The countdown for the tests (and the following two races) in Qatar has begun and there are those who are already working to prepare for them as best they can. Michelin had planned the tests in Malaysia in advance, but had to quickly change their plans. Not an easy task, because thousands of tyres are needed for the 12 days that the riders will spend at the Losail circuit.
Piero Taramasso, Michelin's manager for MotoGP, is sure that the situation is under control: "We discussed it in a meeting with Dorna, IRTA and the teams, when it was decided to add a test and a race in Qatar we had to change all our programming to be able to produce the necessary tyres. I just asked for a couple of hours to verify that it was possible and then I replied we could have supported this effort ".
"At this moment it is more difficult to transport the tyres than produce them"
How many tyres will be required at Losail?
“A lot, because there will be riders and testers and we know that in 3 days of testing, if the conditions are good, they use more than a thousand tyres, so that means bringing about 2,000. It is a major effort, but we will be able to do it without any problems. The hardest thing to organize will be transportation, because there are no longer all the planes and ships that travelled before the pandemic. Before we could have shipped everything 3 or 4 days before, now it is much more difficult”.
How far in advance will you have to ship the tyres?
“Under normal conditions, by ship it takes at least 5 or 6 weeks, by plane 2 or 3 but, I repeat, we are talking about normal conditions. Right now we need to anticipate the times. Our plan foresees a first delivery by ship for the tests, then there will be other air shipments”.
You won't be able to wait for the tests to figure out which tyres the riders will prefer so will everything have to be planned in advance?
"We usually have two specifications that we know work and we prepare them first, after which we can choose the third at the last moment. It must also be said that we know the Losail track well, in recent years we have always taken the same specifications, we know the compounds that work and therefore we are quite on the safe side. Also because the asphalt was not redone as expected, so I don't expect any surprises ".
"The riders will have all the tyres they will need from the first tests"
So will there be no problem with the quantity of tyres for the riders right from the first test?
"Absolutely, as I said two hours after the end of the meeting I guaranteed that there would be all the tyres for all the riders, both in quantity and quality."
As for the cancelled tests at Sepang, did you already ship the tyres and can you use them on other tracks?
“Only one container had left and we managed to intercept it halfway. Those tyres can be used on other circuits, especially the front but also the rear, on tracks like Barcelona and Mugello if it's hot. The more we go through the seasons, the more we try to make multi-purpose tyres that can be used on different circuits”.
Will you bring the new front tyre originally planned for this year to Qatar?
"We will still have to wait, no tests with new tyres are planned for the moment".
The third race will be in Portimao, what is the situation for that GP?
“We are trying to understand what the weather conditions will be, now we are working for Qatar then we will start doing it for Portimao. It's just a matter of temperatures, last year, being a new track, we brought four compounds both front and rear, we will need to understand if it will be hotter or colder in April to understand whether to focus on softer or harder options, for sure we will choose three of the four options used in 2020 ".
The calendar could still undergo changes, when will Michelin need to know the final version?
"For the races in Europe, the ideal would be five weeks’ notice, with this timing we can react calmly, both for production and for transport. Sometimes we managed to do everything even in fifteen days, in case of emergency we have an industrial process that allows us to do it ".
The only new circuit on the calendar is the KymiRing in Finland, will you schedule some tests before the race?
"On our part there is this desire to do it, we had already organized one two years ago but the weather and track conditions were not exceptional. So we have decided to repeat it, as soon as we have the confirmation of the GP we will organize it, it will help us and also the teams”.
"I am optimistic about racing in Europe, less so outside Europe"
How optimistic are you for this season?
“To tell the truth, at the beginning of the year I was optimistic, I was counting on the vaccinations, while now seeing what is happening in Europe and beyond, with the new variants of the virus, I am less optimistic. However, I think we will be able to race in Europe, last year we proved that we could race without putting people in the paddock at risk, the famous bubble worked. I think we can race in Europe; it will be more difficult outside of Europe”.
Was starting with two races in Qatar a good idea?
“It's a good option, I think it will be a good input from both a technical and a moral point of view. Starting off on the right foot will help”.