The lack of tire testing prior to the Phillip Island round has caught both control tire companies out. Race Direction has decided to shorten the Moto2 race from 25 to just 13 laps, while the MotoGP race will now include a compulsory pit stop to swap bikes, and the race length has been cut by one lap from 27 to 26 laps. In addition, the MotoGP riders are prohibited from using the softer option rear tire, and will be forced to use the harder option. Both decisions were taken on safety grounds, after it was found that neither the Moto2 spec Dunlop nor the MotoGP spec Bridgestone can handle race distance on the newly-resurfaced tarmac. The lighter, less powerful Moto3 bike are not affected, and the Moto3 race will run the scheduled length.
The compulsory pit stop to swap bikes, turning the race into a dry-weather flag-to-flag race for the first time in MotoGP history. This will be a repeat for the Australian circuit, as it also hosted the first flag-to-flag race where riders actually swapped bikes back in 2006, the year after the rules were first introduced. It turned out then that Phillip Island's narrow pit lane made the bike swaps rather hazardous, and the rules laid out for Sunday's MotoGP race will only make a tricky situation much, much worse. Bridgestone is unable to guarantee the safety of the tires beyond 14 laps, and so that means that all 23 MotoGP riders will be in the pits between the end of lap 12 and the end of lap 14. There is a good chance that the vast majority of the riders will come in either on lap 12 or lap 13, however, to give them the best shot at maintaining their position. With the dry surface dictating the lap time, there is no advantage to be gained from staying out an extra lap, or pitting early. An attempt to mitigate the danger, the speed limited area of the pit lane has been extended. However, this wil see bikes both braking closer to the racing line to pit, and rejoining at slower speed on the outside of the extremely fast first corner.
The problems with the tires were both predictable and avoidable. The Phillip Island circuit was resurfaced at the end of last year, creating a slightly grippier surface, but more importantly, a much faster track after most of the bumps had been removed. Phillip Island is always a critical circuit for tires, because of the high speeds involved, but with a smoother surface, the track was always going to be even quicker. The weight rules in both Moto2 and MotoGP have also changed, with the introduction of a combined rider/weight limit in Moto2, and the addition of 3kg extra to the MotoGP machines. More weight and more speed was always going to create more stress on the tires.
Earlier in the year, when World Superbike raced at the circuit, there were already problems with the spec Pirellis which that series runs, the World Supersport race being cut to 15 laps, as it had been a year earlier. Despite this warning, neither Dunlop nor Bridgestone performed tire testing there, though Dunlop had some data on the new surface from the Australian Superbike series. The irony is that MotoGP sent three riders to Argentina for tire testing at the new circuit (ostensibly at least, it became more of a spectacle to drum up enthusiasm for the circuit than a genuine tire test, given the greenness of the circuit), a track where the series will only race in 2014. At a track where the series is set to race in 2013, where tire wear is known to be critical, and where a previous world championship series had also had problems, it appears to have been a very wrong decision not to go to Phillip Island for tire testing. While the single tire was introduced for reasons of cost cutting, not testing in Australia has proven to be a false economy.
The shortening of the race has demonstrated once again that being the single tire supplier to a series can easily turn into a PR disaster. When tire issues do occur, they generate much more negative publicity than they would receive when the tire supply is open. With the incentive of competition removed, the focus of a single tire supplier shifts to finding ways of justifying the amount spent on the series. That means that the focus on internal goals is much greater than that on pursuing performance. All costs are cut which are not perceived to be an immediate benefit for the tire supplier, and in this case, that has turned against the tire suppliers, both Bridgestone and Dunlop. They look as if they are incapable of building a tire to cope with the circumstances, which is not the case. They simply did not spend the money to find out whether they needed to.
The role of Dorna and the Safety Commission is also in question. Dorna has employed ex-racer Loris Capirossi specifically to liaise with Bridgestone and flag up potential issues at circuits. Nobody appears to have learned any lessons from the problems with World Superbike earlier in the year, and spotted that the new track surface, together with the increased weight of the bikes, could cause a potential issue.
Below are the press releases announcing the changes:
Information From Race Direction
MotoGP™ RACE SUNDAY 20th OCTOBER
We have been notified by Bridgestone that they are unable to guarantee safety of their rear slick tyres beyond 14 laps. It has therefore been decided to make the following changes to the MotoGP class race in the interests of the safety of the riders.
1. The race distance will be 26 laps.
2. Every rider will be required to enter the pits and change to his second machine with fresh tyres at least once during the race.
3. No rider is permitted to make more than 14 laps on any one slick rear tyre.This means that a bike/tyre change before lap 12 will require a second bike/tyre change to finish the race.
4. Riders using “Factory” and “Satellite” machines will be required to use the “hard” option tyre (B51DR). Extra quantity will be allocated by Bridgestone.
5. Riders using CRT machines will be required to use CRT “hard” option tyre (B50DR). Extra quantity will be allocated by Bridgestone.
6. The pit lane speed limit zone will be extended both on entry and exit, and the exit route to rejoin the track will be marked by a white line in the runoff area. Crossing this line whilst rejoining the track from pit lane will result in a penalty.
19th. October 2013
Moto2™ RACE DISTANCE TISSOT AUSTRALIAN MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX
Following a formal request from the Official tyre supplier for the Moto2™ class, Race Direction has taken the decision to adjust the race length for the Moto2 class for the Tissot Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, 2013, according to Article 1.17.2 of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations.
The decision was taken in consultation with the Official Moto2 tyre supplier in the interests of rider safety.
The full race distance will be 13 laps, full Championship points will be awarded.
Teams are also reminded of the update to Article 220.127.116.11 of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations. Tyres must be used within the parameters as advised by the Official tyre supplier and approved by the Technical Director. Usage parameters include tyre pressure and temperature.
Phillip Island, 19th October 2013
Decision Of The Grand Prix Commission
Phillip Island, 19 October
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM Executive Director, Sport), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in an electronic meeting held on 19th. October 2013 at Phillip Island, made the following decision:
Currently the Race Direction is the only body competent to change the length of a race. This competence has been extended to authorise Race Direction to be able to change the length of a race outside of the minimum and maximum lengths defined elsewhere in the regulations.
There have been recent situations where teams and riders have ignored the recommendations of the official tyre suppliers on issues such as tyre pressures. It is suspected that this has led to cases of abnormal degradation of tyres affecting the safety of the riders.
A new regulation has been approved which will compel teams and riders to use the tyres according to the parameters agreed by the Technical Director and the organisers in consultation with the official tyre suppliers.
The full text of the regulation may be viewed shortly on: