Superbike and MotoGP have always been two planets that are as close as they are distant, as similar as they are different and this counter-positioning is also key when it comes to the tyres. On the MotoGP planet, the situation is stormier than ever, with many riders at boiling point due to the choices made and products brought to the tracks by Michelin. On the other side, the situation appears calmer, with a consolidated relationship between Pirelli and Superbike. Despite this, it didn't all go quite to plan at Donington, with Jonathan Rea's problem in Race 1, which forced Pirelli to withdraw that particular tyre. The tyre universe is a complicated one to read, and so here to clarify things for us is Matteo Giusti, communication manager for Pirelli both at and away from the tracks, already 100% focused on the upcoming Misano round.
Let's start with a nod to MotoGP. As an expert in the sector, how can you explain the difficulties Michelin is currently experiencing?
“You have to start in the knowledge that in two top championships like Superbike and MotoGP there are many difficulties to be faced, more than you might think. In MotoGP you're talking about prototypes, both in terms of the bkes and tyres, and so commercial sales are not considered; this can be in important factor, a positive and negative one. Having to then satisfy the public can increase the desire to find a tyre that can perform with all bike, something that in MotoGP may take a backseat, leaving some manufacturers unhappy with the product”.
Over to Superbike. How can you explain Rea's problem at Donington?
“The main issue, identified immediately, was the cut on the left part of the tyre; the difficulty in cases like these is understanding what caused this problem, also because no other rider racing with the same tyre, Sykes for example, had a similar experience. Withdrawing the tyre was obligatory in such a case, but simply as a precaution, being unable to carry out the necessary analysis on-site. Over the following days those controls were carried out, and no particular issues with that tyre solution were identified”.
Meaning that the tyre has been brought to Misano
“Exactly. There is nothing to make us think that that type of tyre has an intrinsic problem. To eliminate any risk though we have produced those tyres from new, but only as a precaution”.
Your commitment right now is to F1 and Superbike. Is it possible that you will move to MotoGP?
“The answer is never say never. We can't exclude the possibility of moving to MotoGP, which would be a completely new world for us. Superbike allows us to have good visibility, while at the same time helping us to develop a product with some of the best riders around, before putting the tyres on sale for everyone. We have a double goal, or rather visibility and business; in MotoGP this reasoning falls down, so even if we may one day consider going there, our commitment to Superbike would nevertheless remain”.
Let's stray from tyres for a second. How do you think the interest in Superbike could be boosted, considering that it currently struggles to appeal to the public?
“Historically, Superbike is a different championship to the other, starting with MotoGP itself. Superbike is usually followed by a more technical fan, though in certain periods the audience has been much wider. I think that, right now, having a rider like Jonathan Rea, on a bike like the Kawasaki, doesn't help to make the championship a thrilling one, but this is all normal. There have been more hard-fought seasons and then others in which one rider stands out over the others; it's a cyclical thing”.