MotoGP Tire Rules Tweaked - Front Tires
When the single tire rule was announced, there were a number of concerns over just how well it would work. So far, those fears have gone largely unrealized, in part due to the weather cutting down on track time, but also because Bridgestone's tires have been working across a wide enough temperature range that almost everyone has been able to use the potential of the tires.
There have been critical voices, of course. Valentino Rossi, in particular, has said that he would like a third compound to choose from, as he believes the overlap between the two compounds available is not great enough. There have also been complaints about the lack of dual compound tires, with softer compounds on the sides of tires and a harder compound in the middle, though these tires are scheduled to make an appearance later this summer. The biggest problem, though, has been the need to conserve the tires which will be used during the race, leaving riders to go out on track on tires they know they won't be using on Sunday, and gathering data which isn't directly useful for finding a race setup.
After the Le Mans round of MotoGP, the Grand Commission met to discuss the tire situation, and decided to make some minor alterations to address this last issue. The allocation of front tires has been modified slightly, so that as of the Dutch TT at Assen, the riders will be able to choose to take either 4 of each of the two available compounds, or 5 of one compound and 3 of the other. The allocation of rear tires - 6 of each of the two available compounds - will remain unnchanged.
With the extension of practice from 45 minutes in length to one hour, the riders will be less likely to run out of their preferred front tire compound. However, the selection of tires has to be made two hours after the previous race. In other words, tire selection for Assen must be made just two hours after the Catalunya Grand Prix has finished. With 13 days between the Barcelona and Assen races, and given the fickle Dutch weather, choosing the right balance is going to be extremely difficult. Race day at Assen could see cool, overcast skies and 16 degrees centigrade, or or a hot and sunny 32 degrees.
Then there's the summer break, which sees three weeks of inactivity between Donington Park and the Czech GP at Brno. But the most difficult choice of all will come in September: Two hours after the race in Misano, on September 6th, the teams must choose which tires they will be using 28 days later at Estoril in Portugal, in early October. The safest course of action will be to go for 4 each front compound, of course, but that suggests that the choice being offered is not much of a choice.
The reasons for the current way of working are also obvious: Now that Bridgestone is supplying race tires at basically less than cost, and funding the entire MotoGP out of their own budget, rather than earning 50,000 euros a race weekend from the teams not supplied for free, the Japanese tire company is cutting costs wherever it can, the tires being shipped to Europe by sea container, rather than flown in. This means that any change to the regulations requires a long lead time, to allow Bridgestone to get sufficient tires to Europe in time.