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A punishing 25-lap race for man & machine

A punishing 25-lap race for man & machine

The softer tyre allowance is a clear advantage in specific circumstances, but it's rarely a benefit beyond Q2...

With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.

Ever since Ducati and new entries like Suzuki and Aprilia got Open class concessions softer tyres, there’s been cries that attempts to get more factories more competitive in MotoGP have gone too far.

The softer tyre allowance is obviously a clear advantage in specific circumstances like qualifying and when conditions are cold and track temperatures low.

Extra grip from the softer Bridgestone rear tyre option in Argentina helped Andrea Iannone to a first front row start of 2015. And it means a new Ducati GP15 will have started from the front row in all three races so far.

Throw Aleix Espargaro into the mix today with a fantastic second for the new Suzuki GSX-RR and almost half of the nine front row places up for grabs in 2015 have been claimed by riders with access to the Open spec softer tyre.

But the softer tyre is rarely a benefit beyond Saturday afternoon’s Q2.

In Qatar and Austin, all the top riders raced the same compound option, and on the same tyres as Honda and Yamaha, Dovizioso has shown the Ducati is a championship challenger with successive second places.

It will be a different story though tomorrow in Argentina.

And for once in all of the talk of tyres, it is the factory riders like Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi that the advantage has swung towards. And it is an advantage for the all-important race and not qualifying where no precious World Championship points are up for grabs.

That’s because Marquez, Rossi and the six other riders on Factory machinery can race a new extra hard Bridgestone rear tyre in Argentina.

The Termas de Rio Hondo circuit has been a great addition to the MotoGP calendar. It’s super fast and flowing with breathtaking high-speed corners like turns three, six and eleven.

It is also brutal on tyres. The surface is abrasive but the high-speed sections generate high loads and high temperatures, so to ensure durability, a new extra hard rear slick was added to the allocation for the Factory riders.

So Iannone and Espargaro can’t hold it, let alone race it.

And what we’ve seen so far in South America, the extra hard is the tyre to have for what will be a punishing 25-lap race for man and machine.

Espargaro has openly admitted he can’t beat Marquez, Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo for race pace. And Iannone doubts his podium challenge will last much past the halfway stage, with the extra hard keeping good grip for a longer distance.

The hard rear tyre that Espargaro and Iannone is fast and consistent, but as the grip goes away in the final laps, that’s when the extra hard will come into its own.

Having said all that, you could fit square tyres to Marquez’s Repsol Honda RC213V and it wouldn’t slow him. He set a stunning pole lap of 1.37.802 on the hard option Bridgestone rear tyre (that’s his softest option and the hardest for the likes of Iannone and Espargaro) and still finished over 0.5s clear of the field.

He was over 0.6s ahead Cal Crutchlow, who was the next best rider to qualify on the same rubber as the double MotoGP World Champion.

It looks like all the Open class riders will run the hard rear tyre tomorrow, while all the Factory riders will run the extra hard.

What is not in doubt is it will be extra, extra hard to stop Marquez from claiming a second successive win in Argentina.

Enjoy the race.


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