Rossi wins 22nd Premier-Class Crown for Michelin; Italian genius uses new Michelin rain tyre to win rain-lashed Rio GP and MotoGP world title. Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) reached another landmark in his remarkable...
Rossi wins 22nd Premier-Class Crown for Michelin;
Italian genius uses new Michelin rain tyre to win rain-lashed Rio GP and MotoGP world title.
Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) reached another landmark in his remarkable career at Rio today, winning his 49th GP victory to secure his fourth World Championship in six years. His 23rd premier-class win also takes him ahead of King Kenny Roberts, Geoff Duke and John Surtees in the all-time winners' list. The Italian youngster's tenth win of 2002 was achieved in treacherous conditions, just ahead of arch-rival Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin). Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki GSV-R-Michelin) led much of the race, eventually finishing third, well ahead of local-hero Alex Barros (West Honda Pons NSR500-Michelin) who was top 500 finisher. The only other man to lead was Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), who went from last place to first, then fell moments after taking the lead from Rossi.
Rossi's title success is Michelin's 11th consecutive premier-class World Championship and its 22nd in 27 years. Michelin riders currently hold the top ten places in the 2002 points chase and are as yet unbeaten in MotoGP. Today's first eight riders home all used Michelin tyres, Rossi winning with a new compound rear and the first non-Michelin runner 69.9 seconds behind. Biaggi and Checa also used the new tyre, Checa lapping within 7% of the lap record, when 12-15% is a more usual wet-to-dry difference.
"This is like a dream, but it's too early to explain how I feel because my head's still full of the race," said Rossi, whose path to the title was eased when rival Tohru Ukawa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) fell. "I couldn't see anything in the spray, that's the main reason I passed Roberts, just to see which way the track went!"
Michelin have been as impressed as anyone with Rossi's amazing 2002 form. "He's a very complete racer," says Michelin's chief of motorcycle competition Nicolas Goubert. "He never tries the impossible, he never panics and he doesn't worry about leading every practice session, he just works for the final result. He's a very complete racer in all conditions." Michelin Grand Prix manager Emmanuel Fournier added: "Valentino is very clever and always listens to his tyre technicians and his engineers. He understands good advice, so he's prepared to experiment, which means he's excellent for our development programme"
Rossi has won in all conditions with Michelin, in fact he's become a bit of a wet-weather expert since joining Michelin when he moved to 500s in 2000, winning his first 500 race in the wet and scoring three more soaking wins this year. "Michelin has done great work this year," declared Rossi. "The new four-strokes have been a big change, especially for the tyre companies who quickly realised that even their best 500 tyres wouldn't be enough. Last November, when we first tested the RCV in Europe, the bike was so demanding that we could only do five laps with 500 tyres. We realised that we needed more edge grip, because the four-stroke weighs 145 kilos and all that weight presses through a tiny contact patch, and more traction, because my bike has 150 horsepower when you open the throttle at maximum lean.
"When we first tried the new S4 profile rear last December it was a big, big step forward and since then Michelin have kept making small improvements. The four-stroke's smoother engine makes the bike easier to control but the tyres work much harder because our bike is the toughest on tyres. There's no doubt that we're a bit closer to the limit with the four-stroke, so you have to think about conserving your tyres, but I think that's only natural because Michelin made great 500 tyres for 25 years, while this is their first year of MotoGP."
This year Rossi has also benefited from a new Michelin front, introduced midseason. Until then the youngster had used basically the same front for one and a half seasons. "The front is a different story inmotorcycles because it's a psychological thing," he added. "It's easy to change rears but once you've found a front you like, you stay with it. I stayed with basically the same front for the first half of this season ,with just a slightly stronger construction for the four-stroke's extra weight. I really liked that tyre, it was great for braking and it had very good feel and feedback. But when Michelin gave us the new front, I quickly realised it gives the same feeling with more precise steering, so it's easier to put the bike where you want to put it."