MICHELIN MEN AIM HIGH AT HISTORIC ASSEN
Michelin riders contest MotoGP's most historic event at Assen this weekend, just days after last Sunday's rain-affected British GP in which Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) finished second and Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) took fourth.
Edwards goes to Assen in determined mood, still aiming for his first MotoGP victory. Last year the popular Texan battled for victory with winner Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) but fell at the final corner, remounting to finish an unlucky 13th.
Assen is the only MotoGP venue that has featured on the World Championship calendar every year since the series began in 1949. The event's classic status is highlighted by its unique TT title. While all other MotoGP events are Grands Prix, Assen uses the TT tag, for Tourist Trophy, a traditional name given to motorsport events in the early twentieth century. Last year Assen underwent enormous changes, the circuit shortened from more than 6km to its current 4.555km.
MICHELIN AND THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE OF ASSEN
"The new Assen is very different from the old track, it's not like the circuit we used to know," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "The new layout puts a bit less stress into the tyres. The old Assen was very, very fast, with a lot of banked corners, so the G-forces and loads were pretty big, which heated up the compound, so you needed harder tyres for the higher temperatures.
"The new layout is still fast but the rear tyres we use now are in the medium-hard range, because you still need good stability for the fast corners but also good traction for the slower turns. I'd say that the tyres we use here are more or less similar to the slicks we use at Donington, but with the compounds on either side of the tyre adapted to suit the different surface. Assen is also very asymmetric, rather like Donington and Barcelona, the layout is much more aggressive on the right side of the tyres, so you need good traction and stability for the long corners, like Ossebroeken, and also good warm-up, especially on the left side, for Strubben and the other left-handers.
"The front tyres we use at Assen are a bit harder than what we used at Donington, for example. There's some heavy braking required from quite high speeds, so the track is quite aggressive on the front tyre."
DEVELOPMENT OF MICHELIN'S NEW CONSTRUCTION REAR SLICK
"We are still continuing work on our new construction rear slick," adds Weber. "We tested some more new tyres during our post-Catalan GP tests at Barcelona, which we took to Donington and we're also taking to Assen. These tyres worked very well in dry practice at Donington, it's just a shame that the rain didn't allow us to use them in the race. As always, we are working on side grip and traction, and we've once again made another good forward step. All the riders who have tested these new tyres have done good lap times and confirmed that we have made a big improvement, especially on side grip. Some of our riders are now getting closer to the harder construction tyres preferred by Valentino. We use the same technical basis for all our riders now, with adjustments built in according to each rider's style and technique."
Lap record: Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), 1m 37.106s, 168.867km/h-104.929mph
2006 pole position: John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R), 1m 36.411s