Single tyre - nothing to fear?
Monday, 20th October 2008
MotoGP faces up to a single tyre future.
MotoGP's one tyre future appears to be causing concern among some riders in the paddock, who fear their needs will be overlooked by a reduced range of tyres designed around the preferences of the championship leaders.
Whilst the airing of such concerns is 'all part of the game' in terms of riders seeking to apply pressure on Bridgestone to back them as much as possible next season, is it really likely that the less competitive riders will actually be worse off next year?
Prior to the tyre restrictions imposed for the start of 2007, which forced all riders to pick their tyre allocation before the start of each race weekend, many riders were complaining about Michelin bringing overnight specials from its French base - designed using practice data - for its star riders to use in the European races.
The lower ranked Michelin riders and those using rival brands rightfully felt this practice was unfair - asking, both private and publically, what they could do if they had those tyres.
From 2007 no 'overnight specials' have been allowed in MotoGP, but the tyre manufacturers - being in competition with each other - would naturally continue to back their top riders more than the others, while inequality between the brands at certain circuits has left some riders knowing that their hopes of a decent result were over after first free practice.
But, from next year, all riders will have access to, for example, exactly the same tyres as six time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi will be using - although some appear to hinting that they don't want 'Rossi's tyres' now.
'Rossi likes unusual tyres and his riding style is completely different to mine so if the tyres are designed around him they will be of no use to me', they might say. The unsympathetic might reply that they are simply afraid to take on Rossi with equal tyres.
In fairness, Rossi has also raised concerns about the reduction in tyre options available from 2009.
The exact tyre options and number available to each rider is yet to be confirmed, although it is rumoured that the dry tyre allocation will be reduced from this year's total of 40 (18 front and 22 rear) per race weekend to 20, with a choice of just two different compounds at each race. Bridgestone believes this will be sufficient as it will create rubber with a much wider range of working temperatures than at present.
Whilst there are legitimate concerns about matching such a limited range of tyres to the five different machines present on the grid, a MotoGP prototype - like any other racing thoroughbred - should be designed around the needs of its tyres anyway. Maximising tyre grip during acceleration, braking and cornering is the key to speed.
Providing sufficient data about next year's tyres is supplied to the manufacturers for use by their 2009 design teams then it's really just an engineering challenge to build a bike to best suit the rubber on offer to all.
Whilst fine tuning and development of the tyres will take place before and during the 2009 season - and this will need to be conducted as fairly as possible by Bridgestone to avoid creating a specialised range of 'Rossi tyres' - it is worth remembering that (unlike in Superbike racing) there is no limitation on the modifications a manufacturer can make to its MotoGP machines. If the bike doesn't suit the tyres, then they can change it.
2009 should therefore provide a chance for the MotoGP manufacturers to show who really can build the best bike, now that the veil of tyre performance has been removed.
But what about those new to Bridgestone tyres, won't they be at a disadvantage over the established Bridgestone teams? Possibly, although Yamaha's ability to win races with both Bridgestone and Michelin tyres this season has proven that the Bridgestone rubber is not particularly 'quirky'.
Honda, being the only team without a factory rider on Bridgestones at the start of this year, might be at the biggest disadvantage in terms of 2009 design - but Dani Pedrosa (the lightest rider on the grid) took a podium in only his second Bridgestone race and then a pole and podium in his fourth, whilst the satellite Gresini team has gathered Bridgestone data from the start of the 800cc era in 2007.
The tables below show the number of different riders and machines that have won races in MotoGP and World Superbike since 2002, when the four-stroke MotoGP class began.
WSBK switched to a single tyre in 2004 and, if the WSBK experience is anything to go, fears of domination by one or two favoured riders appear unlikely - although it may take one season to 'settle down'. 2005 was also the first season, after the one-tyre rule, in which all five manufacturers had a factory-backed WSBK presence.
MotoGP World Championship - different race winners:
2002 (Open Tyre): 4 (riders) 2 (manufacturers - Honda, Yamaha)
2003 (Open Tyre): 4 (riders) 2 (manufacturers - Honda, Ducati)
2004 (Open Tyre): 4 (riders) 2 (manufacturers - Honda, Yamaha)
2005 (Open Tyre): 5 (riders) 3 (manufacturers - Honda, Yamaha, Ducati)
2006 (Open Tyre): 7 (riders) 3 (manufacturers - Honda, Yamaha, Ducati)
2007 (Open Tyre): 5 (riders) 4 (manufacturers - Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki)
2008 (Open Tyre): 4 (riders) 3 (manufacturers - Honda, Yamaha, Ducati)
World Superbike Championship - different race winners:
2002 (Open Tyre): 3 (riders) 2 (manufacturers - Ducati, Honda)
2003 (Open Tyre): 5 (riders) 1 (manufacturer - Ducati)
2004 (Pirelli Only): 6 (riders) 2 (manufacturers - Honda, Ducati)
2005 (Pirelli Only): 7 (riders) 4 (manufacturers - Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha)
2006 (Pirelli Only): 8 (riders) 5 (manufacturers - Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki)
2007 (Pirelli Only): 5 (riders) 4 (manufacturers - Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha)
2008 (Pirelli Only): 8 (riders) 4 (manufacturers - Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha)
Both championships have one round still to go in 2008.
Bridgestone, which also has the exclusive tyre contract for the Formula One World Championship, currently highlights its softer compound F1 tyres with a white line. This makes clear to the watching fans which driver is using which type of tyre. It is not known if Bridgestone will introduce this feature in MotoGP next.
Single tyre - nothing to fear? | MOTOGP News | Crash.Net