SunTrust MOTO-ST Series Teams Put Their Faith in Pirelli DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 11, 2008) --When the green flag flies to begin the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series 8 Hours At Daytona on Oct. 18 it will signal the start of a grueling war of...
SunTrust MOTO-ST Series Teams Put Their Faith in Pirelli
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 11, 2008) --When the green flag flies to begin the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series 8 Hours At Daytona on Oct. 18 it will signal the start of a grueling war of attrition that will test the limits of riders and their machinery.
Eight hours of racing on the challenging 3.56-mile, 12-turn Daytona International Speedway is a very special challenge.
But if there is one piece of equipment every team should have confidence in it will be their tires. From the time the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series was launched at Daytona in October, 2006, Pirelli has been the spec tire supplier to the series, providing not only rubber but technical support to every team at every SunTrust MOTO-ST Series round.
The SunTrust MOTO-ST Series is the first U.S.-based motorcycle racing series to have a spec tire arrangement, which helps contain costs and create a more level playing field. But Pirelli has extensive experience in this role. The Italian company, with its North American office in Rome, Ga., has been the spec tire supplier to the World Superbike Championship since 2004, and from 2006 it has held the same role in Canadian-based Parts Canada Superbike Championship. This year it added the prestigious British Superbike Championship.
Supplying tires to a field of 30-40 motorcycles competing in three different classes is no walk in the park. Instead of being able to focus on the needs of a few select teams running perhaps one or two different types of bike, Pirelli must be able to supply a narrow range of tires that will suit a wide variety of motorcycles.
"I think that's traditionally been one of our strengths, that we're able to cover a wide range of bikes," says Kevin Graham of Orion Motorsports. Graham is a former top road racer in Canada who oversees Pirelli's SunTrust MOTO-ST Series and Parts Canada Superbike operations.
"Certain bikes and chassis are harder on tires than others, and all that has to be taken into consideration when producing tires for the series. We try to strike a balance. We don't want to give anyone an advantage. And we will come up with different options depending on the track we are racing at."
For Daytona Pirelli will have two front and rear tire options for each of the three SunTrust MOTO-ST Series classes. The Buell Motorcycle Company SuperSport Twins class (SST) runs on slick tires, while the BMW GrandSport Twins (GST) and Sport Twins (ST) divisions use street-approved, DOT tires.
Graham estimates Pirelli will have about 1,200 tires at Daytona, and his crew will consist of three installers, two balancers and a technician.
Pirelli's role at the track extends far beyond simply selecting tire options for the weekend and making sure all the bikes are outfitted with rubber. Graham plays an active role in helping teams select which option is best for them, assisting them in getting the most performance from the tires and also paying close attention to how the tires are reacting during practice and qualifying sessions and the race.
"During the race I'll be in the pitlane and I have to assess the tires," Graham explains. "I may have to hold a guy back if I think the tires have gone beyond a safe point. I've never actually done that, but I've made recommendations. Usually what will happen is a lot of teams will call me over and ask for my opinion. During the eight hours the farthest I'll wander from the pit lane is to the Port-A-John."
Last year the ST class winning SpeedWerks.com Suzuki SV650 team went through the whole race without having to make a tire change. In SST, Graham says, the top teams will likely change the rear at every pit stop, or around 17 laps at Daytona, and change the front every two to three stops. The GST class bikes will likely have to swap rears every two or three stops.
"Of course, I don't want to affect the outcome of a race," Graham points out. "I'd rather let the team make its decisions and have the race play out. But the number one priority is to make sure the guys are safe. You have to strike a balance."
With the teams restricted in the tire options available to them, and with Graham on hand to offer his considerable expertise, the SunTrust MOTO-ST Series competitors are able to focus on other aspects of their race preparation and set up.
"When we started with MOTO-ST it was the first time most of these riders had seen a spec tire format," Graham points out. "But in one year the guys understood it. Now they can concentrate on something other than tires."
And as the riders have become comfortable with the format their feedback has helped Pirelli develop better tires for the series. With each race and the input from a wide variety of competitors, the company has been able to constantly improve its product.
"We've had the advantage of working with guys like Jimmy Filice, Jay Springsteen and Doug Polen," Graham says, "and I think there's a mutual respect there. Respect and acceptance, that's the best way to gauge whether the program has been a success. You can't just do it by lap times."
The SunTrust MOTO-ST Series is organized and sanctioned by Professional Motorsports Productions (PMP) of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and the Grand American Road Racing Association, based in Daytona Beach, Fla., provides the series with administrative and commercial support. Learn more about MOTO-ST at www.moto-st.com.