Casey Stoner: "We Need A Softer Tire"

There have been a number of complaints this year about the Bridgestone control tires, with the company's conservative choice causing problems with tires cooling in cold conditions. The problem - especially with the softer side of the asymmetric tires cooling down in cold air temperatures - has been blamed for a number of crashes this year, including Ben Spies morning warmup crash at Le Mans, Valentino Rossi's huge off at Mugello, that snapped his tibia and put him out for four races, and Hiroshi Aoyama's vicious highside that cracked the Interwetten Honda rider's vertebra and left him sidelined until further notice. A few riders have made made muted complaints about the tires, but these have been largely ignored.

Casey Stoner has been far more vociferous in his criticism of Bridgestone, raising the issue of safety of the tires. In the pre-race debrief with the press at Laguna Seca, he raised the problem again, issuing a stinging criticism of Bridgestone's hard tires, and asking for a softer tire than the ones being supplied. Here's what Stoner said to the press on the issue:

Q: Are you looking forward to having Bridgestone's asymmetric tires here?

Casey Stoner: We've had the asymmetric tires at almost every race this season, and they've been terrible, to be honest. I can't lie, they've been terrible, and I think every other rider can complain with me in the same way.

Already last year we had some difficulties, but they said last year we had the same compound side to side. But with Bridgestone, it's a different situation, I've been with them for quite a few years now, and I understood many times that if we had the same compound on both sides, sometimes a very hard compound, a lot of the time the other side would warm up a lot better than an asymmetric tire.

So when we come here and we have asymmetric compounds, I've found many times in the past that I didn't like the feeling of it, it never really wanted to warm up. I don't know whether it's because of the connection, that it doesn't really work the same with the tire, but we can never get the side of the tire that we don't spend so much time on to really warm up. So no matter how soft it is, it's difficult to get it working. Coming to a track like this, with cold weather like this could be interesting.

Q: On the asymmetric the harder part, only the harder part is different for the other?

CS: Both sets are different. Normally, the softer side will be the same, and on the left side, it will be a different compound. But it's not just a separate compound, it's a different family of tire. It's a different way it's constructed, it's a different type of rubber. What doesn't make sense is that, say in these last races, the softer tires have actually been constructed in the past to withstand more heat, to withstand higher temperatures. So we have a harder compound for higher temperatures, but yet the softer compound is better for withstanding temperatures, so there's no real sense to what they're doing...

Q: So you're saying that with two different compounds, it's not transferring the heat in the softer, so it's better to have one compound with the actual tires, because it transfers the heat better?

CS: Not always. But many times in the past.

Q: It's even worse, because you do not know how it will go...

CS: Exactly. So we use one tire which is probably the soft one this year - it's not soft, it was very hard - and now every soft tire at every track, we can do the race, no problem. No matter how hot the race is, we can run with the soft tire. And for me this is ridiculous, because as soon as we have low temperatures, it becomes dangerous.

So in these last four races, I'm running the softer option, something I've never done in my career with Bridgestone. Because to be honest, we just can't get the harder one to work, it's impossible, it's a stone. It doesn't want to work at all. So everyone is running with the softer option, because they're able to get this one working. And to be honest, it's durable enough for the heat, for the temperatures. So there's no real sense to have the harder one, this should be the hard one and they should make one softer or vice versa.

Q: Have you had this problem for a long time?

CS: It's because they have control. It's a control tire, they have control of everything.

Q: And they've already built the tire in the past.

CS: That's what they're saying, we can't make new tires, it takes a lot of development, all this kind of thing...

Q: They have these hardest tires in some place, and they have to finish them.

CS: This is an economic crisis situation and they're not going to change for this reason. They have their defence, that they're trying to save money like everyone else is, and it's going to cost a lot extra, so …

Q: It's arguably a safety issue, so that seems like it would take precedence.

CS: Yes, we've already had meetings in the safety commission though. They said there that they are trying things, but like the same thing they've already told us, they already have stock that they have to now get rid of, they can't just make a new tire, and what happens with the old ones? We've told them that the softer ones should be unable to finish races in the very hot conditions. We've had a few very hot races this year, and the softer ones should be unable to finish it. You know, simple fact, the last ten laps should be sliding a lot or really really difficult to finish. Unfortunately they don't see it this way.

I heard a few times, a couple of people said that we get new, fresh rubber consistently all the time, and it was only until two or three races ago that supposedly we're still using tires that were from the tests at the beginning of the year. So you know they're also not fresh rubber, it's not consistently fresh, and definitely in the race at Sachsenring, the first part of the race, I was really struggling with the grip on the left side, so we went with an old tire from the day before, immediately we had a better feeling. I had a lot more grip on the edge, which I was struggling with the first part, and I was able to go, you could see my lap times, last lap of the race, I was able to do a 1'22.1, whereas in the first part of the race, I was on the limit and I did a 1'22.4 or 1'22.5, that was maxed out. So, just simple things like that.

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Back to complaining.. The point of a control tire is that everyone is on the same thing. All the teams make their bike fit the tires instead of custom tires to fit the bike. Ducati and Casey have a problem. Not Bridgestone. I don't understand the safety concern either. If they can't go fast without crashing, then I guess they'll have to slow down.

The evidence seems to point to a safety problem. If the tires go cold or never heat up, the riders high side. We've seen more of that this season. I'd say Stoner (and the others) have a right to complain. And most of them are.

If you do not understand the safety concern of riding on racing tyres that don't get up to their operating temperature range, then you simply have never had that experience. It's not just a slightly degraded level of grip and consistent response but somewhat like the difference between walking on a concrete floor that is slightly gritty and one that is covered in patches of oil and grease.

Motor racing in all forms is supposed to be a contest of skill, not stupidity and those who speak out on safety concerns do the sport a favour.

It's Ducati's problem if they aren't getting hot enough. The Yamaha and Honda seem to heat it just fine. Again, the point of a control tire is that everyone designs their bike around the same tire. Level playing field.

Low and behold, from safety issue to almost beating last year's pole time in FP1!! Looks like the tires are ok after all!

Did anyone notice that some riders are using the hard tire and going faster? (see colin edwards interview today) What did casey say about the hard tire being useless?

The story is unraveling..

BTW, tomorrow morning it will be cold and foggy. Hopefully the riders take it easy and understand they need to be careful in those conditions. As Burgess said, (especially for the rookies) some riders are getting caught in FP2 since FP1 is in the afternoon on Friday with much warmer temperatures.

He makes a very good point about how the soft tyres should be unable to finish races without suffering severe duress. So they have a two tyre option which in actual fact is a single choice?! Both tyres are supposed to have pro's and cons that lead to hare and tortoise scenarios in the races.

Lagging development was always the risk in invoking a control tyre supplier. Casey's strategy is pretty clear. Embarrass Bridgestone to up their game. May he always be a candid spade caller. We are lucky to have the likes of him willingly sharing his thoughts with us.

Besides riders are never 100% happy. This is the way they are.

there aren't any team bosses with Casey's " tell it like it is attitude " AND intelligence. If there were the cartel that the f###ing Japs and Dorna have created would become the servant, not the master.

It will be interesting to see if maybe Honda will pressure Bridgestone to get their shit together (Honda will want maximum return from their investment) or push for other suppliers as well (no control tires) which is really the only equitable solution.

Looking at the Moto GP rules no one, should ever underestimate the power of stupid people in groups.

...A control tire in a prototype series was full of fail anyway. Bring back the tire (or tyre which ever your preference) wars of yore.

While I certainly do understand the financial crisis, the premier class is not the place to stifle development, especially to the detriment of safety. I don't think anyone disagrees that Casey can be somewhat of a whiner, but I think he's correct in this case, and I applaud him for taking Bridgestone to task. I also agree with his allusion to racing being as much about strategy as it is about twisting the throttle. Tire conservation has been - and should be - a part of the overall strategy, and that aspect of the race should not be removed from the equation.
So, experts, how long until the spec tire rule expires and we move on to competing manufacturers again?

Speaking of tire problems, I think that I'm looking at a recipe for disaster. What I'm seeing could cause some BIG waves in the waters of this whole "hard tire" brouhaha. I'm seeing (what I consider to be) a pretty radical tactic of how to get some more heat into the tires. I know that what I'm about to say is nothing new, and that what is being done probably happens ALL the time, but I've never seen it done to THIS extent.

OK. That said, here we go:

I'm watching FP1 right now, and the on-board shots from Ben Spies' bike are, to put it bluntly, TERRIFYING.

The camera facing forward from the fairing under his engine is getting some scintillating footage of Ben's front tire. I hope that someone else is seeing this, but HIS TIRE PRESSURE IS LOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!

I apologise for shouting, and I know that we're supposed to use our "inside voice" here, but flippin' HECK, the sidewall and "tread" of Spies' front tire are "squishing down" SO VERY FAR! Judging by how extremely "flat" Ben's tire is, he must be running 10-12 pounds less air pressure in his front tire than the other riders I've seen. I mean, seriously, he is running that front tire LOW on air pressure.

If that tire were to fail, and if Ben sustained injuries from the failure of said tire...that could cause some major problems. I remember all too well when Michelin had tires so hard that they had to run wet tires to get some heat into them. Ben Spies running dangerously low tire pressure to generate some heat...sounds like...well...BAD. It's a logical way to get some extra heat, but I think he's taking it a bit further than is ideal or prudent.

Go back and watch FP1. When they show the on-board shots of his front tire, you'll see what I'm talking about...

Well, that's my cent-and-a-half worth for today...

(Oh, and if anyone's seen lower pressure than that before...please let me know, because I'm just flat-out unnerved by that. If I saw someone on the road driving or riding on a tire that low, I would pull up to them and tell them that they had a tire going flat!)

Looked like normal deformation to me. I remember still shots of McCoys rear tire under acceleration during corner exit and there were wrinkles in the side wall. :-)))) Good stuff.

Why do you think that low tire pressure is dangerous? It's not like the tire is going to fall off the wheel... If it was really that low there's no way that he would be riding the bike at any decent speeds, just not possible. Ask Leon Haslam. Recently he did somehow end up in a race with low tire pressures, and found himself unable to maintain pace and sliding back through the field... actually the tire was deflating, not just low. He finished with about HALF of what the tire pressure should have been!

We run dunlop ntecs about 18psi cold (22 hot) others run them lower still and they're still the grippiest tyre i can buy. they spread out under load and give awesome feel and grip.
i'd say bridgestone is just using a similar construction technique's a little snippet of Rossi's perspective from another interview done by David.

"Now for me, the bigger difficulty is the Bridgestone tires. You have to ride always thinking about the tires, and you have to make always the right procedure to put the tire in temperature. In fact, this year, a lot of big crashes is for that reason."

Think Casey is still whinging? Yes, David's question was about the difficulty level of the 500s, but it seems very consistent with what Casey is saying.

Once again, this was not my question, it was asked during a public debrief by a French journalist. Most of the questions and answers are from these debriefs, and are asked by a range of journalists. 

But there's absolutely no way that Spies would be running 10-12 psi less than normal. Race tyres normally operate around 30 psi give or take a FEW psi. If he was down to 20 psi or less there'd be so much friction he'd be lucky to engage top gear (do they hit 6th at Laguna?) The centrifugal forces generated push the tyre into the pavement leading to deformation as Squidpuppet says. This is a tyre doing what it's supposed to do.

The tires won't get any softer b/c the cornering speeds would go up. Bridgestone could probably make tires that are much softer and faster, but at the behest of Dorna (and corporate, I'm sure) they are developing more road relevant technology by increasing the durability and expanding the operation parameters under which the tire can perform.