Giving a talk to team sponsors is not something most riders look forward to, especially on race day. Not that it’s particularly testing and after answering a couple of questions it’s usually, and conveniently, time for the warm-up lap.
But not only does Bennetts British Superbike Championship leader Christian Iddon take it all in his stride, he seems to enjoy the opportunity to express his views on, for example, the state of racing and what could be done to improve it.
And at Brands Hatch he gave the guests of PBM and VisionTrack something to think about by opining that improved tyre grip was making racing more dangerous.
It has long been accepted that the improvement in lap times owes a great deal to tyre development but Iddon, who has raced in most categories from Supermoto to Superbike, believes that faster corner speed has increased the risk, especially on certain British tracks, without adding to the entertainment value and questions whether something should/could be done about it.
Adding that the wasteage factor - tyres being thrown away after a couple of laps during qualifying - was hardly a good example to the world. “Let’s return to tyres which are slower, last longer and are safer. The racing will be just as exciting was his message.
Talking to bikesportnews.com he confessed that a reverse in racing tyre development was unlikely but explained: “We would still have slick tyres and rain tyres but you have a harder compound of slick tyre. The more grip you have the faster you go into a corner, the faster you come out of it and the faster you arrive at the next one.
“They have made the tracks as safe as possible in Britain but they’re not the safest in the world because they were made many years ago and they cannot easily adapt.
“It’s not just Britain, even on the European tracks they have some of the same problems with MotoGP where the bikes are going so fast now. The only way to slow them down is to use ‘worse’ tyres. The reason it is not likely to happen is that understandably tyre manufacturers want to set a new lap record and perhaps get a headline.
“Tyres are the main factor in improving speed, they’re the only piece touching the ground. If you put Superbikes on road tyres it would affect lap times massively, much more than playing around with the engines.
“Would it damage racing as a spectacle? Well, if you asked the average spectator at Donington Park the difference between a 1’27s lap and a 1’35s he wouldn’t know the difference. Not in a million years. And what does it matter, the racing would be the same.
“Qualifying tyres are not helping our environmental image. We’re not a sport well thought of in terms of the environment. So there are things we should do to improve that.
“Qualifying to me is a bit ridiculous, not just from that point of view but as a racer - luckily we don’t have it in BSB - who just has to use a new tyre requiring a new set up in a 15 minute session. And then you have to throw two tyres in the bin which have only done five or six laps. That seems wasteful, is a headline grabber and in my opinion seems for no reason whatsoever other than a headline.”
While having symathy with his view particularly with regard to ‘qualifying’ tyres James Whitham’s dose of realism is “you can’t stop progress” which Christian Iddon himself does not deny. He explains: “The problem is it’s a single tyre championship so it would be difficult to say to Pirelli or Metzler or Dunlop that we wanted them to make worse tyres. How is that going to promote their brand, their prowess etc,” said the Yorkshireman.
“I know exactly what Christian is saying - the more grip you have, the faster you go and the further you slide. I remember, maybe 20 years ago in America they had a class called Formula Extreme with bikes up to 1100cc engines producing about 200bhp, which was almost unknown in those days, but they had to use standard tyres. It was an exciting thing to watch but it didn’t really promote either the bikes or the tyres and was seen as a freak show.
“I agree with Chris that having less grip would probably make it safer, just as exciting and having a ton of power would not be such an advantage. But I am not sure how it would work commercially but it might be worth trying in one of the support classes.
“So far as qualifiers go they are absolutely pointless for me. They are presumably just to give the tyre manufacturers something to shout about. We’ve done a 1’32 round the circuit rather than a 1’33 which, I assume, is good for selling the product. But for the riders and everybody else it is completely pointless.”