Leon Camier Explains The Difference Between Turning A WSBK Pirelli And A MotoGP Bridgestone

Leon Camier turned a lot of heads at Indianapolis in his first ride on the Drive M7 Aspar Honda production racer. The Englishman was drafted in to replace Nicky Hayden while he recovers from surgery, but despite it being the first time he rode a MotoGP bike, the Bridgestone tires, carbon brakes, and the Indianapolis circuit, Camier was very quickly up to speed with the other Open class Hondas.

Having a fast rider come in to MotoGP from World Superbikes allows a number of comparisons to be made. Among the most interesting is the difference in technology and tires. At Brno, Camier explained the difference in feel and cornering between the World Superbike Pirellis and the MotoGP Bridgestones. The front tire, especially, is a completely different kettle of fish, requiring a different style, and therefore different set up.

"The main [differene] for me is the tires and the brakes," Camier told us, "the tires being the biggest one. It's just that you have so much more front grip and with angle that you can brake and turn in with the brake on. [The front tire] is adjusting itself to be able to do that."

That difference presented a major challenge, Camier explained. "If you don't have enough weight on the front tire late in the corner, the bike doesn't turn. So you have to be able to go in fast enough to be able to load the bike that late on in the corner. Which is hard, because you need the setting to be right for that."

This was the stage at which Camier and his crew had arrived. "That's what we are trying to find at the moment, trying to find the right balance for that. At the minute, the bike's quite soft, and I can roll round the track quite nicely, but to go faster, I need to start braking later, turning in with the brake on, and bury the front tire."

Burying the front tire was the key to going fast. With the World Superbike Pirellis, the key was to brake, release the brake to allow the tire to resume some of its shape, and then use this shape to get the bike to turn. Respected MotoGP journalist Mat Oxley, also present, put the historical example of Simon Crafar riding Dunlops during the 500cc era. Crafar, Oxley said, would use the point at which the bike deflected back to its normal shape to help hook the bike round the corner, and assist turn in.

Camier recognized this from World Superbikes. "That's more like a Pirelli," Camier said. "You go in with the thing absolutely buried, and you have to sort of get it up off the tire for it to come into a more normal shape to turn." The Bridgestones are the opposite, Camier said. You do not wait to stop braking before turning in, you turn the bike into the corner when the front tire is loaded up under braking. "This turns when it's flattened," Camier said. "And it does turn. But the grip is so much more as well. It takes some getting your head around."

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Looks like Leon is indeed a quick learner. Hope he has a great weekend at Brno. Very interesting article.

Always liked him. Just felt like he was a good rider that would not ever get a good ride. But if he keeps going like he is, he may get a golden opportunity.

Didn't he ride in the WSBK Aprilia's factory team alongside Biaggi when they got world champ? That was a good ride and he didn't do much... Wish him good in MotoGP though!

... being Biaggi's team mate is never easy, especially at Aprilia, a very pro Biaggi team and, of course, one full of Italians.

Camier did not have an English tech team and as such communication was severely limited and, as suggested above, his entire team perceived him as a secondary player to Max.

As such, I don't think this can really be considered to be a fair showing of his abilities.

Have felt he has been the best Brit for a while.

Camier's observation raise an issue that I think is relevant. The modern racing motorcycle is an extremely sensitive and complex machine. So much so that there are few that can master the correct techniques to enable an optimum setup at each track and under all the different variables. I also believe that ego plays a huge part in the problem. What "crew chief" is going to admit that they are clutching at straws. At least the rider is more likely to admit they have no idea what the source of a problem may be. Ben Spies is a case in point. To my way of thinking Houseworth should have been shown the door from the get go, yet his credibility was rarely ever mentioned, even though Spies suffered from multiple mechanical failures.

To deal with this complexity you need a multitude of skills, an education from an engineering stream, as well as an ongoing training and information to constantly keep abreast of the technology. You often see the title engineer given to some of the support team. However, the term 'engineer' is used very loosely in this context. Luigi Dall'Igna is an engineer. Jeremy Burgess is not. In the past some pit staff have started out as personal friends of the rider and many did not have the training or skills commensurate with their position. They are/were the dinosaurs of professional motorcycle racing.

Another issue that relates to this complexity is the vast array of data that is now available. This is a double edged sword. On the one hand it encourages the employment of specialists but they have to all work in unison, a contradiction in terms, and the order of complexity just keeps on increasing.

These are just my observations. They are based on the rare snippets of information that I come across and may be seriously flawed.

If you look back at Spies in WSBK, he had a number of mechanical issues, including something that was left on the bike by accident. There were signs of incompetence there. If you have things like that happening, how would you risk something like Bradl attempted with the shock change on the grid?

Leon problem -like most GP rider- is inconsistency.. podium is too few and far between.. he also has too many DNF n crash during with Aprilia & Suzuki.. After a blazing BSB win in 2009 there are high hope for him on WSBK.. we rarely see him fighting tooth-nail at the front -which normally expected on riding good weapon as Aprilia- instead drifting on mid-pack or crash.. at the moment elite factory WSBK only employ winning-proof rider or young ballsy rider like Giugliano. I'm surprise Leon can't even retain seat on evo BMW and choose to become PPV agent riding MV Agusta & CRT bike.

Lemon Camier's BMW Evo seat was only a replacement ride after Sylvain Barrier was injured (in a car crash, I believe.) As such, it was not a question of not being able to retain the seat, it was not his to retain.

Certainly I hoped Leon Camier would have gained better results over his time in WSB but I believe there have always been mitigating circumstances that made doing so tremendously difficult.

Being Biaggi's team mate, as the chosen son of Aprilia is, must be very difficult, both technically and in terms of morale. He was isolated there too, without his own team of mechanics and speaking a different language.

Moving to Suzuki is hardly the move many riders seek but he performed every bit as well as other riders both before and since.

His time in BSB, not just with Airwaves Yamaha but from his debut on the Animal Honda was deeply impressive.

Give him time on a competitive ride and he may well impress you once again.

Leon Camier's comments echo those of Ben Spies when he first tried a MotoGP bike.

Thing is, the Pirelli is more like a street tyre, and as such the Pirelli you can buy is probably a damn sight closer to the Superbike racing Pirelli than any Bridgestone street tyre is to the MotoGP tyre.

If more than half the MotoGP grid cannot use the Bridgestone front to its potential, what hope for mere mortals?

It will be interesting to see what Michelin brings.

Still, there is no doubt Bridgestone raised the bar with front tyres in MotoGP - something Casey Stoner revelled in in 2007 when he switched from the LCR Honda on second (or third) string Michelins to factory Bridgestones. Back then, Bridgestone was tailoring tyres to each of the manufacturers who used them (Kawasaki, Suzuki and Ducati).

There are still a few laps records in the books set in the last year of open tyre competition, when the bikes were only 800cc.

I have, both are great in their different ways but to make the conclusion that because Bridgestone MotoGP tires need more skill to work than a Pirelli WSBK tire, the same is for the BS/Pirelli tires you or I can buy is obtuse. In fact BS's latest street tyre S20 has a great rep for warming up better than anything else out there.

We are talking about MotoGP, mere mortals need not apply. Leon's assessment is great because it shows just how far Bridgestone are ahead of the game in tire development. Elbow down in the wet?!? Try and get your head around that for a moment!

Not many records left from tire wars, most have been broken last couple of years. Only one Michelin has left is from Qatar and thats because it was set when it was a day race, no chance of breaking it now its held at night.

Michelin have work cut out for them replacing Bridgestone, thats for sure