Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why MotoGP records don’t get smashed any more

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.


Why MotoGP records don’t get smashed any more

Back in the day, MotoGP records used to get destroyed at pretty much every grand prix, but not these days

Michelin is in its fifth season as MotoGP’s sole tyre supplier and yet only holds just over half the comparable race records. The rest belong to Bridgestone, which supplied the grid from 2009 to 2015.

Michelin has race records at Jerez, Le Mans, Losail, Misano, Mugello, Sachsenring, Sepang and Valencia. Bridgestone holds race records at Aragon, Assen, Brno, COTA, Motegi, Phillip Island and Termas.

Five years is a long time in MotoGP, so how can this be? Two main reasons…

Firstly, although Michelin’s front slick precedes its rear slick whenever MotoGP riders take to the track, in terms of performance the front lags behind the rear.

This has been the case for as long as anyone can remember. Even in the days of 500s, when Michelin had a stranglehold on the championship (Michelin won every premier crown between 1985 and 2006), riders commented that the French company’s rear tyre was better than the front.

Michelin introduced a new rear slick for 2020, which surprised some people, who believed a new front slick would’ve made more sense, for better front/rear traction balance.

In July former MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo congratulated Michelin for breaking the Jerez lap record. “The new rear tyre is working really well,” he said. “Now it’s time to improve the front.”

When World Superbike king Jonathan Rea shared racetracks with the MotoGP grid a few years back he noticed that MotoGP riders take wider lines into corners so they don’t overload the Michelin front.

“The Pirelli front deflects [squishes], so we can deflect the tyre and go in really hard,” says Rea, who last rode alongside top MotoGP riders at Jerez in November 2017. “The MotoGP guys can use the performance of the carbon brakes to brake later than us, but they have to use a much larger radius into the corner, so they cover more metres to get to the apex, whereas we can pretty much point the bike straight at the apex.”

This is why MotoGP riders have adapted their riding technique to make the lap time by focusing on mid-corner and corner exit, using the rear tyre to steer the bike and fire out of turns.

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

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“The Pirelli front deflects [squishes], so we can deflect the tyre and go in really hard,” says Rea, who last rode alongside top MotoGP riders at Jerez in November 2017. “The MotoGP guys can use the performance of the carbon brakes to brake later than us, but they have to use a much larger radius into the corner, so they cover more metres to get to the apex, whereas we can pretty much point the bike straight at the apex.”

Funny how some things stay exactly the same. 19 years ago, when I was a mid-pack club racer, I switched from Michelins to Pirellis. Had almost the same reaction. The Pirellis were softer and more forgiving of different lines, the Michelins felt stiffer, better in very hard braking.