This weekend’s Australian Grand Prix has turned into a PR nightmare for Bridgestone and Dunlop after tomorrow’s MotoGP and Moto2 races will run under a revised format to counter fears of major tyre issues.
A multi-million pound re-surface of the spectacular Phillip Island track last December has received rave reviews from all riders and seen lap record-breaking performances in all three classes during practice and qualifying.
But higher than anticipated ambient temperatures and the super grippy new asphalt has caused major issues for both Bridgestone and Dunlop.
Rear tyres have been blistering, suffering excessive wear and higher than normal temperatures when inspected by technicians.
After lengthy discussions between MotoGP management and Bridgestone officials, the MotoGP race will run a flag-to-flag format, which is normally only employed in changing weather conditions for riders to switch bikes on a dry to wet track or wet to dry track.
That was deemed the best solution out of three options tabled as an alternative solution, which included halving the race distance or having two starts like in World Superbikes.
The race will be reduced by one lap from the original 27-lap format to 26 and it is mandatory that every rider must complete at least one pit stop to change to a bike on fresh rubber.
For full details on the new format see details below.
The Moto2 race, which should have been run over 25-laps, has been shortened to just 13-laps because of Dunlop’s concern over the safety of its tyres. Full world championship points will still be awarded.
Nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi, who qualified on the front row of the grid in third, told MCN: “For me the bike is very good for all tyres but we never make the full race laps in a row. I did a long run of 11 or 12 laps but the race is 27.
"I stopped and re-started with a good feeling but the problem is inside the tyre. Bridgestone is worried that the temperature is too high and if you do 27 laps in a row it can be a big problem for safety.
"The hard was very good but then Bridgestone said we had to try the extra hard, so I think Bridgestone tries to avoid the problem with the extra hard but unfortunately the extra hard spins more and creates more temperature and is worse than the hard tyre.
"It looks like the medium tyre is the best for the race but not more than 14 laps. It is a pity because the track is fantastic and has great grip. This track is very particular and we need a harder casing for here but nobody expected the problem is so big."
Rossi was one of several riders to question why Bridgestone had not done a test on the new surface in advance of this weekend’s race to understand the grip available and how significant tyre wear and temperature could be.
It seems in the future that any new surface will require a mandatory test session beforehand but Rossi said a flag-to-flag was probably the best solution to the issue.
Race Direction statement on MotoGP tyre issues:
We have been notified by Bridgestone that they are unable to guarantee safety of their rear slick tyres beyond 14 laps. It has therefore been decided to make the following changes to the MotoGP class race in the interests of the safety of the riders.
1. The race distance will be 26 laps.
2. Every rider will be required to enter the pits and change to his second machine with fresh tyres at least once during the race.
3. No rider is permitted to make more than 14 laps on any one slick rear tyre. This means that a bike/tyre change before lap 12 will require a second bike/tyre change to finish the race.
4. Riders using “Factory” and “Satellite” machines will be required to use the “hard” option tyre (B51DR). Extra quantity will be allocated by Bridgestone.
5. Riders using CRT machines will be required to use CRT “hard” option tyre (B50DR). Extra quantity will be allocated by Bridgestone.
6. The pit lane speed limit zone will be extended both on entry and exit, and the exit route to rejoin the track will be marked by a white line in the runoff area. Crossing this line whilst rejoining the track from pit lane will result in a penalty.