Pirelli the main sponsor of Superbike World Championship Qatar round
Pirelli is to be the main sponsor of the grand finale of the eni FIM Superbike World Championship. Held next weekend in Qatar at the Losail International Circuit, Doha, the last round of the season will take the official name: “Pirelli Qatar Round”. The event is also notable as the first time the Superbike World Championship will take place at night.
“We are pleased that this year Dorna has managed to bring the Superbike World Championship to Qatar and Malaysia, two overseas rounds which are very important to us, which is why we decided to be the Event Main Sponsor,” said Pirelli moto racing director, Giorgio Barbier. “As Malaysia is an important stage to increase our brand awareness in Southeast Asia, Qatar is a springboard to the Middle East. In this sense, Pirelli welcomes very willingly the efforts that Dorna has undertaken this year in structuring an even more international calendar, and that next year we hope it will be even more full of events and optimised in terms of dates.”
For this event Pirelli will bring a total of 3,101 tyres that will be made available to the Superbike and Supersport riders, the only two classes that are required to run in Qatar. Both the Superbike World Championship and Pirelli have been to Losail circuit before but not for four years. The production machine based series attended the track for five consecutive years, from 2005 to 2009.
As the Supersport, Superstock 1000, Superstock 600 and European Junior Cup titles have already been assigned, the final round will be a stage dedicated entirely to the premier class which will be supported by the Supersport World Championship and the Qatar Superbike series.
Sand the ‘number one enemy’
The Losail International Circuit is located just a few kilometres away from the airport of Doha, Qatar, and was opened in 2004. It’s one of the few circuits in the world that offers the opportunity to compete in the night, thanks to a perfect lighting system.
Although the track is almost completely surrounded by artificial grass designed to limit the inflow of sand from the desert, in the qualifying sessions the tyres often have to contend with the presence of sand on the track. The wind that blows on the flat peninsula of Qatar usually moves a lot of sand which is deposited on the track therefore early practice and qualifying sessions are very dirty. Riders in these early sessions must be careful riding with smooth, constant lines and even so the front tyre tends ‘tuck’ at some point, creating wear marks. On the rear, for the same reason, you can have a kind of “leopard spots” look.
Until 2009, the Championship has always made a stop in Qatar in the spring, running in daylight, so this is the first season in which it runs at the beginning of November and at night. All this brings with it some unknown factors that may affect the performance of the tyres. In addition to the aforementioned sand, tyres will face far cooler temperatures, typical of the night in the desert areas such as the one in which the Losail circuit is built.
Compared to past visits, the circuit will have more worn asphalt, making grip from the tyres more vital. There are few places where full throttle is needed, however, to adequately conquer the track, riders need a good compromise between front wheel stability during challenging braking zones plus a good level of traction at the rear to properly set the trajectories out of the fast turns.
Pirelli says that at the front riders need a tyre capable of absorbing the high power accumulated during braking without suffering high ‘crushing’. At the rear, Pirelli says it needs to focus on a soft tyre to provide adequate traction. This choice, however, is greatly complicated by the constant presence of sand on the circuit. In fact, it dramatically reduces the grip of the track and inevitably produces micro lateral slipping (stick and slide) resulting in tears on the surface of the tread. A soft tyre could not withstand the mechanical stresses generated by this slippage.
For this reason, Pirelli has decided to bring for the front the T0020 which is able to properly orientate the Qatari asphalt but with levels of support comparable to the SC2 and with improved resistance to mechanical wear. At the rear, in addition to the standard SC0, there will be the development T0722, a soft tyre which combines the grip of the standard SC0 with the stability of improved performance and a better mechanical strength, which is able to soothe the mechanical wear in the case of sand on the track.