Michelin Out of MotoGP

Henny Ray Abrams | October 4, 2008
Bridgestone will almost certainly be the tire supplier for MotoGP next year after French rival Michelin chose not to bid on the single tire contract.

In a press release sent out on the eve of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, Michelin said they had “decided not to submit a bid to the governing body of the MotoGP world championship. At the same time, Michelin regrets not being able to contribute to the organisers’ important discussions to improve rider safety and reduce costs.”

Bridgestone did submit a bid, according to a press release from series organizers Dorna. The proposal will be studied and an announcement “made on 18th of October 2008 in Sepang, Malaysia.” With no competition, it’s a fait accompli that Bridgestone will win the bid.

Michelin currently supplies Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden, Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet, JiR Team Scot MotoGP’s Andrea Dovizioso, and the Tech 3 Yamaha team of Colin Edwards and James Toseland. But Michelin had two high profile defections in the past year. Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi made the switch to Bridgestone during the off-season and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa left the company just prior to the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. Pedrosa has two wins this year, Jerez and Catalunya, both on Michelins, and Lorenzo has one win, in Portugal. The rest of the races were won by Bridgestone riders Rossi and Casey Stoner (Marlboro Ducati).

Michelin’s withdrawal marks the end of an era. From 1973 through 2006 they won 26 premier class titles. The first came with Phil Read in 1973. The most recent came in 2006 with Nicky Hayden. Michelin riders have won 357 premier class races.

Michelin is not getting out of the motorcycle race business. They were one of three companies, along with Dunlop and Pirelli, to submit bids to be the control tire for the 2009 AMA Superbike Championship. They also support teams in World Endurance.

The release continued. “The spirit of competition has always been central to Michelin. Motor sports at the highest level are useful because competition among several tire manufacturers is a valuable stimulus for developing increasingly high-performance tires that will one day equip customer vehicles. Tires play a key role in a vehicle’s performance and can make a considerable difference.

“This competition among manufacturers helps to make racing exciting. The radial tire, which was invented by Michelin, has been improved through racing, and the improvements have since been passed on to consumers. Michelin’s dual compound technology for motorcycle tires was first tested in MotoGP racing and is today integrated into premium products for the brand’s customers.

“The MotoGP world championship organisers have decided to use a single tire supplier for the coming seasons, which effectively eliminates the competitive environment that has led to so much progress. The R&D resources allocated for MotoGP racing will be redeployed to support innovation, which is at the heart of Michelin’s customer-focused strategy.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.