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.