Sylvain Guintoli testing MotoGP’s much-needed new front slick


Since downforce aero arrived MotoGP has badly needed a new Michelin front slick – now that tyre is being tested and could be ready for next season

Sylvain Guintoli testing Suzuki’s final GSX-RR

Guintoli testing Suzuki’s final GSX-RR last year – now he’s helping to develop Michelin’s new MotoGP front slick


MotoGP badly needs a better front slick, everyone knows that. And now it looks like the class of kings could get this new tyre for the 2024 season.

Former World Superbike and EWC champion Sylvain Guintoli is already helping to develop the tyre in secret test sessions. If Michelin is happy with progress, MotoGP’s five factory test riders – Aprilia’s Lorenzo Savadori, Ducati’s Michele Pirro, Honda’s Stefan Bradl, KTM’s Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow – will be next to try the tyre. Then full-time MotoGP riders will evaluate the tyre during September’s post-San Marino Grand Prix tests and again at the post-season Valencia tests and at next year’s pre-season tests at Sepang, Malaysia, and Losail, Qatar.

The hope is that the tyre will be ready for the 2024 MotoGP world championship, which gets underway in Qatar on 10th March.

An improved front slick won’t only make riders happier, it will also improve the MotoGP show

This is an important step forward for MotoGP, because Michelin’s current front slick has been totally overpowered by the huge increase in downforce aerodynamics during recent years. Michelin estimates that current downforce aero increases load on the tyre by up to 20%, a massive amount.

This overloading dramatically increases tyre temperature and pressure, so the tyre becomes “like a balloon”, which initially decreases performance because the tyre contact patch shrinks, thus reducing grip. Then if temperature and pressure continue to rise the lack of grip reaches crisis point, so the rider crashes. Many teams correlate high tyre pressures to front-end falls…

Over recent years riders have tried to ride around this problem by staying away from the heat emitted by the bikes they are chasing, which means they struggle to use a slipstream to get them close enough to attack and overtake rivals. This creates processional racing.

Thus an improved Michelin front slick won’t only make riders happier, it will also improve the MotoGP show.

“The new tyre will have a new construction and a new profile,” says Michelin MotoGP chief Piero Taramasso. “The idea is for riders to be able to run pressure at 1.7 bar.”

Engineer works on Michelin tyre in MotoGP paddock

Michelin’s current front slick – MotoGP’s current aero designs place an extra 20% of load on the tyre


If 1.7 bar just sounds like just another number it’s actually very significant for the quality of racing.

MotoGP’s current front is supposed to be run at no less than 1.88 bar for 50% of each race, but once pressure goes beyond 2 bar the tyre’s performance drops, then when pressure reaches 2.1 bar the rider needs to slow down and if it reaches 2.2 bar he will most likely crash. This is a crazy-narrow window of performance, which is why many teams run below the minimum to avoid the pressure reaching crisis point. This is illegal, but the rules are not currently enforced, so pretty much everyone does it.

If the new tyre can be run safely at 1.7 bar to around 2 bar it will give riders a wider window in which to operate, allowing them to work the tyre harder and attack other riders, which will make the racing better, like it used to be before downforce aerodynamics complicated just about everything in MotoGP.

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Guintoli is testing the new slick aboard a heavily modified Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR-R superbike, with the front end designed to work like a MotoGP bike, with Brembo carbon discs and Öhlins MotoGP forks.

The 40-year-old Frenchman is the ideal man to test the tyre, because he won the EWC crown with Bridgestone, who produce an awesome front slick, and the WSB title with Pirelli, who also make a very capable front slick. For obvious reasons, Guintoli is barred from talking to the media about his Michelin work.

Meanwhile, MotoGP still has to get through 2023. The minimum pressure rules, which have been in place for several years but never enforced, were due to be enforced for the first time from last month’s French Grand Prix. But the teams are still getting used to the complex policing system, which uses rim sensors to send live tyre-pressure readings to race control throughout every race and qualifying session. Riders must be above the minimum pressure for at least a moment in a qualifying lap and for at least half each race.

Piero Taramasso

Taramasso runs Michelin’s motorcycle racing activities, so he oversees front slick development


The current plan is to enforce the rule from August’s British GP, but the challenges of maintaining pressure between 1.88 bar and, say, 2.05 bar for 50% of a race are immense. And if riders get disqualified for failing to reach that 1.88 minimum it will turn MotoGP into a mess. So might enforcement of the rule be delayed until 2024, when it will be less tricky to stay within the window?

Many MotoGP riders already have tyre-pressure warning lights or readings on their dashes – to alert them to too-high or too-low front pressures – so Taramasso doesn’t believe it will be too big a problem for riders to adapt to the enforcement of the regulations.

“Riders will just have to try not to overload the front tyre during braking and entering,” he adds.

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Finally, it’s worth nothing that a better 2024 front slick will change a lot of things in MotoGP, because tyres are the final interface between rider, machine and racetrack.

When MotoGP switched from Bridgestone, whose front slick was better than its rear, to Michelin, whose rear was better than its front, everything changed.

Engineers from all the manufacturers had to redesign their motorcycles to maximise the qualities of the rear and compensate for the relative inadequacies of the front.

And the riders had to do the same, adjusting their riding technique to use the rear tyre to the max, from mid-corner to corner exit, while also using the rear tyre much more into corners to take some load off the front during corner entry.

If Michelin’s new front is a major step forward then engineers and riders will have to go through the whole process again, rebalancing the machine and changing how they ride to get the most of out the tyre.

And of course, although Michelin try to produce tyres that will work the same with each bike brand, it’s inevitable that the tyre will suit some bikes better than others, so it may change MotoGP’s status quo.

Racing has always been like this. Way back in 2006, when Bridgestone, Dunlop and Michelin made tyres for MotoGP in open competition, this is what Team Roberts engineer Tom O’Kane told me.

“At the end of the day it all comes down to tyres because you have to generate the forces that make your tyres work, so you find that bike design tends to converge in a certain direction to make the best of the latest tyres,” said the Irishman. “It’s a loop, the tyres move on and the bikes mutate to use those tyres. If you can’t generate the forces into the tyres you’re not going to go fast.”