MotoGP goes single-tyre for 2009.
Sunday, 28th September 2008
The MotoGP World Championship will become a single tyre brand series from the 2009 season, it was announced at Motegi on Sunday morning.
The rule - which mirrors that of the World Superbike Championship and Formula One World Championship - came close to being introduced for 2008, after new tyre regulations introduced at the start of last season saw a series of races where Bridgestone (and occasionally Michelin) held a clear performance advantage.
Despite a promising start to this season, Michelin once again struck severe problems due to unsuitable tyres - resulting in cut slicks being seen in dry morning practice at Laguna Seca, whilst world champions Jorge Lorenzo and James Toseland were unable to lap inside the 107% qualifying time next time out at a wet Brno.
Dani Pedrosa, who had led the world championship for Michelin until he fell from the lead of a wet German Grand Prix on July 13, then deflated the once all-conquering French brand further when he made a shock switch to Bridgestones after August's San Marino Grand Prix.
It is for competitive reasons that the majority of MotoGP riders support the introduction of a one-tyre rule - despite Bridgestone and Michelin being strongly opposed to it - but improving competition is not why the new rule has been introduced.
Instead Michelin, Bridgestone - or perhaps even both - will be forced out of the MotoGP paddock 'for safety and cost reasons'.
"For safety and cost reasons, the Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Claude Danis (FIM), Hervé Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA), in the presence of Mr. Paul Butler (Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held today at the circuit of Motegi, unanimously decided to introduce the following change to the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations," read a statement from the FIM.
"The Grand Prix Commission has decided unanimously that there will be a single tyre supplier for the MotoGP class from 2009. Proposals to supply the tyres must be handed to the FIM and Dorna by October 3rd at the latest. The final decision will be announced by the GP Commission by October 18th at the latest."
Whilst it can be argued that an end to tyre competition will slow down development, might the winner of the new MotoGP tyre contract be requested to limit side grip in order to meet such safety obligations?
Despite a public lack of enthusiasm for the rule, it is presumed that Bridgestone, currently on course for its second MotoGP title in succession, will win the tyre contract, especially since the top three riders in the championship - Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Pedrosa - are all using Bridgestone tyres and have openly criticised Michelin in the past.
Pedrosa's mid-season move left his Repsol Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden and Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo as the only factory riders still using Michelin tyres, and meant the full time 18-rider grid is divided 12-6 in favour of Bridgestone.