Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Round, black and…

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


Round, black and…

So, at the end of next season, MotoGP will switch from one brand of round black things to another brand of round black things. Big deal; tyrezzzzzzzzz.

Of course it’s not a big deal, it’s a huge deal. Swapping tyre brands can make or break a rider’s career. Likewise it can transform a winning motorcycle into an unrideable and vice-versa. In other words, saying goodbye to Bridgestone and hello to a different tyre manufacturer could upset the MotoGP status quo, which, depending on who you are will either be a good thing or a bad thing. A change of tyres could also have a major effect on the quality of the racing.

When Michelin ruled

Back in the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s, Michelin were the dominant tyre manufacturer in the premier class. Most riders would’ve considered selling their grandparents to get a contract with the French company, because Michelins were the tyres you needed to win.

But some riders couldn’t get on with them, because the tyres didn’t fit their technique and because they were unable to adapt their technique to fit the tyres.

New Zealander Simon Crafar was one of those men. In 1998, riding his Dunlop-equipped Red Bull Yamaha YZR500, he inflicted a rare defeat on Mick Doohan’s Michelin-equipped Repsol Honda NSR500 at Donington Park and very nearly beat him again at Phillip Island.

Since Michelin were the faster tyre, Crafar’s team assumed he would go faster with them, so they procured the French rubber for 1999, confident that Crafar would challenge for the 500 world title. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Crafar went from GP winner and lap-record breaker to also-ran, because he couldn’t make the Michelins work for him.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Comments

Wow...

... This is something I never considered before, and could be right on target!

"I’m no tyre engineer, but I’ve always considered Bridgestone’s MotoGP rear to be a traction-control tyre. It is stiffer and less rider-friendly than the Michelin it ultimately replaced in the late 2000s, but is that really a problem when engineers can rely on the electronics to keep the rider out of trouble? Thus Bridgestone were the first company to make tyres that relied on MotoGP’s new-wave electronics. Perhaps they don’t want to be around once those electronics are reduced."

Total votes: 33

Selective memory

Mat Oxley is a first class MotoGP writer, and he knows a ton about the sport and how it works. However, he is practicing a generous amount of "selective memory" in this piece. He wants to make the case that a spec tire rule is bad for riders, bad for manufacturers, bad for fans, and good only for "those who make money out of the wheeling and dealing."

Mat discusses two main examples of successful MotoGP riders who could never adjust to a change in tire brand. Both are from the tire wars era, Simon Carfar and Toni Elias. Simon Crafar? I regret to say I completely missed his career, but he won one 500 GP race back in 1998. Elias also won a single race in the premier class, and won that only when he was given a set of Michelin overnight specials. Crafar and Elias are held out as examples of riders who were winning races, but then had a change of tire brand, and never won again. Sorry, but these two riders don't make the case.

There probably is some truth to the premise that some riders will take to the new 2016 tires slightly better than other riders, but I strongly suspect that the same guys will be at the front whether that supplier is brand M, D, or P. More importantly, Mat seems to forget that open tire competition inevitably focuses all the resources on a couple of factory teams, to the total detriment of the mid-field runners and the privateers at the back of the grid.

Granted, the factories will need to tailor their chassis to whatever tires they are using. But Bridgestone has decided to leave, so deal with it. Also, it is much more important, IMO, to preserve the financial health of the less wealthy satellite and privateer teams. Dorna has worked for a period of years to narrow the gap between the richest factory teams and all other teams, and it would be foolish for Dorna to reverse course now. With a control tire rule, Dorna has been able to secure free tires for all teams. Thus far, there is no evidence that that could be maintained with open tire competition.

I am disappointed that a writer of Mat Oxley's stature would publish a review of the tire situation as one-sided and incomplete as this one.

Total votes: 42

What about Jorge?

Lorenzo has complained bitterly about the new 'Stones.
Look where he is this year.

Just the same, I agree with you that free and equal tyres for the satellite and privateer teams is a compelling objective.

Total votes: 26

while I agree about the cherry

picking, there appear to be a number of riders who just can't use a particular tyre brand; similarly some bikes have taken a lot longer to adapt to "new issue". The only way around this is to make it a free for all again but I think LTS hit the nail on the head with his statement "Dorna has worked for a period of years to narrow the gap between the richest factory teams and all other teams, and it would be foolish for Dorna to reverse course now. With a control tire rule, Dorna has been able to secure free tires for all teams."

At the end of the day the one tyre rule means you get the majority of riders AND bikes on a level playing field as far as the rubber goes, it is the outliers that make us look back for the good old days. The problem with the good old days was there were not enough 'A' tyres to go round.

Even in my aging years I seem to remember that the biggest skill any rider had to learn (this included AMA, WSB and GrandPrix) was to manage the tyres. It just may be that by scaling back TC we will see those skills re-emerge. Providing the tyres have moderate grip when cold, they don't chunk or explode when worn then I think the next tyre supplier has a simple formula to work to eh? :-)

Total votes: 31

I agree LewTheShoe, Mat has

I agree LewTheShoe, Mat has been very selective. No critique of the MotoGP control tyre experience should avoid comparison to the WSBK control tyre experience.

My understanding is that in MotoGP Bridgestone have a "one-size-fits-all" attitude highlighted by the recent issues issues of Ducati, the factory team that made Bridgestones' reputation in MotoGP, forced into playing catch-up with a replica of the Japanese-style alloy twin spar chassis design rather than developing their own carbon chassis ideas by the standardised control tyre.

In WSBK I understand that Pirelli make versions of their control tyre to suit the chassis characteristics of the different factories, due to the production frame rules of WSBK no doubt, but the difference to the old Michelin days in MotoGP is that all runners of each brand of motorcycle get the same tyre with no favouritism with overnight specials. Ironically Pirellis' flexibility in tyre spec actually makes the "production" championship more engineering diverse than the "prototype" championship. Some big lessons for MotoGP right there.

Total votes: 20

not to mention that ...

... the "one-size-fits-all" approach promotes one "all-conquering" bike design as well as one "all-conquering" riding style. Think Marquez+Honda ... When that happens, all try to copy both and that's the end of diversity ...

Total votes: 21

Elias' Win was on Rossi's tyres

Elias' win was largely believed to be on tyres that Rossi had decided not to run in the race, so they were "handed down" to Elias.
They proved to be the best tyre for the race.

Total votes: 32

Elias's was on "overnight

Elias's was on "overnight specials" built for & rejected by Pedrosa. Pedrosa & Elias are of similar physical stature & both were on HRC spec Hondas so there was little risk in Michelin offering them to Tony, especially as Elias was a "B" grade Michelin customer picking up the rejects from the "A" grade teams. That scenario happening before & after that particular race.

Total votes: 27

well they did but

nobody else was sliding the bike sideways all the way from one side of the track to the other while braking for a corner and managing to cut in front of all the competition . That was an outrageous race and I'm not sure anyone builds tyres to do that sort of thing on a daily basis, oh, maybe speedway but other than that no one :-)

Total votes: 28

Does the name Garry McCoy

Does the name Garry McCoy ring a bell?

Total votes: 18

true, true

Gary was a god of slide but Elias was doing the common Moto2 slide into the corner starting from one side of the track right across to the other. Gary along with many others used to do most of his sliding mid corner to exit if I remember rightly

Total votes: 19

Tire competition?

There is no guarantee a tire competition will reduces costs. There is no guarantee a tire competition will make the racing better. There is no guarantee a tire competition will save careers. The notion that a tire competition will somehow fix everything is getting old. The reality is this: there is no perfect solution. There are pros and cons on either side of the fence. All things considered, a single tire manufacturer probably is the best fit for MotoGP and many other racing series. Providing equal, safe, and versatile tires to every team places the competition squarely on the shoulders of the manufactures and riders--exactly where it should be. There will ALWAYS be exceptions, but this is the best way to approach this issue.

Total votes: 12

It's not about the tyres.

Which is the whole point. The tyres happen to be a really important component, but, like fuel, no-one should be disadvantaged by not having access to something 'equal' to everyone else, that they have a good idea will solve their handling problems. That is why we spend hours reading/writing/talking about them.
Racing is about people; it's about one guy setting himself against another, or one factory against another.
It isn't a tyre competition series and, because the other variables are so great/important that's why choice is the answer, not 'here's your tyres; go race'. When we all end up on generic bikes because 'it's the best option' it will be a sadder world. The Ducati is a classic example - if you are into racing who doesn't love the sound of those engines in the sub-MGP series (the GP bikes are a class of their own, acoustically).
Tyre choice is important, because it makes so many other things possible; technically, and for race strategy.

Oxley is about right IMO. Lots of riders have already woken up to the issues and I'm sure that the chassis engineers are working on options before they even know the material they will have to work to - it won't be 'wait and see what they're like'. There will be phone calls and beers, and the top teams will have piles of kit waiting in transporters, factories, or design offices waiting for that first feedback.
It could be chaos, but it will probably be fun. Phillip Island might have been the first of a few......
Anyone who thinks a simple solution is the answer has only to look at Ducati's woes in MGP. The Panigale is not the Desmo GP14, but why have they been able to tune the handling on that and not the GP bike. Lots of reasons; but the tyres are one.

Total votes: 7

I'm for whatever the

I'm for whatever the non-factory teams feel is in their best interest. If they like free control tyres, then let's keep free control tyres.

Riders all have their opinions and preferences, which I've observed may change race 2 race depending on their performance that day, but they don't manage the team.

If a motogp class rider is so one dimensional they can't adapt to new tires, it's time to look for a microphone as a commentator.

Total votes: 4

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