2017 Jerez MotoGP Test Round Up: The Tire Wars Are Back, Sort Of

For some race fans, the news that the tire wars are back will be music to their ears. The trouble is, the new tire wars which broke out at Jerez are of a very different kind to the period before the advent of the spec tire, when different manufacturers went head-to-head in pursuit of outright performance.

The Jerez tire wars are a very different beast indeed. These pit rider against rider, rather than manufacturer against manufacturer, with the prize being the future direction of tire development in MotoGP. The weapon handed to both sides was a front tire from Michelin using a stiffer construction, first used at the Valencia race and test at the end of last year. The two (or perhaps three) sides in the debate are using the outcome of the Jerez test to try to gain an advantage in the remainder of the championship.

If you wanted proof that Jerez was above all a tire test, look no further than Ducati's decision taken late on Sunday night to stay on for the Monday test. Originally, they had been scheduled to skip the Jerez test and head to Mugello, where they will have a private test to prepare for what is arguably their most important race of the year. But when it became apparent just how much stock some riders were putting in the new tire, the factory Ducati team decided to stay and give the tires a whirl.

Change of plans

Andrea Dovizioso only tested for a morning, trying the new stiffer tire (variously and confusingly referred to as the new tire, the old tire, the 2016 tire, and the Valencia tire, though the stiffer tire is the clearest description of the beast) before packing up and heading out. Jorge Lorenzo seized the opportunity to get more miles under his belt, testing the new tire, but most of all continuing the process of adapting to the Desmosedici, a process he had punctuated with his first podium on the bike

Everyone else, except for the cash-strapped Pull&Bear Aspar team, stayed on for the test as well. Though some teams had new parts to test – Movistar Yamaha had a new chassis to test, Repsol Honda the new exhaust Cal Crutchlow had raced, Aprilia a new swing arm, and KTM the usual container full of ideas and components – the main objective for most was to form an opinion on the stiffer tire.

Taking sides

At the end of the day, opinions were divided into several camps. There were those who loved it, or at least preferred it, such as Marc Márquez, Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi, Sam Lowes, and Jonas Folger, praising the extra support the tire gave, which allowed them to turn into the corner on the brakes. Tech 3 rookie Folger summed it up best: "The bike is more stable on braking, especially the last moment when you go into the corner on the braking. On the brakes it's more stable, you don't feel the rubber working so much, it's just more stable. And then you turn better."

There were those who were indifferent, such as Andrea Dovizioso, Dani Pedrosa, and Johann Zarco. The new tire was no real improvement for them, either because of their riding style or their bikes, which loaded the front a good deal less. Riders who do most of their braking in a straight line, releasing brake pressure before tipping in, liked the better feel and feedback the tire currently in the allocation gives. With less load on the front during turning, the less stiff carcass transmits more information back to the rider.

Then there were those who were opposed, though not with too much conviction. Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Maverick Viñales were all no real fans of the new tire, though all said that if the majority decision was in favor, they would just as easily be able to race with the stiffer carcass.

Perhaps the most telling comment came from riders in both the positive and indifferent camps. In reality, the difference between the tires was much smaller than many had perhaps hoped. Valentino Rossi: "I tried it, and for me, not a big difference, but I preferred the tire with the harder carcass." Andrea Dovizioso was even more blunt: "My feeling is very similar, like when I compared last year. So for me, it doesn't matter, both tires are very very similar."

The difference between testing and racing

If the difference is so small, why was this tire being revisited? Once again, Jonas Folger had the best explanation. "When they gave us the front tire that we use now, I didn't feel so much difference. Most of the riders were saying, it's more stable, some had problems, some not, and in the end they decided to continue with this front tire. But I think also in the winter tests, nobody was pushing like now during the season. And that was affecting the decision to continue with the current tire."

The situation is reminiscent of the less stiff front tire Bridgestone brought to the preseason Jerez test back in 2012. Then, Casey Stoner immediately rejected the tire, saying it was far too soft under braking, stopping him from turning into the corner as he wished. The rest of the field liked it, however, and the tire went on to be used for the first half of the season, over the objections of Stoner and Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa.

By the Barcelona test, the rest of the field had changed their mind, agreeing that the tire was indeed too soft. On a race weekend, with much more at stake, riders were pushing much harder and running into the limitations of the front tire. Bridgestone remedied the situation shortly after.

Much the same appears to have happened with the Michelin front. At Valencia, the riders all preferred the tire with the new profile and the stiffer construction. After the winter break, when riders were still finding their feet and getting up to speed, they were going a little softer, and the less stiff tire offered better feedback. Now they are racing again, they are bumping up against the limitations of the tire, and wanting more support from it under braking.

Democracy in action

The decision on whether to switch to the stiffer construction will be taken based on the opinion of the majority of riders. If most of them agree they prefer it, then the stiffer construction tires will be available from Mugello. If most of them don't like it, they will stick with the current, less stiff tire. If there is no clear decision, then the tire will be tested again at the Monday test after Barcelona. Given the feedback I heard from riders after the race, that looks to be the most likely outcome.

The trouble is, of course, that we can't truly trust the feedback we heard. The riders who like it may have a strong preference because they believe it is better, or they may have a weak preference because they believe it can't be any worse than the tires they currently have. On the other hand, the riders who vote to stay with the current tire may decide to do so not because they prefer the current tire, but because they fear that others will benefit if Michelin bring the stiffer front tire.

The same thing happened in 2012. Valentino Rossi, knowing he was in for a second year of struggling with the Ducati, voted for using the softer front Bridgestone for the season. After he left Ducati and returned to Yamaha, he admitted he had voted for the softer front knowing that it was a worse tire. The front tire was the least of his problems, and so handicapping his rivals with a worse tire was just one more strategy aimed at helping him to be competitive. Sometimes, for a racer, making your rivals slower can be just as effective (and much easier) than finding ways to be faster.

Rossi's woes

Whatever the tire, it didn't appear to help Valentino Rossi. Yamaha had brought a new chassis to the test, which worked for Maverick Viñales, but Rossi felt did not do much for him. Viñales believed it offered a bit more rear grip, while Rossi found no benefit from the new frame. The test did provide some useful ideas for improving bike setup for the Italian, but the new chassis had not made a difference.

Viñales finished fastest at the test, while Valentino Rossi finished way down in 21st. In itself, those times are deceptive: Viñales started the test around 10:30, when the track temperature was relatively low and the surface had a lot of grip. He set his best lap time about an hour later, still well before noon. That was also before Valentino Rossi even took the track. The Italian started his first laps shortly before noon, when track temperatures were starting to rise. He never really had the right conditions to chase a fast lap.

That does not mean that Rossi is not in trouble, however. A surprisingly curt Valentino Rossi told us that he was still having major problems with the bike and the tires. "For me, in general, this weekend was difficult because our bike don't have a good marriage with the tires," he said. "This is the biggest problem. Also today, we understand something, but in the end, the feeling remain similar."

Viñales worked on setup, and tried the same setting that he had used in the race. He was a lot faster in the test than during the race, he told us. "We made a back to back compared to yesterday's race, and the result was totally different. I could make mid 1'40s, I was on the pace of Marc and Dani." Once again, he refused to say directly what he believed the cause was, though he did make the following point: "Yesterday on lap 16, 1'41.9, today on lap 16, 1'40.8. That's nearly one second per lap, that's a lot."

At Le Mans, Yamaha will be hoping to turn their fortunes around. With an incredibly grippy new surface, they should have a good chance of doing so.

On the pipe

At Honda, they continued the work of sorting out their new exhaust, and finding the right electronics mappings to make the engine work properly. There were signs they believe it is the right direction, as Marc Márquez explained. "On the acceleration side it’s helping a little bit," he said. The short exhaust made the engine smoother, and gave it a bit more bottom end torque. "It’s where we are struggling a bit now. The thing is also on the top it’s very similar. Overall, you understand better. During all the preseason when I complain that I don’t understand the connection with the gas, and I don’t understand why I am fast, this one you understand a little bit better."

Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa followed a similar program, working to help set the electronics up to manage the exhaust. The Magneti Marelli spec ECU is relatively sophisticated, but because of that, it can be hard to set up. With thousands of parameters which can be manipulated, but only directly by hand, getting it right can take a long time.


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Total votes: 118
Total votes: 94

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Comments

David - You put Pedrosa in both the indifferent camp and opposed camp.  An interesting disposition none the less.

Total votes: 124

Well spotted. That was a mistake. But in truth, it is hard to distinguish between the indifferents and the opposeds. I would lump those two together. 

Total votes: 106

Ok, silly question.

What brand is the exhaust used on the Repsol Honda's? Perhaps I saw wrong but doesn't Arrow sponsor LCR?

Just curious if they were using different exhausts if Cal is considered the 3rd HRC rider and he is testing parts for them.

Total votes: 109

David can correct me if I am mistaken, but SCPoject and Arrow are not technical partners, they're just sponsors with their stickers on the bike - exhausts are not developed or even produced by them.

so same exhaust, probably made by Honda

Total votes: 102

I believe it is indeed SC Project this year, switched from Termigoni last year.

 

SC Project claim to be the supplier at least, and i doubt HRC or the real OEM would allow them to do that (and claim credit) if they were not.

Total votes: 86

got me qurious and I checked, because it would be interesting how the Arrow - SC would work :) both HRC & SC Project are being quite careful and only mentioning "sponsor" ... nowhere it is mentioned either supply or development ... I believe SC would grab this opportunity if they could, but I could be wrong of course. 

 

Total votes: 119

Sorry to nitpick, but "thousands of parameters" or thousands of settings?  I expect there's multiple parameters but not thousands.

Total votes: 89

Speed of sound, and of reflected exhaust suction waves back up the pipe, is constant. Therefore longer pipes boost torque lower at lower RPM and shorter pipes at higher RPM. I believe the new shorter Honda exhaust removes torque from the bottom end, giving the electronics less work to do to control wheelspin at corner exit.

Total votes: 97

Why does vr46 always show up late to the party like the trendy kid. Surely the Sunday performance demonstrates he needs to get on track and figure it out while he has some testing available.

Total votes: 107

Maybe he decieded nothing was gained by going out and setting a fast time in the cooler morning conditions when comparison from sunday would be in the afternoon when conditions were the same as the race.

 

Total votes: 111

That comment piqued my curiosity, perhaps David might know - what does a sticker cost to put on a bike?. I realize there are a lot of variables but I would love to know.

Total votes: 100

Again, why all this nonesense? Just supply both types of tyres and let the riders choose which they want to use. Surely producing an extra batch of tyres each weekend should be no problem at all for Michelin?

Also much more cost effective than having to set up another whole test day...

Total votes: 102

... Michelin were to provide bespoke tyres to each rider. Can you imagine it? Developping dozens of different front and rear tyres which then must customized to 18 different circuits.

It is unreasonable and infeasible.

Total votes: 104

Good thing I did not argue for that then. Read my post again to see what I do argue for.

Total votes: 91

 

ducati ditched termignoni in favor of akrapovic for panigale so i thought exhaust manufacturers meant something..

Total votes: 100

Akrapovic actually develop and design the exhausts, based on data and requirements from the factories. They are one of the very few manufacturers who can do that. Most exhaust sponsorship is limited to stickers.

Total votes: 113

HRC

http://www.hondaracingcorporation.com/news/hrc-announce-new-partnership-with-sc-project/ 

Tetsuhiro Kuwata - HRC Director: "... this alliance will prove very successful in terms of mutual cooperation and racing achievements”.

Marco De Rossi & Stefano Lavazza - SC-Project Owners : "... the collaboration with HRC will improve more and more our brand and our exhaust technology."

SC-Projecthttp://www.sc-project.com/sponsorship_e.htm

LCR 

http://www.lcr.mc/eng/team/the-bike_ID_4.htm

Factory Spec

Exhaust: Arrow Titanium line  

Arrowhttps://www.arrow.it/en/news#1498

Akrapovič

Racing Teams 2017

https://www.akrapovic.com/#!/motorcycle/racing/teams

Total votes: 93

Given Rossi's admission that he lied about the soft bridgestone a few years ago to push an inferior tire on his competitors, why should I believe his statements now that he is indifferent to the stiffer front, and that they found some other setup to solve the issues he had Sunday at Jerez. All this sounds like the mental equivalent of out braking oneself.

Total votes: 98

actually they have the sticker of the actual producer but is very small and buried in between all the small "technical sponsor " ones at the bottom of the swingarm...and it starts with a "Y"

Total votes: 91

Actually there has been none since 2008. Bridgestone, who dveloped their offering against Michelin and Rossi. Notably, Rossi demanded Bridgestone.

Later and Lorenzo and the rest wEre strung out with Michelin. We can rehash this ad-nauseum, Michelin Midnight specials back in the day and blah. We now sit with sole tire supplier, sole ECU supplier, sole engine supplier (moto2, whether it be Honda or Triumph). Corporatetocracy sucks. I see this as yesteryear status quo. The racer with the most financial clout within MGP will get what he wants out of the sole supplier. I for one would like to see KTM working with Metzeler, Ducati/Aprilia working with Pirelli, the HRC/Yamaha/Suzuki amada working with Bridgestone and so on and so forth. In short, to cut rider/manufacturer complaints out of the equation...You signed for this bike and team, these are our tire options within the ambit of our supplier's scope of delivery. 

Ohlins have a majority re- suspension. White Power are proving and improving  every race. What next? Sole suspension supplier? How about chassis? Should the KTM trellis beat the crap out of twin spar beam derivatives next year, will  the GPC vote to veto any chassis that does not conform to Alloy beam technology. Looks like the whole sport is going in the direction of the 0.1%, just like the world in general.

 

Total votes: 113

I suspect that Michelin's largest customer is Ducati parent Volkswagen AG, while Bridgestone's largest (of those in MotoGP) was Honda.

No idea if any backroom arm-twisting/deals happen or not.

Total votes: 85

I found this line interesting:

"The short exhaust made the engine smoother, and gave it a bit more bottom end torque."

Although I get the smoothness is needed, how is more bottom-end torque a good thing? Doesn't the Honda already spin the rear on low-gear acceleration? That's one of their biggest weaknesses right now. Doesn't seem to make sense to increase low end grunt.

Total votes: 99

What is interesting is that Marquez told us the bike felt better at the bottom end, there was a better feel between throttle and rear wheel. I suspect Yamamangler's explanation above is likely more correct, more top end makes the bike more manageable by making the bottom end less aggressive and less powerful.

Total votes: 102

Freddie Spencer's Video

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WMlk7Ybnr1s

Really good this time!

The chatter folks were tossing out re the Honda being the best bike out there and the Yamaha not being good is uninsightful. ONE track w odd conditions of track surface and changing temps. Low grip masking the spin up --> wheelie problems Honda still has some work to do on. Within a trend of the Honda coming back from shite to rideable yes, and another in which a revised 2017 Yamaha is in a smaller development dip.

Let's enjoy the complexity and nuance. Prepare for Honda to have its ass handed to it (in terms relative to Jerez) at a grippy, very flowing LeMans. By both Ducati and Yamaha. After the next race I hope to not hear you same folks say the same thing about the Ducati that you just did about Honda.

Dani Pedrosa on the other hand, we can't say enough good stuff about him now. So precise! So balanced. So easy on the tires. So consistent. So tidy and settled. He is less a scrappy dog fighter in this class, and in earlier MotoGP yrs would "flinch" a bit rather than bar-bang. But on the diminutive analog 250's he did the brash business when needed. And could again. He is still developing, ALL this time, in a steady as she goes and understated Pedrosa style.

Beautiful Dani!

France? More normality from the bikes. And normal these days includes fantastic displays. We get yo see more of the drag race of motor and electronics development for drive out of corners. And a look at the riders' balls that would suffice for a hernia test from Dr Costa. These are good days to be alive friends.

Total votes: 112

Thanks for the article David. Yes I thought we could consider 2017 form and results from recent years to get an idea about what might happen at Jerez. I was way off the mark. "Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." --Nils Bohr

Thanks Motoshrink Freddie knows a thing or two about motocycles. Freddie has a interesting way of describing the style of different riders. I say it was good video, a transcript would have been just as good.

surely Mister Spencer looks at little to mature to be called Freddie.

Total votes: 98

"Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future." --Nils Bohr

And he also said that a MotoGP bike in orbit around a motorcycle track can drop to a lower orbit with the release of quantum of energy in what is known as a crash.  Input of energy from the rider, crew and/or marshals can return the bike to the original orbit.

Schroedinger did much more work on inability to predict motogp races where he observed that a rider has both simultaneously crashed and not crashed until the race has been observed, each rider not occupying a position so much as a superposition of all positions and states.  And then in the wider field of physics much work has been done on the unified motogp field theory. Despite the best theoretical attempts it has been experimentally shown that the motogp field will never be fully unified.

Sorry.

Total votes: 103

Rider/Bike/Conditions can be over the limit. Crashes "happen" that do not happen. Micro transgressions of the known and possible are more than commonplace. We say Alien because we don't understand.

We witness and it is, but the RIDER? Immersed in flow state, they no longer observe. Literally, they alternately witness the whole thing effortlessly, or they are in flow to the extent that they do not know what happened but know that it was REALLY good.

They are particle, they are wave.

The mass of the Higgs boson, results are being reviewed by HRC to see if engineers can lighten it up a bit?

"Butterfly Wings" (obviously saving it on the elbow)
;)

I love natural interplay of particle physics and...trancendentalism. At orgasm or exceeding the limit do you geeks think like this, or do you say "oh god"?

Total votes: 103

Are we to assume, Vinales comparison test was at the same time and similar temperature than that of the race? ;

Total votes: 94

Such was the farce of 2017 Jerez, a quick look at the race comparison from 2005-12 years ago.

2005 - 45.43.156 V. ROSSI

2017 - 45.26.827 D. PEDROSA

Valentino Rossi's race time in 2005 was just 16.3 seconds off Dani's time this year, even with the  2-3 second loss of average laptime with the last corner/last lap incident.

Rossi's 2005 time would have been good for 4th place this year, and both factory yams were well off the pace from 12 years ago, Rossi a staggering 21 seconds off!

Track surface degridation certainly plays a part in this comparison, however it is still particularly sobering for the factory Yamaha squad. Is Furasawa still on speed dial?

Total votes: 101

From Mat Oxly's latest -

"The MotoGP race record belongs to Jorge Lorenzo and Bridgestone, from 2015, when they completed the race 29 seconds faster than Pedrosa on Sunday and 31 seconds faster than Rossi last year. But the track was 11 degrees cooler two years ago."

So a couple of years back is maybe a more interesting comparison. Why compare 2005?

Total votes: 88

12 years is a little different to 2, for interests sake.

Total votes: 99

The short exhaust made the engine smoother, and gave it a bit more bottom end torque.

I found that part interesting; obviously they need a smoother engine, but wouldn't more bottom end torque exacerbate their existing problem with wheelspin while accelerating from low-gear corners?

Total votes: 108

He could mean "usable"
The rider is only referring to subjective experience

Total votes: 109