Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Predicting the unpredictable

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.


Predicting the unpredictable

Looking back at Le Mans and forward to the greatest race of the year

Was Jorge Lorenzo’s runaway victory at Le Mans the sign of many more to come or just the latest twist of a new technical era in which the only thing worth predicting is the unpredictability of the racing?

Who knows, except the man himself and crew chief Ramon Forcada. But what is a known-known is that while fans love watching racing when they don’t know what’s going to happen, the factories and riders hate dealing with curve balls from the left field. They spend many millions and work endless hours to know what’s what – all the way from suspension clicks to software algorithms – and during the Bridgestone era they pretty much knew what was what. Right now, at the dawn of a new Michelin era, most of them don’t. Great for us; not so great for them.

What might be significant is that both Lorenzo’s wins – in Qatar and in France – were achieved on softer casing rear tyres, which he prefers because a more pliant tyre gives the feel and edge grip he needs for his sky-high corner speed.

Michelin introduced stiffer casings after Scott Redding’s Argentine tyre failure and then reintroduced softer-casing rear tyres following the wheelspin problems of Jerez, so his two wins bookend those events.

If the new casing did play an important part in Lorenzo’s latest win, it may prove even more crucial next week at magnificent Mugello, where corner speed is a much bigger deal than it is at Mickey Mouse Le Mans.

And yet in Italy the focus may move to the front tyre, because Mugello is one of those rare racetracks where the front can be more important than the rear, because the undulating layout features numerous negative-camber corner entries, where it’s much easier to lose the front because the track goes away from you. Some of those downhill entries are also quite bumpy – in other words they are very much like the Musee left-hander at Le Mans that claimed four victims on Sunday.

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

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Comments

The French company was thrown out of MotoGP very much against its wishes at the end of 2008 – after a very insalubrious game of paddock politics

I remember very wel it was Ducati Who wanted to continue with Michelin but michelin Said NO. Ducati wanted to continue because as they Said it was impossible to beat vr on the same tires. So michelin did have a choice but Said no anyway

wel= oppposite of what actually happened

>>Ducati wanted to continue because as they Said it was impossible to beat vr on the same tires

Hilarious!  Thanks for the good laugh.

 

Chris

Actually, I think there is something to that story. If I recall correctly, when the singe-tyre rule was being proposed, one of the arguments the rule makers used was that now that the Bridgestones were obviously better and most teams were going to use them anyway, it would be unfair for the teams that were left on Michelins. So it would be best to give everybody Bridgestones, 'to level the playing field'. Now I seem to remember a story that said Ducati was interested to make a switch to Michelins, for the same reason that they previously switched to Bridgestones: so that they were the main customer and had the possibility to have the tyres tailored for them, so that they did not have to ride on tyres that were basically made for the Honda and/or Yamaha. That gives you more freedom in building a different sort of bike, plus simply a possible tyre advantage at certain tracks or weather conditions.

Looking at how the single-tyre era turned out for Ducati (increasingly bad results, abandoning their innovative integrated carbon fibre frame in favour of a conventional aluminium twin-spar frame and then still getting bad results), that Michelin-switch could have been a good move back then. Also, it would be interesting to see how that carbon fibre frame would do now, on the current tyres and rim sizes.

*Edit: Now I see in a comment below that Yogi bear himself responded with a similar comment earlier this morning; I missed that one.

Ducati was not using Michelins in 2008 they were using Bridgestones.  Ducati with Casey Stoner and Bridgestone won the Motogp championship in 2007.  In 2008 Rossi and Pedrosa defected from Michelin to Bridgestone and that was the straw that broke the camels back..

From motousa.com

The French firm once dominated the MotoGP paddock before the spec-tire era, supplying 26 title-winners in the premier class, including Valentino Rossi through his five-year title run. However, it lost ground to rival Bridgestone, and in 2007 Casey Stoner won the MotoGP title aboard a Bridgestone-shod Ducati. During the 2008 season the Japanese firm broke Michelin’s back, highlighted by the defections of Michelin riders Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, who switched to Bridgestone mid-season. The following year ushered in Bridgestone’s tenure as spec tire supplier.

 

watching those motogp bikes shake like crazy on entrance to turn one at le mans had me clenching fingers, toes and cheeks to the point of cramps.

i've been 'less than sure' going into a corner before, but to have to deal with that for lap after lap...

these guys earn every penny.

First laughing is really healthy. So im glad you did as the others Who laugh with you.

Second im glad i could find on the internet that im not wrong. As i could find it on motomatters.

DE basicly Said what ducati were saying. : This decision seemed as bizarre then as any proposal to switch to Michelins does now, but at its core is the same astute piece of analysis. If you want to beat Valentino Rossi, the leading candidate for the title of greatest motorcycle racer ever, you need to obtain some kind of advantage.

So after the good laugh i could also teach something now isnt that just great

>>DE basicly Said what ducati were saying.

DE was saying what DE was saying.  The article was based on a rumor by a Spanish TV station that turned out not to be true.  He took a rumor and wrote an article about it, that's what motojournalists do.  Considering that a few days after that article was published the single tire contract was offered, lots of speculation and theorizing but no smoke or fire.  Ducati's new superstar rider had switched from M to BS the year before and gave them a title.  It took them years to work with BS to get to that level.  Thoughts of a switch to Michelin to achieve the same fairytale story make for a good article but race department directors are a lot more grounded than that.

What did Ducati have to say about it?  Ducati's Livio Suppo:

http://www.motorcyclenews.com/sport/motogp/2007/november/nov0607ducatino...

>>Commenting on final confirmation Valentino Rossi had secured a tyre deal with Bridgestone next season to get on the same rubber as Casey Stoner, Livio Suppo said: “Everybody talks about Rossi on Bridgestone but you still have to beat Dani Pedrosa on a Honda. “But I’m happy that Casey will have the chance to prove that it was not just the tyres or the bike this season.”

Does not seem like he was too concerned about getting an advantage over Rossi through different tires.

>>If you want to beat Valentino Rossi, the leading candidate for the title of greatest motorcycle racer ever, you need to obtain some kind of advantage.

To me it seems that Rossi's win percentage dropped once everyone got access to the same tires.  And once he got a competitive teammate.  Maybe VR's equipment advantage was more important to him than most thought.
 

Chris

A major part of Ducati's downfall was the introduction of the Bridgestone spec tyre. Ducati had been with Bridgestone since 2005 and Bridgestone had the tyres specifically developed to thier bike on a track bt track basis which when combined with thier 2007 rocket ship 800 and the talent of Casey Stoner brought the championship to Borgo Panigale.

Once spec tyres came along and bikes were built to the tyres instead Ducati didn't adapt, no more could they get specials just for the Desmo and we all know how it went over the next few years.  

....But more seriously: can you remind us who won the title in 2008 and 2009 ?
And yes with a major injury like a broken leg in the middle of the season the percentage of victories is bound to drop....
Thank you as always for your good objective input

2x 3rd place in the championsop

2x 2nd place in the championship

A 4th, and a 6th and 7th at Ducati.

 

worth noting is that those two second places have been the most recent results... And both were close.

"Right now, at the dawn of a new Michelin era, most of them don’t. Great for us; not so great for them."

Is it really that great for us? No, it isn't. Qatar was decent but after that we've only had races with very little happening besides a lot of crashes. Might be entertaining for some, it's got nothing to do with good racing.

This is Michelin's first year back and there have been some obvious problems. There still are, the front is not good enough yet. They're fixing it every weekend and improving. But claiming that that's in any way good for anyone seems ridiculous to me.

... Lorenzo broke the qualifying lap record for Le Mans on less ideal 17" wheels, and lower spec electronics.

I'm not sure how one can claim that the tyres "aren't good enough" in that context.  They're only a few races in and breaking records, with the aforementioned downgrades.

Sure, there have been some failures, and sure the front end my have a different (or lack of) feel when on the limit, but that could be just as much down to the teams attempting to find a decent setup for the new wheel/tyre combination, and riders having to learn that no, braking hard all the way to the apex is no longer as easy as it was before.

 

 

 

I dont want to get into a crash.net battle but didnt VR win after the Bridgestone switch 2 titles in a row befor he got injured? But ofcourse you can always doubt 9 titles by saying its all equipment.

As i couldnt find in english what livio suppo Said when the wanted to make a shock move with michelin. But....... i could find in in Dutch on Racesport.nl its the same what i posted befor bit in Dutch
Reden voor deze redelijk verbazende omschakeling is het feit dat Valentino Rossi en ook Dani Pedrosa op Bridgestone banden gaan rijden en Ducati/Livio Suppo van mening is dat je niet van Rossi kan winnen als je met hetzelfde merk banden rijdt.

Suppo saying cant win from vr on the same tires......

Some of the problem needs to be laid at Dorna's doorstep as well.  Changing spec tire manufacturers AND putting the spec software in place at the same time introduced too many variables at once.  These are two things sure to affect bike performance and thus "the show"; if you want close racing you need more teams to get it right more often that not.  The more variables you introduce the less likely that will be the outcome.