Australian GP: Michelin preview

MICHELIN KEEN TO PROVE ITSELF AT FASTEST, TOUGHEST TRACK OF THEM ALL Michelin goes into the fastest, most challenging event of the MotoGP year at Phillip Island hoping for more consistent weather in which to prove the performance of its latest...

MICHELIN KEEN TO PROVE ITSELF AT FASTEST, TOUGHEST TRACK OF THEM ALL

Michelin goes into the fastest, most challenging event of the MotoGP year at Phillip Island hoping for more consistent weather in which to prove the performance of its latest tyres.

At last month's Japanese GP the French tyre brand had looked ready to back up its superb one-two finish at the previous Portuguese GP with another dominant performance after its top riders had ruled practice and qualifying. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin), Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin) didn't only monopolise the front row of the Motegi grid with their qualifying tyres, they had also filled the top three places in practice using race tyres, making them hot favourites for the race. But rainy race-day weather turned Motegi into a lottery and although both Rossi and Pedrosa led briefly, they were out of luck in the results.

The recent improvement in the performance of Michelin's MotoGP riders is down to intense development work on the company's new-construction 16.5-inch rear tyre and 16-inch front. The stiffer construction rear delivers improved edge grip and traction while two recently introduced front profile offer riders better feel and a bigger contact patch for enhanced corner-entry performance.

MICHELIN AND THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE OF PHILLIP ISLAND

"Phillip Island is the biggest challenge of the year for the tyre companies," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "It is a big challenge because the circuit layout is the most demanding on tyres, producing the highest operating temperatures of the MotoGP season. The track is dominated by several fast and long left-handers which riders attack with a lot of speed and a lot of throttle, so the heat build-up in the left side of the tyres is quite big. The corner onto the start finish and the exit of Southern Loop probably put the most heat into the tyres.

"The circuit is also quite asymmetric, with only a few right-handers, so this adds to the challenge, especially since conditions can be quite cold at this time of year, so you also need good warm-up performance, especially on the right side of the tyres and especially in the mornings when conditions are cooler. Finally, the weather can be quite unpredictable, as we saw last year, which further complicates the situation.

"We are looking forward to seeing how the latest version of our new construction rear works at Phillip Island. All our top riders like this tyre now. Dani didn't use it at Estoril, when he finished second just behind Valentino, but he did use it at Motegi, where he was fastest in every session. The tyre is better in terms of edge grip and also gives better traction, so the rider can open the throttle sooner. We have also improved the warm-up potential of the tyres in recent months.

"We are confident that the new construction will work well at Phillip Island, though our tyre consignment in Australia will be about two thirds of this tyre and one third of the previous construction, because depending on compound, the 'old' construction may work better in some conditions.

"We also have two new profile fronts, one which we first gave our riders at the post-Czech GP tests in August, the other which Nicky and Colin (Edwards, Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) tried for the first time at Motegi. This latest tyre has a slightly different design to give a bigger contact patch and more edge grip, so it should work well through the long corners at Phillip Island, even better than it did at Motegi where the corners are shorter."

PHILLIP ISLAND DATA

Lap record: Marco Melandri (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin), 1m 30.332s, 177.266km/h-110.148mph (2005)

Pole position 2006: Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), 1m 29.020s

MICHELIN IN AUSTRALIA

Australia is a keen motorcycling nation, with bike sales showing impressive growth in recent years. The country's big outdoors encourages off-road riding -- almost 40 per cent of the bike market is in off-road machines. There are around 400,000 registered motorcycles in Australia and it is estimated there are about 350,000 unregistered off-road bikes. Michelin features strongly in all areas of the market and has enjoyed great success in Australian motorcycle sport. The company employs around 120 people in the country.

-credit: michelin

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Marco Melandri , Dani Pedrosa , Phillip Island
Teams Repsol Honda Team