The front tire is the most important part of a racing bike because it decides how fast you enter corners, cross corners and therefore exit corners. In other words, without a well-functioning front tire, you don’t stand a chance.
This is especially true in MotoGP, with Michelin’s super sensitive front slick, which needs to operate at exactly the right temperature and pressure to perform at its best.
Reducing the pressure slightly can improve grip, and many riders have lost great results in recent years because the front tire pressure has increased too much, altering the tire profile and reducing grip.
So why not reduce your front tire pressure a bit to increase grip and avoid problems?
Because MotoGP has minimum pressure regulations, written to prevent teams from going too low which could lead to tire casing failure, with inevitable consequences. Other single-brand tire championships, such as World Superbike and Formula 1 cars, also have minimum pressure limits.
“It’s been clear for a long time that some teams cheat with the tire rules,”
The minimum MotoGP limit is 1.9 bar (27.6 psi) for front slicks and 1.7 bar (24.6 psi) for rears. Any lower and you’re breaking the rules, just like using an oversized fuel tank or bypassing the software locks of MotoGP’s spec electronics system.
Which begs the question: why weren’t Ducati and Pecco Bagnaia sanctioned for exercising illegally low front slick pressure during their run to victory in the Spanish Grand Prix on May 1?
Because there is a so-called gentlemen’s agreement between the MSMA (the manufacturers’ association) and Michelin not to disclose any violation of this regulation or to sanction any violation.
That deal has been in place since Michelin became MotoGP’s spec tire supplier in 2016, but at least two manufacturers have now had enough, saying they keep their tires within the rules, while some rivals regularly send their riders with illegally low tires. pressures, to achieve better performance throughout the race and not suffer any punishment.
By the way, it’s worth pointing out here that the riders probably don’t know they’re breaking the rules – only a very stupid crew chief would tell his rider that he’s riding an illegal motorcycle as he heads towards Grid.
In recent months, a senior engineer and a team manager from various MotoGP manufacturers have approached me to discuss this issue. Both said they wanted to replace the gentleman’s agreement with compliance with the regulations.
In Jerez, the engineer gave me the official post-race tire pressure sheet, which showed four riders were running illegal pressures. Two of them—factory Ducati rider Bagnaia and Pramac Ducati rider Jorge Martin—were under the limit for most of the race.
“You can’t let people break the rules and get away with it.”
“It’s been clear for a long time that some teams cheat with the tire rules,” the engineer told me. “We’re really unhappy with this situation – it’s been going on for too long and it’s not right.
“The problem is that most teams play by the rules, but some don’t, so they get better tire performance and they get away with it, thanks to the agreement. What is really bad is that we are seeing repeat offenders.
“As everyone knows MotoGP is incredibly close, we are all looking for marginal gains to find an edge. If you can find even a small edge in one area of motorcycling it can make a difference. between winning and losing, so why are teams allowed to gain an advantage illegally and no one says anything?
“We think the agreement should be scrapped and the rules applied properly, as they are in all other cases. In a top-level championship like MotoGP, you can’t have people breaking the rules and getting into trouble. take advantage of it.
“We therefore call on the MSMA, Michelin, Dorna and IRTA to fully enforce the tire pressure rules, because at the moment the situation is not at all fair.”
Since Mugello 2016, all MotoGP rims must be fitted with Tire Air Pressure Sensors (TAPS) to monitor pressure and temperature. This data is recorded by each machine and checked by Michelin after each race.
Data from Jerez tells us that Bagnaia’s front tire was below legal pressure for every race lap, while Martin’s was below the limit for 24 of the 25 laps. (Martin slipped on the first lap and quickly rebounded.)
Tire performance is so critical – teams work on adjustments of 0.1 bar or less – that it’s highly unlikely that these pressures were dropped below the legal minimum by mistake.