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Old 12-04-2013, 10:13 PM   #1
afmotorsports
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Some of you may have read this article last year in Cycle World but I bet most of you haven't or at least you forgot about it. Read it real quick before you move on to my comments:

http://www.cycleworld.com/2012/01/24...rrents-racing/

So now that you've hopefully read the article, I will say that it's no big secret that I absolutely detest spec tires and most people who know me have heard me say that more than once. Now I know that Soriano will probably lose his freakin mind again over my "shitty tires" - I'm guessing Bib must've violated his mother and turned her brown eye blue - but this has nothing to do with Michelin's exit from MotoGP, I'm not employed by Michelin (never have been) and they certainly don't call to get my opinion on corporate decisions. This is just the view of a longtime roadracing fan who maybe has a little more insight into what's going on in the background than the average race fan.

As the article suggests, it's common knowledge that Edwards and Rossi were on completely different Michelin rubber compounds and construction. At one point I jokingly suggested to someone about grabbing some of Rossi's takeoffs for AFM club racers and was promptly informed that a club racer would just fall down, in fact quite a few MotoGP racers at that time would probably fall down too or at least hate the tires. Different riders and different motorcycles sometimes like very different tires. What may not be such common knowledge - although it should be quite apparent from the results - is that spec tires essentially killed the MotoGP career of Tony Elias who also required a very, very different tire than most other riders and spec tires weren't even close to what he required (in part due to his very unique riding style).

Let's use a little analogy with runners and their running shoes. The average men's shoe size in the US is supposed to be 10.5 so let's imagine that before a race everybody is handed a brand new pair of (spec) size 10.5 shoes. A significant percentage of the runners will be fine with that - realistically even the guys with size 10 or 11 feet will manage relatively fine in a size 10.5 shoe. So what happens to the guys with size 9 feet or size 12 feet? They're screwed!

My initial objection to spec tires was that it essentially became the shameless theft of all the riders tire sponsors by the race promoter (Dorna, WSBK owners, DMG) because all these 'spec' deals require the manufacturer to write a seven or eight figure check for that right to be the spec tire provider and the teams were then required to buy every single tire instead of getting huge free tire allocations and/or heavily discounted tires. Dorna and DMG are laughing all the way to the bank, the riders get a hefty tire bill at the end of every race weekend.

However, as time passed it also became apparent that some riders and some bikes worked better with the spec tires than others. When Stoner won the championship on a Ducati in 2007, Bridgestone was building special tires for him and for the bike. They all worked hard and they had great success. As soon as Bridgestone became the spec tire, they also announced that they would not be supplying the same tires as the ones they had when they were competing with other manufacturers (Michelin). In addition, they also announced that in 2013 they would be building a different type of tire than in previous years. So what does all that mean? Well, going back to the running shoes analogy, they showed up with size 10.5 shoes. And then they maybe changed them to size 11.5 or some other size. If Bridgestone was allowed to build specific tires for a specific bike/rider combination, there's no doubt in my mind that they have the ability to do so and it's highly unlikely those tires would be anything like the spec tires.

So let's think about Ducati, a manufacturer who initially brought success to Bridgestone with Stoner winning the championship in 2007. Instead of beating the living crap out of Ducati for the motorcycle they built, has anyone considered the fact that spec tires just aren't working for them? Could it be that Ducati is the kid with size 13 feet who just got handed size 10.5 shoes right before running a race? Their bikes really aren't down on power, they just don't handle like the Honda or the Yamaha. Or is it maybe that the bikes of the two Japanese manufacturers just happen to jibe better with the spec tires?

And what about the riders? My dislike of Rossi was cemented with the firing of Burgess but putting that aside, how is it that Lorenzo was always way ahead of Rossi and in fact Lorenzo won the most races in 2013 while Rossi generally struggled in about 4th place. Same bike, same tires... so is it possible that the spec tires work better for Lorenzo's style than Rossi's style?? Going back to what I know, Rossi's tires were relatively stiff and fairly hard, so what if the spec tires were built to satisfy Rossi more than the rest of the grid? We will never know that answer but is it really that hard to imagine that a few of those tenths between Rossi and Lorenzo's laptimes were due to tires?

The trend in all sorts of racing throughout the world is to go to spec tires and spec everything. Personally I can't stand it but I also know most of them are trying to copy the NASCRAP model and line up as many 'official sponsors' of the series as they possibly can and collect as many checks from them as they possibly can. DMG, Dorna, etc., they're all laughing all the way to the bank as they're now cashing checks that used to go to marketing budgets and rider/team support. It not only hurts the riders/teams but I think it also hurts the quality of the racing (at least for me, maybe others too). In principle, the idea of 'parity' in equipment sounds attractive but in reality all these spec products (tires in particular!) seem to favor certain bikes and certain riders, while others are basically screwed. Is the Ducati really such a lousy motorcycle and is Rossi really that much slower than Lorenzo on essentially identical Yamaha factory bikes? I'm not so sure but I have my suspicions about the effect of one-size-fits-all spec tires for both riders and motorcycles.
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Old 12-05-2013, 12:46 AM   #2
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Well written Alex, I remember having this exact conversarion with you back a few years ago when I was working on your boat. I love the shoe analogy because my wife runs a lot and only can run in addidas shoes. me, I dont run worth a dam but addidas doesn't fit me at all. I can only imagine if I was from Nigeria and ran for a living. These riders should have exactly what they want, not what the series wants. the riders make the series and at this high level if x wants a pirelli and z wants a Mich, they should be able to have it and not have to change their riding style or fell just because of a rubber object they are riding on. Rossi has his special 1 off merch crazy light wheels, does everybody get that, no. Racing is not equal, race fuel has proven that and I only hope the whole NASCAR Sunoco deal doesn't influence AMA because I've never pulled into a Sunoco station and filled up on high octane NASCAR grade race fuel. Anyhow, I'm agreeing with you Alex and tires are 1 thing on a bike that should be able to be changed just like wheels, pads, rotors, air filters, etc. plus it makes the manufactures build better products because competition is a natural event and it forces them too. Does Dunlop make the best tires because Hayes runs them and wins, I don't think so, I think he will win riding on bare rims. Spec is crap, bring back the good old days of ERION Honda, Attack Kawi, Vesrah Suzuki, etc
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Old 12-05-2013, 01:03 AM   #3
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i dislike spec tires as well. you should design a tire around the motorcycle, not a motorcycle around a tire.

but having a spec tire levels the playing field between the riders and tips the scales between the factory teams and the others. its a double edged sword. there is no way that you can make everyone happy. its just not possible. Dorna is a business. businesses are meant to make money. is it better to cater to the whims of the riders, or facilitate a change that the companies that pour the most money into the sport want?

personally, i think bridgestone had royally fucked up in phillips island and shouldnt be allowed back next year as the spec tire for the series, but as you said, they have the biggest checkbook of all the rubber makers. they should switch tire companies every year
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Old 12-05-2013, 01:04 AM   #4
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Old 12-05-2013, 05:41 AM   #5
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Great read!

Being a product of the 80's race scene, the present state of tires within racing is much different than those days gone by. And on occasion getting to experience tires that were not on the public sell list really opened my eyes up as to what a tire can do, or how important it can be for your results.
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Old 12-05-2013, 06:38 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by kelsodeez View Post
...but having a spec tire levels the playing field between the riders and tips the scales between the factory teams and the others.
That is indeed the 'sales pitch' for spec tires but ask yourself, has that really materialized and has MotoGP racing really changed for the better with spec tires? I think the results suggest otherwise. The same can be said for DMG. And yes, I am aware of the fact that quite a few people will point to WSBK as some sort of 'success story' for spec tires but I really think there are some serious flaws in their logic and interpretation of statistics - the sample size is too small and the time frame is not adequate. It's sort of like trying to argue for or against global warming by analyzing the weather next Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

Going back to the idea of "leveling the playing field between factory teams and others"... well, that's never going to be the case because we all know the factory teams select the top riders. The guy running around in 16th place may not have all the cutting edge resources of the top 5 riders but the main reason those resources aren't available to him is the fact that he's running around in 16th place. In my 18 seasons of roadracing (AFM, AMA Pro, Formula USA, WERA, etc.) I can remember the early years when I was a delusional young rider, thinking 'oh man, if I could only get my hands on one of those factory bikes, I COULD BE A CONTENDER!!' I laugh now because I know damn well it wasn't so much the bike as the fact that I'm a goddam giant and I ran out of talent long before the bike really held me back from 'world domination'. Now look at MotoGP, DMG or WSBK, has there really been a rider who was sucking ass in 16th place and all of the sudden got on the podium when the spec tires were introduced? I don't think so. He's still in 16th place, still almost a lap down on the leaders. Nothing really changed except even that guy's tire bill went up and he might even hate the spec tires compared to the tires he used to choose.

One of the most epic battles in roadracing was Edwards vs Bayliss at Imola in 2002. I happen to know that season was the first time that the really low tire pressure tires became common (at least for WSBK) because I couldn't believe the psi numbers I was hearing! I also know that Edwards and Bayliss were not on the exact same Michelins, they had different preferences. Would anyone argue that wasn't some of the best racing we've ever seen? However, it's also true that whoever was running in 16th that year probably didn't get the same tires and same attention as Edwards and Bayliss. Did that really hold back the rider in 16th place from coming up to battle with Edwards and Bayliss? No freakin way!

Again, the 'sales pitch' for spec tires was always that it's some sort of 'great equalizer' but when you really sit down and look at the results, it really hasn't been a factor in the quality of the racing and in fact it's been quite detrimental to some of the bikes (Ducati in MotoGP?) and definitely some of the riders (Elias for sure, possibly Rossi).

Quote:
Originally Posted by kelsodeez
personally, i think bridgestone had royally fucked up in phillips island and shouldnt be allowed back next year as the spec tire for the series...
That's actually not a fair statement and here's why: Phillip Island was freshly repaved for the 2013 MotoGP race but did you know that no MotoGP bike was allowed to test at that track prior to arriving there? For tire companies that are producing a tire for that level of machine - with a contact patch about the size of a credit card! - that scenario is a complete nightmare. Bridgestone was essentially asked to guess what would work on a new surface where they had exactly zero experience. If I was the head of Bridgestone who already had to write a substantial check for the right to be the spec tire in order to showcase my brand, I would be absolutely furious with Dorna. Did you guys happen to catch the news after that race and the fact that they will now allow some limited testing prior to going to a new racetrack? That Phillip Island fiasco was a manufactured disaster and Dorna is far more responsible for it than Bridgestone.

Last edited by afmotorsports; 12-05-2013 at 06:47 AM.. Reason: typo
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Old 12-05-2013, 07:54 AM   #7
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Old 12-05-2013, 08:22 AM   #8
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Good points.
But if I recall, certain riders that had specific tires made for them, were evidently dominant and I'm sure alot of fellow riders and fans alike, thought it was unfair. I remember fans clamoring something in the lines of the "spec tire" to (so-called) even the field.

No one will ever be satisfied, even Dorna and Co (for monetary purposes)
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Old 12-05-2013, 08:23 AM   #9
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Old 12-05-2013, 08:27 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by afmotorsports View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by kelsodeez View Post
personally, i think bridgestone had royally fucked up in phillips island and shouldnt be allowed back next year as the spec tire for the series, but as you said, they have the biggest checkbook of all the rubber makers. they should switch tire companies every year
That is indeed the 'sales pitch' for spec tires but ask yourself, has that really materialized and has MotoGP racing really changed for the better with spec tires? I think the results suggest otherwise....

That's actually not a fair statement and here's why: Phillip Island was freshly repaved for the 2013 MotoGP race but did you know that no MotoGP bike was allowed to test at that track prior to arriving there? For tire companies that are producing a tire for that level of machine - with a contact patch about the size of a credit card! - that scenario is a complete nightmare. Bridgestone was essentially asked to guess what would work on a new surface where they had exactly zero experience. If I was the head of Bridgestone who already had to write a substantial check for the right to be the spec tire in order to showcase my brand, I would be absolutely furious with Dorna. Did you guys happen to catch the news after that race and the fact that they will now allow some limited testing prior to going to a new racetrack? That Phillip Island fiasco was a manufactured disaster and Dorna is far more responsible for it than Bridgestone.
This is very much it. I worked with a company one year and I was asked to try and predict what compounds I would need in advance of the season. There was one track I had not run and so I looked at the layout, considered what some of the other brands ran and took a guess. That guess didn't pan out so well.

So I am sure after their PI experience, that Bridgestone and Dorna had a meeting and sought solutions, as the show took on many dramas that weekend, but one of them was tightening of the points chase, so it actually worked in their favor as a form of deflection. Had Marquez already locked the Championship, it would have been an international marketing nightmare for both.

But I concur, Bridgestone could not be asked to hold the lions share of blame on this one. They took an educated guess and it didn't pan out.
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Old 12-05-2013, 08:34 AM   #11
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i dislike spec tires as well. you should design a tire around the motorcycle, not a motorcycle around a tire.
I think that's the problem Ducati and others are having. The reality is quite the opposite. Grip is too important in motorcycle racing. All the frame technology in the world wont help a manufacturer if the handling translates poorly through the tire. Yamaha (chatter) and Honda (chatter) both learned the lesson that the frame must work in harmony with the tire. Especially when the tire is spec. I firmly believe that Ducati got lucky with the combination of bridgestone, stoner and the trellis frame. Once the Bridgestone changed, it was Stoner's skill that rode around the problem and Ducati's hubris which avoided addressing the problem. Hubris appears to be very very prominent in Bologna.
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Old 12-05-2013, 08:57 AM   #12
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Keep in mind that even in the spec tires, there are tires for the Prototypes and the rest of the field as the rest of the field typically cannot utilize the alien tyres.
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Old 12-05-2013, 09:29 AM   #13
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Bridgestone blatantly said last or this year that they could fix Duc's front end woes in 2 weeks with a new front tire.

Jorge complained about the M1's lack of braking stability almost as much as Rossi. so any tire changes that would help that issue would also benefit Jorge. Rossi wouldn't really close the gap to Jorge w/ a front tire that suited him more, but maybe he'd be more competitive w/ the Hondas (also doubtful since they love front end stability). a tire that suits Rossi and not Jorge does not exist.

Bridgestone changed the front tire quite a bit in the past 2 years. when Stoner was riding the most recent one, he bitched and moaned that it was terribly soft and everyone was going to hate it... but its not like he went slower. the order of things doesn't change all that much, esp if your factory can make a bike to suit the tires. obviously, HRC is the best at that, Yamaha has been a little deficient, and Ducati sucks. they all gotta play by the rules and have had ample time to produce something. if MotoGP changed to Pirellis next year, the only surprising thing about the finishing order or time gaps during races would be how little it actually changed.
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Old 12-05-2013, 11:09 AM   #14
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I agree with what Alex said, Spec tires are not the all equal playing field that many people think. Some riders get prototypes, some riders weigh 150lbs, some have more HP and tuning R&D. A tire is not going to keep everything the same. Racing is trying to beat another rider and teams will figure out just how to do that and stay within the rules. Thats racing and thats why its competition. When I worked at a local dealership I cant remember seeing how many people would come into asking just for Dunlop Q2 tires because thats what AMA guys ran. Even people commuting and never going in the hills. Spec tires get a huge $$ check to the racing series, then they sell tires and the teams have a huge tires bill (low funded teams and stuck with running used tires to save $), customers watching the series see Q2 or whatever everywhere and go in and buy them the next time they need rubber.
It all goes back to the Shoe analogy Alex mentioned. My example of it is, If you run on the Kenyan olympic running team you could run barefooted and win, and if you were me and over weight you would need to run in those Sketchers Shape Up shoes that are supposed to shape your ass into a solid piece of stud muffin gold!
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Old 12-05-2013, 11:10 AM   #15
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Yes, you are right, it's just marketing. That's the real sport! They're doing it in NASCAR, they're doing it in the NFL. Why not motoGP? It's just business people doing what they do. They are just manipulating their product to appeal to the largest demographic possible at the expense of a few purists like yourselves.
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