Catalunya: Michelin preview

Gibernau, Michelin and Catalunya Series leader Gibernau reveals the secret to a fast lap at Catalunya Michelin's MotoGP riders come to Catalunya this weekend aiming to continue their domination of the 2004 series. As well as...

Gibernau, Michelin and Catalunya

Series leader Gibernau reveals the secret to a fast lap at Catalunya

Michelin's MotoGP riders come to Catalunya this weekend aiming to continue their domination of the 2004 series. As well as recording Michelin's fourth victory in as many races in Italy last weekend, the company also achieved its 90th consecutive win at Mugello. And the signs are good for more success on Sunday -- Michelin has won all but two of the 12 premier-class GPs staged at Catalunya and hasn't been beaten at the track in the past decade.

The Catalan Grand Prix is the second of a frantic eight-week run of six GPs and the home event for Barcelona rider Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) who currently leads the World Championship. Amongst the men aiming to spoil Gibernau's hopes of a home tarmac triumph are reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) who won a storming victory in last Sunday's Italian GP.


This weekend's Catalan Grand Prix is probably the biggest weekend that Gibernau has known. One quarter of the way through his eighth premier-class season, the 31-year-old arrives at his home GP leading the World Championship. Winner of two of the opening four races of 2004, Gibernau is on stunning form at the moment, and he's keeping very cool and calm too.

"I'm keeping my feet firmly on the ground," he says. "I'm the same guy I was before I was leading the World Championship. I've still got a lot to learn, I've still not fulfilled my potential, I've just got to keep on learning."

So far Gibernau has won GPs at Spain's other two World Championship venues (he won his first victory at Valencia in 2001 and last month won at Jerez), so a win at Catalunya would be extra special for him

FINDING THE RIGHT WAY--"Catalunya can be quite a strange track," he says, "Tyres can be quite critical here, but only if you don't find the right way during the weekend. It's the kind of place where if you don't get a good set-up, you're really going to create problems for yourself."

Not surprisingly, the corners where riders demand the most from their tyres at Catalunya are also the most crucial corners -- the long and fast Renault right-hander and the 180-degree Repsol right that follows it, plus the fast Europcar and New Holland right-handers that complete the lap. Getting through these corners as quick as possible is the essential ingredient to a fast lap at Catalunya.

SLIDING JUST ENOUGH-- "You can get some big rear-end slides through the fast right (Renault) and the next turn (Repsol). Through corners like this it's easy to slide but it's not so easy not to slide. You have to be really careful with the throttle, because you're always going to get some wheelspin but if you get too much you won't be driving forward.

"The front tyre suffers a lot through the two final rights because you're pushing so hard there and because they're both downhill corners. They are also really important because they launch you onto the long start-finish."

Like his fellow Michelin runners, Gibernau is now focusing 100 per cent on Michelin's new 16.5in front tyre and its new profile 16.5in rear. The 16.5 front offers several advantages over the old tyre, partly because it is lighter and has a smaller rolling circumference.

MORE TO COME FROM MICHELIN-- "I think we're still not at the point where we've got the maximum out of the 16.5 front but for sure this tyre offers us a better future," Gibernau explains. "Its big advantage at the moment is during changes of direction -- you can really feel that you can flick from one side to the other quicker than you could with the 17. We are also still working to find more from the new-profile rear. Already it's got more sidegrip than the old 16.5 but I think we can still get more from this tyre."

So far Gibernau has made a superb job of adapting the set-up of his RC211V to Michelin's latest MotoGP tyres. "There is definitely more to come but we're doing well trying to match everything to the tyres," he adds. "I'm enjoying the whole process, and I have to say a big thank you to Michelin for their help so far this year, they've really opened up their technology to me. Michelin are the best because they understand what riders need, they know how to interpret what we say into improving their tyres. If you want to win the world Championship you've got to be with Michelin--"


Michelin's MotoGP crew come to Catalunya happy with the work they've done so far this year. Last weekend at Mugello, Michelin riders continued their domination of bike racing's hardest-fought championship by scoring Michelin's fourth triple crown -- victory/pole position/fastest lap -- from the first four races of 2004.

"We are happy with the progress our riders are making with the new 16.5in front and new profile rear," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "We think we have already climbed the steepest part of the learning curve with these tyres but of course we never stop developing. Most of the guys seem really happy with the 16.5 front, even the factory Ducati guys who haven't been using it very long."

SPEED IS ALWAYS THE CHALLENGE--New tyres always create new challenges for riders and teams who need to adapt their bikes to the tyres as quickly as possible. "To get the best out of your tyres you need to find the right set-up to go with them," Goubert adds "One of the biggest challenges that teams face is getting the best out of their bike/tyre package in the shortest time possible; whoever does that can gain a big advantage over their rivals.

"Catalunya should be interesting for us, because I think we'll learn a lot about the new profile rear. The most important corner on the entire circuit is the fast right after the first chicane. Riders always want more grip and traction through there because they are hard on the throttle, controlling a lot of wheelspin. Hopefully the new profile rear will help here because it gives riders more sidegrip.

TOUGH ON THE FRONT TYRE-- "The track can be demanding on the front because there are a lot of downhill corner entries, plus the surface is quite aggressive. But the 16.5 front has a bigger contact patch at high lean angles than the 17, so that could help.

"It will be interesting to see what top speeds the bikes achieve this weekend. I don't think they'll be as quick as they were during preseason testing at the track because it was quite windy there but it will be interesting to see the improvement compared to last year's race."


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Sete Gibernau