Giorgio Barbieri, Pirelli Head of Motorsport Operations Interview
With Mark Bracks
Mark Bracks catches up with Pirelli’s Head of Motorsport Operations, Giorgio Barbieri, to discuss the unique stresses that Phillip Island puts on tyres, tyre solutions for 2019 and how testing panned out this week.
Mark Bracks: Giorgio, so the solutions, what did you bring this year?
Giorgio Barbieri: “We didn’t forget Phillip Island! It is impossible to come here, to not make an interesting test. We are always looking what’s happening in the Aussie championship and we are quite happy because we had the majority agree the results are good.
“The competitive national championship is growing, and I saw some riders participating in an international race out of Australia as well, which is good, including the Suzuka 8 Hour.
“When we come here for WorldSBK we always meet the same problems, usually in the first two day test session, things are OK. While yesterday (Monday) we started seeing something strange already as far as blistering, not a problem with temperature – I wouldn’t try to give you an excuse – but what I can consider is that this is the first race of the year for everyone, not all the teams work during the winter, so they are not so used to preparing certain bikes for the race.
“Probably if you came at the end of the season the bike riders and teams are perfect and the work is easier. The first race of the season is very difficult so you can see some very different performance from the teams, not only in lap time – as yesterday the lap times were already too fast. But also to run the tyres under a lot of pressure, so they’ll run longer, so we can see what we can do for the race weekend.
“To be frank, I was so excited about the flag by flag race last year, it was a very big show. We tried to put this formula into the WorldSBK [the pit stop] as it’s very interesting, but the teams are not all agreed on this form. I don’t know what we’ll do for the weekend, I wouldn’t like to arrive at the decision at the last moment because someone has problems and someone does not. So it’s a matter of preparation. But if the field is not ready… We’ll discuss after two days of evidence, and the conditions may change, the track may improve. It’s not just a case of 15 to 20 laps, it’s all about everyone using the same formula.
“We take all of the last season, in order to have a bigger campaign to study for the race tyres, we analysed all the tyres from every single race, to understand the level of fatigue and stress after the race, so we have some numbers now in mind. That’s why we prefer to prepare the special solutions for when we come here, considering what spares we got.
“But as usual when we come here, everything is changed around.
Mark Bracks: How many tyres did you bring for the test and the weekend?
Giorgio Barbieri: “We brought for the teams two rear Superbike and two rear Supersport, in reference to the last year’s race, and one new one. Nothing asymmetrical. This is part of the reason why the approach to this race is always difficult for us. We would like to make this race just like everywhere else around the world. But this is not the place so common.
“Our philosophy is this one, we would like to give your riders here a different type of tyre for Phillip island and another tyre for the rest of the races in the national championship. They need a range that works over the national championship. So if I have to improve my range in my work on WSBK, I can’t consider the race different to all the other fields, this is one point of strength, and one point from the other side.
“Pirelli has to decide, like MotoGP has different tyres every race, playing with the compound, or with WSBK the tyres have to work here, the United States, Africa, and this is the problem.
“For the race, it’s just a matter to see what happens here today. We have other specification already for the race, Superbike and Supersport, but before we put something different it creates more confusion with the team’s work.”
Mark Bracks: The latest spec’ we have for the Aussie Superbikes were bigger.
Giorgio Barbieri: “We developed the new sizes in Imola and Misano, and then we tested here. Last year we brought a new size, a 265, slightly bigger than the standard 260 for Phillip Island. The teams said, it seems fine, seems interesting, so after the race, they use 50/50 old and new ones, SC0/SC1, so it seemed like it was something more than just a tyre for Phillip Island. So we brought it to Imola, then from Imola to all the races.
“So all the teams moved from the old size to the new one. From Misano we improved the front as well to balance, and by the end of the season everyone used the big one. So for Phillip Island from this point of view, I had to ask to develop new tyres from the range, and as soon as the result were so fine, so far, we put it into production, the new sizes as a SC1 and SC0, and given to all the markets. Now we make our development in the World Superbike Championship, but we would like the markets to test the new sizes to understand how much they prefer this to the standard ones.
“So now we have all the standard range  and the new ones . This year we’ll work to create the whole range of compounds in the new sizes, and at the end of the season we can decide whether to keep the old one or the new one. Australia was the first country all over the world to tell me that they would like to have this as the range of tyres and homologate for the championship and I trust my riders.
“So it’s interesting to me that the country with just three choices of sizes decided to homologate and take the new one.”
Mark: In the ASBK test, the feedback was that it would want to fall into the corner quicker.
Giorgio Barbieri: “After Imola the riders asked for a different front, as the rear was pushing more the front, so we needed a bigger front, and stiffer front, so now all the WSBK are using the bigger front. Why are people using the little one? Because they aren’t confident yet. So I asked Gary [Crilly] when the other guys arrive, like Bayliss, Ducati, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki they will have the chance to ask the WSBK technician what to do to the bike to prepare for the new sizes, and they will immediately make upgrade to their performance. If they start from nothing it will take time, if they take the experience gained in WSBK, they’ll gain time.”
Mark Bracks: The Australian Superbike tyre is the same as the WSBK then?
Giorgio Barbieri: “Absolutely.”
Mark Bracks: What about Supersport? In the last couple of years we’ve seen, delaminating, more-so in the race and more critical.
Giorgio Barbieri: “Supersport is more so difficult, because of the size rims. We can’t make a bigger tyre due to the rim sizes being too narrow, so we make it bigger but then it stretch on the rim. We don’t have so many tester, Superbike has many testers more than Supersport.
“So we agreed with Dorna to do one test in Portugal in August for Supersport as well, and we’ll concentrate the test on Australian tyres. In order to have more experience in Supersport about this. In Supersport they lean more, less electronics, and higher temperature on the tyres than the Superbikes sometimes, which is why they cook the tyre more.”
Mark Bracks: So in Portimao in August, you’ll be testing there because it’s a little bit similar to Australia?
Giorgio Barbieri: “Portimao we know is very hot and the long corner, brings you down in the lane, is where we see the next highest temperature to Phillip Island, but 20-30C less, but more than all the other circuit in Europe, so this is something, not enough but something. If you come here [Phillip Island] in December and you make a test, you might not have any problem, but come in February and *click*…
“Several years ago we brought the Ducati’s from Europe, and we brought Troy Bayliss to test, we made a test here in December, the test were perfect, we tried to race and… I don’t really know what to do in this place.
“It’s almost impossible to find the right condition to test. Or we have to convince ourselves to make something completely different than what we normally like to make to suit these conditions for the laps we need.”
Mark Bracks: How different are the Supersport tyres, do they have a stiffer sidewall?
Giorgio Barbieri: “Yes and some of them do and are testing now. In Superbike as well they have a carcass stiffer than the usual one, and it’s a little heavier than the usual one as we make some reinforcement inside. But the thing is, is this the point or not?”
Mark Bracks: I was going to say with the extra weight, more inertia, more heat…
Giorgio Barbieri: “That might be why it’s not working. I hope to see some long run testing in the afternoon session.
Mark Bracks: Have you seen the difference in temperature between today and Sunday?
Giorgio Barbieri: “Yes, I saw the forecast but I’m not worried about this. It’s the heat generated into the tyre, it’s a matter of operative temperature, during the use. If the bike is loading the rear tyre in order to reach a certain level of temp, and overclimb this level and keep this higher level, you destroy the compound.
“So which way to keep this temperature down, is more in the team’s behaviour and the riders, and race administration. I know quite well how the MotoGP riders are used to managing the tyres, in the last lap they use it. But if they use this lap time in the beginning…
“In this championship they aren’t used to administrating the tyres, and in this place, this causes the problem. But yesterday we saw Bautista use an intelligent way to run very fast but keeping within the range and average temperature.
“This is the right attitude, I remember several years ago we tried with Troy Bayliss, he had the best Ducati, he was the man in this place, and he won the Race 1 with 12s advantage, and we saw some blister on the tyres. I said Troy, if we make like this in the second race, when the temp is higher, you will meet problems at the end of the race, try not to take 12s, but just the right amount, which was foolish to say to the rider. But he did, he came first on the second race, it was by 3s and the tyre was perfect. But it’s not my job to ask the riders and teams to administrate.”
Mark Bracks: So with the Supersport tyre, have you gone harder compound all over?
Giorgio Barbieri: “No, it’s always the same compound as used in Superbike, the mother of SC1, I don’t trust giving another compound will save us from the problem, because the more slip you’ve got the more temperature you’ve got. Here it’s always a combination of mechanical and chemical stress, one of the two creates the problem. So you have to keep the right amount of grip, and at the same time, not too much. More grip is the compound and more heating from the tread, but if you don’t give enough tread you get heating because of wheel spin.”
Mark Bracks: It’s the never ending chasing of the tail as they say… Is there any plan B for the tyres for the weekend?
Giorgio Barbieri: “We will discuss on Thursday in order to make a decision on the morning, rather than waiting for anything to happen on Friday. We will decide what kind of race we’ll have then!”
The count down is on for this weekend’s (Feb 22-24) season opener of the 2019 Motul FIM Superbike World Championship, Yamaha Finance round at Australia’s spectacular Phillip Island. Racing looks set to be hot; and the weather is forecast to be perfect for fans and for on-circuit camping with 25-28 degree days predicted.
WorldSBK Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit
Event Schedule, 22 – 24 February 2019
|Thursday 21 February 2019|
|9:00||10:00||1:00||World SSP||Riders Briefing|
|10:00||FIM Track Safety Inspection|
|10:00||11:30||1:30||All Riders||Riders Track Familiarization|
|12:00||13:00||1:00||Safety Car Test||Track closed|
|13:50||14:20||0:30||Aus SS 300||Free Practice 1|
|14:25||14:55||0:30||Aus SS||Free Practice 1|
|15:00||15:30||0:30||Australian Sup||Free Practice 1|
|15:40||15:50||0:10||Parade Laps||Black Dog Ride|
|16:00||17:00||1:00||WorldSBK||Official Photo||Start/Finish Straight|
|16:00||17:00||1:00||WorldSSP||Technical/Sporting Checks||Pit Garages|
|17:00||18:00||1:00||WorldSSP||Official Photo||Start/Finish Straight|
|17:00||18:00||1:00||WorldSBK||Technical/Sporting Checks||Pit Garages|
|18:00||All 1st Time Riders||Riders Briefing|
|TBC||All Classes||Tyre Stickers Distribution||Technical Bay|
|Friday 22 February 2019|
|8:30||8:40||0:10||Timekeeping||Racing Track System Test|
|9:10||9:25||0:15||Aus SS||Free Practice 2|
|9:30||9:45||0:15||Aus SBK||Free Practice 2|
|9:50||FIM Medical Inspection|
|10:00||FIM Track Inspection|
|10:30||11:20||0:50||WorldSBK||Free Practice 1|
|11:30||12:15||0:45||WorldSSP||Free Practice 1|
|12:25||12:55||0:30||Pit Walk 1|
|13:15||13:30||0:15||Aus SS 300||Free Practice 2|
|15:00||15:50||0:50||WorldSBK||Free Practice 2|
|16:00||16:45||0:45||WorldSSP||Free Practice 2|
|Saturday 23 February 2019|
|8:15||8:25||0:10||Timekeeping||Racing Track System Test|
|8:45||9:15||0:30||Australian SSP||Race 1||10 Laps|
|9:20||FIM Medical Inspection|
|9:30||FIM Track Inspection|
|10:00||10:20||0:20||WorldSBK||Free Practice 3|
|10:35||10:55||0:20||WorldSSP||Free Practice 3|
|11:05||11:25||0:20||Aus SS 300||Race 1||8 Laps –|
|11:30||12:00||0:30||Aus SBK||Race 1||12 Laps|
|13:40||14:10||0:30||Pit Walk 2 & Safety Car Laps|
|15:00||WorldSBK||RACE 1||22 Laps||Pit Opens: 14:40|
|16:15||16:45||0:30||Aus SBK||Race 2||12 Laps|
|16:50||17:10||0:20||Aus SS 300||Race 2||8 Laps|
|17:15||17:45||0:30||Aus SSP||Race 2||10 Laps|
|Sunday 24 February 2019|
|7:45||7:55||0:10||Timekeeping||Racing Track System Test|
|8:15||8:45||0:30||Aus SSP||Race 3||10 Laps|
|8:50||FIM Medical Inspection|
|9:00||FIM Track Inspection|
|10:30||11:00||0:30||Aus SBK||Race 3||12 Laps|
|11:05||11:35||0:30||Pit Walk 3 & Safety Car Laps|
|12:00||WorldSBK||S-pole Race||10 Laps||Pit Opens: 11:45|
|13:15||WorldSSP||Race||18 Laps||Pit Opens: 13:00|
|15:00||WorldSBK||Race 2||22 Laps||Pit Opens: 14:40|
|16:15||16:35||0:20||Aus SS 300||Race 3||8 laps|
|1 Lap 4,445 km||Issued: 28 November 2018 13:00h|