If you are familiar with MotoGP, you have probably heard some of the rumors about requiring riders to have spec tires on their motorcycles. Put delicately, both riders and racing enthusiasts have very strong opinions about whether there should be spec tires in MotoGP.
Whether you think spec tires are the way to go probably depends on your view of MotoGP. If you want to level the playing field, spec tires may help achieve that goal. On the other hand, if you want riders to have the best possible equipment, you may shun the notion of requiring spec tires for all MotoGP events. Either way, before making up your mind, you should know a few things about the current debate.
Part of the fun of watching racing events is not knowing which rider is likely to win. When Valentino Rossi was at the pinnacle of the sport, virtually nobody mentioned spec tires. That changed, though, when Casey Stoner began blowing out the competition. While watching one rider significantly ahead makes for good entertainment for a few minutes, it tends not to hold viewer attention.
With parity and competition in mind, the leader of the Spanish organization that owns promotional rights to the MotoGP floated the idea of requiring spec tires in MotoGP. The idea was the culmination of events over a few years.
When Valentino Rossi was dominating in MotoGP, tires were different. The landscape changed considerably, though, in 2007. That year, Bridgestone began offering racing tires that were capable of performing well in a variety of situations and over a vast temperature range. Around the same time, event organizers and tire manufacturers agreed to restrict the number of tires for each MotoGP event. To comply with the restriction, companies could only supply 14 front tires and 17 rear tires for each race. The restriction also applied to qualifying heats.
As you may suspect, the restriction on tire supply encouraged riders to choose tires with more flexibility and durability. Bridgestone tires often fit perfectly into any given rider’s racing strategy. Put a different way, racers could not afford to opt for tires that did not work in a variety of temperature ranges. If they did, they faced a possible tire shortage and racing disadvantage.
To keep up with racer demand and MotoGP requirements, Bridgestone’s designers continued a march to ultimate versatility and flexibility. By supplying tires that performed well in a variety of situations, Bridgestone became the go-to supplier of MotoGP shoes. Riders who opted for a mix of condition-specific tires often noticed a racing disadvantage.
Eventually, much of the debate about spec tires for MotoGP debates died down. When the CEO of the company with rights to races floated the idea, though, it made racers wonder if a requirement for spec tires is inevitable.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Spec Tires
The clearest benefit of spec tires is viewer experience. To understand how spec tires influence what spectators see, you may want to look at the World Superbike series. When that series began requiring spec tires, competition became stronger. That is, through most of the series, it was not clear which racer would win until the final minutes of the event.
You can look at competition in a couple ways. First, you may consider who wins the race. If riders have a set number of specific tires from which they must choose their racers, including two qualifiers, winning moves from equipment to rider ability. There certainly is nothing wrong with allowing the best rider to come out on top. Still, motocross is not just an athletic pursuit. On the contrary, riders must use both their skill and their machines to dominate the competition.
Riders are not the only ones who compete in a motocross event. Instead, tire manufacturers and others compete for valuable bragging rights. If a tire manufacturer outfits a winning motorcycle with its products, the company proves its tires are excellent. Not only do winning manufacturers increase visibility to potential customers, but providing the tires for a winning rider have a monetary benefit as well.
There is a problem with going to motocross spec tires, though. If everyone rides with the same tires, manufacturers lose incentive to continue to improve their products. Said another way, a better tire may be possible, but if no one is looking for it, racers may never find it. While spec tires may promote competition and emphasize skill over equipment, they may have a long-term, negative effect motocross events around the globe.
A Foregone Conclusion
At this point in motocross history, spec tires may be a foregone conclusion. That is, whether an event organizer formalizes the requirement for spec tires, riders may already be essentially riding with specs. Because Bridgestone makes versatile and flexible tires, riders often cannot risk using other tires for events with tire-number restrictions.
Different tire manufacturers have differing views on spec tires. Generally, though, factory teams ride on spec tires. That is not likely to change any time soon. Really, the only topic that needs debating is whether spec tires are likely to offer long-term benefits or consequences for motocross, Superbike and other events. In the short-term, spec tires may make racing events more exciting for spectators. Over time, though, riders may miss out on tire innovations.
It is okay to have an opinion about whether spec tires belong in MotoGP events. Unfortunately, though, there probably is not correct answer. Whether you think spec tires are good or bad for the sport probably depends on why you love MotoGP so much. One thing is certain, though. Racing tires have come a long way in recent years. When the world’s largest tire company creates flexible, reliable and high-performance tires, MotoGP events are sure to be downright exciting to watch.
Whether you agree with requiring spec tires in MotoGP or prefer the flexibility of allowing riders to pick their own tires, you want to get the most out of your dirt bike. Put simply, the right tires make a huge difference. When you need to replace old, damaged, ineffective or worn tires, you need an expansive selection of motocross tires on sale. Rather than wondering if your machine’s existing shoes have the grip, power and performance you expect, upgrade to innovative tires before your next race.