Pirelli to test 18-inch rim tires with GP2 car in Barcelona

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MONTMELO – Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery has confirmed that the Italian tire manufacturer will be testing its prototype 18-inch rim tires in Barcelona next week using a GP2 car.

In a bid to make F1 more road relevant, Pirelli tested an 18-inch tire design at Silverstone last July during an in-season test, and received largely positive feedback.

Although the sport has stuck with 13-inch rim tires for the time being, a switch to the 18-inch rim design has been mooted for the next major technical regulation change, expected to come in 2017.

Speaking to MotorSportsTalk following the Spanish Grand Prix, Hembery confirmed that Pirelli was still looking into the 18-inch rim designs, and that the next test would be conducted next week in Barcelona.

“Yes, that’s right,” Hembery said when asked by this writer if Pirelli would be testing the prototypes in Barcelona next week using a GP2 car. “We’re doing a little bit more. We’ve carried on some development.

“Our GP2 car will be doing some testing with the 18 inch tires, that’s carried on.

“To be honest we’re doing it because we’ve got other programmes in mind as well, not just F1. It’s good for knowledge acquire. I think it’s more likely we’ll stay with 13 [inches] in F1.”

Hembery did say that the tires could be changed upon the next overhaul of the technical regulations, revealing that a number of plans were already being discussed.

“I think it will be more if we can give some more mechanical grip in the tires that improve the performance,” Hembery said. “We’ve got some ideas up our sleeve anyway for the regulations to throw in some more variables into the sport.”

However, he said that there were no plans to run a demo car using the 18-inch rims at the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

“Not at the moment,” Hembery said. “If we’re asked.”

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”