Italy: Michelin preview

New-For-2004 Michelins Should Be Good For Mugello New 16.5 front will help in esses, new rear will mean more corner speed Michelin riders out for their 11th successive premier-class win at Mugello This weekend the 2004 MotoGP World...

New-For-2004 Michelins Should Be Good For Mugello

New 16.5 front will help in esses, new rear will mean more corner speed
Michelin riders out for their 11th successive premier-class win at Mugello

This weekend the 2004 MotoGP World Championship moves into top gear at Mugello, round four of a 16-race season that has already provided thrills aplenty. The Italian GP is always a major event on the calendar, with Italian riders at the very fore of the sp ort. On Sunday local favourites Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) will be giving it everything they've got to make inroads into the points lead of Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Mov istar Honda RC211V-Michelin), winner of the last two races.

The Italian riders and their armies of noisy, colourful fans aren't the only reason that Mugello is rated the greatest race on the MotoGP calendar; the Italian GP has everything going for it -- an epic circuit with a 330-plus kmh main straight, a beautiful Tuscan hillside setting and the stunning Renaissance city of Florence just down the road.

Michelin will be working hard to win its 11th successive premier-class Mugello GP this weekend, using its latest 16.5in front and new profile 16.5in rear. Unbeaten at the track since 1994, the French tyre brand also dominates the current MotoGP points stan dings, filling the top nine places. This year Michelin is chasing its 13th consecutive premier-class crown.

MICHELIN RIDER MAX BIAGGI AND MUGELLO

Max Biaggi comes to Mugello holding second place in the points chase and facing his best-ever chance of scoring a first premier-class victory on home tarmac. Three times an Italian 250 GP winner at Mugello, Biaggi has yet to climb to the top step of the po dium after a big-bike race at his home GP, though he has finished second on three occasions -- in 1998, 1999 and 2002.

WHY BIAGGI LOVES MUGELLO-- "Mugello is very special to me, and not just because it's in Italy," says the current MotoGP number three. "I love the track because it suits my passion -- it's not just flat, it's very up and down, with some great turns like Arrab biata One, Arrabbiata Two and Bucine. It's also fast and flowing, but it's the undulating layout that makes it special, plus you're in the middle of nature."

Biaggi, who has used Michelin tyres since he switched to the premier class in 1998, is as impressed as ever with the company's latest tyres -- the new 16.5in front and the new profile rear that are currently dominating MotoGP.

FLICKING WITH CONFIDENCE-- "When I first tested the 16.5in front it was immediately obvious that the tyre had a lot of possibilities, so I've stuck with it since then," he adds. "What I feel from this tyre is better stability entering the corner. When you f irst flick into a turn, you get a good feeling, so you can flick in with confidence.

"The new profile rear is also good, it seems to give an improvement in most areas -- sidegrip, durability and sliding traction. When the tyre slides it is more constant, so you can really feel what's going on. I'm mostly focusing on the new profile now, tho ugh I do sometimes try the other tyre for a back-to-back comparison. It's the same as always, Michelin do a great job, they're always making forward steps. We test tyres, give some feedback, wait a little time and then something better comes out.

DURABILITY AND BALANCE--"Tyre durability and set-up balance are always the big things at Mugello. The front tyre is very important for all the fast corner entries, but the front is always important, even at tracks with short corners. But you definitely need a lot of confidence in the front to attack the fast and downhill corners at Mugello.

"I love all the track, but I guess the most important corner is Bucine, because it leads onto the big, long straight. I also really like turn one, and with the latest MotoGP bikes you have to really think about the kink before turn one, you need to anticip ate it a lot more than you had to on a 500."

MICHELIN AND THE CHALLENGE OF MUGELLO

Michelin has an unrivalled success record at Mugello, and the company's MotoGP technicians believe that their latest MotoGP tyres should allow them to retain that supremacy this weekend. Michelin has made important advances with its front and rear MotoGP t yres this year, and both tyres should offer riders some real advantage around the challenging Mugello circuit.

"There are a lot of high-speed esses at Mugello," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "And the 16.5in front should be good for these sections because it's a lighter tyre, so riders should be able to change direction faster than they could with the 17in front. Riders also tell us that the 16.5 gives more confidence when flicking into corners, which will help them in both the first and second parts of each esses. The front is always very important at Mugello because there are a lot of high-speed corner entries, several of them downhill, like Casanova and Savelli, Palagio, Correntaio and Bucine."

NEW PROFILE REAR GOOD FOR 180s-- Goubert believes that Michelin's new profile rear should also help riders raise the pace, in different areas of the circuit. "The new profile rear delivers more sidegrip, which allows riders to carry more corner speed throug h turns, so it should be particularly good in Mugello's three 180 degree corners -- Turn One, Correntaio and Bucine," he adds. "Pretty much all our riders are now on the new profile, and I think that everyone will be using the tyre 100 per cent of the time fairly soon."

Of course, Mugello isn't only about corners. The track has the fastest straight in GP racing, along which bikes could exceed 340kmh this weekend. Also, Mugello's surface isn't really aggressive. The asphalt is quite old and smooth, so endurance should not be a problem."

-michelin-

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