ISTANBUL: WHERE THE NEW TYRE RULES REALLY BITE Michelin riders go into the Turkish Grand Prix following a dominant display at last month's Spanish GP where Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) won ahead of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol...
ISTANBUL: WHERE THE NEW TYRE RULES REALLY BITE
Michelin riders go into the Turkish Grand Prix following a dominant display at last month's Spanish GP where Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) won ahead of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin) and Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin). Rossi now leads the World Championship, while Pedrosa is equal second on points with Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici GP7).
The Turkish GP is set to be the most challenging so far this year because Istanbul Park is the first circuit that didn't feature in preseason tests, so tyre companies have no recent data to help riders select their allocation of 31 tyres, according to new MotoGP rules. At the Qatar and Spanish GPs riders and teams were able to choose tyres according to the tests they'd done at those tracks just weeks before the season began. Thus from Istanbul onwards the challenge facing Michelin and its rival tyre companies is bigger than ever before.
Michelin riders dominated both the inaugural 2005 Turkish GP and the 2006 event, filling the first four positions in 2005 and the first five places last year.
MICHELIN & THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE OF ISTANBUL PARK
"First of all, I'd like to say thanks to our team partners for doing such a great job at Losail and Jerez within the new tyre rules," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "Istanbul is going to be another big challenge. It will be much more difficult to fix the tyre allocation for our different riders because we haven't tested there, whereas we had tested at Losail and Jerez, so we had a lot of very recent data from those tracks. For the same reason it will be more difficult to explain our strategy to the teams, because we've not been able discuss any test results with them. From now on it's more our responsibility to find the performance, so they have to trust us even more. But we are quite confident, because of what we have learned so far this year and because our tyres worked very well last year at Istanbul.
"A lot depends on the weather, so we will have to watch the weather forecasts carefully in the week before the race. From that we decide our strategy, produce a range of tyres taking the forecast into account and then explain our strategy to the teams. The weather forecast is really important now. Last year we could be very reactive and send newly made tyres to the track overnight during the weekend. With the new rules we obviously have to start production earlier and also because we now create specific tyres for each rider, but our production facility is very flexible, so we don't need to make our tyres too long before the race.
"We had a good race at Istanbul last year, taking the first five places, so that gives us a good starting point for this year. Last time there it was pretty cold. The track can be quite tricky in the rain, last year we saw quite a few guys slide off as they braked into Turn 12 during a wet practice session. Also, the rain doesn't drain away too well.
"Edge grip and traction are very important, especially through turns three, five and seven. And you need good braking stability into Turn 12. It's going to be very interesting to see how our new 16 inch front behaves in Turkey because we've seen that Rossi and some of our other riders can be quite aggressive in the corners with this tyre. The other big thing in Turkey will be engine power, there are some fast sections, and also at the next race in China!"
MICHELIN IN TURKEY
Michelin tyres have been available in Turkey since 1936 and are currently imported by official subsidiary Michelin Lastikleri Ticaret AS. Turkey has a young population (40 per cent are under 22) and a rapidly expanding motorcycle market.