Bridgestone have announced that they will not continue as MotoGP tire supplier after the 2015 season. The Japanese tire maker will continue for the remainder of this season and throughout 2015 before pulling out of MotoGP.
The move had been expected. Spanish magazine Motociclismo reported two weeks ago that Bridgestone was on the brink of withdrawing, which we covered at the time. There had been growing dissatisfaction between the two parties over the past couple of years, with Bridgestone not feeling they were getting the exposure they needed for the 20 million euros they spend on the series, while Dorna felt that the tires were not contributing to the spectacle of racing, and were built so conservatively in terms of tire durability that they were occasionally unsafe.
At Austin, the first murmurings of the growing rift became audible. Paddock rumor held that Bridgestone, whose contract was due to expire at the end of 2014, had agreed a single year's extension to the end of 2015 to allow other tire suppliers time to develop their tires for MotoGP. With new technical regulations due to take effect from 2016 - all teams will use the spec ECU hardware and software from that point on - starting a new contract period from 2016 makes sense.
Who will take over as single tire supplier is as yet unknown, but that it will be a single supplier is certain. IRTA, representing the teams, is a big supporter of the single tire supplier, because of the cost savings for the private teams. Teams have all their tires supplied for free, rather than having to pay upwards of 30,000 euros per GP for tires under open contracts. The tire contract is due to go to tender in the next three weeks, meaning the new supplier should be know within a couple of months.
The candidates to take over are obvious. Dunlop, already supplying the Moto2 and Moto3 series, would be a natural candidate for MotoGP, giving them a monopoly inside the MotoGP series. Pirelli has experience in supplying tires to different specifications for different motorcycles in World Superbikes, one change which Dorna is likely to try to push through for the new spec tire supplier. And Michelin is rumored to already be testing 16.5" slick tires at various tracks around the world.
Whoever takes over as single tire supplier will face the same PR challenges that caused Bridgestone to withdraw. When racers win and everything goes well, nobody mentions the tires. When tire problems surface - with durabilty such as at Phillip Island last year, or Austin this year, or with cold temperatures causing crashes at some tracks - then the tire supplier receives masses of negative PR. The single tire supply offers a great deal of advertising opportunities, but it is very much a poisoned chalice.
Below is the press release announcing the change:
Bridgestone to cease MotoGP™ tire supply after 2015 season
Tokyo (May 1, 2014) - Bridgestone Corporation (Bridgestone) today announced that it will withdraw from the role of Official Tire Supplier to MotoGP™ at the end of 2015 season.
Bridgestone has supported the world’s best riders with continuous technological innovation aimed at developing safer and better performing tires since it first entered the MotoGP™ championship in 2002. During this time, the development and supply of MotoGP™ tires have been a major boost to Bridgestone’s technical ability, and brought a number of benefits that have enhanced Bridgestone’s brand globally. Having achieved the objectives it set out for itself in MotoGP™, Bridgestone will cease tire supply to the series at the end of 2015. Bridgestone expresses its deepest gratitude to the riders, teams and all parties concerned, as well as motorsport fans around the world, for their support over the years. Bridgestone will spare no effort in fulfilling its role of Official Tire Supplier to MotoGP™ until the end of the 2015 season, and will ensure the same superior levels of product and support during the rest of its tenure.
As a company engaged in enhancing the mobility of society, Bridgestone will continuously take part in motorsports with its full passion and do its best to promote motorsport as part of its new portfolio of activities.
About Bridgestone Corporation:
Bridgestone Corporation, headquartered in Tokyo, is the world’s largest tire and rubber company. In addition to tires for use in a wide variety of applications, it also manufactures a broad range of diversified products, which include industrial rubber and chemical products and sporting goods. Its products are sold in over 150 nations and territories around the world.