The Pirelli philosophy is the same as always: we sell what we race with, we race with what we sell. A rule that the tyre company also followed for this second day of Moto3 and Moto2 testing in Valencia, after having become the sole supplier of the categories following the debut in Barcelona, so much so that Matteo Giusti, Director of Communications, said of Pirelli “the teams could have obtained these tyres from any of our local dealers”.
It's not a catchphrase, it's the truth proven by 20 years of collaboration with the Superbike World Championship which this year celebrates its anniversary with a renewal until 2026.
“We are satisfied with today's tests - explained Giorgio Barbier, Director of Pirelli Moto Racing, present at Valencia - because this second appointment is the evidence of what we have already seen in the first contact made in Barcelona. We chose the Montmelò circuit, compared to those of Misano and Silverstone, knowing that it was a difficult track for grip and design and we wanted to get feedback from the teams. This is because in two weeks we should already be sending the tyres to Qatar for the first Grand Prix of 2024. A risk? We know how to take on these responsibilities: it's part of the game. In Qatar the asphalt usually has little grip on Fridays and generates a lot of wear, but then the situation improves as it is rubberised and cleaned. Instead, the biggest difference is the season. March is very different from November in terms of temperatures and humidity, just as in Australia for the Superbike the climate is very different from October, when MotoGP arrives."
In just two tests, Moto2 got below the fastest lap achieved during the Valencia GP, and Moto3 also went well. An excellent result, also supported by the teams' comments. But why did Pirelli decide to enter these championships too?
“The approach for us was clear from the beginning - continues Barbier - Pirelli has never produced prototype tyres. Moto3 is completely new for us. Several years ago we had already thought about the category and studied the dimensions of the tyres to enter but the market reaction was not exceptional. We won the British championship and came second in the Japanese championship due to a technical problem with the bike, but we cared about the category because there is a market here. There are various championships for young riders, which are then the consequence of the MiniGP and the various Talent Cups. It starts with the very young, and is interesting for the markets in Asia and America. On the contrary, Moto2 only races in the world championship and in Spain, so making special tyres is out of the question."
Was this the reason why you chose to use the same tyres used in the Superbike world championship, the so-called ‘big tyres’?
“Exactly, now in SBK we only race with those. We are talking about the 125/70 R17 front and the 200/65 R17 rear. The only doubt we had was related to the width of the front rim of the Moto2, which is 3.75, which is nonsense, while in SBK we use 3.5. But we have seen that it is not a problem. In the future there is no doubt that we will return to 3.50, because these bikes, given their power and weight, don't need big tyres."
No problems whatsoever were raised in Valencia, perhaps Barbier was expecting some.
“Actually these bikes don't move around much, I don't know if it's because the previous competitors didn't give too many set-up possibilities, but now the tyres allow more... at Barcelona the teams didn't have much time because afterwards they had the race at Misano, but now that the time is there I expect some changes, also because we have started to see the times improve lap after lap. Of course, we will have to collaborate with all our partners, Kalex, Boscoscuro, Öhlins, White Power, to create the right set up for the bike and tyres, there is grip."
What is your philosophy in Moto3 and Moto2, we have seen that you have not brought the entire range of compounds that you have available.
“True, we have to see what will happen - Barbier continues and adds - our competitors were using fairly hard tyres, and for the moment we don't want to take risks. Then there are the new circuits, Argentina, North America, Qatar: we don't know enough about them yet to bring softer tyres. We can compete with the medium/hard ones. Durability is very interesting for us, weight and power are not the only problem: these bikes have great cornering speed. And then today we started with 5 degrees and ended with 20, but with a cold wind. It wasn't an optimal day. The next tests, in Portimao and Jerez in February, we will do on circuits we know well. If the solutions don't work we will bring a third one, perhaps for the second part of the season."
In the past, but also recently, there have been those who have complained about the consistency of performance between one tyre and another.
“Are we talking about quality control? We have 20 years of experience in SBK, but when you make tyres industrially like us you have no problems. If we had them it would be a problem for thousands of tyres, not one. We can supply high quality tyres. Our tyres are very close to road tyres and this is why we control the quality so well."
What is Pirelli's objective in the short and medium term?
“Use the softest compound possible that lasts until the end of the race.”
Are you by chance thinking about also entering MotoGP when the agreement between Dorna and Michelin expires at the end of 2026? Coincidentally it seems to us that this is the date on which your commitment to F1 will also expire.
“We have never thought that one championship can replace another. The top is F1, but second is MotoGP, but they are two different situations that impact different markets."