Single Tire Rule To Be Announced At Motegi?
A year on, and the more that things change, the more they stay the same, at least in MotoGP land. Paolo Scalera is reporting that once again, Dorna are threatening to impose a single tire rule at a meeting to be held at the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.
The problem, according to Dorna, is one of safety. The competition between Bridgestone and Michelin has reached such a peak that corner speeds are increasing almost month by month, and with them, the speeds at which riders are crashing. The only way to reduce corner speeds, or at least stop them from increasing, is to put an end to the competition between tire brands.
The general assumption is that any single tire contract will be awarded to Bridgestone, but Ezpeleta denied this. The contract to supply tires for the series will be opened up for general bidding, with the main stipulation being that all teams will have access to the same tires, and tires will be supplied to the teams for free.
But much to the dismay of Bridgestone's current crop of riders, Bridgestone have repeatedly stated that they have no real interest in being the single supplier for MotoGP. The Japanese tire maker see little advantage in producing tires in a series with no competition, and one which would cost them significantly more money without aiding tire development. Michelin would be the obvious candidate for the role, having currently been forced out of most other motorcycle racing series by the imposition of a single tire rule there.
What's more, the motorcycle manufacturers are opposed to the switch as well. For them, MotoGP is a technology showcase, a chance to demonstrate their engineering prowess, and hopefully, superiority. For the promotor, Dorna, MotoGP is an entertainment product, a way of generating income by stimulating public interest. In short, the manufacturers want the races decided by tens of seconds, while Dorna wants the races decided by tenths of seconds.
Worse could be to come for the manufacturers, as Dorna is also rumored to be ready to submit proposals to ban the use of electronic suspension, and limit the development of electronics used in engine management systems. Since much of modern engine development for street use revolves around electronics, this would render MotoGP even less useful as a technology showcase, and is likely to hasten the day that the World Superbike machines - essentially hopped-up street bikes - start outperforming the pure racing prototypes which the FIM's MotoGP regulations demand.
Any moves to adopt a single tire and to limit electronics would be likely to find favor among a sizable chunk of MotoGP's fan base. But whether these moves would help achieve the closer and fairer racing the fans desire is questionable.
In the case of a single tire rule, we need only look at a leading Superbike series. In theory, everyone is eligible to receive the same tires, but according to anonymous sources in the series' paddock - anonymous, because of the reputed 6 figure fine hanging over the heads of anyone making negative remarks about the spec tires - sometimes, tires returned after a race unused are not destroyed, but taken out of the tire warmers, thrown in the back of the truck, and reused again at the next race meeting, much of their grip gone from being heat-cycled. According to those same anonymous sources, these essentially junk tires somehow never end up fitted to the teams which win week in, week out, but turn up surprisingly often on second-tier bikes.
Of course, this is all just an anonymous rumor, with no one willing to break cover and make these claims openly, and so their veracity has to open to question at the very least. But in the light of a series which costs the tire maker money, and is sure to see the podium all wearing caps bearing the name of the tire maker, regardless of the way tires are distributed, the pressure to cut costs must be considerable. And reusing tires is potentially a way of saving money.
As for controlling electronics, the lessons of the Yoshimura Suzuki team in the AMA series are clear. The AMA tried to outlaw electronic traction control, and did so by banning front wheel speed sensors. While other teams struggled to find a way round the rules, Yoshi ran away with the series using cleverly designed electronics from Bazzaz performance, which replaced the measurement of speed sensors with well-crafted algorithms. The outcome was the same: traction control in clear violation of the spirit of the rules, while passing every single inspection they were subject to, as they operated clearly within the confines of the letter of the rules.
Anyone who has spent any time working with programmable electronic systems, and especially with the people who program them, has learnt one lesson very early on. Any system is capable of being hacked, of being twisted and bent in such a way as to do the programmer's bidding, rather than the bidding of the person who designed it. Any attempt by an organization whose primary task is organizing and promoting motorcycle races to impose rules which cannot be bent, at the very least, is doomed to failure. After all, if Microsoft, IBM, NASA, and every single banking organization around the world are incapable of building a system which can't be hacked, what makes you think that Dorna will do any better?