Gary Pinchin's British superbikes blog: 'I'm taken aback by Pirelli getting the tyre deal'

Published: 28 December 2007

Like everyone else I’m a bit taken aback by the announcement Pirelli getting the tyre deal in British Superbikes and British Supersport – subject to contract of course.

I kind of figured that since Dunlop had been around for so long and already supplied the bulk of the field, apart from Michelins on HM Plant Hondas and the Pirellis on the Virgin Yamahas and NB Suzuki in 2007, they would be the obvious choice once the matter of pricing and method of delivery had been taken into consideration.

Since there was said to be parity on price and method in both tenders, it seems the very familiarity of Dunlop in British Superbikes swayed the decision in favour of Pirelli.

The reason that British Superbikes have been considering a one-make tyre deal for the champinoship since 2005 is Dunlop’s stranglehold on the series. Like their rivals, they used the series to develop new products, with even more emphasis on that development since World Superbikes had gone all Pirelli.

In British Superbikes Dunlop had to seriously up their game to beat Michelin in 2005 and come the final round were looking at any means to put as many riders between championship contender Gregorio Lavilla on the Airwaves Ducati and the HM Plant Hondas.

But that showed just how much difference there was from the latest product and what the other teams were given. Several riders got tyres to a level they had not enjoyed all year and one of them, Steve Plater finished on the podium with the Hydrex Honda, by far his and the team’s best result of the year.

Since that moment there was talk of a one-make tyre for British Superbikes, and Michelin withdrawing from the series gave British Superbike officials an opportunity to implement it for 2008.

Irrespective of manufacturer, I believe the one-make tyre rule is a good thing – but only for production-based racing, which has always been about a strictly controlled formulae to provide a show.

MotoGP is a prototype formula and, as such, should be open for all kinds of development, and it was interesting to read in MCN of World Champion Casey Stoner bemoaning the fact that there are actually too many technical restrictions now. Control tyres would not be right for their series.

For British Superbikes it’s perfect and my feeling is that Dunlop didn’t get the gig simply because they are so steeped in tradition within British racing. They are used to working with certain teams and certain riders.

Rightly or wrongly, there would always be a question mark over tyre allocation.  I know Dunlop wanted special test teams to continue development, even with the implementation of the single tyre supplier rule, but I think the Pirelli deal will see everyone on more production-based rubber, with development learned from World Superbikes.

Having a production tyre means we’re going to see a drop in lap times. I don’t know why people got so hot under the collar about lap times when World Superbike went to Pirellis.

Watch a rider, any rider, and tell me whether he’s breaking the lap record or a second off it. You can’t without resorting to the stopwatch so why worry about it?

What I want to see, and I’m sure most fans relish too, is closer racing and the knowledge that everyone starts equal – at least on tyres.

Running Pirellis is not going to change the results one bit but it might mean the field closes up – and give heart to the privateers who are already massively disadvantaged on equipment, resources and budget.

Riders are going to bemoan the lack of front tyre grip compared to a Dunlop, maybe even a reduction of rear tyre grip, but the bottom line is that everyone is going to be at the same starting point so, just like any professional racing, it’s going to be the riders who adapt to the situation best that come out on top.

And my guess is it’ll be the same guys as always running up the front in 2008.

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  • Pirelli have been confirmed as the single tyre supplier for British Superbikes, which has surprised Gary Pinchin