Trying to get streetbike tyres, like those specified for use in the WorldSSP class, around the extremely stressful left-sided circuit of Phillip Island has been a difficult task for Pirelli for many years.
This year, after some tyre issues and falls, the high profile crash suffered by Kenan Sofuoglu, Race Direction decided to run the Sunday WorldSSP race in two parts, joined by a mandatory tyre change, as a flag-to-flag contest.
It was supposed to run 18 laps, as it had in previous years, with some exceptions for red flags and restarts, but now the race will take place over 16.
No more than nine laps will be allowed on one tyre, meaning that the riders must come in to change their rears on laps seven, eight or nine.
Then, after the mandatory pitlane intervention time has elapsed, the riders will take to the track again to complete the race.
That solution was argued out between the riders and the organisers, with some – like Lucas Mahias the 2017 world champion furious that Sofuoglu crashed, as he had at high speed in 2017.
Shortly before the news came of the half-and-half race, Mahias said, “The problem is before, because now is not the time to find a solution. Normally the solution has to be before the race, before the tests. It is just for the safety of the rider. Now it is very dangerous for the riders. The race is important but life is more important to the race. For me flag-to-flag is the best solution with this bad condition. But for sure, me, if you do not change the solution, I do not like to take part in the race. I would normally prefer to stop to race and go in my home.”
Pirelli has pointed out that low tyre pressures were part of the problem, and have now instigated a 1.6 bar minimum tyre pressure for 2018, to stop it being a problem.
That point is argued by Mahias, who said, “You imagine last year I explode the tyre in the same corner of Kenan Sofuoglu in 250kph and the bike was destroyed, and I was lucky not to have an injury. Can you imagine my team would play with the tyre pressure now? No, and my team-mate (Federico Caricasulo) crashed with the same problem on the first day of the weekend. I do not play with the pressure. Right now the race is not important the safety of the riders is important.”
After Mahias made his comments the news of the flag-to-flag race for WorldSSP was confirmed.