Michelin has been named as the official tire supplier for MotoGP starting from 2016. The French tire manufacturer will take over the role from Bridgestone when Bridgestone leaves at the end of 2015 season.
The official announcement confirms the worst kept secret in the paddock. Michelin had been widely trailed as being awarded the contract, as the French firm had shown the most interest.
Unofficial talks had taken place with Pirelli, and Dunlop had made a formal request for information, but Michelin was the only tire maker to submit a bid. Michelin has already been testing its 16.5″ slicks at Vallelunga and Clermont Ferrand in preparation for a bid.
There’s a race on Sunday, but all the talk is of 2016. Why the seemingly absurd preoccupation with a date that is so ridiculously distant in the future? Because from 2016, MotoGP will have a new tire supplier, after Bridgestone announced they will be pulling out of MotoGP at the end of 2015. Why does this matter?
Because tires are the single most important component of a motorcycle, and determine the performance of a machine to a massive extent. No matter how much power your engine produces, if you can’t get it to the ground, it becomes irrelevant. No matter how powerful your brakes, if the front tire collapses when you squeeze the front lever, you won’t be doing much slowing down.
Even if you can brake and accelerate as much as you like, if the bike wanders around like drunken poodle on a skateboard when you tip it into the corner, your laptimes won’t be up to much.
It is hard to overstate just exactly how important tires are to motorcycle performance. Why is Aleix Espargaro so consistently fast during qualifying, on a bike that is two years old and with an engine under strict control by Yamaha? Because the Open class entries have a softer rear tire available, and that tire itself is worth half a second or more.
You may remember the Yamaha PED1 and Yamaha PES1 electric motorcycle concepts, which the tuning fork brand debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. Modest, yet slightly futuristic looking, the overall impression we got from readers was that Yamaha was onto something with its PED1 and PES1 bikes, and it seems the Japanese OEM has heard your excitement.
Announcing plans in its 2013 Annual Report to bring the PED1 and PES1 to market by 2016, Yamaha is yet another major OEM to jump on the electric bandwagon and add legitimacy to this budding powertrain segment.
Towards the end of the 800cc era, MotoGP looked to be in dire condition. Grids were dwindling, factories were reducing their participation, and teams were in difficult financial straits indeed. By the end of 2011, there were just 17 full time entries, Suzuki was down to a single rider, and were about to pull out entirely for 2012.
How different the situation looks today. The CRTs have served their purpose – to persuade the factories to help fill the grid, and supply the teams with (relatively) affordable equipment – and the reduction in costs brought about in part by the spec electronics is enticing factories back to MotoGP.
Suzuki is in full testing mode, and getting ready to return to racing full time in 2015, and Aprilia is working towards a full-time return in 2016.
In a recent interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Aprilia Corse’s new boss Romano Albesiano gave a brief outline of their plans. The Italian factory will continue to work with the IODA Racing team for 2014 to collect data on the electronics and tires, which they will use as input on an entirely new project being worked on for 2016.