Michelin is poised to replace Bridgestone as the sole tyre supplier for MotoGP. There is a sense of anxiety in the pits about getting accustomed to the new Michelin tyres. The testing of Michelin tyres after the Mugello race weekend contributed to this nervousness when top riders like Vallentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo suffered low-side crashes due to inconsistent behaviour from the front tyre.
Each tyre manufacturer has a unique philosophy and a different way of developing tyres, therefore the riding style that works well with one tyre might not be suitable for a different set of tyres.
Six years ago, when Michelin was supplying tyres to MotoGP, they believed in the philosophy that “the rear tyre sets the times”. That was the time of 500cc two-stroke motorcycles. Unlike today, back then riders used to spend less time leaned over and tried to take advantage of the rear tyre’s grip to shoot out of the corners.
Bridgestone has been the sole tyre supplier for MotoGP for the last six years. Bridgestone tyres have different characteristics as compared to the Michelins. The front tyres offer much better grip than Michelin’s but the same cannot be said about the rear tyres. Therefore, riders developed a riding style where they rely on the front grip to enter a corner hot and do aggressive trail braking maneuvers.
Apart from the differences in the design and compound of the two tyre manufacturers, the size of the tyre is also the differentiating factor. Bridgestone was supplying 16.5-inch diameter tyres but Michelin wants to supply 17-inch tyres for faster transfer of MotoGP technology to production tyres. The diameter also affects the grip levels since a smaller diameter tyre offers larger contact patch.
After several testing sessions and lots of crashes it is clear that there is a big challenge in front of the riders. Along with the tyres, the riders are also facing problems with the standardised ECU for the MotoGP. Honda and Yamaha reported that there is a bug in the software system than can compromise the safety of the riders.
A few days ago, Andrea Iannone, along with his teammate Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati test rider Michele Pirro did the final testing of Michelin tyres before the off-season began. The team worked on setting up the motorcycle to suit the Michelins. Iannone seems to be happy with the testing and reported a positive feeling from the bike. The Italian rider was able clock a best time of 1 minute 39.6 seconds. For reference, Iannone’s qualifying time was 1m 38.468s at 2015 Jerez round.