MotoGP 500 World Championship
Round sixteen: Australian Grand Prix
Phillip Island, October 27/28/29 2000
Lord of the slide goes for Island crown
Australia gets to greet its new 500 hero for the first time this weekend. When Garry McCoy (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin) raced his YZR500 for the first time at Phillip Island last October, he was just another factory 500 rider. This time he returns as the new star of the 500 class and undisputed Lord of the Slide.
McCoy has won three GPs so far this year, making him the second most successful rider after newly crowned Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin). And all of his victories have been stamped with the New South Welshman's awe-inspiring, tyre-smokin' riding style. Sunday's Australian Grand Prix is the final event of the year's 16 round World Championship season that started in South Africa back in March.
The riders and the track
Garry McCoy would like nothing more than to finish this season the way he started it at Welkom, South Africa, on March 19. That Sunday the little Aussie blew away his rivals, coming from behind to win his debut 500 GP victory. In fact McCoy did more than stun the rest of the 500 pack, he amazed anyone and everyone who watched the race. Some believed the victory was mere fluke but McCoy's apparently out-of-control style triumphed again at September's Portuguese and Valencia GPs. Now no one doubts that he will be a major contender for the 2001 500 World Championship.
McCoy's hugely entertaining sideways style is the result of his earliest days as a motorcycle racer, when he contested speedway events. Speedway taught him to ride and steer with the throttle, just as dirt track events had taught former Australian 500 kings and Michelin men Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner to ride sideways.
"Sliding the rear gets the bike to steer faster on the exit of corners, that's why I do it," explains McCoy, who expects he'll be as spectacular as ever at Phillip Island. "The slow, tight tracks do suit my style a bit better but the faster tracks aren't bad for us. I like Phillip Island, and I guess my favourite part is the two long lefts that take you back to the start-finish, especially the last one because it's blind. The places where you get it really sideways are out of the final turn, on the exit from Southern Loop, and through Lukey Heights, though that'll probably be from half race distance."
McCoy tends to get more sideways as the race progresses and he's often at his strongest during the closing stages, when his rear Michelin allows him to get even more radical. "I change my style during the race, after ten laps or so," he adds. "Towards the end of a race the rear starts sliding more easily. I either short shift, get easier on the gas or stand up the bike sooner when I'm coming out of the turns to keep the tyre driving forward."
Some so-called experts have criticised McCoy's style because they believe it over-uses tyres, but the former 125 winner disagrees. "The thing is that spinning the tyre isn't really hurting the tyre. What chews tyres is getting maximum drive out of the turns without spinning, because that puts so much load on the tyre."
One man who believes McCoy is doing it right is three-time 500 king Wayne Rainey, another former 500 World Champion with Michelin. "We met up a while back and Wayne was laughing. He said I've got it hanging out and I should keep it that way. He likes the way I ride, because I go hell for leather."
After riding his factory YZR500 for the first time in June '99, it took some time for McCoy to adapt his machine to suit his radical technique, and once this season got under way, it took a while for Michelin to provide the tyres he needs. The French company currently equips the entire 500 grid and has a policy of making the same tyres available to everyone. But it takes a while to adjust to everyone need. "It takes time because they've got to make 60 tyres, not just five for me. I started getting the tyres I want in July. Since then they've been coming up with a lot of different mixes and I'm getting to know the range of compounds I like, so we don't have to go through so many tyres at every race."
McCoy has also been largely responsible for precipitating a switch to Michelin's 16.5in rear slick, away from the traditionally more popular 17in. The 16.5in's radical profile gives a larger contact patch at maximum lean, for more grip, cooler running and longer life. "I've been quite surprised how many people are using the 16.5in, especially since Portugal. Everyone thinks they're the way to go, but I'm happy enough, it puts everyone on an equal footing."
Michelin's solution to the challenge of Phillip Island
Phillip Island is one of Michelin's biggest challenges in 500 GP racing. The track is one of the fastest with sustained high speeds and several long and ultra-fast corners. These factors contribute towards higher than usual tyre temperatures.
"Phillip Island and Welkom are the toughest tracks because they've both got long corners, through which riders control wheelspin with the throttle," reveals Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques Morelli. "It's the kind of place where the rider needs to think about his tyres, so he doesn't abuse them. Some riders are better at conserving their tyres, especially the ex-250 riders, because they tend to be gentler on the throttle."
"We'll have special dual-compound tyres, like we did last time. Last year some riders chose the wrong tyres for the race, it's always their final decision. The track had been resurfaced for '99 and when we tested there pre-season, tyres would last only a few laps, but the surface was less aggressive for the race, and by then we had tyres specially constructed for the track."
Japanese star Tadayuki Okada (Repsol Honda-Michelin) won the '99 Australian GP, by a fraction from Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) and Regis Laconi (Red Bull Yamaha WCM-Michelin), scoring one of the 16.5in's first victories. "This year we'll have a larger choice of 16.5ins," adds Morelli. "And like last year we'll have plenty of dual-compound tyres with a harder left side because Phillip Island is mostly left turns."
Phillip Island tyre information
Michelin transports approximately 2,400 tyres to Phillip Island this weekend - 1,800 slicks and 600 rain/intermediate tyres. A total of 17 Michelin staff looks after the needs of riders - six technicians, nine fitters, one manager and a co-ordinator.
<pre> Phillip Island data
Lap record in 1999
Kenny Roberts (Suzuki Grand Prix Team-Michelin) in 1m 32.743s at 172.657kmh
Pole position 1999
Kenny Roberts (Suzuki Grand Prix Team-Michelin) in 1m 32.319s
Recent winners of the Grand Prix of Phillip Island in 1999
1999 Tadayuki Okada (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 42m 09.271s
1998 Mick Doohan (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 42m 42.511s
1997 Alex Crivillé (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 42m 53.362s
1996 Loris Capirossi (Marlboro Yamaha Team Rainey), Eastern Creek
Provisional positions 1 - Kenny Roberts (Suzuki-Michelin) 249 points 2 - Valentino Rossi (Honda-Michelin) 193 points 3 - Carlos Checa (Yamaha-Michelin) 155 points 4 - Garry McCoy (Yamaha-Michelin) 150 points 5 - Alex Barros (Honda-Michelin) 150 points 6 - Max Biaggi (Yamaha-Michelin) 145 points 7 - Norick Abe (Yamaha-Michelin) 137 points 8 - Loris Capirossi (Honda-Michelin) 134 points 9 - Alex Crivillé (Honda-Michelin) 122 points 10 - Nobuatsu Aoki (Suzuki-Michelin) 110 points 11 - Régis Laconi (Yamaha-Michelin) 101 points 12 - Tadayuki Okada (Honda-Michelin) 100 points 13 - Jurgen v.d. Goorbergh(Honda-Michelin) 81 points 14 - Sete Gibernau (Honda-Michelin) 72 points 15 - Jeremy McWilliams (Aprilia-Michelin ) 68 points 16 - Tetsuya Harada (Aprilia-Michelin) 36 points 17 - David De Gea (Modenas-Michelin) 23 points
500cc category/Michelin partners
N° Rider Team 1 Alex Crivillé Repsol YPF Honda Team 2 Kenny Roberts Telefonica Movistar Suzuki 4 Max Biaggi Marlboro Yamaha Team 5 Sete Gibernau Repsol YPF Honda Team 6 Norifumi Abe Antena 3 Yamaha - D'Antin 7 Carlos Checa Marlboro Yamaha Team 8 Tadayuki Okada Repsol YPF Honda Team 9 Nobuatsu Aoki Telefonica Movistar Suzuki 10 Alex Barros Emerson Honda Pons 15 Yoshiteru Konishi Technical Sport Racing 17 Jurgen v.d. Goorbergh Rizla Honda 18 Sébastien Legrelle Tecmas Honda Elf 20 Phil Giles Sabre Sport 24 Garry McCoy Red Bull Yamaha WCM 25 José Luis Cardoso Maxon Dee Cee Jeans 31 Tetsuya Harada Blu Aprilia Team 46 Valentino Rossi Nastro Azzurro Honda 55 Régis Laconi Red Bull Yamaha WCM 65 Loris Capirossi Emerson Honda Pons 68 Mark Willis Proton KR Modenas Team 99 Jeremy McWilliams Blu Aprilia Team