You might not know it if you’re a recent MotoGP fan, but the tire research and revision process used to be a lot more complicated than it is today, and a lot more lopsided in terms of the race experience of its competitors. The reasons are complex, but the issue boils down to the number of tire manufacturers and motorcycle brands on the track. The turning point was in 2009, when MotoGP adopted the policy of having a single spec tire provider for the racers. Prior too that, the complexity of the marketplace introduced a lot of extra complexity for the riders, in addition to supply line issues that were unique to a time before you could buy cruiser tires online.
Tire Testing in the Multi-Supplier Era
In the 1980s, tire testing was trusted to a few riders who were both thoughtful and articulate about their experiences, in addition to being top competitors. Frequently, riders would have dozens of tire tests to run in addition to riding their events in the appropriate classes, and for some that meant delivering dual championship performances in between full working days on a bike testing and recording results.
Supply Chain Issues
In those early days, manufacturers each had their test riders who would get the tires they had to provide feedback about, and then they made the resulting changes to the race tire and made them available to the competition grid. This unfortunately led to supply shortfalls, as manufacturing new tires mid-season tested the capacity of the manufacturing subcontractors working for the brands.
- Riders could not access tires from certain suppliers for certain models
- Consistency of access made tire resources an issue for competitiveness
- Manufacturing shortfalls cost both riders and tire manufacturers
To offset the supply chain issues, the concept of A and B tires was adopted.
Tire Types and Rider Selection
A-type tires and B-type tires were a concept pioneered by Michelin, the manufacturer working on MotoGP spec tires after Bridgestone. A-type tires evolved from race to race based on the data gathered from rider reports and comparative research, and B-type tires were a stable design throughout the season that was based on the previous year’s results. A very limited number of riders were given A-type tires because of the manufacturing limitations, with each brand selecting a handful.
Both A-type and B-type riders raised concerns about the lopsided playing field at one point or another, but the real issue was time on the track, limited rider diversity in the reports, and other methodological and logistical issues that came from having multiple brands with a few manufacturers each working to get time to evaluate and change their designs.
How Single Supplier Changed Things
With only one supplier making racing spec tires, it’s easier for riders to get access to the upgraded tires because suppliers sourced to many of the same tire manufacturers, who them have to split their capacity. More new tires can be made by those same manufacturers if they are running a single brand without change-overs, so more riders can access upgraded tires. Fewer suppliers competing means more meaningful test time for the supplier who has each season’s spec tire contract, too. That’s why it’s now easier to find the right MotoGP tires for your bike from the supplier of the best motorcycle tires online.