After the brief official announcement earlier today, details of Bridgestone's tire proposal have started to leak out, little by little. As yet, it is all the result of informal briefings and what riders have told the press, the exact details are to be presented in a formal announcement "later" to quote the Bridgestone statement. But this is what we know, or think we know:
- 20 tires per weekend, 8 fronts and 12 rears;
- One carcass construction only;
- 7 different compounds, of which 2 will be available at each race, a "hard" and a "soft". Presumably, Bridgestone will decide which 2 compounds to bring;
- Riders will have equal numbers of hard and soft tires;
- 150 tires for all of winter testing: 100 to be supplied free of charge, 50 to be supplied at the surprisingly reasonable rate of 200 euros for a front and 400 euros for a rear, according to MotoGP stalwart Julian Ryder over at Soup. That sounds quite attractive, and if I thought I could fit a 16.5 inch tire to my overweight adventure tourer, I'd be tempted to have a few myself;
- Testing to be limited to 6 tests lasting 2 days each, that would leave the riders with 12 tires a day, approximately. As Nicky Hayden is wont to do 100+ laps a day during a test, that would mean the tires lasting at least 20 laps each.
- One wet compound, a medium. Earlier, there was talk of only 4 wet tires being supplied, but no numbers are being mentioned any more.
The outcry predicted here has failed to erupt, but the riders have already forced a few concessions from Bridgestone. The main complaint was that 20 tires would be too few, and the riders have extracted promises from Bridgestone that they would reexamine the situation as the season progressed. Valentino Rossi told GPOne.com "they (Bridgestone, Ed.) said that we should trust them, and that 20 tires will be enough, because they will bring tires with a wide enough temperature range to cope, and in any case, they have assured us that if problems arise, they will try to correct this by bringing more tires. Put like that, it's a situation we can accept."
What remains to be seen is just how the riders will adapt. The regulations favor riders who can set a bike up to make the best of the tires on offer, over those who are used to having tires made to meet their requirements. You might expect people who can manage tires well, such as Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, to do well, as well as riders like Casey Stoner, who is a master of matching the bike to his tires.
The riders who will suffer will be those who need a perfect setup to function. Marco Melandri is a name that springs to mind in this respect, as does Toni Elias. Elias is likely to have another problem, as like Dani Pedrosa, the lighter riders will have problems getting heat into tires. The single carcass on offer is likely to be stiff, as this will suit more riders, and stop grip levels and corner speeds from getting too high.
But stand by for a winter of wild speculation. The new regime is likely to go into effect at the second test of the season, at the end of November at Jerez, with Bridgestone probably having plenty of the "old" tires left at Valencia. So it's going to be a while yet before we get a definitive answer on how this is going to work out. It may even take until mid-season before the new regulations begin to work themselves out.
If you were getting bored and frustrated with all this talk of tires, better start counting to ten; there's months more of this to come. Actually, better make that a hundred. Thousand.