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michelin motogp tyre

(Latest update: 10th March 2024 to reflect the new 2024 regulations and the last minute tyre pressure changes)

You’ve decided MotoGP is the sport for you. You’ve watched a few races, you’ve picked a rider or two you like but now it’s time to take it to the next level and increase your knowledge.

So where to start? Qualifying, the points system or electronics? All good but you will come to see that, above all, a lot of time is spent on tyre choice.

It will be mentioned by the commentators on just about every issue. It can literally be a deal breaker.

For the most part, it seems a complicated thing to follow and the rules have changed a great deal in the last few years since Michelin took over supply at the end of 2015.

Michelin originally had the contract until 2023 but this was extended in September 2021 until 2026.

In a statement by Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, he expressed his satisfaction with Michelin’s tyre provisions since their return in 2016:

“We’re very proud to continue our partnership with Michelin until at least 2026. Michelin has been a vital partner for MotoGP since it became the tyre supplier to the premier class in 2016, helping us to create one of the greatest eras of competition in motorcycle Grand Prix racing history. I’m delighted that we will reach a decade of collaboration and I hope we can continue building on this incredible foundation together. This agreement is fantastic news for all of us in the Championship.”

Now I understand for a new fan, the discussion of tyre choices can seem like a foreign language. But it is actually quite simple if you know just a few key things.

So where to start? Let’s begin with the overall tyre itself in MotoGP.

Every rider is provided with harder tyres and softer tyres as well as tyres suitable for the wet and dry. The dry condition tyres are referred to as slicks.

What does that mean? Harder tyres are those that take longer to wear out but longer to warm up so better for longevity but won’t get you to the front in the first lap generally.

Softer tyres will get you to the front of the pack quicker but will run the risk of falling apart by the end of the race. If you are unskilled at finding this balance it can be the end of your chances for a podium that day.

Within these hard and soft options it is broken down again into symmetrical and asymmetrical or in some parts ‘Dual Compound’.

Symmetrical are the same ‘compound’ (remember this word for later) across the whole tyre. Asymmetrical (or dual compound) are a combination joined together in order to accommodate tracks with more left or right turns for example. This allows more wear on one side, the harder side.

Compounds are hard, medium or soft – for interest’s sake should you be close enough to see the tyres they do have a colour code:

  • Black or no marking is the medium,
  • yellow is the harder option
  • and white is soft

The changes that were made in 2023

The Grand Prix Commission decided that from 2023 the number of rear slick tyre options available each weekend will be reduced to two.

Only a softer and a harder option tyre will be available with the actual specific rubber characteristic to be determined before each round.

A statement from the GPC read: “It has already been announced that the allocation of rear slick tyres will be modified from 2023.

Riders will be able to use the same number of tyres as they do currently (12 per event), but there will be a reduced number of options in order to decrease the number of tyres that are produced and transported by Michelin but ultimately not used.

All riders will have the same allocation: seven of the softer option and five of the harder option.

Michelin will decide which specifications are brought to each event: soft and medium, medium and hard, or soft and hard”.

Accordingly, the Grand Prix Commission confirmed that, with effect from the 2023 season, the allocation of rear slick tyres per MotoGP rider per event will be as follows:

  • Seven softs and five mediums OR
  • Seven mediums and five hards OR
  • Seven soft and five hards.

What about in the wet though?

Misano MotoGP 2017 in the wet

It works basically the same.

A selection of tyre compounds are developed to suit wet conditions, usually in a soft and medium option for the grip required in wet conditions.

Depending on the track in question they will be offered in both symmetrical and asymmetrical just the same as dry weather tyres.

Michelin did attempt to resolve the issue by developing an intermediate tyre for drying out or damp conditions which sounds great but for several reasons they have been scrapped as unnecessary.

Instead, three tyre compounds or spec choices are offered to counteract this issue.

michelin motogp tyre mechanics

So what can riders have for selection each race weekend?

SLICKS:

At each Grand Prix, every rider will have 22 slick tyres – 10 fronts, 12 rears.

For a long time, we heard the terms soft, medium and hard compounds.

However, Michelin have made some changes in how they produce, transport and supply tyres on Race Weekend to help reduce waste and shipment requirements.

One of these changes is now referring to these as Specification A and B.

Spec A is usually the softer option (higher grip level), Spec B is usually the harder option.

The official supplier will determine which tyres are suitable for each race weekend.

Because things vary significantly at each track depending on track conditions, weather etc the tyre supplier will decide if the Spec A and Spec B can also be as follows:

Specification A may be soft or medium, and Specification B may be medium or hard.

The front tyre allocations can be made up as follows.

10 in total, comprised of:

  • up to a maximum of 5 of specification A *
  • up to a maximum of 5 of specification B *
  • up to a maximum of 5 of specification C *- Specification C no longer as a specific explanation in the regulations.

The rear tyre allocation can be made up as follows.

Rear slick tyres:

12 in total, comprised of:

  • 7 of specification A, and
  • 5 of specification B

WET WEATHER:

Wet weather allocation is 13 tyres (six front, seven rear) with a choice of both Soft and Medium.

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule and for wet weather tyres they are as follows:

If the Race Director declares any 3 out of the 5 sessions—P1, P2, Free Practice, one Qualifying session, and the Sprint—as wet, excluding warm-up, each rider will be allocated an additional set of rain tyres (1 x front and 1 x rear). The automatic allocation will be 7 Front rain tyres and 8 Rear rain tyres.

Where both Q1 and Q2 are declared wet, the additional tyres allocated for those riders progressing through Q1 and Q2 will be Rain tyres. This is only if both Q1 and Q2 are declared wet.

If Q1 and Q2 have different declared weather conditions then no additional tyres will be made available.

michelin motogp tyre mechanics

Tyre Pressures

At the 2023 British MotoGP at Silverstone, Dorna implemented yet another unification of electronics with the start of TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring systems) through a unified system.

Teams were no longer able to pick the device they like and are only allowed the unit provided by LDL Technology, who already supply MotoE.

Interestingly LDL beat out the brands that were already in use by MotoGP teams.

The TPMS (tyre pressure monitoring systems) records tyre pressure and temperatures in real time and reports it back for monitoring.

Riders are also be able to see this on their dash and revise their riding to suit.

According to the rules the device must be connected and reporting data the entire time the wheel is on the bike. it is also encrypted so teams cannot alter it

The monitoring sensors have been in place since 2016 and rules have stated using a lower than allowed tyre pressure will result in a penalty but they have never actually done this.

It has been considered somewhat of a gentleman’s agreement that the penalty is not implemented which is how some see it.

Tyre Pressure Penalties

For the backend of the 2023 season the penalty issued for an infringement of tyre pressure rules was as follows:

  • Warning for 1st offence
  • 3 second penalty for 2nd offence
  • 6 second penalty for 3rd offence
  • 12s second penalty for 4th offence

Tyre Pressure limit rules only apply to the Sprint Race and Main Race.

For the 2024 season it was looking like the penalty for a breach in tyre pressures limits would result in a disqualification and the warning for first offence removed.

This proved an extremely unpopular decision and many feared this would see significant impacts to the quality of racing, as pointed out in a recent blog article on motomatters.com

“You will never see a rider run off track and come back through the field again. Running off track and then riding alone will be enough to drop the tire temperature and pressure below the required minimum, and trigger automatic disqualification”.

In true Dorna fashion at the last moment, on the eve of the 2024 season opener in Qatar a change to the rule was handed down. It was officially decided disqualification would not be the penalty of choice for a breach of the tyre pressure limits.

Rather time penalties will be Re-implemented as follows:

For the Sprint race the time penalty will be 8 seconds and for Sunday’s Main Race the penalty will be 16 seconds. There will be no warning for first offences.

Even without disqualification, the time penalties now in place may still have a significant impact on the result should riders find themselves on the wrong side of the tyre pressure limits.

Why is tyre pressure important?

The lower the pressure the more grip and speed, up the pressure and the opposite occurs.

A good front tyre impacts corner speed entry and exit so really without good front tyre grip and longevity the rider really has no chance.

So why not lower it then if it gives more grip?

Well you then potentially weaken the wall of the tyre increasing the chance of an explosive blowout with possibly disastrous consequences.

Dorna’s intention is to get on top of this with a unified system increasing safety and fairness.

Permitted tyre pressures

Prior to the 2023 Silverstone race, MotoGP’s minimum pressures were 1.9 bar (27.55psi) for front slicks and 1.7 bar (24.65psi) for rears.

Any rider with lower pressure than this would be sanctioned.

However, with the introduction of the tyre pressure monitors, the minimum pressure was reduced to 1.88 bar (27.3 psi) for front tyres.

This tyre pressure has been the source of much unrest in the paddock, with many feeling this is too high to be mandated as the lowest possible tyre pressure to be maintained for 50% of a race.

With the start of the season mere days away Michelin has relented a little and lowered the minimum tyre pressure again to 1.8 bar (26.1 psi)  (maximum 2.1 bar – 30.5 psi) and have altered the amount of the race this needs to be maintained for 60% instead of 50% for the Main race on Sunday and will remain at 30% for the Sprint Race on Saturday

There are many factors at play with tyre pressure and it fluctuates for a variety of reasons, rider style also comes into play with some riders dealing with higher pressure better than others.

This will make it a highly complex issue for the teams to manage.

How do the teams go about making tyre selections?

  • Weather conditions both apparent and forecast – which if you have ever been to Phillip Island you will know these are not often one and the same (join the club re the UK! – Ed)
  • Track conditions either incidental to the day or common to the track. For example, does the track have a predominate direction requiring the asymmetrical tyre? Is it a track that is known for destroying tyres (yep Phillip Island again)?
  • Having issues with the bike such as electronics; creating performance issues that affect tyre wear
  • And last crashing etc.

All of these factors play a part in making the final tyre choice for race day. If a wrong choice is made or the tyres supplied do not withstand the conditions then a rider may eat through many more tyres trying to get it ‘right’ leaving a shortage of options if you like.

For 2018, Andrea Dovizioso at the Austrian GP and Marc Marquez at Valencia immediately come to mind.

Already one could feel a little stressed right!

michelin motogp tyre wear

For example: COTA 2024

The circuit is bumpy. Why?

Because it’s been built on clay soil which expands and contracts depending on the the amount of water absorbed.

This means the track can change year on year.

A significant amount of the track has been resurfaced for this year’s race in order smooth out the bumps.

What is of particular note is Michelin’s plans regarding tyres.

Piero Taramasso, manager of Michelin Two-Wheel competition has said:

“We know the COTA circuit very well, but we are bringing our new rubber compounds this year, which creates some unknowns.

On the other hand, we know that the grip will be low, and that its surface will be uneven in places.

Based on our data and taking into account the configuration of the circuit, we selected symmetrical tyres for the front, in three compounds (Soft, Medium, Hard) and two asymmetrical options for the rear, in Soft and Medium.

The right shoulder of the rear tyres will be harder, but this is not to compensate for the number of turns, but rather for the sequence of the triple right-handers (turns 16, 17 and 18) which generates very high stresses on the tyres.

We intend to provide the perfect technical package to our partners, who broke numerous records on this track last year and who of course intend to try to do better this year, partly thanks to our tyres.”

In Summary

Now to make you feel better…minus the extra rules for events like storms that require a special decision from race direction, that’s pretty much it. That’s tyre allocation and selection under the new rules.

To make you feel even better – we now only have one class in MotoGP. Prior to 2016 there was the open class –that’s been done away with so now there is only one set of rules to learn and they don’t impact tyres outside of testing anymore,

This does not mean everyone is just lumped together regardless of financial position of the factory. There is simply a less complicated way of dealing with the concessions made. But we won’t go into this here.

The only other issue is how does one tell what tyres a rider is using without a commentator to tell you?

Not to worry FIM have got that sorted. Fans now have the benefit of electronic documenting of tyre selection – the information will be displayed on screen for viewers.

Give it a go next time you are watching a race to follow along with the discussions on tyre selection and its effect on the outcome.

Understanding this element of MotoGP adds an extra level to watching the race. Not to mention you’ll be able to impress your MotoGP loving friends with your new knowledge on tyre selection!

 

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