Not only have the motorcycle companies stopped production, the Michelin plants are also virtually closed, including those that deal with the tyres for MotoGP. Here to take stock of the situation is Piero Taramasso, responsible for the French tyre dealer at racetracks.
"The factories in France, as in other countries, are closed, there is very little activity, we are less than 10% of normal capacity - he explained - But we have started a partial conversion, for a month now, in Clermont-Ferrand for the production of masks and we are able to produce 400,000 a week of the disposable type. Then we have another type, which was designed and developed by Michelin, which is reusable about 15 times by changing a filter; these will be distributed to employees, as well as nurses, doctors and all the staff who are working on this emergency. A part of the MotoGP team is also involved in this project. "
Is all the part that deals with motorsport completely stopped?
“Yes, the factories that deal with tyres for both car and motorbike competition are completely closed down. Only the research and development department continue to work, analysing data and focusing on projects that usually cannot be done during the year, as they are caught up in racing. "
"We only have tyres for 2 Grand Prix races, it takes a month to produce what we need for a race weekend"
For the moment there is no start date for the championship, but when it starts again will you already have all the tyres available for the entire season?
“Unfortunately, this is not the case, we normally produce the Grand Prix tyres for each Grand Prix, it is not possible to manufacture them all at the beginning of the year. Right now, in stock, we have the tyres for the first 6 races of the season, the specific ones are already ready. "
But this does not mean that they can be used on any track...
“No, we make specific tyres for each circuit, for example those designed for Mugello at Le Mans cannot be used. For us, the important thing will be to have sufficient advance notice to produce the right tyres ".
How long would that take?
“Starting from scratch, it takes 3 to 4 weeks to produce all the tyres needed for a Grand Prix. We are talking about 1,200 tyres between slick and rain. Having a precise calendar as soon as possible would certainly help us. "
Does changing a GP date also mean having to change tyres?
“Definitely racing in a certain circuit in June rather than in November makes a big difference, different compounds would be needed for those particular temperatures. With the tyres we have in stock, we should not have any problems doing the first two races, that's why we need certain information on the calendar. "
"The simulations will help us choose the right tyres for the postponed races"
How do you choose the tyres for circuits where you will go racing in different seasons than usual?
“We can still make simulations, predicting the temperatures and conditions that we might find, thus being able to understand which compounds are most suitable. We have been in MotoGP for a few years now, so we have a good knowledge of the tracks and the way the compounds function, it will not be a problem to decide ".
You may need to bring more options than the 3 normally foreseen by the regulation?
“There will be no need, with 3 options we can cover the whole temperature spectrum. We are using much more multipurpose compounds than in the past; to be honest, thanks to the new technology we use to make the compounds, two options would be enough to manage, we could cover conditions ranging from 10° to 45° in temperature ".
Even for the transport of the tyres, it usually takes a long time, especially for non-European Grand Prix races.
“Usually, in those cases, we ship 70% by ship and the remaining 30 by plane, but we will have to revise the logistics. Transport by ship has obviously lower costs, but you have to send the material virtually 3 months before the Grand Prix, whereas using air transport one month before is enough".
"Development does not stop, but we will postpone the introduction of the new front tyre for a year"
The Grand Prix Commission has decided to freeze the development of the bikes until 2022, will the same happen with tyres too?
“We never discussed it and I don't think there are any reasons to stop it. We worked hard in 2019 on the new rear tyre that we have introduced this season, so there will be no changes to this programme. We are also developing a new front tyre for 2021, the problem is that during the year we will not have any opportunities to test, therefore we will postpone its debut to 2022, if the tests are positive".
"The new rear tyre will be an advantage for everyone, including Ducati"
You mentioned the new rear tyre, some riders claimed that it benefits Yamaha and Suzuki.
"The goal was to have greater traction and stability when exiting the corner. From the first test, all the riders liked it, regardless of the bike, and the lap times dropped by about half a second. We continued to develop it, testing it on different tracks, even on the race weekend in Phillip Island in a dedicated session, and the comments were always positive. Continuing with the tests, we also noticed another advantage: with the same compound, this new construction guaranteed less and a more uniform wear”.
Where do certain complaints come from then?
“Obviously, those who are in more difficulty in exploiting the rubber complain. For me it is not a problem related to a particular bike, as Marquez said, it is a new tyre and you have to adapt both the bike and the riding style. When a tyre offers more grip on the rear it tends to push more on the front, so you have to rethink the balance of the bike. It is only a matter of time, there are riders and bikes that have adapted more quickly to this tyre and others less so, but in the end, everyone will be able to take advantage of this greater grip. In the past I worked in Formula 1 for 6 years and I always noticed that when you introduce a better tyre it is for everyone; you just have to interpret it better".
Why did the motorcycles with an in-line engine adapt quicker?
“It is well-known that the strength of the Yamaha and the Suzuki is their cornering speed and I am not surprised that it has increased with a tyre that has more grip. However, at the same time, bikes with good acceleration, such as the Ducati or the KTM, will be able to use it to gain coming out of corners. For this reason, I say that it will be an advantage for everyone”.