Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP tyre disasters: a history

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.


MotoGP tyre disasters: a history

MotoGP is going through a tough time with tyres, but how long has this been going on?

It is Michelin’s home MotoGP round this weekend; in theory a time for celebration, even though the French company hasn’t had the easiest of returns to a class of racing that it ruled almost continuously from 1974 to 2006.

First came Scott Redding’s delaminating tyre in Argentina; which had Michelin hurriedly deploying stiffer rear casings that had riders battling wheelspin in sixth gear at a dry and sunny Jerez.

Somewhere there must be a happy medium. But perhaps there isn’t, at least not for everyone, because this is the curse of the control tyre: how do you design a tyre that works equally well for 78kg Redding and for 51kg Dani Pedrosa?

The answer to that question is that you can’t. It’s a nonsense that control tyres give everyone the same chance – they will always suit some bikes and riders better than they suit others.

Quite rightly, Michelin has copped some flack in recent weeks; just as Bridgestone did when it got it wrong. But was Redding the first GP rider to get a slap in the back from a chunk of disintegrating rear tyre?

No, he wasn’t. But who was? When MotoGP bikes arrived in 2002, some doomsayers predicted that companies building tyres for 190bhp, 130kg 500cc two-strokes wouldn’t be able to cope with 220bhp, 150kg 990cc four-strokes.

Their prophecies came true at Mugello 2004. Shinya Nakano was hurtling his factory Kawasaki down the start-finish straight when his rear Bridgestone overheated and self-destructed at close to 200mph, hurling the hapless Japanese to the ground, where he came to rest right next to a trackside wall. A few months earlier Kenny Roberts Junior had crashed in similar circumstances at Sepang when his rear Bridgestone failed.

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

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Total votes: 71
Total votes: 82

Comments

Seems to me that the control tire situation will favor the heaviest riders.

Normally when you're trying to build a product for everyone, you aim for the middle of the spectrum. But Michelin have to build a tire that is safe for the heaviest riders, so they will aim for that end of the spectrum. Advantage, heaviest riders.

That doesn't mean Redding or Baz will win the championship. They have a small tire advantage, but they have team, equipment, and talent disadantages, too.

Total votes: 61

Quote: "It’s a nonsense that control tyres give everyone the same chance – they will always suit some bikes and riders better than they suit others."

I couldn't agree more. So the effect is in fact the opposite of what is claimed, because now you can't do anything about it. You have to ride with what is made to work for others.

I really dislike the fact that it prevents an interesting diversity in machinery. Actually I wonder how the carbon fibre framed Ducati would do now, on these very different tyres. Could be very interesting if they gave it a retry.

Total votes: 70

The most surprising thing about Michelin being the main tyre suplier in 2016 is that people are blaming the tyres.

Of course it would play a major part in this year's chamionship! Michelin hasn't played a prominant role in MotoGP since 2006, the year that Rossi had multiple DNF's due to collapsing tyres whilst Bridgestone stormed ahead.

It was only a matter of time before Bridgestone was the tyre everyone wanted (Rossi, followed by Pedrosa etc)

What Matt says has been the same argument for a decade. When you had mutiple tyre manufactures competing on these bikes (I remember Sylvain Guintoli leading the race on a Tech 3 Dunlop machine at Le Mans until he crashed - 2005-ish?) people said a single tyre rule would even up the playing fied. We all agreed at the time.

I feel a bit sorry for Michelin. MotoGP riders only ever complain about the tyres when they lose. They never praise them when they win.

Give them time! They are fighting a losing battle (as all tyre manufactures ever will in MotoGP)

 

 

Total votes: 76

"2006... the year that Rossi had multiple DNF's due to collapsing tyres whilst Bridgestone stormed ahead."

Michelin won the championship... & came 2nd... it has been reported that they may have screwed Rossi's chances & wanted an American to win but they were definitely the dominant tyre. In fact only 2 riders in the top 10 were on Bridgestones that year... 3rd & 10th... the following year was a different story but on the 990cc bikes Michelin dominated.

Total votes: 63

The 800's favored the smaller riders.  When the MSMA reduced the amount of liters onboard, it favored the smaller riders.  The pendulum swings back and forth.  Anyone crying about this hasn't been around very long.  If the pendulum has swung back to the heavier guys then good, they deserve it for a few years.  

Total votes: 68

Bring back the tyre war!

Control tyres were a crap idea in 2007 and they're a crap idea today.

Rather than building tyres to suit a bike/rider combination, teams are spending millions of dollars to design a chassis around a tyre which is a moving target from race to race.  It's insane.

 

Total votes: 58

The problem with a tire competition is that while it might fix some of the issues we see with a single manufacturer, it also introduces a whole set of NEW problems. The best stuff always went to the top teams while the secondary teams got whatever was left on the truck regardless of quality. I also find it interesting so many people have forgotten about 2007-2008 when Bridgestone dominated and those on Michelins had no chance. For a high profile world championship like MotoGP, it was absolutely unacceptable to have race wins determined by something other than the skills of the rider and the guile of the motorcycle manufacturers. Show me one photo of a fan in the stands decked out in full Bridgestone support attire--it doesn't happen. At the end of the day, Dorna made the right choice because, despite the performance differences found in a control tire between riders and manufacturers, it still puts the control of that up to those two. That is not always the case in a multiple tire manufacturer environment as we witnessed.

Total votes: 57

Seems no one had a problem with the tires determining the winner for the preceding decade so why was it a problem once Bridgestone has an advantage?

If you doubt thats true, do you remember Elias (who hadn't threatened the podium before) bearing Rossi in 2006 one he had the top level tires.

Whilst I agree that having tires determine the winner, at least with having 2 companies able to produce winning tires the potential winner for each race can not be decided in a closed boardroom

Total votes: 64

"If you doubt thats true, do you remember Elias (who hadn't threatened the podium before) bearing Rossi in 2006 one he had the top level tires. "

However, I see that as a NEGATIVE reminder of the tire competition days--not some fond memory of better days gone by and something to aspire to. Elias beat Rossi on a satellite bike which PROVED he had the speed to do when given the right set of rubber. A tire competition all but ensures he won't have that opportunity under normal circumstances. Why not just give everyone the same set of tires and let the best man win? Dorna made the right call to go with a single manufacturer.

Also, please remember I never said the single manufacturer rule is without issues. I merely pointed out that reverting to multiple brands has issues, too. It wouldn't magically fix everything. I happen to believe that a single manufacturer is the best choice for MotoGP. Furthermore, it's become the standard for most worldwide motorsports series (F1, WSBK) which indicates that most people who matter tend to agree.

Total votes: 47

"For a high profile world championship like MotoGP, it was absolutely unacceptable to have race wins determined by something other than the skills of the rider and the guile of the motorcycle manufacturers."

Why?... there are dominant tyres & dominant bikes... if they're all bombing around on the same tyres, why not the same bikes?

"The best stuff always went to the top teams while the secondary teams got whatever was left on the truck regardless of quality."

Yup... that's like factory v satellite. Racing isn't fair... full stop. Some riders have money thrown at them while others, less favoured, get the hand-me-downs. What needed to happen was for the manufacturers be forced to offer all tyres to all the riders they supplied. Michelin were most definitely accused of giving good tyres to the riders they wanted to win & batch changing for everyone else come race day... essentialy race fixing.

Total votes: 58

>> Michelin were most definitely accused of giving good tyres to the riders they wanted to win & batch changing for everyone else come race day... essentialy race fixing.

I'm sure that the factory teams were paying the tire companies more than the satellite teams and in exchange were getting better service.  I'm also sure that the factory teams could provide better specs on the custom tires they wanted produced than satellite teams with fewer technical people could.  Its called the normal course of life, not race fixing, and actually about as fair as it gets in racing: you get what you can pay for.

 

Chris

Total votes: 61

Hi, How about multiple tyre manufactures with freedom to choose from team? For ex, each team can test tyre A, B, or C, on each FP, and decide using final tyre (front/back) on Q day. Will be more interesting? and this will eliminate tyre problem as Rio Hondo - 2016.

My apologies, if this sound stupid, I'm just a novice fan, thanks

 

Total votes: 65

Bigger and more heavy riders but only the most powerfull machine had problems with the tire michelin brought first. Yamaha and Honda are equal fast and are rumered to have 260 hp but Ducati has a massive 280/285 hp and that makes the tire overheat more quickly.

Total votes: 57

If the lightweight riders are being disadvantaged by their weight, then their respective teams should add ballast to their bikes.

Alternatively the rider could wear a bum bag with the required ballast, there fore he can still move on the bike, i.e. forward to load up the front or rearward to load up the rear for traction.

Total votes: 69

a fascinating read, thanks Mat.

Total votes: 54

For all the talk about the new tyres favouring heavier riders there is the disadvantage that the extra weight always has to be accelerated, slowed down and wants to continue on in a straight line instead of turning.  Weight also implies size, so it is more difficult to tuck effectively.  Their is no escape from physics.

Sorry but there is no way Baz or Redding have a physical advantage over Pedrosa when it comes to progressing a motorcycle around a track in as short a time as possible.  I've seen some fantastic riders, in various championships who have been limited by their larger size, but this is the very first time I've ever heard a rider claim being smaller is a disadvantage.  Personally, I think if Pedrosa woke this weekend and found himself transported into Baz's body I think he'd get a nasty shock at how much slower he went, not faster.  

I don't know if it's a language thing or he's been taken out of context but since when have softer tyres spun MORE?  So many weird statements around this subject.

As for a return to the tyre wars fixing anything: no way.  Tyres aren't restaurant food, you don't get to look at a menu and select exactly what you want cooked a certain way, not unless you are the top 4 or 6 riders anyway, while the rest just sit in the alley out the back and pick over the scraps.  How is that better than what we have now?  

If a bike isn't working with a certain tyre I'd much rather see them fix the damn bike than have a crap bike masked by great tyres, especially if no one else has access to those tyres.

Total votes: 55

MotoGP tires make you question everything you think you know about tires. In part, because we are talking about several different design vectors. A stiffer carcass with softer rubber may spin more than a softer carcass with harder rubber, because the stiffer carcass isn't moving as much and heating the rubber. I remember two years ago trying to figure out which conditions suited the Honda better with the Bridgestones, whether it was colder or hotter temperatures. In reality, it was more that the Honda worked better in low grip, while the Yamaha worked better in high grip. But it took me six months to get to the bottom of the issue, and see past my preconceived notions of how tires work.

As for the weight issue, it's swings and roundabouts. A lighter rider cannot put so much force on the tire, which is exactly what Viñales and Pedrosa are running into, on the stiffer construction. Larger, heavier riders can move around and create mechanical grip, but as you say, the downside to that is physics: more effort to stop the bike, more power to get it going again. In the worst of both worlds, the lighter rider can't accelerate because the rear is only spinning, while the heavier rider is getting grip, but has a power disadvantage.

Things are never as straightforward as they seem. If they were, I would be raking in big bucks and glory as a crew chief.

Total votes: 67