Tuesday, October 09, 2007

MotoGP: Talking Tyres Again!

Now, I've been yapping on about MotoGP tyres a lot lately. I'm a big fan of the one-tyre rule, and I've taken plenty of stick for that viewpoint in blog comments and on forums. But I'm sticking to my guns. Tyre wars suck. MotoGP should have a single tyre supplier.

There is an extremely interesting analysis of the possible MotoGP one tyre rule from Denis Noyes on the SpeedTV website. Noyes is one of the best motorcycle racing journalists out there, arguably the best. Unlike the ill-informed rants that you tend to read on this site, Dennis Noyes always has a considered viewpoint based on all of the behind the scenes info that he can gather.

The article makes several interesting points. One of these is that the one-tyre rule is almost certain to happen, because of the strange voting system used to change MotoGP rules and the fact that Dorna are in support. Another is that the current tyre rules are unfair to the little guy. Think Westy gets the same tyres as Stoner? Think again! In a tyre war, the best tyres go to the guys at the top teams, while the guys at smaller teams take what they're given and better shut up and like it. (This tallies with an interview that Stoner gave to Noyes, where the little Aussie superstar pointed out that not once in his year at LCR Honda did Michelin give him special "overnight" tyres.)

Many people have been squealing their indignation at MotoGP moving to a one-tyre rule. Well, Noyes points out that MotoGP is the only world-class race series of any note which has a tyre war. Not World Superbike, not F1 or NASCAR or Champcar or Indycar or World Rally or even World Touring Cars. One reason is that tyre wars suck, and most fans don't care.

Sure, hardcore fans have a strong opinion, but hardcore fans are a tiny minority. I'm sure if you're reading this site, you're a hardcore fan, and I am too. However, the people who really matter to sponsors, manufacturers and TV advertisers are the masses who outnumber us 100 to 1. If they don't care about tyres, then ultimately, MotoGP doesn't care about tyres, no matter how much some riders complain.

Some MotoGP fans are elitist, and wouldn't lower themselves to watching something as common as superbikes. Not me, I'm a big WSBK fan and I have seen the incredible boost to World Supers from their one-tyre rule. This has been a vintage year for WSBK. Let's look at the number of race wins per rider. Toseland (Honda) 8, Bayliss (Ducati) 7, Haga (Yamaha) 6, Biaggi (Suzuki) 3, Xaus (Ducati) 1. That's a hell of a spread of wins, and it's partly down to the level playing field that a one-tyre rule produces.

Who is in favour of one-tyre rules? Rossi and Edwards have openly asked for it. Pedrosa and HRC have tacitly agreed. Even Biaggi has weighed in to say MotoGP should have a one-tyre rule like WSBK (although being Max, he also claimed it was his idea in the first place!)

Noyes sounds a note of caution. In the first year of a one-tyre rule, the tyres will inevitably be more suited to one manufacturer than the others. If MotoGP goes to exclusive Bridgestone tyres, Ducati will probably have an advantage for the first year. After that, the other manufacturers will be able to design their bikes to suit the tyres. So in the short term, Stoner probably has nothing to worry about. The true level playing field might take another year to come about. Such is life.


Rob said...

Well I hope my argumets against the control tyre rule don't count as "stick"!

Fact is, a control tyre does not guarantee closer racing does it? Look at the last two rounds of WSB - a snooze-fest if ever there was one, with Haga disappearing off into the distance and nobody able to match him. Also, WSB bikes are slower around circuits shared with MotoGP despite having a larger engine capacity.

A control tyre will not increase the TV audiences, only good old-fashioned competition. Now, let's really sort out the men from the boys and ditch traction and launch control and stop any more embarrassing looping behaviour from Pedrosa.

Jimmy said...

Yep, you're right. Control tyres don't guarantee close racing. However, a lopsided tyre war guarantees no racing at all.

It now seems like the tyre companies have backed down and there's a chance of some racing next year. The tyre rules will be quite different, by the sound of it.
The current rules are idiotic, they just took away Michelin's massive advantage and gave one to Bridgestone instead.

You're right about the traction control and launch control, however it's a prototype series, no restrictions, and so on!