Michelin shocked by control tyre plan
|By Toby Moody and Matt Beer
||Saturday, September 22nd 2007, 13:02 GMT
Michelin Sport boss Frederic-Henri Biabaud says Dorna's proposal that MotoGP should become a single tyre category in 2008 came as a total surprise to the French manufacturer.
And he concurred with paddock speculation that Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta's suggestion came at the behest of influential riders rather than a tyre manufacturer.
"It's out of the blue," Biabaud said. "I don't know what the intention is. Probably he wanted to know what the teams would do. We had discussions with Honda yesterday and today, and it seemed that everything was stabilising.
"But it seems that somebody else, I don't know who, is trying to push for a mono-brand and spec tyres. I'm not sure it is a tyre manufacturer, I don't think so.
"We had an open discussion with our colleagues (Bridgestone) and if you ask them they will say that they prefer competition, which I think is true, especially this year because they are doing fine.
"So where is it coming from? Rider or team? Which rider? Maybe not the one we think, I don't know... It is very strange. It's not the proper way."
Biabaud is adamant that ending the tyre war would not improve the spectacle in MotoGP.
"No, absolutely not," he said. "They want to solve a problem which by the way is no longer a problem, of competition or lack of competition.
"The funny thing is when we used to win a lot, with (Valentino) Rossi and so on, everyone thought it was fine. Now that sometimes we have difficulties because of a change of regulations and so on, it's becoming an abnormal situation - 'how come you haven't won all the races? Let's go for a control tyre'. For me, it's very short-sighted.
"The true question for me, which I can answer, is would it benefit (MotoGP)? No. You should ask Carmelo - he himself thinks it would not be good for the championship."
Jean-Philippe Weber, the head of Michelin's MotoGP programme, echoed Biabaud's suggestion that Dorna had been pressured into making the control tyre proposal.
"Even a few months ago Carmelo told us he was really open to keeping competition within MotoGP," Weber said.
"It's a prototype championship where we have prototype bikes, and we also want to have prototype tyres. And suddenly we hear today that such an item is coming up. We don't know where exactly it is coming from. We have an idea, but we are not sure."
Biabaud is also disappointed that the control tyre proposal was floated just as MotoGP's tyre manufacturers had reached agreement on the form they would like the 2008 tyre regulations to take.
"We should have been asked, we should have participated in things," Biabaud said.
"Why were we asked to come to an agreement - and we knew that if we came to an agreement that there would not be discussions about control tyres - and the same time we give the agreement that the three of us signed, on the agenda there is a control tyre discussion?"
Weber added that losing the MotoGP programme would be a major blow to whichever tyre companies had to leave the series if a single supplier was adopted.
"All the tyre manufacturers agree on the improvements that have been made on the tyres. Bridgestone and Michelin are able to transfer these improvements on to the street tyres," he said.
"And today, based on a given decision, two of the tyre manufacturers (potentially) have to stop any tyre development, they have to stop making race tyres and they have to stop the whole business and technology they are involved in.
"It could be a big part of the activity of each of these companies that's just blown away."
Michelin has long opposed the adoption of control tyres in motorsport, and Biabaud was disparaging about the tyres that would be used in the event of a monopoly.
"If you need to go for a control tyre, whether it's in Formula One or motorcycles or whatever, it takes a couple of hours to answer," he said.
"From a technical point of view, it's a piece of cake. It's easy, you go for 'wooden' tyres. Really, you just don't bother.
"At the moment the control tyre that our competitor is experiencing now because it got the tender on the rally side, is four and a half seconds slower on gravel than their tyres two years ago. It's good, because it slows down the car and eventually the job of the driver is to try and drive as slow as possible because it's safe..."
Biabaud said it was too early to decide whether Michelin would bid to provide control tyres if the proposal reached fruition.
"We will be interested, if it happens, to read the tender. Will we answer it? I don't know," he said.