2020 was a strange season for everyone, riders, insiders and, of course, also for Michelin. A new rear tyre was introduced this year, but that wasn't the only unknown factor, because an upended calendar only added uncertainty. It wasn’t easy for anyone to adapt to so many new aspects but now that the championship is over, the French tyre manufacturer can express satisfaction for how it all panned out.
Piero Taramasso, Michelin’s track racing manager, took stock of the situation with us.
“It was a complicated season due to Covid, with lots of races grouped together in 5 months - he explained - For us, the first challenge was the logistics to manufacture the tyres and bring them to the circuit in such a short time. Then there were the changes of dates, like in Jerez. We raced in July, it was 60° on the asphalt, but it went well, we set the track record despite the very high temperatures ".
What was the most difficult Grand Prix?
“We were disappointed in Barcelona, we found it very cold and only the soft compounds worked. We expected 25, 27° and instead the temperatures were much lower ”.
How do you judge the new rear tyre that everyone has been talking about?
“There were bikes and riders who adapted faster than others. The new tyre offered more grip and this led to a change in both the balance of the bike and the riding style, you could no longer attack the tyre as in the past, otherwise the bike would get nervous, to put it in a nutshell. There are those who adapted faster, in the first part of the season the situation was uncertain, but from the Austrian races on it could be seen that Mir and Suzuki had interpreted the philosophy of this new tyre well, as had Yamaha. In terms of performance, after Jerez we also set new track records at Misano and then at Aragon, which was our best race since we returned to MotoGP, we had never had such fast and consistent times, on a track that had been critical for us in the past. I would say that we finished the season well at Valencia, which we know well, and in Portimao, which was new”.
Your balance is therefore positive…
"Absolutely, even if we think about the uncertainty with which we started. There were 9 different winners and for me it is not something strange, we had the same number also in 2016, the year of our return to MotoGP. The new rear tyre shuffled the cards a bit but having 9 winners means it can work with all riders and often three different bikes were on the podium. "
Suzuki won the World Championship, Yamaha 7 out of 14 races, is it a coincidence that motorcycles with in-line 4-cylinder engines were immediately at ease with this tyre?
"For me, yes, there is no technical reason that can lead us to say that in-line 4 cylinders are more advantaged. We also saw that the other bikes were performing too, Jack Miller was very fast, KTM did good results ”.
Do you think this great uncertainty will also be a feature of 2021?
"I think there will be more stability next year, we will have 4 or 5 different winners and they will be the ones who are able to understand the tyres better."
Did the tyres tip the scales in this championship or is there more to it than that?
“In my opinion tyres matter a lot, even if they are not the only things responsible for this uncertainty. The key was the fact that the level was so high and all the riders were so close that it only took 2 or 3 tenths more or less to be in the top 5 or in the bottom 5. In qualifying and practice sessions you could easily find 15 or 20 riders in a second, as they were all so close it took very little to start at the back and that totally changed the race, when you start in the middle of the group it becomes difficult. Qualifying was decisive for the result of the race. Furthermore, a lot of riders gained confidence since there was no Marquez, they thought they had a chance to win ”.
Do you think Marquez would have been comfortable with the new tyre?
“Marc already appreciated this tyre very much in the first tests of 2019 and he has a phenomenal ability to adapt. I think that if he hadn't crashed in Jerez, he would have been the same Marc Marquez as always”.
What can we expect from Michelin for next year?
"The rear tyre will not be changed and neither will the front. Considering that the development of the bikes is almost frozen, in agreement with the teams and with Dorna we have decided not to change anything. However, we have a new front tyre that we started testing in 2019 at Misano and Brno with good results; if next year it is possible to do tests, we will continue the development to eventually introduce it in 2022, if teams and riders agree ".
Is there a need to have a new front tyre as soon as possible?
"No, the old ones work well, the proof is that there have been fewer crashes this year. In terms of performance it is not a necessity, but a natural development. It's our working method, changing both tyres at the same time makes things more difficult to understand ”.
What is Michelin's goal for next season?
“We will try to improve the consistency of performance, therefore have tyres that degrade less. To do this we will work on compounds that are not completely new but which last longer ”.
Will there be anything new for MotoE?
“We are working on new compounds that will have a higher percentage of regenerated material inside them, without logically losing performance”.