until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

MotoGP faces first test of its delayed rules clampdown

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring could well be the first race where MotoGP’s new tyre pressure rules have a significant impact on the outcome.

Aprilia’s veteran rider and British GP winner Aleix Espargaro believes a combination of track design and weather conditions will combine with the rule clampdown to leave riders struggling just to reach the finish.

Originally set to be introduced much earlier in the 2023 season, new minimum tyre pressure rules were finally introduced at the last round of the championship at Silverstone – mandating strict penalties for multiple offenders in a bid by control tyre manufacturer Michelin to improve safety by preventing teams from running dangerously low pressures.

The rules now state that bikes must complete more than half of the race distance above the minimum pressure specified by Michelin, which is set at the 1.88-bar mark for the front tyre.

If that goal isn’t met, then first a warning is given and then three, six and 12-second penalties will be handed out in subsequent races if infringements continue.

It turned out not to be an issue at the British race when wet conditions meant both considerably lower track temperature and a declaration of a flag-to-flag race that then immediately overruled any pressure rules.

And that came as a welcome relief to the grid, too, considering that Michelin’s front tyre is believed by many of them to be far too sensitive to properly be manageable within the pressure guidelines, especially when the pressure varies dramatically depending on whether a rider is in clear air or following another bike.

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So it could well play an important part in Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring according to Espargaro, given it’s one of the hardest braking circuits on the calendar.

With a series of fast straights followed by slow corners, the track’s layout meant that there was always a risk of tyre pressures being a problem.

Glorious sunshine meant Saturday’s temperature during the sprint race climbed as high as 35ºC, creating a further tyre pressure complication. With those conditions meaning pressures naturally rise during the race, teams starting higher to leave a margin under the rules means even higher pressure spikes later on and therefore a major challenge to stay on the bike.

“The front tyre pressure was our record,” Espargaro explained after the sprint. “It was crazy, never that high before. It was at more than 2.2 [bar], locking in a straight line at corner two, four, five. Crazy.

“We started very low, very, very low. Very low. And tomorrow we’ll start lower, but it’s really difficult to predict. If you start at 1.75, then go to 1.85, [it’s one thing], but we started below 1.5.

“It’s another bike. Locking in a straight line, after two or three laps. Normally on lap five or six you stabilise, but today it was increasing and increasing and increasing.

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“You are asking a lot of energy to the front tyre to stop the bike, the tarmac was close to 50ºC, it was the worst combination ever.

“With the track, the temperature and everything it was the worst possible combination.”

Tyre pressure worries contribute significantly to processional racing, and to races being decided with frantic early moves as riders try to gain ground before their pressure rise.

That was obvious in both how soon sprint leaders Pecco Bagnaia and Brad Binder spread out, and perhaps in the Jorge Martin-triggered Turn 1 collision that took down three other riders too.

And with Sunday’s race set to be just as hot as Saturday’s, the 28 laps might be rather drawn out and the main method of progressing could be by staying on the bike as others fall.

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