MICHELIN: 'NEW TYRE RULES MAKE MotoGP MOTIVATING THAN EVER' Saturday's season-opening Qatar Grand Prix was MotoGP's first 800cc race but just as importantly it was the first event run under new tyre regulations that have a crucial effect on the...
MICHELIN: 'NEW TYRE RULES MAKE MotoGP MOTIVATING THAN EVER'
Saturday's season-opening Qatar Grand Prix was MotoGP's first 800cc race but just as importantly it was the first event run under new tyre regulations that have a crucial effect on the way riders and teams go racing.
The new rules, introduced to curb costs, restrict riders to 14 front slicks and 17 rear slicks per weekend. To make the best of the new system, Michelin now works individually with its MotoGP riders to tailor-make tyres according to riding style and machine character. Together with Michelin, each rider creates his 31 slicks before each event, the tyres are then barcoded and scanned and the database logged with the Grand Prix technical director during the afternoon before practice starts. Over the weekend the preselected tyres are controlled in the pits by specially assigned scrutineers equipped with barcode scanners.
The rules demand that riders, teams and tyre companies use a whole new tyre selection strategy both before and during events, which places extra emphasis on predicting conditions and selecting tyres to ensure they have the best race choice.
"The challenge for us tyre makers is greater than ever, so MotoGP is now more motivating than ever," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "As always riders need top performance and consistency from their tyres but the new regulations make tyre strategy a much bigger factor.
"The riders seemed to enjoy working within the new system in Qatar but that was the first race and the weather was consistently warm and dry. When conditions are more difficult and a rider knows he has used his best tyres in practice so he won't have the best choice for the race, then maybe things will be a little different!
"The new rules will make the racing more fascinating, because results will be much harder to predict. Some riders will take more risks than others when they choose the range of tyres they want at the next race. If a rider makes a really good choice in his range of tyres he is likely to enjoy a bigger advantage than in the past. But the rules can also work the other way, especially if conditions are very different from those expected. There are all kinds of possibilities in the way each team manages its riders' tyres, and of course each team doesn't know what strategy other teams are using.
"It's not impossible for a rider to choose five solutions within his allocation of 17 rear slicks, but that's obviously a very risky choice because he'll have very few tyres of each type. On the other hand a rider may choose only three solutions, which will give him more tyres of each type, which in some ways is less risky, but then his tyres won't cover all conditions. It's all down to the strategy of individual riders and teams.
"I think the new rules will make life even more interesting as the season goes on, as riders start going in different directions with their own tyre development. The feedback that individual riders give will become more important than ever, because the more data they put into developing their own tyres, the better tailor-made products they will get for the next race. And this will be especially true when we go to tracks at which we haven't tested."