Japanese GP: Michelin preview

"Motegi is a stop-and-go track, so braking and accelerating performance is very important, in fact it features some of the heaviest braking of the MotoGP season," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "The track ...

"Motegi is a stop-and-go track, so braking and accelerating performance is very important, in fact it features some of the heaviest braking of the MotoGP season," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "The track features several quite long straights followed by tight corners, so riders brake hard in a straig ht line for a long time, so they need a strong construction front tyre because the braking stresses are quite high. In this sense Motegi is quite similar to Shanghai, which also features fast straights followed by tight corners, so we use similar construction front tyres to those we use at the Chinese GP.

"Riders also need to be able to accelerate strongly out of the many slow and short corners to give them the best-possible speed down the straights, so they need very good acceleration traction from the rear tyre. Finding maximum corner-exit traction is therefore an important part of our job at Motegi. Edge grip here is a bit less crucial than at many other tracks because most of the corners are quite short, so the bikes aren't on the edge of the tyres for very long. The track is quite grippy, pretty smooth and isn't particularly hard on tyres . However, Motegi is always a real challenge because we never really test at the track and because it is the home race for our competitor."

Michelin's MotoGP crew heads east for the Japanese Grand Prix following three podium finishes at the last two races, including two runners-up results. At the hurricane-hit Indianapolis GP Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V-Michelin) proved the performance of Michelin's latest rain tyres by leading half the race and finishing second while Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) was a close third. Two w eeks earlier Lorenzo had finished a strong second in the baking heat of Misano.

Inclement weather has been a major feature of the 2008 MotoGP season, with rainfall at more races this year than anyone can remember. And the weather could play a part at Twin Ring Motegi too. Last year's Japanese GP was run in changing conditions, with riders swapping tyres mid-race, going from treaded tyres to slicks as the track dried out following pre-race showers. Teams and tyre companies will therefore be keeping a close and regular eye on weather forecasts throughout the weekend. Last year Michelin riders took a clean sweep of the Motegi f ront row during a dry qualifying session.

Motegi was opened in 1998 and hosted its first bike GP the following year. The venue was christened Twin Ring Motegi because it features a traditional racetrack, used for MotoGP and other events, plus an IndyCar oval. The circuit layout is very ‘stop and go', dominated by in-and-out corners which place the emphasis on how riders enter and exit corners.

MotoGP stays out of Europe after Motegi, dashing south for the Australian GP on October 5, then heading north for the Malaysian GP on October 19 before returning to the Continent for the season-ending Valencia GP on October 26.

-credit: michelin

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Jorge Lorenzo