Safe or Unsafe? Riders & Michelin Talk Tires at Brno

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The tire degradation during the MotoGP race at Brno was still a hot topic on the test on Monday, after so many riders suffered problems during the race on Sunday.

We asked most of the riders who tested on Monday what they felt about the tires, and whether they were safe. We also spoke to Nicolas Goubert, Michelin’s technical director, and he explained why he felt that some riders had suffered problems, while others had been able to finish the race.

The comments below are offered without any further commentary. I do not wish to cloud the judgment of those reading the comments by first setting out my own theory of what happened. The comments stand on their own, and should be read as such.

Marc Márquez – Repsol Honda Rider

Q: Think about safety of front tire in the race?

MM: In the end yesterday the conditions were very, very critical. Because there was not a lot of water, but then takes time to dry and already honestly the Michelin guys push to me for example to go to the hard.

Because they say the soft will not finish the race if it like this with this water and they know. But the problem is one tire was extra soft and then one tire hard. The problem here is we didn’t have enough time to try the hard [before the race], so people go to the soft, but the best option was the hard.

We had the tire to finish the race, but the thing is nearly everybody choose the soft front and then the soft was extra-soft. They already told me before the race, ‘please try to manage the front because it will be on the limit to finish the race’.

Q: What did your tire look like at end?

MM: They look of course… My one looks only graining, because also I was trying to take care of the tire.

Q: How do you do that?

MM: For example, with ten laps remaining there was a dry line. So I was not using the dry line. I was always out of the dry line for try to manage. Yeah on the dry line you were able to be fast, but there were still ten laps.

So I tried to manage and then the last four laps I was using the dry line. For that reason also I improved my lap times.

But for me it was more a mistake from the teams, also because we didn’t have time to try the hard and nobody want to take the risk and try the hard. But already the Michelin guys say the extra soft will be at the limit.

Q: Lot of people crashed on hard wet front at Assen…

MM: Yeah the thing is that in Assen the tire was slightly different. They change from Assen to Germany. We had already there a different tire. But every track is different and the unlucky thing this year is that all the rain conditions are only on the Sunday.

So we couldn’t try the tires. Then for example when the Michelin guys say to me ‘go to the hard’ I say ‘I don’t want to take the risk’. I know the soft. I know how I can manage. Because if you got to the hard, have big locks and crash it is much worse.

Jorge Lorenzo – Movistar Yamaha rider

Q: Feel safe riding with tires like yesterday for you and Iannone? Michelin say the tire is safe even if tread goes…

JL: Well when you saw that Baz and Redding have this explosion, then when you are on the bike with these kind of tires and you feel that something is wrong with the tire… your instinct tell you to stop.

Iannone and some other riders, stay on the bike even much slower and finish the race. I decided to stop, like Dovizioso for example, also because my bike – I don’t know if it was electronically – but when the problem happened on the front tire, looks likes something was wrong on the engine.

So I closed the clutch. I thought it was a problem with the tire and engine. So with two problems I decided to stop. Also it was seven laps to go. If it was only one or two, you take the risk and stay on the bike. But with seven laps to go and it starts breaking and the track was dry I didn’t feel safe.

Q: Why not hard front for race?

JL: Because we didn’t try it in the warm-up and because the soft one, even if it was very soft when you touch it, was completely new after the warm-up. So we imagined that a harder compound would be even harder and get less use.

Q: Change riding style to be gentle on soft front?

JL: Well looks like this front tire is very soft, but didn’t consume very much no. While the Bridgestone was harder but the consumption was much, much more.

So looks like because of the construction and softness of the tire you always have this feeling that the tire is very soft and is moving and is at the limit. So you have to get used a little bit to this limit, to trust that you are not going to crash and brake harder to stop more the bike.

So probably my problem in Assen and Sachsenring, or one of the problems, was the setting, because I had too much weight on the front. On the rear like on the dry setting. But also the front was already moving so I didn’t trust to push more with the brake.

Now I start pushing a little bit more, the front is moving a lot but for the moment you don’t crash no? So maybe next time I will make another step and see what happens.

Valentino Rossi – Movistar Yamaha rider

Q: What doing to save front tire in race?

VR: You have to try to go more smooth. You have to try to be gentle with the front. But for me also the setting makes the difference.

Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda rider

Q: What is your opinion about the safety of the tires for the race?

DP: Of course many riders had problems on the front tire. Me as well, but different, because I couldn’t have grip. And we see some bad pictures about the way the tires look. Of course, it’s not good.

Because yesterday, the compound choice was either extremely soft for the morning, or way too hard, the next compound. So the difference was so big, if you put the hard in the warm up, for sure you cannot use.

Instead, the soft in the race, you see the result. So my opinion is to have two compounds more close. Or at least, if it rains, you can still use the hard. And if it dries, the soft doesn’t finish like yesterday. This should be the real target, I guess.

At this moment, like for example in the next race, everybody will think, OK, I will use the hard. But the trouble from Michelin recommendation is that if it starts raining a lot, you will have trouble with the hard, when a lot of rain came, a lot of people started to be very slow.

So we need to have some kind of compound or tire that is able to be in the middle of the situation. Because on a day that is raining, you can either have light rain or heavy rain, and we need to be able to keep the race.

Q: So you need soft, medium and hard wet?

DP: No, no. Just need to find a compound that can work in the differences of the quantity of water on the track.

Livio Suppo – Repsol Honda Team Principal

LS :Every rider finished the race yesterday.

Q: Luckily?

LS: Luckily, but it’s also true at the beginning of the race, nobody believes that they didn’t come in the garage. Everybody thought that they would.

Pedrosa: I thought the race would become a flag-to-flag race.

LS: Honestly speaking, there was a tire to finish the race. Cal had it. So it’s difficult. It’s easy to criticize, but honestly speaking, it was a very very tricky situation.

Pedrosa: I think the biggest thing yesterday was that apart from this, because many riders had this part of the tire off, they had to stop earlier than normal. The bike in the box was ready for flag-to-flag, not like another wet set up.

But obviously, it was a reminder of Argentina or Phillip Island where we had to do a mandatory slick-to-slick bike swap, because the slick wasn’t finishing the race. So this was the same on the wet, but nobody knew.

Pol Espargaro – Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider

Q: Did you have problems with the tires yesterday?

PE: Yes, I finished with the rear that looks like a slick. Especially in the middle of the race, after ten laps already I was completely out.

Q: Choose the soft?

PE: Yes, I chose the soft. Because actually I thought that there was not a lot of water on the track, so I thought to put the soft and then went the track started to dry, we would stop and make the flag-to-flag.

The problem is the track dried so fast, then kept some water, never dried enough. It was very strange. I tried it with the hard, and with the hard compound, for sure we were not fast enough. For sure we will not finish 13th, but we will not shine as we shine at the beginning of the race, where I was really good.

My front tire was fine, because we didn’t get a good set up on the bike. If everyone is destroying the front, but you are one of the only riders who is not, you did a bad job, because your front is not destroyed. This is kind of a good explanation.

Maverick Viñales – Team Suzuki Ecstar Rider

MV: We chose the soft, that clearly was the wrong choice, but it’s normal, when the track gets dry, it’s normal you destroy the tire.

Bradley Smith – Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider

Q: Have any tire issues on Sunday?

BS: Yes. Exactly the same as what happened to Jorge and Dovi. The front delaminated. There was no warning, it just went. It then created an electrical issue which meant I couldn’t continue, which is why I had to pit.

The reason to go for that tire is I crashed on the hard one in Assen, so I went with the tire that I thought was going to be the safest for me to race.

Q: Did you think it would stay wet all race?

BS: I thought it was going to dry, but that didn’t change my decision. My decision was based on the tire that I knew was going to give me maximum performance in the race. And I had done the full distance like I did in warm up, and I didn’t have any signs that there were any problems.

Warm up was a lot wetter, but also, pressures, temperatures, we checked them all, and everything was OK. And also when my tire did decide to break up, it was still wet. There might not have been standing water, but there wasn’t a dry line.

Everyone asked, would you change everything if you had to do the same again, and the answer is absolutely not, because I was just looking for performance.

At the end of the day, if I went looking for the hard tires, I could ride round at the back if I wanted to, and maybe I’d been stronger the last six laps and picked up a tenth. Great, you know?

But instead, I was leading both factory Yamahas for the best part of half the race. I did my best lap time the lap that I had the problem with the tire, so it showed that performance wasn’t dropping at that moment, it was actually getting better.

Q: Does it seem that the tires went when riders started to push?

BS: Yes and no, because Valentino had exactly the same tire and had no problems, and was doing faster lap times.

Q: But he had a different setting?

BS: Yes, but what do you want to say? More weight on the front or more weight on the rear? Because I had the most weight on the rear of everybody, and I still had the problem, so that’s bollocks.

Q: Tire manufacturing problem?

BS: I honestly don’t know what it is. But there is no correlation between anything at the moment. For example, Pol’s got the most weight out of everybody on the front tire, and his looked brand new.

So there is not correlation between one and the other Jorge’s not the latest braker out on the track, and he had the problem. I was braking 25 meters earlier than I was in warm up, and I had a problem.

I don’t think there is a correlation between anything. It’s just an unfortunate situation, some people’s lasted, some people’s didn’t. Just my unfortunate scenario was that when mine had the problem, I had an electrical issue with it.

Q: Do you think these front tires were dangerous?

BS: I mean, it doesn’t look good. But I didn’t have any idea that it was coming, and nothing blew up.

Q: How did it feel when it went?

BS: Not really anything. It was more with the electronics that caused the problem afterwards. When it went, I was like, fine.

Q: You didn’t think the tire was going to explode?

BS: No. Which at that point, for sure there were a few safety issues, for sure that’s going to looking into, and that’s it.

Maybe in the future we will have soft, medium, and hard wets, because there is a massive difference between the two compounds, and to turn up at a racetrack like this, still with the unknown circumstances of wet races, like we’ve had, I think that in the future, we’ll cover more bases with the tire manufacturer.

Nicolas Goubert – Michelin Racing Technical Director

Q: Once you lose the tread you’ve still got some depth of carcass. That is sufficient for safety?

NG: The thing is you’re not losing all the tread. So you’re always running on some of the compound basically. I need to say for the tire brand, when you have over heating with a wet tire which is used on a dry surface, you lose chunks of compound, but you continue running on what’s left.

You can go like that for quite a while. If it’s mid-race, for example, people come in. If you get two or three more laps to do, you can do them. So, not concerned. Safety is not at stake.

QAt no point was the tire was going to collapse or explode or anything like that? Did you have any idea why because it seems to change, some people, I think Dovi had a problem at lap 10, Iannone lap 20?

NG: All the factors play a role in that. For example, you had some people like Barbera, who tried to keep the tire running sometimes on the wet patches to keep the tires cool.

You had some people like Marquez that said, I felt straight away that I had made a risky choice with having a very soft front tire, so I paif attention not to brake too roughly because I knew that braking points were in the dry surface.

So riding style, then your bike setup, all those things. When you are just at the edge of temperature, it can make a big difference concerning the laps.

Q: A couple of degrees might be the difference between four or five laps, being able to complete it. Did you tell people on the grid that you didn’t think the soft tire would make the race? Marc said he was told on the grid the soft tire won’t last the race.

NG: People made the choice to go with the soft tires. It’s always easy to talk after a race, when you know exactly what happened, especially with the weather. But on the grid some people had the information that it was supposed to rain 30 minutes after the start.

So if these guys were right, the soft was a decent choice, I would say. But people who choose to go with the soft basically thought either it was going to rain or it was going to dry quickly for them to change the tires.

And then people who made the choice to go with the hard thought they would do the whole distance. We were okay with both with these conditions. And people who saved their soft tires, could do the whole race.

Q: Hector Barbera did a brilliant job, so did Marc Márquez?

NG: And even Valentino with the soft front.

You remember Anthony Gobert? At the end of his racing career came back on a Superbike. Once he took part to race in Superbike and it was Phillip Island. The track was just wet at the beginning but we knew it was going to try.

Phillip Island is a tire killer. So no chance to go with a rain tire. If you choose to go with a rain tire you will come in for sure, because you are going to have big chunks of compound going out of the tires, of the rear quite quickly.

He said, I’m going to prove you wrong, because I’m going to go with that. I will be the only one. I will lead easily the first laps and then I’ll manage the tires. I’ll bring back the bike with the tires with all the tread.

That’s exactly what he did. He took 30 or 40 seconds advantage within the first four or five laps, and then was really easy on the throttle on the long corners. Won the race.

Q: So you take 30 seconds and then you lose 2 seconds a lap for the rest of the race?

NG: If you lose them at the right place to save the tires, you can go. So it’s not an exact science. It depends on a lot of factors.

Photo: © 2016 Tony Goldsmith / – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

David Emmett

One of MotoGP's most respected journalists, David Emmett is the proprietor of the esteemed MotoMatters. We are very grateful to republish David's work here on A&R...though dread the day we ever again get in a car with him.