End In Sight For Bridgestone As MotoGP Tire Supplier?

Big changes look to be coming to MotoGP's spec tire system. Now in the sixth season of having a single official supplier, MotoGP is moving closer to seeing the number and variety of tires drastically expanded. With the contract with Bridgestone due to expire at the end of 2014, there is even a serious chance that a new manufacturer could take over from the Japanese tire firm.

A report in the latest issue of the Spanish magazine Motociclismo (available via the Zinio platform), the magazine is reporting that Dorna is looking to change the way that the single tire supply works. Dorna representative Javier Alonso told Motociclismo that negotiations had been opened with several suppliers, including Michelin, Pirelli and Dunlop, as well as current supplier Bridgestone. Dorna had presented Bridgestone with a list of conditions drawn up by the Safety Commission, the liaison body in which the riders discuss safety issues with representatives of Dorna, hosted by safety officer Loris Capirossi.

Though Alonso does not explicitly name the conditions, he does give Motociclismo some context behind their thinking. The idea is to expand the range of tires available at each race, as it has been all too common in recent history for riders to turn up at a particular track only to find that just one of the two compounds available will work. Though the Bridgestone tires have proven to be excellent in terms of both grip and durability, Alonso said, they had proven to be 'difficult for riders to understand sometimes.' The spec tire has also been blamed for creating problems for Ducati. The current tire forces manufacturers to pursue a particular direction in chassis design, which has favored Yamaha and Honda. The intention is not to force Bridgestone to design tires especially for each manufacturer, as Pirelli does in World Superbikes, but to at least provide a much greater spectrum in terms of carcass stiffness and compounds. Senior Ducati personnel believe that a large part of their understeer could be solved by simply having a very different tire available. 

At the moment, Bridgestone looks reluctant to comply with all of the conditions being put to them by the Safety Commission. They would be forced to accept some of those conditions, Loris Capirossi told Motociclismo. The sticking point appears to be largely expanding the number of tires available, Bridgestone's chief coordinator of motorsport Thomas Scholz told the German website Speedweek.com. If another choice of compound were to be added, that would increase the number of tires Bridgestone would have transport to the track by some 300 per weekend. If two extra tire choices were added, that number would go to 600. Bridgestone would need an extra race truck to transport the tires to European circuits, and transport costs for overseas rounds would be massively increased. Bridgestone already pays over 20 million euros a season to supply a maximum of 22 riders each season with free tires. The Japanese firm is not keen for costs to be raised further.

Although other manufacturers are definitely interested in taking over the single tire contract for MotoGP, change is unlikely to come for next season. Dunlop representative Clinton Howe told Motociclismo that they would need 18 months to prepare to take over the MotoGP contract, and both Pirelli and Michelin would also need a similar preparation period. The contract with Bridgestone is likely to be extended for a single season to the end of 2015, before another tire manufacturer is likely to take over. That would mean that whoever takes on the MotoGP tire contract would start with a single set of rules, as the entire class is set to go to the spec hardware and software solution in 2016.

Paddock rumor currently makes Michelin the clear favorite to take over from Bridgestone, as Michelin has been testing 16.5 inch slick tires in Italy, at Vallelunga. Any switch away from Bridgestone will have a massive impact on the series, as the manufacturer who takes over will have no data on how modern MotoGP machines perform. Both Dunlop and Michelin have been absent from the series since 2008, and only Michelin was producing truly competitive tires at the time. However, a major reduction in performance is one of the things Dorna is believed to want from tire manufacturers. Though they are adamant that safety must not be compromised, having tires which predictably lose grip halfway through the race would create more interesting race, they believe, as riders would be forced to pursue tire conservation strategies. That has not been necessary with the Bridgestone tires, with riders setting their fastest laps often near the end of the race.

Any decision on tires will have to wait, however. Talks have only just started in earnest, and an agreement will take several months to reach.

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The rules in 2007 were perfect. No overnight specials and the teams could select what ever compound worked best for them given the limitations on how many total tires each tire manufacturer can bring.

No special one off tires for "special" riders/teams.

If Mich provides tires for Repsol, those same tires need to be provided for LCR and GO & Fun. Same applies for BS.

never go back to multi tires. with the rules and the bikes the way they are now we already can make too many excuses to why Rider A won over Rider B. If we go back to more tire manufacturers the championship winner will ALWAYS be discredited for having the "Better" tires, and i think thats a shame. You want to say someone won the championship cause they were on the "better" bike, fine, but there shouldn't be a "better" tire.

Michelin would/will provide tyres to help Repsol win and their other partners had to deal with it. Which mean one team, Repsol - being more satisfied and others chasing moving goals instead of recieving tyres more suited to their needs and preferences.

The same happened in F1 during its last tyre war. Bridgestone made Ferrari spec tyres and all other Brisgestone teams suffered.

This is news to me, that Pirelli produced different tires for each manufacturer in WSBK. How on earth does that work? All I4 machines get the same tires, or Kawasaki, Honda, et al all get their own construction?

I have heard of rumors that Pirelli designs their SBK tires to suit Ducati, although I have no idea if that is true or not. I wonder if David's comment in the article is somehow a reference to some rumored Pirelli/Ducati relationship?

The sentence in the article seems to deserve some explanation by the author, IMO.

"However, a major reduction in performance is one of the things Dorna is believed to want from tire manufacturers. Though they are adamant that safety must not be compromised, having tires which predictably lose grip halfway through the race would create more interesting race, they believe, as riders would be forced to pursue tire conservation strategies. "

Please, no. We've just had all that nonsense in F1, and even last weekend in Austin! How anyone could see that as an improvement is beyond me.

Tires need to become less important, not more. Another tire war brings along the same problem, all the talk will be about tires again. Screw that.

The question for me is if it's possible, given the performance of the machines, to have a lower spec tyre that's more predictable. I'd happily give up a second a lap in outright performance if it levelled the playing field and got rid of last weekend's debacle. I don't especially want to go back to the tyre wars. And I don't much care if everyone is on the same tyre with no soft-hard compound options. Just as long as it's safe and lasts the race.

As long as MotoGP remains the fastest series in the world, it doesn't really matter what they do with tires from an average spectator's point of view.

The sensitivity of the tires to rider-style/machine combinations that took out Redding, Ross and, who else... Iannone? That is a problem. If BS claims there was nothing wrong with the tires (i.e. manufacturing defect), then the design is too intolerant.

Anyway... I'm curious about the economics of the deal with BS. So Dorna doesn't pay BS one cent for the tires? It's a straightforward tires-for-exposure deal ?

As many manufactures as want to participate are welcome. No over night specials. Teams are not required to sign a contract to a specific tire manufacturer so that if say Michelin's work better than Dunlop at a track, they can run those. Also tires are pulled from a blind draw in the trucks so that no specials (good or bad) could be handed out. Teams pay a set fee per weekend for their tire allocation, which would be the same amount for all brands.

For starters, you have just sucked over 20 million Euro out of the sport. And you are expecting two or three tire companies to undertake the cost of developing better tires and showing up with truckloads of them, but maybe having no customers? Good luck with that.

Sounds interesting. Seems like Dorna thinks the same as Ben Spies. Tires that end up sliding around towards the end make for riders to make their own adjustments to win. I do not see that stopping Marquez, might even make the gap bigger after watching him race dirt track this winter. Reading Bridgestone's Press releases it damn near sounds like they may just be worn out from supplying Motogp. Maybe it is just time to change out to a new Tire Manufacturer. Great read. Be interesting to see how it turns out.

I agree with all the aims of Capirossi and the commission. A wider range of tires has been needed for a while.

More interesting to me is the 'these tires are too good which is bad" as Bstone has worked their way inyo a corner doing what they do well. These tire technologies are amazing, that front is unbelievably sticky and durable, and inherently specialized which makes it work well in narrower conditions.

Oddly again, it would be easier for a big change in tire spec and strategy to be done w Michelin than Bstone. This is just the way of things. "We have gone w the Michelins and this is what we have" rather than "this is what we asked of Bstone and we are working on improvements."

I suspect that most riders, teams and manu's will prefer to stay w Bstone when they realize we are shifting to a lower level of grip and durability and that DORNA will go w Michelin anyway for 2016. Betcha a old takeoff race tire on it

Look what they made riders and teams resort to. Some times the stategy worked. Some times it didn't. As long as there are no over night specials and all riders from a give tire maker have access to all their tires, I say bring the tire battles back. MM, Pedrosa, Lorenso will always be at the front. The best riders race in & race out always are. A bad race for the top riders every now and again is a good thing.

As mentioned Toni Elias as well as Regis Laconi and Simon Crafar won GP races, due in large part to tires (IMO). A very under rated Makoto TAMADA won two, when no body wanted to race on Brigdestones.

The opportunity for collusion is of itself reason enough to conclude that a single Japanese tire supplier is unacceptable if a racing series is to offer a truly equal chance to all competing companies, when some of those companies are based not in Japan but in Europe. It would be equally wrong if only Michelin
supplied tires. There simply must be more than one tire supplier.

Planning to "force" riders to practice tire conservation during races? Are you kidding? Anybody who looked at the tires after the last race will tell you that riders have to practice tire conversation now and have been doing so habitually for years. Sounds like people who don't have a clue are once again imposing their will on racers who put their careers and sometimes life on the line. This isn't a sit-com, it's a blood sport and the last thing we need is a bunch of nabobs trying to titillate TV viewers at the unnecessary risk of life and limb on the riders part.

The cost of servicing MotoGP as a sole supplier of tires is breathtaking. This is another sound reason why there should be competition between multiple tire-makers, under some governing tech regs., re-introduced into MotoGP and Moto3 as well.

The costs incurred to wage a tire war are exponentially greater than the cost of having a single spec tire provider. And bad side-effects too, such as wider gaps between haves and have-nots both financially and in performance. Dorna has been trying for years to narrow the gap between the richest factory teams and all the rest. Would be folly to reverse that by igniting a tire war.

Absolutely, please bring them back and don't hamstring the suppliers. As now it's ridiculously expensive and restrictive for manufacturers and riders who aren't on 1 of 4 bikes don't stand a chance!

Also Michelin possessed a passion for racing and when not restricted they flogged Bridgestone for years, Bridgestone seemed to adopt this passion in 2007 once the rules changed and they tested heavily at newly resurfaced circuits, no doubt spending a fortune-all of this seems long forgotten now and it's time for change. Pirelli and Dunlop anyone else? All welcome

I say fast track open competition for tyres in 2015 please!

Enabling racers to choose a different tire at every race is insanity. I do think "tire wars" can work, but only in the following two ways:

Let manufacturers choose 1 supplier each season- this would enable factories to work with a tire maker to optimize the performance of their respective designs. Riders would have to get in where they fit in. Riders would test the different offerings during the off season and their respective factories would go with the supplier whose tires yielded the best performance. They would be limited to that supplier through the year, but obviously would be able to get updates through the year and work with the supplier on improvements. Multiple teams could choose the same tire and all teams would get the same tire through a lottery system.

Let riders choose 1 supplier each season - same as above, but with the added twist of riders on the same team being able to choose different tires. This would enable riders of different styles to choose tires that suit them individually, but "present an engineering challenge" to factories in forcing them to develop a bike that could work for different tires. Again everyone who chose a tire would get the same one through a lottery.

This works better than a race to race selection as it would require significantly less transport costs and more stability for suppliers. It would also enable more freedom for the factories on the engineering side.

As far as the dropping performance thing, I think that could potentially work, but if they do it they should go all the way. Create some kind of formula for limiting horsepower (i.e. some combination of cylinder count, bore area and revs), cap horsepower down to about 220-230, and ditch TC. That would really open things up and bring back much of the spectacle, while keeping a nice gap from the lower classes. It would also enable more experimentation and developmental opportunities. In time though, one step at a time.

One way of looking at tyres is seeing them as just black blobs. The other way seems to be to make the tyre the most important thing in racing. Somehow Formula1 has succeeded in doing the latter and as is now the norm, MotoGP wants to follow in those footsteps. What dismays me about the whole tyre thing is that bikes (and in F1 cars) have to be designed around the capabilities of a tyre, which to me seems a bit like buying furniture first and designing a living room around it. I could be wrong though, I usually am.

It seems fairly clear to me - it won't be simple and cannot be simple. Or cheap. Most of us have little real idea of what went on or what was spent during the 'tyre wars'.
The power/relationships between factories and suppliers (there are a few $ millions worth of tyre contracts for road bikes....) is one thing.
The needs of different riders/machines/tracks/weather introduce a relatively huge range of performance demands.
Commercial pressures and technical pragmatism will require the main teams to have one supplier. Any team which has more than one supplier will be rated third rate by the tyre firms. That's the top ten sorted then.
Just like Ohlins/WP/K Tech/Showa the demands of "Give me the same kit and I'll beat him" will prevail over "We can design the tyre you want" - that is a huge challenge to any riders brain, and someone will always be seen as the 'go to' supplier because of recent history or time/resources in the paddock.
IMO the Ducati/Stoner/Bridgestone manoeuvre was a one-off. Times and technology/understanding have moved on. Bradl's brakes and Bautista's forks have shown that data counts and the more riders on your kit the more data you have. If the rider and crew chief in one team cannot guide the R&D then another will. If you only have one, who knows where it leads you?
MGP isn't F1 and degrading tyres doesn't appeal to my engineering instincts at this level of sport.
Austin/Philip Island will still occur. People ask why MM didn't have a problem at COTA and yet Rossi did - just look at their height/weight and tell me that doesn't count.
We have had that debate here before, but it cannot be ignored as it places exceptional demands on tyres - particularly for Rossi who is renowned as a 'front-end' rider. The differences between Honda's and Yam's etc. are relatively much smaller. Smith said he moved his weight back and altered the bike to take load off the front - he 'saved' his tyre but couldn't push for the podium. Redding - another large rider - had the same problems with a different ending.
Electronics will be another factor too IMO. Just because the hardware is standard will not remove the factories ability to throw resources at optimising things and degrading tyres will only play into their hands. (Look at what happened when Ducati 'gave' everyone their Open software - most teams couldn't even gather the resources to look at it, never mind choose which bit suited them).
The 'good old days' of simple solutions are gone - for me that's mostly good. But no system is perfect and I will have huge respect for anyone who can come up with a fair system that doesn't penalise the little guys and Elias', who I would love to see a lot nearer the front than they have been.
I favour two things - more choices (probably more manufacturers too), and tyres that are relatively consistent over a race. I suspect most riders/teams/spectators will not wish to see anyone (whether he be a MM or Elias) have a lead (no-one really runs away these days) and lose it because of some fool of a tyre engineer, or his brief.

Just 3 tyres all hard compound to last on any circuit
Slick - intermediate - wet

all the same at every round.
riders will adapt.

cheap and simple

No, the riders won't adapt. They won't have to. Honda, Yamaha and eventually Ducati will spend crazy money building entire motorcycle chassis designed to eke out a bit more performance from the spec tire. You just shift the cost of looking for more speed from the tire to the manufacturer - and if one manufacturer does it, the others will have to follow suit or fall behind.

If you (Dorna) allow frames to be changed or altered, you (the manufacturer) have a tool - an expensive one - by which to try to get the tire to work better.

Bridgestone must share the data for circuits from the past 2-3 years with Michelin, Dunlop and Pirelli.

All teams will soon be running the same ECU and fairly the same engine spec. The difference will be down to the rider, the chassis and the tyres.

I say let the tire wars begin. This may give the satellite teams/Open teams a shot at winning a race or two.

Hell this may even bring BMW/Kawasaki back to the bid dance.

Bridgestone must share the data for circuits from the past 2-3 years with Michelin, Dunlop and Pirelli.

This is a proposed idea not a Dorna rule.
It's more in line with the spec ECU and the data sharing.

Dorna is about cutting costs, closer racing and the overall show(TV ratings).

Revised tyre wars could lower costs for all teams.
Who knows with the right tyre we may see Andrea Ianonne, Bradley Smith or DePuniet win a race.

I'm sorry, but it is not credible to predict that a return to tire wars would lower costs for any teams beyond the leading factory teams. Currently, tires are free to all teams. With tire wars, the best one could hope for would be a couple of leading teams negotiate contracts for "free tires plus cash sponsorship" and a few leading satellite teams get "free tires." And the rest pay cash for tires, maybe half the grid, and it is the half that can least afford it. Go back to 2007 and see how it worked then.

According to David's article above, Bridgestone's cost to supply is nearly one million Euro per bike, and that is peacetime cost, while tire warfare would cost substantially more.

One thing is very different now from 2007: The commercial market for high performance tires is much smaller now, as sports bike sales have slowed to a trickle. Tire companies may be less interested in MotoGP racing programs because there is less commercial upside than there was back then.

Personally, I'd love to see Ducati's chronic understeer get addressed by customized tire development. Sadly, I do not believe that tire wars are economically viable in today's financial and sponsorship climate.

...and Dorna would devise a system that would mitigate costs. I.e. they probably wouldn't allow every rider to change tires every race.... it would have to be something in the middle of the old tire wars and this single source system now, enabling riders/factories to have choice but not requiring manufacturers to bring a hundred million tires to every race at the odd possibility that every rider will want their tires for every session a over a weekend. It can work, especially for a factory like Ducati. If Ducati could partner up with a tire manufacturer they'd be fine.

Bridgestone is paying for them all. In return for status as single supplier, Bridgestone provides free tires. But, as single supplier, they don't have full costs of "warfare" and they don't get beaten by a rival.

If you can design a way to draw in multiple tire companies that does not require any team to pay for tires *and* does not widen the performance gap between factory teams versus privateers, then you should send your plan to Dorna, or post it here as I'm sure Dorna would learn of it. But the devil is in the details. You can't just say, OK Bridgestone/Michelin/Dunlop will all do something in the middle and make it free to all.

I'd like to see a photo compilation of all the front tires at the end of the race at COTA 2014 in the MotoGP class. Just to see the shape of the front tire on each of the bikes. I'm not trying to bash Bridgestone, I currently have Battlax's on my Supermoto. Argentina should be a hoot. :)

Invest $ + Exposure should help out with the final bills respective of results per manufacturer and word of mouth/exposure etc..

But also a tire for the rider, see Toni Elias.

A fair and balanced tire war would benefit everyone, from the teams to the riders. As far as costs are concerned, I don't see a high increase for the tire manufacturers as they are not supplying every rider on the grid with tires.

Take Ducati for example, it would be cheaper to build a tire around the bike than a bike around the tire.

Enforce rules so that no team or rider gets preferential treatment, much like the rules that were in place in 2007.

The only thing a single tire supplier has done for the grid is widened the gap. How many different winners pre spec tire and how many different winners post spec tire? The answer seems clear enough to me.

Single tire supply is more expensive for manufacturers (e.g. Ducati)
Single tire supply is cheaper for teams (e.g. Pramac)

People saying tire wars would be cheaper for teams are wrong. It would maybe save some development $$$'s for manufacturers, but if the teams have to pay for tires again it would be a big blow to the sport.

Michelin have always said they don't fancy being a sole supplier, even though they are now sole supplier to CEV Moto2 and Formula E. Can Pirelli afford MotoGP as they are involved in F1 and SBK.

My guess would be Dorna forcing SBK to move to production tires and Pirelli taking over MotoGP. Michelin is a maybe but can't see them coming back as sole supplier

but maybe it's time for change. Regardless, I hope the new manufacturer doesn't come with the same inflated ego Pirelli had whe it arrived in F1. The one which made them feel as if they were responsible for shuffling the pecking order instead if simply providing a decent product for a fair playing field.

Tires are pretty much the most important thing about a motorcycle since they are the ones in contact with the tarmac. In an ideal world, the manufacturers would just design their own tires, just as another part of the bike they develop.

I know that's unrealistic because costs would explode, but it's nice to think about.

The fact remains that since the inception of the spec tire the different winners of a GP race has dropped off a cliff. If it is about the show then the spec tire needs to go away.

IMO the only reason fans wanted a spec tire was because a certain Italian wasn't winning.

Actually a certain Italian was winning, 2008 was one of his greatest title victories against all of the young guns in their prime. And without Michelin overnight specials, much to the annoyance to his haters who used this as their prime excuse for his success despite all of the top teams being supplied this rubber.

And again the following year on spec rubber. I still believe that Michelin would be a better sole supplier, but I would prefer competition-with Bridgestone, Pirelli and Dunlop, no restraints on supply. After all it's a competition isn't it? Somehow we've lost this under Hondas rule writing

And what young gun was in his prime in 2008? Lorenzo on Mich tires? Pedro on a weak RCV? Stoner on a POS Ducati? If that is what you consider riders in their prime I have a bunch of stuff to sell you. :)

Regardless of the cost concerns, which can be regulated, in having open competition between tire-makers there are also sporting issues to be addressed with the current system. As a sole supplier to a series a manufacturer may influence the competitive outcomes of races, either willfully or not, by the narrow focus of it's tire make-up. The manufacturer may have marketing goals or commercial agendas which do not favor fair competition or may even pose a danger to riders. In it's task of research and development it may push boundaries too far or into areas which are detrimental to competitive sporting events. Or, it may make mistakes and be slow to rectify them. Open competition naturally is a cure for these types of excesses. There isn't a perfect solution but progress can be made and should be pursued to keep MotoGP as the top class in roadracing.