Will Pirelli tyres make Moto2 and Moto3 better or worse?


On Monday Moto2 and Moto3 riders tested their new Pirelli tyres for the first time, so how do they think the Italian rubber will change Moto2 and Moto3 from next year?

Rory Skinner leads in 2023 Moto2 Argentina round

Rory Skinner (No33) battles with Fermín Aldeguer (No54), Borja Gomez (No72) and others in Argentina earlier this season

American Racing

Dunlop has been the spec tyre supplier of MotoGP’s intermediate world championship – 250cc, then Moto2 – and junior world championship – 125cc, then Moto3 – for more than a decade.

But all that changes next year when Pirelli takes over both categories, so how will the switch change the racing, how the riders ride the bikes and how the engineers set up the bikes?

If you read our Danilo Petrucci blog last week – which compared Dunlop, Michelin and Pirelli 1000cc slicks – you’ll already know that changing tyre brands can have a huge impact on the racing.

“We will have to change how we ride, because we’ve got more grip”

The conventional wisdom in motorcycle racing is that the tyres need to match the chassis, so if you’ve got a super-stiff grand prix bike you need stiff-construction tyres and if you’ve a softer superbike or supersport bike you need softer-construction tyres

Dunlop’s grand prix tyres are very stiff, while Pirellis generally use a much softer construction, so how did the new tyres work with Moto2 and Moto3 bikes during Monday’s tests at Catalunya-Barcelona?

Journalists weren’t allowed to attend the tests and lap times weren’t published, but feedback from riders and teams suggests that lap times in both classes were faster than they’d been during last weekend’s Catalan Grand Prix, although obviously we don’t know how the compounds compared between the two brands.

Among the riders at the tests was Moto2 rookie and former BSB rider Rory Skinner, aboard his Triumph-powered OnlyFans American Racing Kalex.

Moto2 rider Rory Skinner

Rookie Skinner loves the Pirelli front’s better feedback for faster, more confident corner entry

American Racing

“Obviously I’ve ridden Pirellis in BSB, so when I jumped back on them the feeling was familiar but at the same time it wasn’t,” says the 21-year-old Briton. “Certainly there was a lot more front-end feel, so you get a lot more feedback from the front tyre and the initial grip from the rear is better too.”

Both Moto2’s current Dunlops and the new Pirellis are basically 1000cc tyres. Dunlop introduced these bigger tyres to Moto2 a few years ago, basically to streamline tyre production (and save costs), so Pirelli’s Moto2 tyres will also be versions of its superbike tyres, not its supersport tyres. Otherwise teams would have to spend a fortune on buying dozens of new wheel rims.

But the Pirelli carcasses are definitely softer, as expected.

“You do get more movement from the carcass, but the character of the Kalex stayed pretty similar,” Skinner adds. “The way I rode the bike in the test didn’t change that much either, but Stuart [Shenton, Skinner’s crew chief] says we will have to change how we ride, because we’ve got more grip, so we’ll have to learn how to use the front tyre differently and how to get the benefit of the rear, so it will change, but it’s not night and day.

“It felt like the compounds Pirelli brought were a bit softer than what we had from Dunlop over weekend, so it wasn’t an exact like-for-like test.

“The thing is that the Dunlops are so consistent, whereas with the Pirellis you get a bit quicker drop-off [loss of grip]. The longest run I did was 12 laps [Sunday’s race distance was 21 laps] and there was a bit of a drop after eight to ten laps, but the difference wasn’t huge. I do think they’ll be better for the spectators, because I noticed a good few people smoking tyres!”

American Racing winter testing group photo

American Racing winter testing with Sean Dylan Kelly, Max Toth, team owner Eitan Butbul, Skinner, team director John Hopkins and Fabio Quartararo

American Racing

This drop in performance may also make the racing better because riders must manage their tyres, so some riders will push early while others will push later, so there’ll more of a crossover in lap times, which can create more overtaking and battles.

Skinner is having a baptism by fire in his first world championship season – his best results so far are a couple of top 20s at the US and Austrian rounds.

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“It’s been tough and not the smoothest of seasons, with injuries, but at the last couple of rounds we’ve made forward steps with my riding. The biggest thing for me is bike time — there’s so much more to come from me than from changing the bike week in, week out, so I just need to keep chipping away and staying on the bike.

“I was fully aware how tough Moto2 would be. My goal has always been to be in the GP paddock and I know it doesn’t happen overnight: Jake [Dixon] has been here five years now and Sam [Lowes] has been here nine. It doesn’t just happen in your first season – time is the key and you just need to be patient.”

Fellow Brit Scott Ogden is in his second season in Moto3. Like Skinner, he found some good speed with the Pirellis on Monday.

“It was interesting,” says the 19-year-old, who rides a Honda NSF250RW for Michael Laverty’s VisionTrack Racing Team. “Pirelli gave us a hard and a medium rear to try and the initial feeling was that they give a lot of grip, especially the rear, but with the front it’s difficult to feel the limit – you don’t know how much you can push with the front tyre – there wasn’t much movement from it and there was a little bit of chatter. I’d say the front is a bit of a step back, but the rear is so good and had so much grip that the lap times were half a second to a second faster.”

Moto3 rider Scott Ogden

Ogden loves the Pirelli rear and wants more feel from the Pirelli front for 2024

VisionTrack Racing Team

Pirelli’s Moto3 rear slick is based on one of its tyres from the superbike paddock, while the front is all-new, so the tyre will require more work before the next tests.

“They only gave us two bog-standard compounds, so I’m sure they’ll play with that and make another step. The two rears they gave us weren’t far apart, whereas with the two Dunlops we get there’s more of a difference in lap times, so everyone seems to run the same tyres. Maybe with the Pirellis there’ll be more difference in choices and combinations.”

Pirelli’s Moto3 slicks also drop off more than the Dunlops, just like its Moto2 tyres.

“Everyone starting afresh with new tyres might be a bit of a leveller”

“I think that will make for more exciting races, because in Moto3 at the moment you can go 100% from lap one to the last lap,” Ogden adds. “Whereas if you have to manage the tyres or the tyres drop off a lot and you have to ride a bit differently at the end of races it’ll make for much more exciting races.”

This may have a secondary and important beneficial effect. If different riders choose different times to really go for it, the massive packs that currently ride around lap after lap, making many Moto3 races scary to watch, may become less of a problem.

Ogden is having a challenging second GP season, showing his talent when he can, because his Honda isn’t as competitive as the dominant KTM (which also runs with GASGAS and Husqvarna badges). So far this season he’s scored points four times, including an excellent fifth place in the soaking Argentine GP.

“It’s difficult when one manufacturer is quite a lot better than the other. I feel like the team and I are doing the best job we can right now, but it’s not where we want to be, though we’re slowly getting back to where we should be.

Moto3 rider Scott Ogden with crew

Ogden working with his VisionTrack crew

VisionTrack Racing Team

“The big groups don’t make it easy because it’s difficult for me to do my lap times, whereas when there’s more room I can use my own lines and use the corner speed the Honda likes to carry. There’s been a lot of sessions when I’ve been in the top ten, so I just need to adapt in races.”

Both Moto2 and Moto3 are crazy-competitive because the riders are tomorrow’s MotoGP stars, but Ogden thinks the switch in tyre brand may shake things up a bit.

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“There are a lot of guys who’ve been in Moto3 for five or six years, so maybe everyone starting afresh with new tyres might be a bit of a leveller. I feel like the Pirellis will suit different riders, so some riders who are at the front now maybe won’t get along with the new tyres and vice versa. It’s all about riding style. I think a smoother style will definitely benefit the Pirellis.”

Because this year’s MotoGP world championship doesn’t finish until November 26, riders won’t get to try the Pirellis again until 2024 pre-season testing.

However, after just one day of testing, most riders seem happy with the tyres they’ll use to the end of the 2026 season at least. Michelin’s current MotoGP contract ends at the same time, which begs the question: will MotoGP bikes use French or Italian tyres from 2027?