Czech GP: Michelin preview

BACK TO BUSINESS AT BUMPY BRNO MotoGP circus reconvenes at challenging track where Michelin goes for tenth consecutive win The MotoGP circus reconvenes at Brno this weekend for the start of the second part of the 2005 World Championship. This...


MotoGP circus reconvenes at challenging track where Michelin goes for tenth consecutive win

The MotoGP circus reconvenes at Brno this weekend for the start of the second part of the 2005 World Championship. This is a crucial moment, when riders need to regain the momentum they built up during the first half of the campaign, which they completed in Germany four weekends ago.

As always, all eyes will be on reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1- Michelin), who dominated the first half of the season with the same superiority he showed in 2002, MotoGP's inaugural four-stroke season. Winner of eight of the year's first ten races, Rossi's German GP win was his 50th premier-class success and thus his 50th with Michelin tyres. At Brno the Italian genius aims to come out fighting from his Ibiza summer holidays, but there's a whole host of riders determined to catch him with his guard down, most of them on Michelin, including team-mates Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) and Marco Melandri (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin), who is out to regain his brilliant early season form.

Michelin riders ruled the first half of the 2005 season, taking pole position, race victory and fastest lap at all ten races. Michelin men currently hold the top eight positions in the World Championship points standings


Former 250 World Champion Marco Melandri had a dazzling start to his first MotoGP season with Honda, finishing inside the top four at the first seven races, including four podium finishes. But the final three races before the midseason break were tougher - the Italian youngster tumbled out of the US and British GPs and was seventh in Germany. Now he aims to get his campaign back on track at Brno after a summer break which included DJing at a party in Ravenna (Melandri is a keen trance DJ) and holidaying on the Greek island of Mykonos.

"Brno is a great track, one of the few where you can get a MotoGP bike wide open in a lot of different places," says Melandri who won the 2002 Czech 250 GP and reckons you need a 250 technique at this track. "With MotoGP bikes you can spin the rear whenever and wherever you want, but you need to be smooth at Brno, you need to maintain your momentum through the fast turns, so you use a 250-type riding style."

Melandri's main concern this weekend will be the state of the Brno tarmac, which hasn't been resurfaced for some years. "I hear it's a lot bumpier than last year because they've run GT cars and trucks there in recent months," he adds. "The bumps don't help, of course, especially since they can cause chatter. But it seems to me that you only really get chatter if your bike's engine-braking settings aren't correct. When the engine braking isn't right, you get a lot of chatter which can come from the rear of the bike to the front."

The last three GPs have confirmed Melandri's opinion that the road to MotoGP success isn't easy. While some people were already calling him the "next Rossi" after his impressive start to 2005, the 23 -year-old has never been under any illusions. "My goal at the start of this year was just to get experience and learn the bike, race by race," he says. "I still need to improve and I want to win a race this year but I can't say that I will. No one will hand a victory to me as a present, that's for sure!"

Melandri has used Michelin tyres ever since he graduated to the premier class in 2003 and now enjoys a close relationship with the French company. "I try to listen to whatever they say and I try to understand every tyre," he reveals. "I enjoy tyre testing because when you try a new tyre which is a little better in an area where you needed some improvement, it's very satisfying."


Michelin has an amazing record at Brno, having won 14 of the 17 GPs held at the track since its inaugural GP in 1987, a decade after the old Brno street circuit hosted its final premier-class event. This weekend Michelin goes for its tenth consecutive victory at the epic Czech venue, a wide open track that allows MotoGP bikes to really stretch their legs. But although the circuit is fast, it's not the most demanding on tyres.

"The track isn't particularly tough on tyres from a compound point of view because the surface isn't so aggressive, possibly because it's old and smooth," explains Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycle competitions. "Also, Brno is very balanced, with a fairly equal number of right-handers and left-handers (eight and six respectively), and its character is medium-gear sweeping turns, not tight, low-gear hairpins."

But, of course, Michelin does have its secrets. "It is very important to choose the correct front tyre at Brno," adds Goubert. "The circuit features downhill corners, bumps and plenty of fast esses, so it's a little like Mugello. Both these two tracks demand careful front-tyre choice, probably more so than most other GP tracks. You need quite a stiff front- tyre construction to ride the downhill bumps, with a medium rear construction.

"The track is bumpier than most, which can make life difficult for everyone. In the past a lot of riders had chatter problems at Brno, but we will have to wait and see how things are this year."


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Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Sete Gibernau , Marco Melandri