Single Tire Rule Starts To Bite: Post-Valencia Test Cut From Three Days To Two
The first day of the new MotoGP season traditionally starts on the day after the last day of the current season. On the Monday after the final MotoGP race at Valencia, testing begins for the new season, with new machinery being rolled out, and old riders wandering around looking strange and slightly uncomfortable in different colored leathers. Once the journalists leave the track on Monday afternoon, testing starts in earnest, and continues until evening falls on Wednesday.
It won't quite be happening like that this year, however. For a start, the teams have finally managed to put up a collective front against the horde of journos who come to wobble around the Valencia track, and will be severely limiting the number of motorcycle scribes who will get to lap the circuit. But the other development is a good deal more worrying. Bridgestone has already told the teams that it will not have sufficient tires for all of the teams to test at the Valencia test for the full three days, according to MotoGP veteran reporter and Motocourse stalwart Michael Scott in the free online magazine GPWeek.
This poses a fairly significant problem for both teams and riders. Firstly, everyone swapping to a new bike - including Nicky Hayden, Marco Melandri, Yuki Takahashi, and the Alice Ducati team - will want to get as many miles under their belts on their new mounts as possible. Then there's the pile of new parts and bikes waiting to be tested, including the carbon-fiber framed Ducati GP9, which Casey Stoner is putting off having surgery to test. And last but very much not least there are the former Michelin riders keen to get as many laps as possible on the new rubber to collect data for the teams to digest over the winter.
The problem is mostly one of timing, with the decision to go to a single tire manufacturer taken less than a month ago, and followed hot on the heels by the tender process and the contract award. And even though it was blindingly obvious the contract was going to go to Bridgestone, the official announcement is only due to be made at Sepang, just one week before the Valencia test is due to take place.
Just to make a complicated situation even more difficult, Bridgestone has already announced they will be restricting the numbers of tires available to the teams next year. How close these tires are to the current rubber supplied by Bridgestone is as yet unknown, but as Bridgestone will only be producing three or so different tire types, any testing done on the current tires is not likely to be helpful.
The decision will be hardest on Casey Stoner. Stoner has already postponed a vital operation on his left scaphoid so he could test the new Ducati GP9. Stoner is expected to lose 8-12 weeks recovering after the operation, and so any reduction in testing time will leave Stoner much further behind the curve than he would have hoped.