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GP Week : Issue 201
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: It wasn’t quite a bolt from the blue. Rumours had started at round two in Texas back in mid-April, that Michelin was making plans to return to MotoGP. It raised hopes of a return to the years of the tyre- wars – several best-ever laps set on then- legal qualifying tyres in 2008 have yet to be beaten. Turned out quite different. Rather than an escape from the cheaper but deadening hand of control tyres, it was something much worse. A new and untried tyre. Because Bridgestone, exclusive MotoGP suppliers since 2009, announced on the eve of the Spanish GP that they’d had enough. Rather than a third renewal of the three-year contract, instead they will supply tyres for 2015 only. Dorna directly announced a tender for replacement, with a deadline of a mere three weeks; a clear indication that talks with tyre companies were already well advanced. Now the Michelin rumours made a new kind of sense. Dunlop, control tyre suppliers for Motos 2 and 3, were ready to tender; but paddock gossip was certain that the way had already been paved for the return of the once all-conquering Michies. The French company had spurned the indignity of competing unopposed back in 2008; changing times had clearly engendered a change of heart. Apart from the obvious function of keeping the rims off the road, tyres serve a special purpose in MotoGP: they take the blame. For everything. As a result, the role of control tyres supplier carries with it an inevitable and endless stream of complaint from riders, crew chiefs and chassis designers. Bridgestone had countered it with marketing campaigns counting the ever- increasing number of consecutive MotoGP victories, but the taste remained. The riders were taken by surprise by the news, and it triggered a new reaction. It unearthed an admittedly sometimes grudging respect and even affection for the Bridgestones. None could forget the bad patch in 2011, when unpredictable warm-up performance triggered a rash of out-lap or first-lap highsides and consequent injuries. They’d had to wait, but Bridgestone had fixed it – and aside from the blip in Australia last year (tyres that couldn’t go even half the distance on the new Phillip Island surface), there was a sort of grumbling admiration for the overall achievement. Current one-for-all Bridgestones warm up well, grip predictably, and last for ages (often the closing laps are the fastest). Who would want to change now? The overwhelming emotion, however, was apprehension. It took Bridgestone five years to go from class newcomers in 2002 to title-winners in 2007; to become tyres of choice and then compulsion soon thereafter. There were some very scary moments along the way – including disintegration for Shinya Nakano at 200-odd mph at Mugello. Michelin admittedly have the experience of 24 consecutive world titles, but all the same the figures for the technical equations have changed more than somewhat in what will be seven years of absence. Riders fear the return of the high-side. It will be a regretful farewell to the Bridgestones. Sayonara, and thanks. Your tyres were unfailingly rubbery. TYRED ... OUT OPINION OPINION MotoGP MICHAEL SCOTT