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2001 MotoGP 500 World Championship, round ten Czech Grand Prix, Brno - August 24/25/26 2001 PIVOTAL WEEKEND FOR MICHELIN MEN BIAGGI & ROSSI This weekend's Czech GP could be a pivotal moment in the battle for the last-ever 500...

2001 MotoGP 500 World Championship, round ten
Czech Grand Prix, Brno - August 24/25/26 2001

PIVOTAL WEEKEND FOR MICHELIN MEN BIAGGI & ROSSI

This weekend's Czech GP could be a pivotal moment in the battle for the last-ever 500 World Championship. Title rivals Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) and Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) are closer on points than they've been since the first race of the season and the series lead could easily change hands on Sunday.

Rossi had the upper hand until Biaggi came on strong during the last few races before the four- week midseason break that followed last month's German GP. The Roman is the man on form, winning two of the past three GPs, but Rossi is hardly out of sorts. Winner of five of the nine races so far, the youngster travelled to Japan during the break to win the prestigious Suzuka Eight Hour race, riding a Michelin-equipped Cabin Honda VTR1000SPW in partnership with Michelin's World Superbike Champion Colin Edwards.

The tension will therefore be acute as the GP paddock reconvenes at Brno, with Biaggi and Rossi determined to assert their dominance, while third-placed Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons-Michelin) and others will be aiming to join the leading duo up front. Michelin, as ever, will be in the thick of it, supplying tyres to the entire 500 grid.

After the Czech GP just two races remain in Europe before the season moves into its final phase with a withering run of back-to-back races in Japan (for the Pacific GP), Australia and Malaysia. The campaign concludes with the Rio Grand Prix on Saturday November 3.

THE RIDERS AND BRNO

This weekend will be one of the most important weekends in the life of Max Biaggi.The Italian, currently second in the 500 World Championship behind Valentino Rossi has a real chance of taking the series lead for the first time this year. Biaggi has been in remarkable form of late, winning two of the last three GPs to close to within ten points of his compatriot after trailing by 46 points following the first three races of the season.

And Biaggi couldn't think of a better place than Brno to go back into action following the midseason break, during which he tested at the track, then took his holidays.

Biaggi is King of Brno ­ he has been defeated here just once in the past seven years, winning four 250 GPs and two 500 GPs at the track, including last year's 500 race. That's why there's no one better to explain what a rider needs from his tyres at this epic racetrack.

"I love Brno, it's the kind of track that rewards precision riding," says the former 250 king who first brought his meticulous riding style to 500s in 1998. "It's also the kind of track where you need good corner speed, so Michelin's 16.5in rear slick should be good because it allows you to maintain a higher corner speed. I expected that this year's race would be much faster because of that, but then when we tested at Brno last month we tried both the 16.5 and 17, and I think both have their advantages at this track."

When Biaggi won last year's Czech GP he was running Michelin's traditionally more favoured 17in rear, but much has changed since then. Biaggi and his rivals now run 16.5s at most racetracks, and the tyre's larger contact patch is the number one reason for drastically faster race times recorded at many of this year's GPs. Indeed Biaggi has only raced the 17 once so far this season, at Mugello, where a rainstorm prevented the race going full distance in the dry. The fact that he is considering the 17 for Brno shouldn't come as a surprise since the circuit shares similarities with Mugello, both venues featuring several high-speed chicanes and plentiful gradient changes.

"Like Mugello, you have to be very precise through the chicanes, that's where you make up time," Biaggi adds. "And while the 16.5 gives more grip through the corners, its profile does slow the bike's steering a little, while the 17 allows you to steer through the chicanes faster. Both tyres seem to work well at Brno, rather like at Mugello, so we did a lot of back-to-back testing and the main thing is that we have a set-up that will work with either tyre. That's a great situation to be in. Our final decision will depend on conditions during the GP weekend since track temperature and other things could make the decision for us. Of course, we'll also be working hard to make sure we have the best front tyre on the day. That's important because there's so many off-camber corners at Brno."

MICHELIN TYRES AND BRNO

Brno is an impressive racetrack dominated by fast, flowing corners, numerous esses sections and plenty of elevation changes that produce varying cambers. The track is fast and challenging, both for the riders and for their Michelin tyre engineers, who have helped the French tyre brand win the last five Czech 500 GPs.

Brno's undulating topography determines the circuit's most crucial feature ­ negative camber. "The camber factor is a major consideration when we go to Brno," says Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques Morelli. "Like Mugello there's a lot of off-camber corners, so although Max and the others talk a lot about which rear tyre they'll choose, the front tyre is probably the most crucial concern. Riders need a stiff construction tyre for all the heavy braking, plus a lot of grip to cope with the lean angle demanded by the negative camber."

The track's character is also responsible for creating chatter problems. Chatter is a high frequency vibration that occurs as a rider goes through a corner, and Brno is one of the worst circuits for chatter, largely because of the frequent off-camber turns. It also seems that the more grip available, the more potential for chatter, and that could be one reason why Biaggi is contemplating the 17in rear as an alternative to the 16.5 with its larger contact patch and superior grip.

"Like Mugello, the negative camber can cause chatter at Brno, because the tyres are being highly loaded at extreme angles of lean," continues Morelli. "I think that is one reason why Biaggi may consider using the 17 at this race. Chatter isn't always an easy problem to solve. You can only reduce it by reducing grip, so as usual we have to work to find a compromise between maximum grip and minimum chatter."

Michelin have some modified tyres for this weekend's race, with a new compound designed to get the best out of the 16.5 rear at this demanding track. "We came up with this slightly different compound in time for Yamaha's Brno tests at the end of July," says Morelli. "The rubber is a little softer than the 17 that Biaggi used to win last year. This is normal ­ the 16.5 has a larger contact patch which increases grip and also helps the tyre to run cooler, which means we can go for a softer compound to increase grip still further."

BRNO DATA

Lap record 1998
Alex Crivillé (Repsol Honda-Michelin) 2m 02.335s, 158.996kmh/ 98.796

Pole position 2000
Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) 2m 01.291s

Recent winners of the Czech GP
2000 Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin), 45m 31.918s
1999 Tadayuki Okada (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 45m 18.066s
1998 Max Biaggi (Kanemoto Honda-Michelin), 45m 12.043s
1997 Mick Doohan (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 45m 25.012s
1996 Alex Crivillé (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 45m 38.884s

-Michelin-

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Alex Criville , Colin Edwards , Mick Doohan