MICHELIN RELISHES BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF THE YEAR Michelin men Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) and Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) swap the...
MICHELIN RELISHES BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF THE YEAR
Michelin men Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) and Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) swap the sweltering heat of Sepang for the chill winds of Phillip Island this weekend as their three-way contest for the 2006 MotoGP World Championship approaches boiling point.
The three riders are separated by just 26 points at the top of the championship chart with just four races to go.
Phillip Island the fastest MotoGP track of all and a real riders' circuit will thus be a vital event for all three men as they work closely with their respective Michelin engineers to choose a race-winning tyre combination. And Phillip Island isn't just the fastest MotoGP circuit of all, it is also the most challenging for tyre makers, with high running temperatures and an extremely assymetric layout, which greatly complicates tyre design. Perhaps that is why Michelin has enjoyed great success at the ultra-demanding seaside venue, winning all 11 premier-class GPs staged at the track since 1989.
Rossi, whose remarkable last-lap victory in Malaysia last weekend was his 58th with Michelin, goes for his sixth consecutive Phillip Island success this Sunday. The Italian's Sepang triumph was also Michelin's 349th premier-class victory.
MICHELIN'S RESPONSE TO THE CHALLENGE OF PHILLIP ISLAND
"From a sporting point of view, Phillip Island is one of my favourites," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's motorcycle racing director. "It's a real rider's track with flowing corners where maintaining momentum is important. And the layout allows riders to overtake in many different places, not just during braking, so the races are usually very entertaining to watch. Also, the flowing layout makes it difficult for riders to break away from the pack, so it's well known for close racing.
"So we always look forward to going there, though it is a huge challenge for tyres, in fact it's the biggest challenge of the year for tyre makers. The track is so asymmetric that you need rear tyres with very different rubber on the right and the left sides.
"High tyre temperatures aren't the only issue at Phillip Island, tyre warm-up is also a major consideration and will be more so this year because we are expecting colder conditions since the race is a few weeks earlier than usual. Tyre warm-up isn't a worry on the left of the tyres because the layout is so demanding on that side that it quickly gets hot, whether you've got a track temperature of 20 degrees or 30 degrees. But that's not at all the case with the right side of the tyre which is the big challenge."
"The corners that put the most heat into the tyres are the very fast final left-hander and the exit of Southern Loop. On the other hand, the first corner is also very tricky, it's a fast downhill right-hander, with negative camber, which demands a lot from the rear tyre, even though that side of the tyre hasn't really been used for a long time. "The front tyre isn't a major concern at Phillip Island. You need confidence in the front to attack the fast corners but there aren't any areas of sustained heavy braking, so you can use a medium-soft front."
MICHELIN IN AUSTRALIA
Australia is a keen motorcycling nation, with bike sales showing impressive growth in recent years. Last year the annual sales figures exceeded 100,000 for the first time. With so much open space, dirt bikes account for almost 45 per cent of the market. Michelin features strongly in all areas of the market, on target to sell around 90,000 bike tyres this year. Michelin enjoys great success in Australian roadracing, having won the 2004 and 2005 Superbike and Supersport crowns. The company employs 120 people in the country.