1 May 2014
Spain MotoGP: Rossi: Bridgestone exit ‘bad news’ for MotoGP
“Our sport will change very much in 2016” - Valentino Rossi.
Updated with quotes and opinions from other riders.
As the MotoGP paddock arrived in Jerez for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix the main talking point was Bridgestone's decision to quit as excusive tyre supplier.
The Japanese company, which became the first ever official tyre supplier in 2009, announced on Thursday morning that it will hand over the control tyre role at the end of next season.
Bridgestone's replacement is yet to be named, with a new tender application process concluding on May 22.
“Big surprise. Sincerely, personally speaking, I'm very sad,” said Valentino Rossi, who spent his first eight seasons in 500cc/MotoGP on Michelin tyres before engineering a change to Bridgestone one year before the single tyre rule came into effect.
“For me I think it is bad news because - okay the riders all fight to have the best tyres for them [personally] - but I think the quality of the Bridgestones is very, very high and I don't know if another supplier can arrive at the same level.”
Rossi added: “I'm a little bit worried. Because the last time I used a MotoGP bike without Bridgestone tyres was in 2007 and when I switched and I tried the Bridgestones it was a huge step. A big difference. So for this reason I think that for other manufacturers it will be difficult to arrive at the same level as Bridgestone.”
But with change now certain to occur, the seven time MotoGP champion hoped that a better solution could be found to help avoid a tyre favouring certain machines.
“It is difficult to have the same tyre working well with different bikes, usually one tyre has some advantage for one bike and disadvantage for another bike,” said the Italian. “So maybe from this point of view we can make it better [in future] but I think the lap time that we see now and the rhythm that we see in the races with some other tyres will be more hard to match.”
The change of tyres will also coincide with the introduction of a single ECU system, hardware and software.
“Our sport will change very much in 2016. It looks like less electronics on the bike and if you change the tyres it means that the bike has to change a lot, especially the riding style,” Rossi warned.
The announcement of a new tender process indicates a continuation of the single tyre system, but Rossi believes the door is not yet completely closed on a return to tyre competition.
“I think [tyre supply] can be open no? It is not decided yet if there will be one supplier or more. I was very positive about one tyre supplier at the beginning, but experience over the years is that the one supplier has some things good but also some things bad. So also open [tyre choice] would be interesting I think.”
Rossi's Movistar Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo spent his debut MotoGP season with Michelin before moving to Bridgestone at the start of the single tyre era.
“I think the Bridgestone tyres, especially the front one, has enormous performance. From my switch from Michelin to Bridgestone I just felt from the beginning that the front tyre was unbelievable,” said Lorenzo.
While instantly impressed by the front tyre, Lorenzo was one of the many victims of the poor warm-up characteristics of the era single tyre rears
“We had some problems to warm up the tyres in the first laps. Bridgestone worked really hard and I was really happy with the work they did to solve this problem because I, like a lot of riders, had many crashes and a lot of injuries.”
A critic of this year's revised heat resistant rears, Lorenzo added that he hopes a future supplier: “Will listen to the riders and have a lot of will to make the tyres that we want.”
Being a control tyre supplier presents an impossible task in terms of keeping all riders and teams happy, a point underlined by Ducati's Cal Crutchlow.
“I think Bridgestone have done a great job. It's difficult when you have all of us riders always complaining and always on different machines saying we want more. The tyre is the only thing that holds you to the ground and all the bikes react differently,” commented the Englishman.
“If I had one thing that I thought could help for the future it is maybe an intermediate tyre. Our bikes are so powerful that we wreck a wet tyre if the track is half dry, but is too dangerous to go with a slick.”
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa emphasised that safety will be the first requirement for the new supplier
“At the moment we have a very good balance for warm-up of the tyre, performance, endurance and safety. We've seen in the past that it takes time to make the tyre perform like this.
“Sure at the beginning it is going to be a big change for the championship, for the riders, for the manufacturers. The first thing you have to ask for is a safe tyre because you are running a very high speeds and some tracks the asphalt is more aggressive to the tyre and it might start to open.
“The first thing you have to ask for is safety, but obviously then we complain for performance!”
Team-mate, reigning world champion and 2014 title leader Marc Marquez was also concerned that a new manufacturer will have to go through the same learning process as Bridgestone.
“Bridgestone have had many years to arrive at this level and we know the problems that they had at the beginning, in 2008-2009, when there were many crashes. Now it is much better.
“Of course it is never enough for a rider, never perfect, but it will be the same for everybody. It will be a problem for all the manufacturers to adopt the bike to new tyres.”
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