WSBK tyre problems in Australia are now almost the norm, not the odd exception. It has always been problematic in Supersport, but the Superbike category is getting hit harder as the bikes get faster.
In a bid to curb the severity, Pirelli started the weekend with an edict that tyre pressures must be run at or above 1.6 bar, and would be randomly tested on the grid. Then, after some more blow outs, it was decided to have mandatory pit stops.
Dorna sporting director Gregorio Lavilla was one of those who decided to call the races as flag-to-flag, with mandatory stops in certain laps, rather than reduce the laps. He said Pirelli could not guarantee any tyre could go the race distance, so they picked a safe lap number: “Everyone agreed that this was the best solution. Obviously there were different opinions, but in terms of safety this was the only possibility we could do.”
Pirelli’s Giorgio Barbier said: “It is certainly disappointing for those riders who worked well setting up their bikes (to manage) tyre wear.
“The topic of tyre pressure remains a crucial point for us, because it is clear that if a tyre is not inflated properly, it cannot work well and this can trigger problems. For this reason, Dorna and FIM … have implemented a pressure control procedure a few minutes prior to the start, selecting a few riders at random. The first data collected gives pause for reflection: out of nine riders checked in the three races of the weekend, four were below the minimum 1.60 bar pressure.”
Pressures are said by some to be a red herring, as some riders had problems above the magic 1.6 level.
By Gordon Ricthie