Michelin Takes Over MotoGP Tire Contract

May 23, 2014
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Michelin will return to MotoGP in 2016, taking over as the spec tire for the premier class. The French tire manufacturer replaces Bridgestone, which has served as the premier class spec tire supplier since 2009.

On May 1, 2014, Bridgestone announced it would withdraw from the role of MotoGP spec tire supplier after agreeing to a one-year extension through the 2015 season. Dorna, the promoter and organizer of MotoGP, set a May 22 deadline for tire manufacturers to tender bids for the spec tire contract.

How long has it been since Michelin won a MotoGP title? Well, cigarette branding on bike livery was still a thing… Nicky Hayden won the 2006 championship on a Michelin-shod Repsol Honda after Valentino Rossi (pictured) tossed the title away at the Valencia finale. Incidentally, that Valencia race was dominated by wild card Troy Bayliss on the factory Ducati, which sourced Bridgestones. Bayliss’s victory foreshadowed Casey Stoner’s rise in 2007 and Bridgestone’s MotoGP ascendance.

In a press release announcing the 2016 tire contract, Dorna states that three tire suppliers expressed initial interest, however, only Michelin submitted a formal tender before the deadline.

Said Michelin Motorsport’s Director Pascal Couasnon of his company’s decision: “Our policy of carrying over our technologies from track to street fits perfectly with the new technical regulations which are due to be introduced in 2016 and which will dictate the use of 17-inch wheels. That is why Michelin decided to submit a bid following the tender process instigated by Dorna Sports. We take this opportunity to thank the governing bodies for the confidence they have placed in us today. Their confidence recognizes Michelin’s expertise and the 26 Riders’ world titles it has secured.”

Speculated as the top candidate to take over the spec tire contract, Michelin returns to MotoGP after six-year hiatus. The French firm once dominated the MotoGP paddock before the spec-tire era, supplying 26 title-winners in the premier class, including Valentino Rossi through his five-year title run. However, it lost ground to rival Bridgestone, and in 2007 Casey Stoner won the MotoGP title aboard a Bridgestone-shod Ducati. During the 2008 season the Japanese firm broke Michelin’s back, highlighted by the defections of Michelin riders Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, who switched to Bridgestone mid-season. The following year ushered in Bridgestone’s tenure as spec tire supplier.

Dunlop, which holds the spec tire contract for the Moto2 and Moto3 support classes and also contested the premier class before the spec-tire era, did not tender a bid for the 2016-2018 MotoGP contract. Dunlop Motorsport’s Managing Director, Sanjay Khanna, explained the decision in a company statement:

“MotoGP continues to be a very strong global event and we are proud of our long-standing relationship with the MotoGP organizers through our continued supply to the FIM Moto2 and Moto3 World Championships. Dunlop is in the fortunate position of having many strong partnerships with motorcycle manufacturers and leading championships around the world. We have taken the decision to focus on developing and supplying tires for these important partners for the immediate future.

“We believe our performance in events where there is open-competition between tire manufacturers, such as Road Racing and the FIM Endurance World Championship, proves that Dunlop has the capability to win races at the top-level of motorcycle racing. However, with such a diverse range of racing activities already planned for 2015 and beyond, we have chosen not to tender to be the Official MotoGP™ supplier on this occasion. We do not rule it out as an opportunity in the future.”