Brands Hatch: Michelin preview

Hodgson at home World championship leader Neil Hodgson (Ducati Fila-Michelin) can expect a hero's welcome at Brands Hatch this week-end. The Michelin man has had a tremendous season so far. His championship tally says it all: Hodgson leads on...

Hodgson at home

World championship leader Neil Hodgson (Ducati Fila-Michelin) can expect a hero's welcome at Brands Hatch this week-end. The Michelin man has had a tremendous season so far. His championship tally says it all: Hodgson leads on 355 points with second placed rider Ruben Xaus (Ducati Fila-Michelin) on a "mere" 233 points! Another Brit is third, HM Plant Ducati's James Toseland, on 201 points. But Hodgson, who took a 2nd and a 3rd at Brands last year, didn't have an easy time at the last round, in America. "Ra ce 2 was probably the most eventful race in my career," he admits. "I've never seen so many crazy things happening, especially on the first lap. I nearly crashed, then Frankie [Chili] somersaulted and then James [Toseland] crashed in front of me and I ran off the track into the gravel. Thankfully I finished second. Points are everything because I want to win the championship."

Hodgson's team-mate Xaus came very close to a double at Laguna Seca. "I could have won two races but that's OK, I know I'm getting better and better all the time," says the ever-friendly Spaniard.

His boss, Ducati Corse CEO, Claudio Domenicali, is understandably happy with the way things are going. "The bikes have benefited from the depth of development which goes into the Michelin tyres supplied to the team," he says. "With Michelin we have often f ound Laguna Seca a difficult track, but in the last two years their tyres have been well up to the situation."

Another local hero for this week-end is Carl Fogarty. The ex-rider turned team owner is hoping for more luck for his riders Troy Corser (Foggy Petronas Racing-Michelin) and James Haydon (Foggy Petronas Racing-Michelin) at Brands. "We've just got to carry o n picking up points and learning for next year," he explains. "If there is any bad luck to be had at the moment, James [Haydon] seems to be at the front of the queue. I just hope he can pick himself up in time for Brands Hatch."

Since the start of the world Superbike championship in 1988, Michelin riders have won 262 races out of 379 and taken 11 out of 15 world titles. Michelin won 25 races out of 26 in 2002 and 14 out of 16 this year.

Great British champions and Michelin

Britain's best have long trusted Michelin. There's Carl Fogarty of course, the four times world Superbike champion (1994, 95, 98 and 99 on a Michelin Ducati). The late great Barry Sheene was Britain's most successful GP rider. He rode his Michelin-shod Suz uki to 500cc GP glory in 1976 and 1977. Off road, Doug Lampkin (Montesa HCR-Michelin) has his sights on a 7th trials world championship this year.

Regular as clockwork

Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) won the first race at Brands last year. His race time was 36m27.555. He also won the second race, in 36m27.655. That's a single tenth of a second difference over two 25 lap races! His best laps were just as close: 1m 26.75 in race one and 1m26.71 in race two.

Brands Hatch and tyres

"Brands is quite a demanding circuit," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's motorcycling competitions chief. "It heats up the tyres in a similar way to tracks like Phillip Island or Monza, but that heat build up doesn't happen in the same part of the tyre. Bra nds is quite an even track and is only slightly tougher on the right side of the tyre. There are no specific problems at Brands and no grip issues."

Brands Hatch was opened in 1928 and lengthened in 1953 by taking advantage of the hill leading to Druid's Bend. In 1960, the Hawthorn and Westfield corners were added. That gave the track the required length (4.19 km) to get it homologated for internationa l events. The first Brands Hatch F1 Grand Prix was held in 1964. Ideally located only 32 kms from London, Brands is an extremely popular venue. In 1999, an unprecedented 120 911 spectators flocked to the circuit for the world superbike.

Michelin Superbike manager Jean Hérissé talks about the circuit. "The way Brands has evolved explains why there are two types of asphalt here. Grip on the Grand Prix track is not the same as that of the "small" circuit and that can take riders by surprise as they go from one to the other, especially in the wet. Grip is better in the Grand Prix section than on the part where the pits and the grandstands are."

Michelin and Brands Hatch

Michelin brings a total of 600 tyres (400 rears and 200 fronts), wet and dry, for this race. Sizes are 19 / 67-420 (16,5 inch) for rear slicks, rain tyres and intermediates. Front tyre sizes are 12/60-420 (16.5 inch) tyres.

Michelin's on-site personnel includes one team manager and two tyre fitters.

10th round of the Superbike World Championship: September 7th at Assen (Holland)

-michelin-

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Colin Edwards , Neil Hodgson , Ruben Xaus , James Toseland , Troy Corser , James Haydon , Carl Fogarty , Phillip Island