MICHELIN MEN ON AN ISLAND MISSION
Champ Rossi goes for fifth consecutive Island win while fellow Michelin men fight for second overall
Michelin man Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) may already have wrapped up his fifth straight title with Michelin but he's on a mission at Phillip Island to do something he's never done before - win a fifth straight victory at the same track.
Like most riders, four-time Phillip Island winner Rossi counts the Australian GP venue as one of his all-time favourite circuits, so victory here is always special. The seaside venue is the fastest racetrack in MotoGP (following recently commenced alterations to Assen that have emasculated the historic Dutch venue) and is renowned for producing thrillingly close racing, which is why Aussie fans will especially appreciate the huge Michelin superscreens erected at eight popular spectating points around the circuit.
Phillip Island's high-speed layout also produces some of the highest tyre temperatures of the season, so the circuit also offers a special challenge for tyre designers. No surprise then that Michelin has enjoyed a 100 per cent victory record at this track - that's ten wins from ten Phillip Island premier-class races since 1989.
Of course, Rossi isn't the only man capable of snatching victory on Sunday. The next four riders in the World Championship, all of them on Michelin tyres, are currently separated by just nine points, so Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Marco Melandri (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin), Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) need every point they can get with just three races to go. Meanwhile MotoGP number two Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) is still bidding for his first win of 2005.
MICHELIN RIDER NICKY HAYDEN AND PHILLIP ISLAND
Popular winner of July's US GP at Laguna Seca and third-place finisher in Qatar two weeks ago, Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) has high hopes of another strong ride at Phillip Island.
"I really love Phillip Island, everything about it," says the 24-year-old. "It's a kinda old school racetrack, a real rider's track, plus it's got a lot of fast corners and if you like riding motorcycles that's what you like to do, go fast around corners! Another thing that's cool is that there's a lot of places to pass. My favourite corner is the last corner, just because it's so quick, plus I like going down into turn one.
"Tyres are such a big issue everywhere, not only here, the biggest thing we do every weekend is find the right tyre for the track. Phillip Island is definitely more of a back tyre track than a front tyre track, it just doesn't seem to be as abrasive on front tyres. There's not a lot of corners that you really trail brake down into, you're on the rear tyre a lot more, there's a lot of spin.
"It's definitely a dual compound track, you need real hard rubber on the left of the rear, about as hard as anywhere we go. On the front I'd say it's just about standard. We don't really mess about with front tyres, I've used the exact same front at about 60 per cent of the races this year. You get a front you're happy with and that makes one less thing to chase over the weekend.
"The other thing you've got to watch at Phillip Island is the temperature, it's hot when we test here but it's quite cool at the race. In the morning you've got to be careful to get some heat into the tyres, especially the right-hand side, that can catch a guy out, especially after the seagulls have done their business around turns seven and eight overnight. They like to hang out there through the night, though luckily the 125s clean some of it off!"
MICHELIN TYRES AND THE CHALLENGE OF PHILLIP ISLAND
"Phillip Island is a very big challenge, it puts more strain on the rear tyre than any other track we go to in MotoGP," says Michelin's chief of motorcycle competitions Nicolas Goubert. "So we have to devise specific tyres for this track that will ensure we don't have a tyre temperature problem. But whatever you do, you're always flirting with the limit at Phillip Island.
"The track is well known for producing great races, with a lot of riders together for a lot of laps. Last year Valentino and Sete (Gibernau, Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) had a very entertaining duel there, with very good tyre performance all the way to the end. We know that Loris (Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro Team) also really likes the track, he was fastest last year, taking a new lap record with our Michelin tyres on the last-but-one lap. As always we try to deliver consistent performance but this track is always tough, and we don't expect this to be an easy weekend because we guess our rivals recently tested at the track with their test team.
"We had some good tests with our 2005 rear slick at Phillip Island in February when Sete and Vale did a very fast race simulation, well inside last year's record. The different construction of this tyre increases footprint, which helps to increase the grip level .This track isn't so tough on front tyres.
"Of course, conditions will probably be much cooler compared to testing, so it's a case of adapting tyres to the conditions. At this time of year the weather can be quite changeable - it can be pretty warm or cold, windy and wet, so we have to create tyres that work over a good temperature range."