Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP's tyre-gate

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


MotoGP's tyre-gate

Racing is mostly about self-interest. It can be no other way. And even though the cliché that says nice guys don’t win is incorrect, the nice guys who do succeed only do so by morphing into ruthless assassins the moment they start thinking about racing, let alone actually going racing.

But even in this most vicious of sports there are times when self-interest needs to be overruled for the general good.

A couple of months ago Nicky Hayden came up with a good idea. He realised there’s an inherent problem in the qualifying one/qualifying two format; that the two riders who top Q1 often can’t take any advantage of their promotion to Q2 because they’ve already used all their soft tyres. So what’s the point of even taking part in Q2? He therefore came up with a suggestion: that Q1-to-Q2 qualifiers should each be given an extra rear tyre.

Hayden’s suggestion makes perfect sense. If a rider has to spend an extra 15 minutes on track, he deserves an extra rear because MotoGP’s tyre allocation is super tight as it is. When the proposal was put before the Grand Prix Commission – the four-part body that governs MotoGP – Dorna, the FIM and teams’ association IRTA all agreed that Hayden’s idea should be written into the MotoGP regulations.

But the fourth component of the GPC – the Motorcycle Sports Manufacturers’ Association (currently Ducati, Honda and Yamaha) – rejected the proposal. So Q1-to-Q2 riders must continue the charade of taking part in Q2, despite the fact that they’ve invariably got very little chance of actually improving on their grid positions.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Comments

Don't mention the gorilla in the room

That is almost funny. I have an idea to put on the table with Nicky's:
Forthwith all teams can use any option tyre.

All this garbage about the "open" class enjoying the advantage of a "super soft" tyre is just breathtakingly stupid. Oh I'm sorry did I miss something? When was the last time a "super soft" tyre made it to the podium? I seem to recall this tyre was introduced for the sole purpose of assisting the underpowered CRT slugs and, conveniently for the MSMA, it is still there. What nobody talks about is that the open class bikes & Ducati, cannot use the hardest option. By all means tell me how wrong I am.

What happens at these press conferences? If you rattle a few cages you obviously lose your press pass.

Total votes: 24

Sub-classes inside sub-classes inside convoluted rule books

Something you are forgetting is that Ducati is the ONLY open team that would be able to take advantage of the harder option tire. As the prior years CRT teams proved their bikes were not able to get enough heat into the harder option tires for them to be effective. This is the same reason the Ducati updated software was not allowed this year, because Ducati would be the only open team with the resources to use it effectively. Ducati is the ONLY open team claiming that the harder option would be helpful to them in races.

What you are suggesting is that Ducati be allowed to race under open rules (softer qualifying tire, possible Ducaiti updated software, Engine upgrades etc), BUT when they feel its in their best interest us the Factory option Harder tire? While the other open teams are given a tire (and possible software) that they don't have the ability to use effectively. Sounds a bit like a Ducati-subclass inside a Open Rules-subclass in an already convoluted MotoGP rule book.

Total votes: 21

You're not paying attention

You're not paying attention it seems. AE41 & Forward Facing have been complaining bitterly about the handicap of not having access to the hardest rear tyre. Remember this is a team running the Dorna electronics suite which doesn't manage tyre wear as well a s the factory systems so they are in real need of the harder option as a choice. Just look through the video interviews from almost every race on the MotoGP website to see AE41's opinion on tyres.

Ducati were forced into trying to enter as open class bikes by the ridiculous rules currently in place for the factory entries. The factory rules are so restrictive it means that redesign or development of their bikes is impossible during the season. For the rules to stymie design progress of the factory most in need of some catch-up is anti-competitive & not in the interest of MotoGP as a sport. Add to the mix the move to the Dorna electronics in the near future their choice was inevitable, if brave. Sadly Yamaha lacked the balls to follow suit, even though JL99 seemed interested. With two of the three MSMA members as open bikes Honda would have to back down & follow suit with all bikes then being in the one class. Now Yamaha pay the price with being unable to develop their bike to bridge the gap to the factory Honda.

Total votes: 25

I'd bet anything that

I'd bet anything that Nakamoto was the GP boss who cried and whined about Aleix @ Qatar.

Total votes: 25

My thoughts exactly

Before Qatar, I didn't even realize that the "Open"-Teams cannot use the hard tire. Because nobody had really talked about it. It was all about the super soft and how it allegedly had a lot of potential. And of course it has - in FP and QP. But nobody ever talks about how stupid of an idea it is in the first place to have two different tire allocations for one grid.

If the best race tire is anything other than the middle compound, one of the two "groups" of the grid will not have access to it. Doesn't make sense neither for the factory teams nor for the Open-entries.

Total votes: 24

Save something for the raceday

It seems that some of the factory big boys are keen on winning the championship even before the lights go out on raceday. From what I read, they put up a fight whenever they see a proposal suggesting anything remotely like equal footing. Come on guys, for the sake of interesting racing, be the bigger men and yield a little. More eyeballs is good for the industry too.

Total votes: 15

Greed

The one Human trait you will never be able to overcome.

I understand them wanting to win at all cost but Honda does their image no service. Doesn't help that their street lineup is in shambles and their bikes just sit on the showrooms here in the US.

Total votes: 15

Yeah, who's buying these things?

Responding to your comment that their street lineup is in shambles, and their bikes just sit on the showroom floors in the US. That's somewhat how I see it as well. I don't ride on the street, but I have a track bike and a dirt bike, so I'm more familiar with what's going on in those communities here in the Pacific Northwest.

At the track, I don't know anyone who's clamoring for a new Honda. All of the excitement is around European offerings and Yamahas. Suzuki still kills it with the Icon-geared (if at all) street squid crowd, but they're losing some ground there.

Honda does alright offroad. I see plenty of CRFs at the track and on the trails, but KTM is eating their lunch in our region.

On the street, it seems it's all Yamaha and European marques. The FZ-07 and FZ-09 both hit it right out of the park for Yamaha, and their year-on sales increase shows it. Ducati seems to have no problems moving Panagales, and RSV4 and S1000RRs are still "hot" bikes.

So it's funny that Honda is still #2 in this country in sales (although FAR behind HD, which, amazingly, still has 65% of the US market--seriously, having tried my dad's for a day, I just don't get why anyone would want to ride one of those things...). Apparently their weird NC700 has a strong cult following and has sold extremely well. I guess their 650F and 500F also sell alright (although why anyone would choose either over an FZ-07 is beyond me). And they must sell a crapload of Goldwings or something.

Full disclosure: I actually like Honda bikes. 75% of the street/track bikes I've owned have been Hondas, and my current track bike is an '08 600RR. I think the only thing stopping the Fireblade from being the best liter class bike on the market is that Honda always seems to be ten years behind in the electronics/slipper clutch/etc. department, yet they ask the same kind of money. It's still one of the lightest big bore bikes you can buy, and their bikes handle and stop quite well out of the box (why I chose one as my track bike, having bought an '07 previously for my wife and really enjoyed the motor/handling).

I think perhaps where Honda has failed is in overpromising and underdelivering. We heard about the V5 superbike for years and kept getting the same old Fireblade. The '08 really was an amazing upgrade in terms of low weight and handling, but everyone really wanted a V5 or V4. Same thing happening again lately. More press releases from Honda about an upcoming V4 superbike available to the public. Leaked patent drawings of a 90 degree V4 in a CBR chassis to get people excited, keeping their wallets in their pockets waiting for the release. Instead we keep getting BNG on both the Fireblade and 600, and the last rumor I head was that any forthcoming V4 would be a track only homologation special and cost six figures?

So the only thing I can think is that where Honda is somewhat failing is in the sportbike segment that most here care most about. They must be doing something right selling all those quirky bikes in other segments, as their numbers are quite decent. And they're still the #1 selling motorcycle manufacturer on the planet, although something like 80% of their sales are in Asia.

Total votes: 8

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