2014 San Marino MotoGP Tire Analysis
The 2014 San Marino Grand Prix at Misano Circuit Marco Simoncelli began Friday under extremely wet conditions. So wet, in fact, a record number of crashes occurred – 62 across all classes.
And since Saturday’s practice/qualifying sessions and Sunday’s race were held under dry conditions, the teams and Bridgestone tire officials had to scamper to choose the correct slicks.
One team that got it right was Movistar Yamaha MotoGP. Its riders – Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo – finished 1-2, respectively. For Rossi, this was the nine-time World Champion’s first win of 2014 MotoGP. The 35-year-old Italian became just the third winner in 13 rounds so far in 2014 MotoGP besides Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.
Taking the final podium position at the San Marino GP was Pedrosa. As for Marquez, who won 11 of 13 rounds, he tucked the front of his Honda RC213V and crashed. After some troubles with restarting his bike, he was able to rejoin the grid, eventually finishing 15th and earning one point. Regardless, the 21-year-old Spaniard still holds a 74-point lead over Pedrosa, and a 75-point lead over Rossi.
To further understand the challenges the teams faced regarding tires, following is a Q&A with Masao Azuma, Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tire Development Department:
Q. Can you explain the situation on Friday, when Bridgestone expanded its wet tire allocation to make more soft compound wet tires available to each rider? Why was this decision made, and did the soft compound wet tires bring an improvement in grip over the hard compound?
Masao Azuma says: “In the past the Misano circuit in wet conditions has been very abrasive, hence our original plan to bring the hard compound wet tire as our main specification.
“The last time we had such completely wet conditions at Misano was many years ago, and it seems since then the composition of the tarmac may have changed which resulted in extremely low grip levels in the wet.
“During the first practice session in very low temperatures, the riders said they had little feel from the front, particularly under braking, so we reacted quickly and after consultation with the FIM, decided to expand our wet tire allocation to increase the number of soft wet tires available to every rider from FP2.
“The riders reported that although the soft compound wet tires did offer improved grip over the hard compound, the state of the Misano track surface in wet conditions was still extremely challenging, and this was evident in the high number of incidents across all three classes.
“The total number of falls on Friday in the three classes was 62; 17 of which were in the MotoGP class. However, we were able to collect some useful information about wet tire performance on the Misano tarmac in the two sessions which will help us in our future tire development.”
Q. Misano was the first round this year when the opening day of action has been completely wet. How did this reduction of dry track time ultimately effect tire choice on Sunday?
Masao Azuma says: “The wet conditions on Friday certainly meant that Free Practice 3 and 4 on Saturday were very busy for our engineers, as the teams had limited dry track time to test different tire options and find a setup to extract the best performance from the tires.
“As a result, there wasn’t much experimentation in rear tire choice among the factory Honda and Yamaha riders, and no one evaluated the hard compound rear slick on Saturday.
“Considering that the race had the highest track temperatures of the weekend, had there been more dry track time available it would have been interesting to see which riders would have evaluated the hard compound rear slick, as it would’ve been a worthwhile option for the race.”
Q. In 2013 many riders selected the hard compound front slick for the race, but this year only Jorge Lorenzo selected it for the race. What has changed in a year to see such a pronounced shift in front tire choice?
Masao Azuma says: “The front tire is so important as the rider needs to feel confident with the front end of the bike to be fast; you can put up with some sliding and movement from the rear, but at the front you need to be 100-percent confident in the feel provided.
“So in the end, front tyre choice mainly comes down to the rider’s personal preference and what works best with their setup and in this case, only Jorge felt more comfortable with the hard compound front slick this weekend.
“There are many reasons why the medium compound was preferred over the hard front this year; change in machine character, the tarmac is another year older, and also the lack of setup time in the dry, but in the end both the medium and hard compound front slicks were good race tires. For Jorge, he set the third quickest lap of the race and was extremely consistent in his lap times which shows the hard compound front slick was still a good option this year.”