How To Byrne It Up At Donington How Michelin man Shane Byrne hopes to put home-track knowledge to good use Michelin's pace-setting MotoGP men aim to continue series domination in Britain This weekend's British Grand Prix commences the second...
How To Byrne It Up At Donington
How Michelin man Shane Byrne hopes to put home-track knowledge to good use Michelin's pace-setting MotoGP men aim to continue series domination in Britain
This weekend's British Grand Prix commences the second half of the 2004 MotoGP World Championship with three riders in the fight for the crown: reigning champ and points leader Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), Max Biaggi (Ho nda Camel Pons RC211V-Michelin) and Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin). With eight races done and eight to go, Rossi leads on-form Biaggi by just one point while Gibernau is third, a further 12 points down after tumbling out of the l ast two races.
The trio are confident to feature up front at Donington, where they dominated last year, Biaggi taking victory ahead of Rossi and Gibernau. Biaggi's 2003 Donington success was Michelin's ninth victory from the last ten premier-class GPs at the challenging Midlands venue. Michelin riders also dominate this year's World Championship chase, currently holding the top nine places.
MICHELIN RIDER SHANE BYRNE AND DONINGTON PARK
Shane Byrne (Aprilia Racing Cube-Michelin) commences the second half of his rookie MotoGP season at Donington. The reigning British Superbike champ, who was victorious on his last visit to the track at the end of 2003, hopes that his home race will give hi m another chance to impress the GP regulars with his riding technique and aggression.
"I've generally gone all right at Donington," says the Londoner. "I do and I don't like the track; it's a funny old place, like two tracks in one - you've got the stop-start track and the big flowing track."
Byrne - who had never even raced outside of Britain or Ireland before the start of the 2004 - is hoping his home-track knowledge will allow him to get his second top-ten finish of the year (following his tenth-place result in June's Italian GP).
BYRNE'S HOME TRACK-- "It's going to be awesome to go to a track that I've ridden a lot before, so I actually know the place," he adds. "It means I can go out there and know where the limit is, know where the bumps are, know where I can use all the track and where I can't, just everything these guys already know. Some MotoGP riders have been racing this class longer than I've been racing, so they know all the tracks really well.
"For a good lap at Donington the most important part is definitely the first section - out of the first turn, getting a good drive down Craner and so on. Donington is all about getting the whole thing right, it's not like you can ride one corner at 90 per cent and the next at 100 per cent to make up the difference on the first one, it's important to have a real good flow.
DONINGTON'S CONTRASTS-- "It's a weird place because it's real flowing, then you come into the last section where you stop, accelerate, stop, accelerate, stop, accelerate. The worst part of the track for me is the Fogarty chicane where the last band of tarma c drops away from you, so it's negative camber. You ride over that hard on the gas, so the tyre slips away and you get into a big slide. And the bump in the middle of the last corner isn't much fun either.
"When I've got the bike working good my favourite part is the bit coming out of the Old Hairpin up to McLeans. But if your bike's not working so good it's a nightmare piece of track, because you bounce all over the pace and can't keep the thing on line.
WHERE TO PASS AT THE PARK-- "For passing, I'd say that Redgate's always good, plus going into the Old Hairpin, if you're strong down through Craner, and into Foggy's and the last two corners."
"Tyres aren't the biggest deal there - it's usually medium compound. I'm really impressed with the help Michelin has been giving us this year. Their tyres are obviously the best in MotoGP and I'm really happy with what they give us - the tyres have great g rip, traction and endurance, which is everything you want from a tyre, really."
Byrne is enjoying his MotoGP apprenticeship, although he'd prefer some better results. "I love everything about GPs apart from my results," he affirms. "I've come from winning 14 races last year and hardly ever finishing off the podium, so I miss that. I u se my team-mate Jeremy (McWilliams, Aprilia Racing Cube-Michelin) as my reference point because I've got so much respect for him as a rider. If I'm anywhere near him then I'm going all right, and quite often I've been as quick, if not quicker. Also, I'm ha ppy that I'm in the background, because I want to get on and learn without a whole load of pressure on me."
MICHELIN AND THE CHALLENGE OF DONINGTON PARK
Michelin's MotoGP crew go into this weekend's British GP with no firsthand knowledge of the track's new surface, which requires them to bring a wider-than-usual range of tyres. But Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions Nicolas Goubert is nonetheles s happy that Donington has been resurfaced.
"The track definitely needed resurfacing," he says. "The last corner was terrible, off-camber and bumpy, and Craner wasn't good either. But, of course, we have yet to find out if the new surface is grippier.
NEW SURFACE MAY CHANGE EVERYTHING-- "Last year we were happy at Donington because our lap times were very fast but with the new surface it'll be a whole new ballgame. Donington is a peculiar track - it's asymmetric and made up of two very different sections - so it needs special tyres. The first section is fast and flowing, the second is very tight.
"It's a difficult track because it's impossible to get a set-up that works really well through the two contrasting sections. Instead riders have to find an 'average' set-up that will work okay through both parts, though they may not be particularly happy w ith the way the bike works in either part. And that generally means they will look to their tyres to make up the shortfall in performance.
16.5in FRONT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE-- "Our 16.5in front should make a difference over our 'old' 17in front through the corners which demand rapid changes of direction. That means the Fogarty Esses, from Starkeys into McLeans and, most of all, the fast left/ right flick down Craner. Other than that, the front tyre isn't that crucial at Donington. We've never had any problems finding enough front grip there, but what about with the new surface?
"The rear is much more crucial, mostly because riders need a great deal of acceleration traction coming out of the slow corners in the final section. If they don't choose the correct compound for the race their lap times will really suffer. It will be inte resting to see how our new-for-2004 rear will work at Donington because riders reckon that it does offer better traction compared to our 2003 rear.