While there have been rumblings of dissent for quite some time now, the MotoGP tyre fiasco finally seems to be spiraling completely out of control. After being the dominant tyre manufacturer in the premier class of motorcycle racing for nearly 15 years, Michelin finally got their arse kicked by Bridgestone this year. That has upset more than a few very powerful people, who now seem to be keen on re-establishing status quo from next year onwards.
During the last week of August this year, Dorna CEO, Carmelo Ezpeleta said in an interview that MotoGP ‘tyre limitations are an error that must be solved.’ Ezpeleta, who had supported the tyre rule earlier, changed his stance and said that ‘The tyre manufacturers would have to create an acceptable solution if they want to avoid this [MotoGP] becoming a single tyre championship.’ Later, in a meeting of the Grand Prix Commission in September, Ezpeleta actually put in a formal request for implementing a one-make tyre rule in MotoGP from 2008 onwards.
Ezpeleta’s proposal has come as a nasty shock to some factions, with Bridgestone boss Hiroshi Yamada being especially critical of how things are shaping up. Speaking to MCN, Yamada said he’s very disappointed and shocked at Ezpeleta’s one-make tyre rule proposal and claimed that it’s Valentino Rossi who is using his influence with Dorna to push this change.
On the other hand, Michelin aren’t happy with the proposed changed either. Jean-Philippe Weber, at Michelin, has expressed shock and disappointment and speaking to MCN, said ‘MotoGP has prototype bikes, tyres, and high level riders and we are really surprised that this [the proposed one-make rule] is coming so strongly. It looks as if everybody gets good competition and suddenly you have got somebody deciding to change something urgently.’
If the one-make tyre rule does go through, Bridgestone could end up being penalized for being more successful than Michelin, and that certainly seems to be completely unfair. Like Rossi’s crew chief Jerry Burgess says, the one-make tyre proposal doesn’t give Michelin an opportunity to respond to Bridgestone’s success this year and on the other hand, it may effectively punish Bridgestone for having spent millions of dollars towards becoming the dominant tyre brand in MotoGP. Not fair!
And yet, with Honda and Yamaha not being convinced about Michelin’s ability to catch up with Bridgestone next year, an amicable solution to the whole problem seems unlikely. Along with Rossi, his teammate Colin Edwards has also been supporting the proposed one-make tyre rule, saying that he doesn’t believe Michelin can compete with Bridgestone. Says Edwards, ‘The biggest problem to me is that the jump they need to make, they have never made. I’ve been with Michelin 10 years, and that big gap we need to make up, we’ve never ever done that in all my time with them.’
Edwards, who incidentally hasn’t won a single race in MotoGP ever, says ‘Look at guys like Dani, Nicky, Valentino and me. We are all on Michelin and at times we’ve been struggling just to stay in the top ten. I’ve been with Michelin forever and I get on great with them, but at the moment you just have to look at the results.’ Well, given that Rossi won five MotoGP world championships on Michelin rubber, and Hayden also took his first MotoGP world title last year using Michelin tyres, while Edwards hasn’t managed to win a single race in all these years, perhaps he should just shut the f*** up and be thankful he still has a ride in MotoGP at all.
In the middle of all this, you may be wondering what The Doctor himself has to say about the situation. Well, while he isn’t saying anything about tyres, he’s made it clear he isn’t happy with Yamaha. Rossi says that Yamaha need to be more aggressive and proactive in working towards regaining the MotoGP world title. Says Rossi, ‘If we want to win the title again, then we need the people in Japan to put in more effort. They must work their butts off! For 2008, I have a contract with Yamaha. If they show me we can still fight, fine. Otherwise, we could make a different choice.’
Unless Dani Pedrosa relegates him to third spot (unlikely, but a mathematical possibility…), Rossi is likely to take second place in the 2007 MotoGP world championship. The Doctor, who also finished in second place last year behind Hayden, is clearly not too pleased with Yamaha and says, ‘We need to stop suffering from the slowness of a big manufacturer and we need to be more aggressive and more courageous in the development of the bike. This is what we have lacked this year. We had a big disadvantage at the beginning of the season, and it's not as if we improved so much. Besides, every time we do something new, it breaks down!’
Hmmm… so there you are – Stoner, Ducati and Bridgestone have kicked arse, good and proper, and everybody is unhappy about it. When people like Colin Edwards, who’s never won a race in MotoGP ever, start blaming Michelin for their woes, you know something’s not right. All we can say is, if the one-make tyre rule does go through for 2008, it’ll be massively unfair for Bridgestone. They took on everyone and beat the big boys fair and square. Should they be penalized for that? No!!!
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