MICHELIN MEN BUILD ON FAST START IN QATAR
Michelin's Qatar stars aim high at Jerez, where corner speed rules
The 2008 MotoGP World Championship hits Europe at the end of March for the Spanish Grand Prix, one of the biggest events of the season. Last year almost a quarter of a million fans poured into Jerez over the GP weekend!
This year Jerez hosts round two of the MotoGP series, three weeks after the spectacular night-time Qatar season opener in which Michelin featured so strongly, packing the top ten with seven riders after monopolising the front row in qualifying.
Most impressive were Michelin's two podium finishers -- Spanish MotoGP debutant Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) who battled for the lead, eventually finishing second, and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V-Michelin) who took an amazing third-place finish just seven weeks after breaking his right hand. Spanish fans will be right behind Lorenzo and Pedrosa at Jerez, willing them to the top of the podium.
Lorenzo isn't the only Michelin rookie injecting new excitement into the MotoGP class. Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda RC212V-Michelin) and James Toseland (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) also dazzled at Qatar, Dovizioso snatching fourth place from Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1) on the final lap, while Toseland crossed the line on Rossi's tail.
Michelin riders dominated preseason testing at Jerez in February, taking the top four places, Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin) fastest at 1m 38.848s, Lorenzo second at 1m 39.252s, Dovizioso third at 1m 39.313s and Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR RC212V-Michelin) fourth at 1m 39.351s. Michelin has won 20 of the 21 premier-class GPs staged at Jerez since 1987.
MICHELIN & THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE OF JEREZ
Jerez is a real rider's track, dominated by successions of medium-speed corners through which high corner speed is the target. The Andalucian circuit demands that tricky blend of smoothness and aggression from riders. Excellent edge grip and traction are the crucial tyre factors.
"Our tyres performed very well in Qatar, even in low temperatures, which could be important at Jerez because it's still quite early in the year, so the track could be quite cool," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "On the other hand, conditions could be quite warm, so we will offer a range of tyres that will handle a broad range of temperatures.
"Our Spanish GP tyres will be based on what we learned during the Jerez tests and in Qatar. Our new generation 16.5-inch rear is working well. We introduced this construction at last November's Valencia GP, which Dani won, and since then we've been perfecting the construction and optimising compounds to suit each circuit.
"We have focused on improving warm-up, tyre operation range and overall performance. Everyone knows that corner speed is very important with the 800s -- the riders want to open the throttle as soon as possible in the corners, which means grip and traction at maximum lean are the crucial factors. Excellent edge grip is vital at Jerez because the bikes spend so much time at full lean.
"The machines have advanced since last year and our tyres are very different to what we were using 12 months ago. We've already seen that lap times are a lot faster -- the Qatar race was 30 seconds faster than last year's. I have the feeling that this season will be much faster because the riders, the bikes and the tyres are at a very high level and everyone has a year's experience with the 800s.
"Our riders will test at Jerez after the race. At Qatar they all used our wider 16-inch front tyre, which has a fatter contact patch for even better corner-entry performance. After Jerez they will be able to test our latest, widest front, because when you increase rear tyre performance you must also improve the front. Our riders will also be able to evaluate the progress we've made with our 16-inch rear."
MICHELIN IN SPAIN
Michelin has a big manufacturing presence in Spain. About 9000 people work for Michelin in the country, many of them at the Lasarte factory that manufactures the majority of Michelin motorcycle tyres. Michelin MotoGP tyres are still produced at the company's Clermont-Ferrand HQ in France.