The new Michelins seem to be one of the most interesting technical topics of this early part of 2020. At Sepang it became clear how much these new tyres are able to alter, at least for the moment, some values on the track. A different construction has greatly increased rear grip, creating some problems for the most powerful bikes on the grid, namely Ducati and Honda.
We had an exclusive interview with Michelin's Piero Taramasso in Losail, while the first day of testing is taking place, addressing this topic and many others related to the MotoGP season that is just around the corner. The head of the French giant explained to us in detail what the approach was in the construction of this new tyre and how important Michelin's commitment is also for the development of green technology to be applied to MotoE.
It seems that tyres are even more important in 2020 than in the past. The new Michelins helped some teams and penalized others in Sepang. How real is this claim?
"Yes, I agree. This year there is more movement around the tyres. In 2019 we changed some types of compound but not the construction. Instead this year we have changed the construction of the rear tyre and this represents a more drastic change. In any case, all the innovations go in the right direction. We had been testing this new tyre for a long time already since 2019, it was liked by all the riders and all the teams. Then we introduced it definitively in Sepang, with the new bikes, new engines, new frames. They are tyres that have a truly superior grip at the rear and need adaptation."
Have you received conflicting feedback?
"We have noticed that some bikes have adapted better and others worse, but we know that this tyre will be an advantage for everyone but in the first tests there were bikes that worked better and were faster. Maybe they were also lucky, because they made the right changes at the right time. Others still have to work, but I am sure that these tyres are clearly an advantage for everyone. When you give more grip with a tyre, it is an advantage for everyone, but then it is their job to find the way of extracting the maximum potential from the tyre. It is normal that with more rear grip you have to act on the set-up of the bike: change the weights, balance the front. Also change the riding style. We did our job, now it is up to the teams and riders to adapt, but once again I emphasize that it will be an advantage for everyone. When you make a good tyre, it is good for everyone."
Taramasso: "The new tyres are a clear advantage for everyone"
Why do you say that these tyres are a clear advantage? We now have a one-make tyre rule, what makes you think that it is a clear step forward for everyone?
"For us it is clear. This tyre was designed to have more grip and be more consistent in the race, and so also to have a lower degradation. We wanted to avoid races where you manage the tyre for 15 laps and then push hard, that was the reasoning. After we tried it with our bikes and our testers in Michelin and we immediately saw that it had more grip and less degradation. Then we tried it with the testers of all the manufacturers and with them the results were the same. Afterwards we tried it with all the factory riders, and there we also saw the same results. We took them to the track at Barcelona, Brno, Phillip Island and the results were always positive. It is not just a matter of one or two tests, but a consistent number in which the results were always the same. The times were better, there was less degradation and moreover we saw that when you start again with the used tyres, the warm-up time is better and also that the compounds worked much better from a visual point of view and wear was also better. So, when you see that a tyre is better on all fronts, it cannot be defined in any other way than better. Objectively speaking, that’s the way it is."
These tyres created more problems for the Honda and the Ducati, which are probably the most powerful bikes on the grid. Did they make it difficult for these bikes to use the power?
"I don't have all the team data but looking at things from the outside it seems to me that this tyre penalizes more the bikes that have more power and put it down more aggressively. The power arrives brutally on the tyres and they return it more brutally because they have more grip. The result is that they make the bike and its balance nervous. I think this is the problem and that you have to work on the electronics of the bike, as well as on riding style, perhaps by dosing the gas differently. I think that this will solve the problem."
It seems that the Aprilia and the KTM have come very close to the top teams. Is this also thanks to you and the new tyre?
"I think so. We had already seen it in Phillip Island, where Iannone with Aprilia went well with these tyres. I think that by giving more grip, these tyres can help the bikes that have a few more problems. At least this is what it looks like from the outside, but honestly in my opinion it's too early to say. A test in Sepang is not enough to reach conclusions of this type. I believe that only after a few races, when we will be at Jerez or Le Mans, it will be possible to do a more precise technical analysis. There is still some way to go for everyone to learn how to manage them. I wouldn’t be surprised if we started here from Qatar with Honda and Ducati in front of everyone, which is the complete opposite to what we saw in Sepang. Then maybe we go to Argentina and the situation is reversed. It takes at least two tests and two races to really understand the values and what this new tyre brings. I don't think it will upset anyone's plans, but I think all the manufacturers will be closer, and perhaps there will be a better show."
Taramasso: "Marquez signing again could be a problem for the show"
MotoGP for Michelin is a commitment for the development of technology but also an excellent means of communication. Can the fact that Marquez signed again and could dominate until 2024 be a problem from the point of view of the show?
"Yes, it could be worrying. But at this moment Marc is at an incredible level. He is naturally gifted, works a lot and trains a lot. He is also very careful about the work on the bike, he always wants to know how the electronics work, how the tyres work. I see him a bit like Schumacher in Formula 1. He is the man to beat, but there are other riders who can fight with him. Of course, he is always there at the top, he is consistent, he is fast and works a lot."
A change by Marc could make the championship more attractive in the coming years…
"Yes, that's true. What we as Michelin want, however, is to make tyres that work well for all the manufacturers, we want to see a show. But it is the riders on the track who fight each other and it’s not only about the tyre. There is the bike, the rider, different conditions and the man who adapts the best to these. For example, Marc adapts immediately when it is damp, when it is wet. He is strong in all conditions".
How long will your commitment in MotoGP last? When will the time come to stop?
"We have signed an agreement until the end of 2023, and we want to stay here, develop the tyres to the maximum and find new solutions at the level of compounds. All of which we can then transfer to our standard tyres. As long as we are here, we will work in this way. It is true that the show is also important, we want hard-fought races and different motorcycles that win. We will always work towards with this goal in mind".
Taramasso: "In MotoGP until 2023 and we will continue to develop technology"
Racing results can influence your decisions for the future…
"Yes, they can. We think that this championship’s visibility is enormous today. It reaches South America, Asia, the markets that interest us. At a technical level, we manage to develop, even if not as fast as we would like. For the moment we are happy, I think we will stay a long time. This year's goal is to break records on circuits such as Austin, Motegi, Phillip Island, those that still do not belong to us. This is our goal this year and after having achieved it, we will find other objectives to follow."
You are present in MotoE, as well as in Formula E. Will specific tyres arrive?
"Michelin is very interested in this development of green technology. For this reason, we are present in both MotoE and Formula E. In 2019 the tyres for MotoE were derived from the MotoGP front and at the rear from national SBK. We will test between March and April at Jerez, using new solutions. In this category we would like to work with recycled products, built using what we call biological resources. It will be a totally different tyre and we are working on it. I don't know if it will be introduced in 2020 or 2021. We are working in that direction, to have a green approach by manufacturing as less as possible, which will maybe last longer. The idea is to have a lower environmental impact on all fronts".