Tire Trouble & Triumph: MotoGP Tires Over Time

Rory Harris

By Rory Harris

November 26, 2014

Turns out, it's all about those tires! 

Although rider talent, pit strategies and a team’s ability to attend to a bike all play into the success of a MotoGP™Grand Prix , a choice of tire can easily determine a rider’s fate.

When you think about it, the power of a bike and the transfer of its power through the almost miniscule contact patches are fascinating.

Up until 2009, there were two major tire manufacturers for moto racing: Bridgestone for MotoGP™ and Dunlop for Moto 2 & 3™.

When a new rule caused the sport to reassess the tires used, Bridgestone became the sole provider of tires for all Moto levels.

There is a thin line that MotoGP™ teams have to straddle between the grip and endurance of a tire. The choice of tires in MotoGP™ is more important than in any other form of racing.Now, normal racing tires are referred to as “slicks,” and are chosen in light of several factors.

Process of Choosing a Tire for a Race:

  1. Collect date from previous experiences at specific track 
  2. Consider weather conditions at location 
  3. Have the rider feel out the tires on test day 
  4. Consider results of pre-race and warm-up races as well 
  5. Think about the type of asphalt on circuit 
  6. Take into account the demands of the bike 
  7. Do not forget to consider the style of the rider 

Phillip Island Tire Controversy

An example of a tire choice gone bad was this year’s grand prix at Phillip Island.

The tires that Bridgestone brought to the circuit fell short in several crucial moments of the race. Several riders, including world champion Marc Marquez, crashed due to the asymmetric front tire.
Additionally, former world champion,Jorge Lorenzo, struggled with a disturbing amount of tire degradation during the race.

Apparently, the tires chosen by Bridgestone were not up to the task of handling Phillip Island’s unique and fast left-handed corners in comparison to the fewer and slower right-hand corners. It would be different, though, to choose a tire that could handle both the advanced left turns along with the slower right turns.

The bizarre race left MotoGP™fans and riders confused and acted as a reminder of the importance of tire choice.

Ride On into the Future 

Tire technology has only gone so far. There are few differences between each tire company’s product, and each seem to possess a similar amount of knowledge about the present and future of tires.

Size has been subject to change in the past, and it will change in the near future, as well.

Moto-Experiences-MotoGP-VIP-Village-2014-raceBefore Bridgestone became the sole provider in 2009, Michelin was the main tire source for MotoGP™. Michelin dominated as the tire provider in the 1990s, as well as the first part of the next century, until around 2006.

Its product was created around the idea of creating an edge grip that eventually led to the deep leans seen in the early days of MotoGP™.

Bridgestone tires became a favorite in 2009, due to their ability to easily carry a load while a bike accelerated.The consistency of the tire performances also contributed to its popularity as a provider.

However, Bridgestone will be ending its reign as the sole tire provider for all of MotoGP™ after the 2015 season. Michelin will be the new provider starting in 2016.

Per Michelin’s request, the size of the wheels will be increased from the current 16.5 inch size to a full 17 inches in the 2016 season.

With the advancement of technology, what will be the future of MotoGP™? What will the sport now look like with Michelin as the new tire provider?

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