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Michelin’s Response To Tire Theft Says Something About Tire Wars

In a press release issued today, Michelin announced that one of their latest race tires was stolen from their transporter at the Mondello Park British Superbike race over the weekend. The release implies that Michelin had been providing the HM Plant Honda team with full MotoGP-spec tires. Michelin also states that the police concluded that the theft had been carried out by a “professional”.

Michelin has long been on the cutting edge of motorsports tire technology, both two- and four-wheeled. Considering that a single race tire would be practically worthless on the open market but incredibly valuable to any of Michelin’s rival tire makers, it seems likely that the theft was an act of industrial espionage.

Whether or not the tire was stolen by a rival tire maker, Michelin’s response gives an idea of how jealously they guard their MotoGP tire technology: the release indicates that they are reconsidering the viability of supplying “state of the art products” to anyone outside the MotoGP arena.

Here is the full text of the Michelin press release:


Michelin recently suffered the theft of one of its latest-technology tyres during a British Superbike Championship event. Having reported it to the police, an investigation showed that this theft appeared to have been professionally carried out. In an effort to safeguard its industrial secrets, Michelin therefore has to seriously consider its involvement in competitive race series outside the MotoGP World Championship. Michelin’s Head of Motorcycle competition, Nicolas Goubert explains:

“Since what used to be the Superbike World Championship went for the one tyre brand rule, we, at Michelin, started taking part in the British Superbike Championship. We did that only because we were asked by our long term racing partner Honda Racing Corporation to be there in order to get ready to prepare the Suzuka 8 Hours. We have enjoyed great success together, winning 6 out of the first 8 races of the 2005 season, being involved with a single two bike team.

“Such a success can only be achieved with great bikes, great riders and of course state of the art tyres. Unfortunately, during the last event at Mondello Park our Michelin truck got broken into and a single tyre went missing. Would a ‘sneak thief’ take all these risks to grab a single tyre that he would probably not even know where it can be used? I don’t think so!

Is it the first time ever that a racing Michelin tyre goes missing? No, unfortunately not, but it is the first time somebody has broken into one of our trucks on a paddock during a race week-end in order to steal one.

We are obviously very proud of our record in all forms of motorcycle racing and of our technological leadership. Given this sort of incident, we are obliged to seriously consider whether we can afford to participate anywhere outside the MotoGP arena with state of the art products.

“In the meantime, as we have always done, we will try our best to enhance our technology to make sure we keep our technological leadership in MotoGP.”

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