Three Uncomfortable Questions For Michelin MotoGP Manager Piero Taramasso

Taking the MotoGP paddock out of its comfort zone

Alex Rins and Andrea Dovizioso
How does Michelin factor in different riding styles when developing a new race tire? “It’s not easy,” Michelin Two-Wheel Motorsport Manager Piero Taramasso admits. “It is done by studying results. It is a technical analysis on the subjective comments of the riders. We also have to take into account the conditions of the track. It is a very complex job.”Courtesy of Suzuki

MotoGP, like so many two- and four-wheel motorsport disciplines, is a spec-tire series. That puts Michelin in a challenging position because, as the sole supplier, the French company is tasked with producing tires that work well for all six manufacturers—Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha—participating in the championship. This job is made even more difficult, Michelin Two-Wheel Motorsport Manager Piero Taramasso explains, when each prototype motorcycle has its own performance characteristics.

What is your feeling as an engineer when most of the records at world-championship circuits continue to be held by Michelin’s predecessor, Bridgestone?

Beating the existing records wasn’t priority number one. When Michelin returned to MotoGP, the first thing we wanted to do was make a high-level tire that would work for all the manufacturers, a stable tire the riders could understand easily. This was our number-one priority.

People look at records; it’s important. Michelin is in MotoGP first for the image and second to develop our tires. That said, we were out of MotoGP for seven years and the level of motorcycles and circuits is very high, so you can’t think about beating existing records the first or second year.

Jorge Lorenzo
Michelin avoids situations in which a tire is particularly well suited to one rider or a certain brand of motorcycle. “If a tire goes particularly well on a Honda but badly for everyone else,” Taramasso says, “we won’t manufacture it. Even if its performance is superior.”Courtesy of Honda

We are now in a position starting this year to break records. We have a good tire base, a carcass that provides feedback, that grips, that lasts the distance of the race. After three years of study and work, we can really attack the pure performance to beat the records. I think next year all the records will be from Michelin.

We often hear riders say, “The first half of the race was dedicated to saving the tires for the second half.” Why is Michelin unable to make a tire that allows riders to think only about racing from the first to the last lap?

Michelin is not only capable of building this tire, but you will find this tire at all the races under the specification we call hard. With this tire, the rider can give the maximum from the beginning of the race to the end. But riders always make aggressive choices—higher-risk choices—often choosing the soft option because it has more potential in the first laps.

The soft is designed to reduce performance over time. There is no soft rubber capable of going fast from the first lap to the last. It’s not possible. With a soft tire, you can squeeze it at the beginning and manage it at the end or manage it at the beginning to make the most of it at the end.

Danilo Petrucci
“We make prototypes with three, four, five different characteristics,” Taramasso says. “We choose the one that works best for everyone. If there were several tire suppliers, I could make a tire for Danilo Petrucci, one for Marc Márquez, and one for Valentino Rossi. No problem.”Courtesy of Ducati

What is the criterion for developing tires? What is the importance of each factory in the provision of data? Ducati, with six bikes on the track, provides more information than, say, Suzuki, which only has two.

The process is the following: We design the tire and do computer simulations with our own programs. We make the first tests with our riders on our tracks. Then we have test riders from the factory teams—Michele Pirro, Stefan Bradl, Mika Kallio, and the others. If they validate the tire, we give it to the 22 riders on the MotoGP grid to test.

We listen to everyone. All data, all manufacturers, and all riders are taken into consideration, but in the end Michelin makes the decision. The factory track data is very important, but there is the manufacturing process, the availability of materials, and so many other factors involved in deciding a new tire.

If you took all the information and did a mathematical average, Ducati would weigh more because it has more bikes on the track. Or if an average is made between riders, the input of Marc Márquez or Valentino Rossi would have more weight. We must make tires that work for the best and also for those who are not the best. We take everything into account.

Dorna requires a tire that works for everyone. It takes hours of reflection and data review. We use not only the comments from the riders but also the data from the bikes. And the results validate it: In the first three races, there were three different winners on different bikes. In Jerez, on the podium we saw it again—Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha.