Chinese GP: Michelin preview

MICHELIN MAN HAYDEN LEADS THE WORLD Michelin man Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) goes into round four of the 2006 MotoGP series leading the points chase for the first time in his career. The young American's consistency at the...

MICHELIN MAN HAYDEN LEADS THE WORLD

Michelin man Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) goes into round four of the 2006 MotoGP series leading the points chase for the first time in his career. The young American's consistency at the first three events - one second-place finish and two thirds - has put him on top of the World Championship.

Hayden is one of six Michelin riders in the current championship top seven, proving once again that the French tyre brand has performance and consistency in depth. The former dirt tracker and US Superbike champion took over the series lead in Turkey after chasing winner Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V-Michelin) and Casey Stoner (Honda LCR RC211V-Michelin) past the chequered flag.

Melandri, Stoner and Hayden made up the third youngest podium in premier-class history, highlighting MotoGP's burgeoning youthfulness. Not surprisingly, the youngest premier-class podium ever (Le Mans 1976) and the second youngest (Assen 1992) were also topped by Michelin riders: Barry Sheene and Alex Criville respectively.

China hosted its first MotoGP race last May, its awe-inspiring Shanghai facility dazzling the entire paddock. Everything about the venue is massive, from its 200,000-capacity grandstands to its 340km/h straight. The track itself is shaped like the Chinese character 'shang', meaning 'above', the origin of the port city's name, meaning 'above the ocean'.

Last year at Shanghai Michelin riders took pole position, established the lap record and won the race, also taking five of the top six finishing positions.

MICHELIN'S RESPONSE TO THE CHALLENGE OF SHANGHAI

"This will be our second time at Shanghai but in some ways it will feel like a first visit because we had so little dry track time last year," says Michelin motorcycle racing director Nicolas Goubert. "We had just two dry sessions all weekend, so we weren't able to gather much data. But on the positive side, we've got plenty of good data if it rains again! And the surface has good grip in the wet.

"During those two dry hours last year we did notice that the track is quite demanding on the front, because there's a few long corners, which riders enter at speed with the front brake on. Turn One is more than 300 degrees, which is a bit too much, and then there are Turns 11 and 12, which is in effect another 270 degree right-hander. The tarmac isn't that aggressive, though tyre wear is rather asymmetric, with the right sides having a harder time.

"Our 2006 rear should help at Shanghai because it delivers a bigger contact patch through the corners to give riders more sidegrip which really helps in long corners. Our wider profile 2006 front tyre should also help, because it too offers a bigger contact patch, so riders have better grip as they brake deep into corners. This should be very useful at corners like Turn One. But because we've had so little dry track experience at Shanghai it will be a challenge to find the correct compounds for the race.

"Most of the riders don't seem to like the Shanghai layout too much, the only place where there's a bit of flow is through turns five, six and seven, otherwise there's lots of stop and start, so it's a bit of a drag race. The two very fast straights aren't really an issue for us, we don't have a problem with heat build-up, but I guess they're great for the guys with fast bikes!"

MICHELIN IN CHINA

China is the world's biggest manufacturer and consumer of powered two-wheelers, so it's no surprise that Michelin has a major presence in the country. Michelin China employs around 5000 people and invests hundred of millions of euros in Shanghai Michelin Warrior Tire Co Ltd, which manufactures Michelin and Warrior Tyres. Michelin also has an R&D centre in Shanghai.

-michelin-

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Alex Criville , Casey Stoner
Teams Repsol Honda Team