The last three events in the World Superbike Championship will no doubt be an all-out battle, because the top three riders in the general classification are separated by just 25 points. After Assen, the next venue is Oschersleben on 10 September followed by Brands Hatch on 15 October, the replacement event for Imola.
Since the end of the season could well bring bad weather, Michelin has developed a new offering for its partners: 16.5 inch rain tyres, for both the front and rear. Until now, the intermediate and rain tyres fitted at the rear have all measured 18/67-17 (17 inches), with the front tyres.
To understand why, a short explanation is required. The dimensions of the rear tyres commonly referred to as "16.5 inches" are 19/67-420. The figure "19" refers to the width of 19 cm, "67" refers to the external diameter in centimetres and 420 the wheel diameter in millimetres. The dimensions of the rear tyre referred to as a "17 inches" are 18/67-17, i.e. 18 cm in width, with an external diameter of 67 cm and a wheel diameter of 17 inches (431.8 mm in metric). These two tyres therefore have exactly the same external diameter (67 cm), which means that teams can switch from one to the other without modifying their set-up. The 17-inch tyre was born in 1984, but the 16.5 inch appeared only at the beginning of the 1990s (when it was frequently used by Kevin Schwantz in 500 GP events). The change came about because a need emerged for a new tyre. As bikes became more powerful, they had to have rear tyres with more rubber in contact with the track, so the tyre width increased from 18 to 19 cm. To fix the tyre firmly to the rim, engineers opted for a diameter of 16.5 inches. With its higher sidewalls, the tyre offered a number of advantages, such as an improved ability to soak up bumps.
The "16,5 inch" gains greater speed on entering a curve and improved traction on coming out of a bend. Since the area of rubber in contact with the track is larger, softer rubber can be used for the compound. Nevertheless, the "17-inch" still has the advantage in terms of handling since it is less wide.
In defining "handling", two situations will be distinguished: o the transition of the bike from the vertical to lean, o the 'flick' from one lean angle to the other.
Each size therefore has its advantages and disadvantages. This being so, the choice can only be made on the basis of the bike, the riding style and the track. With its new 16.5-inch front and rear rain tyres, Michelin aims to bring riders and teams a choice of equipment adapted to circumstances.
Superbike: the final sprint is underway
With three rounds (six races) still to go, it is clear that preparations for the final sprint are well underway. Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) has a 24-point lead on Troy Corser (Aprilia) and 25 points on Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha). All this almost changed at the last event, at Brands Hatch. Both Haga and Corser took a tumble - Haga during the Superpole and Corser in the second round - but fortunately neither was hurt. Colin Edwards could have taken advantage of their misfortune to build up his lead, but fate decided otherwise. He was involved in a collective crash at the start of the first round: "My crash in the first start was one of those things. Hodgson ran over the kerb and I had nowhere to go. I got lucky and escaped injury".
But bad luck dogged the Texan when the race started again: "I burnt the clutch out on the start, after that I couldn't downshift. I felt it first on the first lap, I went to go down three gears into a left-hander, let the clutch out and nothing happened. I never knew if it was going to downshift or not so I just used the front brake a bit more".
Edwards enjoyed a better start in the second round. He was in second place behind Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin), when: "about halfway through the race I heard a really loud bang. I didn't have a clue what it was but thought it was on the front of the machine. I looked down and couldn't see anything, everything looked fine. Then every time I braked hard the front end just hopped across the track, there was nothing I could do to control it. The front wheel is badly peppered with little marks so maybe I hit a stone or something. It was a real pain because I felt good apart from that and the rear Michelin we went for was working well".
Supersport: Casoli is fighting fit
After his superb victory at Brands Hatch - on the heels of an equally brilliant win at Monza - Paolo Casoli (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin Pilot) is now second in overall, tying with Christian Kellner (Yamaha). He is now just seven points behind the leader Jörg Teuchert (Yamaha). Winner of the Supersport World Series in 1997, Casoli has already proved that he can take end-of championship pressure. Despite a crash at Brands Hatch, James Whitham (Yamaha Belgarda-Michelin Pilot) still has hopes of the title. Fourth in the general classification, in a tie with Stéphane Chambon, Whitham is just 28 points behind Teuchert. Winner at Phillip Island this year on a wet track, Whitham could be at an advantage should it rain
The challenge of the track and the solutions put forward by Michelin The Van Drenthe circuit is located 2 km to the south of the town of Assen, and 100 km to the north-east of Amsterdam. It is relatively close to the UK so many British fans make the journey to Assen every year to watch the Dutch round of the World Superbike Championship. The first TT was organised in 1925.
Since then, it has been held every year, except during the second world war. The current track was built in 1955 and modified in 1989. It is used primarily for biking competitions although a few car events are held there every year. A major project is currently underway to shorten the track and put in new stands that will be more comfortable for the spectators.
For Jean Hérissé, head of Michelin Superbike department: "The track has good grip. Drainage is excellent and traces of residual water minimal. This is a major advantage in bad weather. The Assen track is characterised by the succession of corners and rapid changes of direction. Taken in conjunction with the possibility of rain, that makes the choice of tyres fairly difficult".
"The Assen track has always brought out the best in talented riders. The combination of successive bends raises thorny problems in terms of choosing the best line. For this reason, riders taking part in the Assen event for the first time need time to adapt. The work in progress to make the track shorter - for the second time in its history - is regrettable in a sense because it alters the historical characteristics of the track and its specific personality".
"Very often, the outcome is decided in the chicane preceding the finishing line on the last lap. This is where one rider can get the edge on another through incisive braking. It is played out on a razor edge and the rider needs to have a well developed sense of balance to avoid a crash."
Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) and the Assen track "This is a fast, winding track, and it has a crown in the middle to drain off any rain water. This is a feature you rarely see on other tracks. As a result, you've got several banked corners and four successive slopes between going into and coming out of some corners". "It's vital here to choose your path and stick to it. The speed at which you take a corner often determines the speed at which you take the second. So a minor mistake at the start can have major consequences in the medium term. That makes this track extremely difficult, because you have to negotiate the successive slopes and the series of curves. The rain is also a major factor, because it makes things even more difficult."
For the Dutch event, Michelin is supplying a total of 2,100 tyres for dry or wet conditions. Four dimensions are available in Superbike: 18 / 67-17 (17 inches) and 19 / 67-420 (16.5 inches) for the rear tyres. At the front, riders can choose between the 12 / 60-17 (17 inches) and the 12 / 60-420 (16.5 inches).
There is a total of 700 tyres for dry tracks, 250 rain tyres and 150 intermediates.
For the Supersport category, Michelin is supplying Pilot Race tyres of 120 / 70 ZR 17 and 180 / 55 ZR 17.
A total of 1,000 tyres are transported to the circuit. The tyres designed for use on dry tracks are approved for road use, while the rain tyres are approved by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme. This year, Michelin is providing tyres for more than half the riders in the World Supersport Championship.
The on-site team comprises one manager, four technicians, seven fitters (of whom three are German) and one press officer.
<pre> 2000 Superbike World Championship (provisional positions)* 1 - Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda - Michelin) 281 points 2 - Troy Corser (Aprilia Axo Team) 257 points 3 - Noriyuki Haga (Yamaha WSBK Team) 256 points 4 - Pierfrancesco Chili (Team Suzuki Alstare Corona Extra) 214 points 5 - Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada - Michelin) 187 points 6 - Akira Yanagawa (Kawasaki Racing Team) 169 points 7 - Ben Bostrom (Team Ducati NCR - Michelin) 154 points 8 - Katsuaki Fujiwara (Team Suzuki Alstare Corona Extra) 116 points 9 - Aaron Slight (Castrol Honda - Michelin) 107 points 10 - Neil Hodgson (ISN Ducati GSE Racing) 86 points 11 - Gregorio Lavilla (Kawasaki Racing Team) 83 points 12 - Andreas Meklau (Gerin WSBK Team - Michelin) 81 points 13 - Juan Borja (Ducati Infostrada - Michelin) 75 points
2000 Supersport World Championship (provisional positions)* 1 - Jorg Teuchert (Alpha Technik Yamaha) 116 points 2 - Paolo Casoli (Ducati Infostrada - Michelin) 109 points 3 - Christian Kellner (Alpha Technik Yamaha) 109 points 4 - James Whitham (Yamaha Belgarda - Michelin) 88 points 5 - Stéphane Chambon (Team Suzuki Alstare Corona Extra) 88 points 6 - Iain MacPherson (Kawasaki Racing Team) 69 points 7 - Karl Muggeridge (Team Ten Kate Honda) 65 points 8 - Fabrizio Pirovano (Team Suzuki Alstare Corona Extra) 53 points 9 - Massimo Meregalli (Yamaha Belgarda - Michelin) 47 points 10 - Pere Riba (Castrol Honda - Michelin) 44 points 11 - Pitt Andrew (Kawasaki Racing Team) 44 points 12 - Rubens Xaus (Ducati Infostrada - Michelin) 39 points 13 - Christophe Cogan (Yamaha BKM Racing Team) 38 points
Superbike results in 1999 Best time, officials practice 2'03"641 by Aaron Slight (Castrol Honda-Michelin) at 176.126 km/h
Best time, Superpole 2'03"119 by Troy Corser (Ducati Performance-Michelin) at 176.872 km/h
Best time in race (Track record) 2'03"914 by Carl Fogarty (Ducati Performance-Michelin) at 175.738 km/h (Race 1, lap 4)
Results of first round 1- Carl Fogarty (Ducati Performance-Michelin) the 16 laps (96,784 km) in 33'19"369 at 174,266 km/h 2- Troy Corser (Ducati Performance-Michelin) at 4"443 3- Aaron Slight (Castrol Honda-Michelin) at 5"827 4- Pierfrancesco Chili (Suzuki Alstare) at 7"466 5- Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) at 12"636
Results of second round 1- Carl Fogarty (Ducati Performance-Michelin) the 16 laps (96,784 km) in 33'22"315 2- Troy Corser (Ducati Performance-Michelin) at 6"319 3- Aaron Slight (Castrol Honda-Michelin) at 14"592 4- Akira Yanagawa (Kawasaki Racing Team) at 14"645 5- Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) at 14"771
Supersport results in 1999 Best time, officials trials 2'09"874 by Iain MacPherson (Kawasaki Racing Team) at 167.673 km/h
Best time in race (Track record) 2'11"031 by Iain MacPherson (Kawasaki Racing Team) at 166.192 km/h (Lap 4)
Results of the race 1- Iain MacPherson (Kawasaki Racing Team) the 12 laps (72,588 km) in 26'26"707 at 164.691 km/h 2- Christiano Migliorati (Endoug Metalsistem Suzuki-Michelin Pilot) at 3"032 3- Ruben Xaus (Dee Cee Jeans Yamaha-Michelin Pilot) at 3"310 4- Karl Muggeridge (Ten Kate Honda) at 3"587 5- Stéphane Chambon (Suzuki Alstare) at 5"542
Twelfth round of the World Superbike Championship: 10 September in Oschersleben (Germany), latest news on www.michelinsport.com.
Grand Prix events
The Grand Prix and Superbike championships visit Assen every year, as they do Donington and Phillip Island. For comparison, here is a lap of the 1999 track with Alex Crivillé (Honda Repsol-Michelin), current 500 World Champion:
Pole position in 500cc Grand Prix in 1999: 2'01"564 by Tadayuki Okada (Honda Repsol-Michelin)
Average speed of 500cc Grand Prix winner in 1999: 176.132 km/h by Tadayuki Okada (Honda Repsol-Michelin)
A few of Michelin's international victories this year
Superbike In the World Superbike Championship, Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) won the first two races at Kyalami, then the first race at Donington and the second at Monza. Anthony Gobert (MVR Bimota Experience-Michelin) won the first race at home on Phillip Island, while Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) won the first races at Hockenheim and Brands Hatch.
Supersport The Supersport World Championship brought victory for James Whitham (Yamaha Belgarda-Michelin Pilot) at Phillip Island and Paolo Casoli (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin Pilot) at Monza and Brands Hatch.
500 Grand Prix Michelin won its 250th victory this year in the French Grand Prix with Alex Crivillé (Repsol YPF Honda-Michelin). The list of Michelin's achievements has since been extended to 256 victories including the Czech Grand Prix.
Endurance, motocross and trials In the Endurance World Championship, Costes/Charpentier/Gimbert (Honda-Michelin) won the Le Mans 24-Hour event, and Deletang/Foret/Willis (Yamaha-Michelin) the Liège 24-Hour event. In motocross racing, the winner of the 125cc Italian Grand Prix was Traversini (Husqvarna-Michelin) ahead of Séguy (Yamaha-Michelin), while Federici (Yamaha-Michelin) won the 250cc Slovakian Grand Prix ahead of Beirer (Kawasaki-Michelin). In trials, Doug Lampkin (Montesa Honda-Michelin) is World Champion for the fourth time running.
Rally racing McRae/Grist (Ford-Michelin) won the Catalonia Rally and the Acropolis, while Mäkinen/Mannisenmaki (Mitsubishi-Michelin) won in Monte Carlo and Grönholm/Rautiainen (Peugeot-Michelin) in Sweden, New Zealand and Finland.
Le Mans 24-hour event and FIA-GT The Le Mans 24-Hour event was a starring success, since Michelin equipped the first nine teams including - naturally - the winners Biela/Kristensen/Pirro (Audi-Michelin). In FIA-GT, Bailey/Campbell/Walter (Lister Storm-Michelin) won at Valence, Estoril, Silverstone, Zolder and Spielberg. The Sebring 12-Hour event brought victory for Biela/Kristensen/Pirro (Audi-Michelin) in the general classification and Beretta/Wendlinger/Dupuy (Dodge Viper GTS R-Michelin) in GTS. The Viper team had previously won the Daytona 24-Hour event. The American Le Mans Series at Charlotte (USA) and Silverstone (GB), was won by Lehto/Müller (BMW V12 LMR-Michelin). Nürburgring saw victory for Brabham/Magnussen (Panoz-Michelin), while McNish/Capello (Audi-Michelin) won at Sears Point and Mosport.
Official Michelin Superbike runners 1 Carl Fogarty (GBR) Injured and temporarly replaced by 21 Troy Bayliss (AUS) Ducati Ducati Infostrada 2 Colin Edwards (USA) Honda Castrol Honda 10 Vittoriano Guareschi (ITA) Yamaha Yamaha Belgarda WSBK Team 13 Andreas Meklau (AUT) Ducati Gerin WSBK Team 19 Juan Borja (SPA) Ducati Ducati Infostrada 20 Doriano Romboni (ITA) Ducati Team R&D Bieffe 33 Robert Ulm (AUT) Ducati Gerin WSBK Team 111 Aaron Slight (NZL) Honda Castrol Honda 155 Ben Bostrom (USA) Ducati Team Ducati NCR
Official Michelin Supersport runners 5 Ruben Xaus (SPA) Ducati Ducati Infostrada 8 Cristiano Migliorati (ITA) Suzuki Team Metalsistem Endoug Suzuki 9 Wilco Zeelenberg (NED) Yamaha Dee Cee Jeans Racing Team 10 William Costes (FRA) Honda Team Honda France Elf 15 Paolo Casoli (ITA) Ducati Ducati Infostrada 16 Sébastien Charpentier (FRA) Honda Team Honda France Elf 17 Pere Riba (SPA) Honda Castrol Honda 18 Vittoriano Iannuzzo (ITA) Yamaha Team Lorenzini by Leoni 19 Walter Tortoroglio (ITA) Ducati DFX Racing 20 Karl Harris (GBR) Suzuki Team Metalsistem Endoug Suzuki 21 Massimo Meregalli (ITA) Yamaha Yamaha Belgarda 25 Igor Jerman (SLO) Ducati TDC Desenzano Corse 29 Christer Lindholm (SWE) Yamaha Dee Cee Jeans Racing Team 34 Yves Briguet (SWI) Ducati DFX Racing 35 Shinya Takeishi (JAP) Honda Castrol Honda 69 James Whitham (GBR) Yamaha Yamaha Belgarda