'We’re not talking about the performance of the tyre, but the matching of the rider and the tyre' insists HRC big-wig
The news came in a shock announcement that stunned the paddock, barely an hour after erstwhile championship leader Pedrosa had finished fourth (and fellow Michelin user Jorge Lorenzo second) in the race.
Racing insiders were reeling at the move, which seemed to represent a capitulation by Honda to rider Pedrosa and his much-feared manager Alberto Puig, and to the demands of fellow-Spanish sponsors Repsol, all acting in league with Spanish company Dorna.
But HRC managing director Kosuke Yasutake insisted, in a lively Press conference, that this was not the case, and that Honda had not ceded management of its own racing enterprise.
He also insisted that Honda’s long relationship with Michelin would not suffer, and that Nicky Hayden would continue to use the tyres. As with the Fiat Yamaha pit, however, from now on there will be a barrier down the middle of the Repsol Honda pit.
“The reason is that we think there is not a good match between Dani and Michelin. We’re not talking about the performance of the tyre, but the matching of the rider and the tyre.
“As for 2009, no decision has been taken,” he continued. “We will decide at the end of the season.” Michelin, however, said they already had an agreement to supply at least one HRC rider next year – thought to be one concession that helped the French company to swallow the bitter pill.
Repsol motorcycle sponsorship manager Arturo Sus opened his speech by saying: “I would like to thank Michelin for understand the situation,” before saying: “Our role as sponsor is to push riders and teams to get results.”
HRC had decided at Brno to support Pedrosa’s demands for Bridgestones, reversing a decision made when he made the same demands at the end of last season. “HRC were talking to Bridgestone and Michelin after that, but it was not moving as fast as we expected,” continued Sus. So we decided to intervene this weekend. We spoke to Michelin, and this was the best solution for everyone.
Both men faced a barrage of hostile questions, with Honda asked whether it was their staff or their rider who ran the company. Questions of loyalty and “mutual respect” (a phrase used by Honda last year when they elected to stay with Michelin) were also asked.
Another journalist suggested that Honda had sacrificed honour with this capitulation, which came after Pedrosa had earlier led the championship.
“We have honour and respect for high technology,” said Yasutake
“But MotoGP is not only about the motorcycle and the rider. Concerning Dani Pedrosa, it is also a human sport. He was losing confidence, so we didn’t want to ruin his future. I think this is honourable of Honda.”
Sus, asked whether this did not make the whole sport look childishly fickle and unprofessional, responded: “MotoGP is more professional than some other sports. We have no doubt that this move is correct; nobody has broken any contracts. The mistake would have been to do it without agreeing with Michelin.”
Both tyre companies said they had agreed with the extraordinary move hoping to avoid the introduction of a one-tyre rule, though Bridgestone’s Hiroshi Yamada said: “After the riders requested this at their meeting at Brno, Dorna will put the proposal to the GP Commission, and I think it will be difficult to stop the move.”
Asked if Bridgestone would be willing to be the sole supplier, he said: “I honestly am not sure. This is a matter for a company decision. But when we came to MotoGP in 2002, it was for two reasons … firstly to improve our brand image, and secondly to develop tyre technology in competition. At the moment, competing with Michelin is a good promotion for us. But if there is a single tyre rule, there is no need to develop technology.”
Michelin motorcycle tyre racing chief Jean-Philippe Weber said that Michelin had agreed to the extraordinary request because “we hope what we do will help to keep competition between tyre manufacturers. We are facing a situation similar to last year. If this will help to cool down the situation, that is good. Our target is to keep the competition.
“Today I see that other teams are talking to us about next year. They understand that things go up and down. And we already have an agreement to supply at least one HRC rider next year.
“But here some decisions are taken with a short mind. We did two bad races, and everyone comes up with a single tyre suggestion,” he concluded.
Rossi responded to the news with some surprise. “I was in the same situation last year, but not to change mid-year. A move like this is quite strange, I think, and quite a risk.
“You don’t just put on a Bridgestone sticker and go faster like magic.”
Become a fan of Visordown
Follow us on twitter
Other Immediate Media Sites
Our eCommerce Platform
© Immediate Media Company Ltd 2012. This website is owned and published by Immediate Media Company Limited. www.immediatemedia.co.uk