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GP Week : Issue 193
"The fault lies not in our tyres, dear Brutus, but in ourselves" (with apologies to William Shakespeare) 22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: To Bridgestone and Dunlop, there seemed to be just one culprit for Phillip Island’s tyre debacle. It was the weather. At a place that Barry sheene used to call “gateway to hypothermia”, where icy squalls blow in off the Bass strait with monotonous regularity, it was mild and sunny. At least when it mattered ... though one of the famous soakers did arrive halfway through the final lap of the main race. A rise in average temperatures of around 10 degrees was exceeded in the race, when ambient temperature was 28 degrees Celsius, from 15 last year, and track temperature 34 against 26. It ruined everything. With higher- grip tar and higher corner speeds (all records were smashed on the brand new surface), the tyres got cooked until they rose and then collapsed like a badly baked soufflé. Those outside the ring of rubber blamed the tyre companies instead. The track had been resurfaced ten months previously, the (Dorna-run) World Superbikes had encountered major tyre problems with their Pirellis back in February, and there’d been most of a season’s worth of domestic racing including Superbikes on control Dunlops. Yet for all the time and all the available information, and despite each company bringing extra-hard compounds and in Dunlop’s case a purpose-built new dual-compound rear, neither MotoGP nor Moto2 tyres were able to do the distance. Or in Bridgestone’s case, even half the distance. Race Director Mike Webb spoke of “total incompetence – beyond belief”; while Dorna questioned why the tyre companies had not pre-tested. Which was rather a good question. Simply answered. Back in the days of the tyre wars the research carried out by Bridgestone and Michelin was very thorough, including taking plaster-casts of the surface of upcoming tracks. Since Bridgestone took over as sole suppliers from 2009, and following the first new generation of long-lasting one-for-all tyres, development has been glacial. Amply demonstrated this year, when the hard-option rear has been basically unusable at pretty much every track, blowing a hole in the intention of the rule that specifies there should be two options to choose from. Should have said “two usable options” . This was clear from the start, but it took until round 13 at Misano in mid-September for Bridgestone to come up with an alternative at post-race tests. Riders loved it. Yes please, they said. No, said Bridgestone. You’ll have to wait ... until, possibly, the last round in Valencia. Who knows but that this tyre, had it been rushed into production, might not have saved the day in Australia? It looks very much like complacency. But is it fair for Dorna to divert the blame in this way? It is certainly within their power to command tyre tests at new circuits, and they say they will now do so. But since they now run World Superbikes they had a better view than anybody of the havoc that the new tarmac wrought on the rubber. Did this not ring any alarm bells? The deeper truth puts the blame directly on Dorna chief Carmelo Ezpeleta, for it was he who insisted on a control- tyre programme in the first place, and all the bad things that have happened since (like too many cold-tyre crashes, and the unfortunate effect on Ducati when Bridgestone stopped tailor-making tyres for their quirky bike. And the shaming shambles in Australia) is just another consequence of that decision. TYRED AND EMOTIONAL OPINION OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor