precise control we needed but it was not possible. As a result, wheelie control performance declined,” says Mr. Kawakatsu.


“The effect of the wing over wheelie was quite significant and we could not give in to a regulation. My challenge for the first year was to devise aerodynamic parts that generate downforce effects in the inner body,” says Mr. Kawakatsu. He started to use SC/Tetra from this time and Mr. Shimada helped him learn the operation.

Picture 4: Changes of MotoGP machine
Inner cowl type 2017 (left) and side pod type (right)

Visualization Helped Solve Regulation Negotiation

During new regulation understandings, Mr. Kawakatsu came up with an idea to achieve maximum aerodynamic performance, which is to make the wing structure inside the inner cowl. He says: “Riders strongly desired to keep the aerodynamic capability achieved by wings designed in 2015, or if possible improve them, and I want it to meet their expectations” (picture 4).


Since approval from organizer is needed to show that the shape of the cowling meets the regulation, the Postprocess capability of SC/Tetra helped convince them of the legitimacy of the shape.

Figure 2: The surface streamline of cowl. Aerodynamic device embedded. (Click to enlarge)

“CFD visualized analysis results were useful for providing reasonable explanations and to convince the organizer,” says Mr. Kawakatsu (figure 2). They created 200 models which were analyzed at the end of 2016. They chose the best 5 models for actual running tests, which satisfied certain levels of aerodynamics and operability, and finally came up with the best specification. Mr. Kawakatsu reckons that he can enrich understanding of aerodynamic development through this process.

Easy to Apply to New Analysis

Mr. Shimada provides internal CFD training using SC/Tetra. It is a one-to-one training to master basic analysis after 5 or 6 half day lectures. Each trainee has different level of understanding at the beginning - some have studied CFD and attained profound understanding like Mr. Kawakatsu, whereas some have not. Mr. Shimada changes his training approach depending on the level of the audience and makes sure he covers lectures on operation and interpretation of results.


Mr. Shimada claims that SC/Tetra is the most user-friendly CFD software. Interface for preprocessing and post-processor is easier than any other software, which he thinks its characteristic of Made in Japan is well represented.


Mr. Kawakatsu also endorses the fact that SC/Tetra is easy to apply for a new CFD analysis issue. When he tackled aerodynamic analysis first and then thermal analysis of electronic parts, he intuitively could change the condition and settings.


The development of race machines requires prompt CFD solutions. Mr. Kawakatsu says “I was not used to the software at the beginning. I could not generate fine meshes, but MSC Cradle CFD has robustness and enough accuracy. It would be a hassle if there was a calculation divergence and we had to identify the cause. In the development of racing machines, we are often asked to come up with analysis results by the end of the day and this is the reason we like Cradle CFD. It is robust, fast, and accurate.”


“The support team of MSC Cradle CFD has been superb in solving problems” says Mr. Shimada. Yamaha Motor is now starting to shift to scFLOW, the successor of SC/Tetra and is expecting far more function enhancement.


Worldwide Deployment

Yamaha Motor has multiple motorcycle development bases worldwide. For now, CFD analysis is performed by head office engineers, but they are considering introducing MSC Cradle CFD to other bases too. When this is made possible, it will mean that either analysis results calculated by head office engineers are reviewed by regional engineers, or engineers in each region take up CFD analysis by themselves. The former idea is easier because regional engineers only need to install the software, but with the latter idea, they will need to have a trainer in order to make sure regional engineers are familiar with the software and hardware. For this reason, there will be more discussions on CFD introduction.


Nevertheless, Mr. Shimada recognizes the potential need to perform CFD globally in future. MSC Cradle CFD is available via MSC Software and supported by local representatives across the globe. This is certainly the case with Yamaha Motor, and Software Cradle regional support teams aligning with MSC Software will help them drive their further for worldwide expansion.

*All product and service names mentioned are registered trademarks or trademarks of their respective companies.
*Contents and specifications of products are as of September 28, 2018 and subject to change without notice. We shall not be held liable for any errors in figures and pictures, or any typographical errors in this brochure.

Company Details


Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.
Founded 1955
Business Manufacturing of
  • Two wheeled vehicles
  • Marine business
  • Power Products
  • Industrial machinery and robots
Representative Yoshihiro Hidaka (President)
Head Office Location Iwata-shi, Shizuoka, Japan



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