English GP Michelin preview

<pre> 2001 Moto GP 500 World Championship, round eight British Grand Prix, Donington Park, July 6/7/8 2001 </pre> DONINGTON: RACETRACK WITH A SPLIT PERSONALITY Donington Park ­ the venue that features the halfway mark in this ...

<pre> 2001 Moto GP 500 World Championship, round eight British Grand Prix, Donington Park, July 6/7/8 2001

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DONINGTON: RACETRACK WITH A SPLIT PERSONALITY

Donington Park ­ the venue that features the halfway mark in this year's enthralling 500 World Championship ­ is one of the most interesting tracks on the Grand Prix calendar. It consists of two contrasting sections ­ the first fast and flowing, the second tight and slow ­ which demand different machine characteristics and riding techniques. Achieving the best compromise for the two sections is the art to fast lap times at Donington.

As the eighth of this season's 16 GPs, Donington is also an important weekend for riders, especially from a psychological point of view. Going into the second half of the season with a good result is crucial, so the main men battling for this year's 500 crown ­ Italians Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin), Max Biaggi (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) and Loris Capirossi (West Honda Pons-Michelin) ­ will be approaching Donington with a special kind of focus.

All three men have a history at the track. Former 125 and 250 World Champion Rossi won the 1997 125 and the '99 250 GPs at Donington, and last year he won his first-ever 500 GP at the circuit. Fellow former 125 and 250 king Capirossi won his first-ever GP at Donington when he dominated the 1990 125 race and went on to win the '91 125 and the '94 and '98 250 GPs. Four-time 250 champ Biaggi won the 250 race in '95 and '96 on his way to winning those 250 world titles.

British fans won't know which way to look this weekend, whether to concentrate on Italy's Speedy Trinity of title contestants or look out for local 500 rookies Chris Walker (Shell Advance Honda- Michelin) and Leon Haslam (Shell Advance Honda-Michelin).

THE RIDERS AND DONINGTON

Local hero Chris Walker faces one of the toughest races of his career at Donington Park this Sunday. The former Superbike star experienced a huge crash during practice for last weekend's Dutch GP, suffering concussion and hand injuries, and is fighting to be fit for his home race.

Chris Walker has had a bumpy ride in his debut 500 season as he hones his riding craft to suit the razor-edge 500 class. "It's definitely a tough year to come in and learn because everyone's a second a lap faster than last year, or more," he says. "I've just got to get myself up to that pace, but it's good fun learning... most of the time!"

Four-times a runner-up in the British Superbike series, and a podium finisher at last year's Donington World Superbike round, Chris Walker is enlightening in describing the difference between 500s and Superbikes.

"A Superbike is easier because it's got such a spread of power," he goes on. "Well, a 500's got a good spread too, but it picks up so much quicker. If 5000 revs last half a second on a 500, they last five seconds on a Superbike."

And yet Chris Walker reckons it's going into corners that is the biggest contrast between the two classes. "It's the lack of engine braking and the way the bikes turn into corners. These guys carry so much speed into the turns, while I'm still doing it Superbike style, stopping myself too much, so I've not got the rolling speed. They go in so much faster, so they can use corner speed, then get on the throttle, while I'm having to get on the throttle too early to get back up speed, and that can get you into big trouble on a 500."

Chris Walker, from nearby Nottingham, has enjoyed plentiful British championship success at Donington and is a big fan of the track. "I like everything about it but I think quite a few people don't like the place, because it's like two tracks in one ­ you've got the fast, flowing section, then the stop, start stuff from the Fogarty Esses to Goddards. Usually people end up with a bike that doesn't work perfectly in one area, which is why they end up not liking it. What you need is a happy-medium set-up that does the job in both sections; sounds easy but isn't. It wasn't easy on a Superbike and it'll probably be even tougher with the 500.

"Tyre-wise, you need really good drive grip, for the short squirts out of places like Coppice and the Esses, where you need to be able to get on to the fat part of the tyre. But the section that really makes a lap time is down Craner (a 200kmh/127mph right-left) and through Starkeys (a 235kmh/145mph left sweeper), it's fast there so you can make up half a second, not just a tenth. You've got to be careful through the Old Hairpin because if you carry too much speed through there, you run wide and that hurts the run through Starkeys, so you've got to forsake a bit to gain a lot. McLeans is very difficult because the best line is bumpy, so you can only go there if you've got a perfect set-up, otherwise it's a big risk. The hardest part is the last section ­ the Esses, Melbourne and Goddards ­ they're three awkward turns, both for getting into them on the brakes and for getting on the gas. But you've got to look at them as three potential out-braking places."

Chris Walker, yet to get inside the top ten in his apprentice 500 season, hopes his Assen injuries won't hold him back too much this weekend. "If I'm declared fit to ride at Donington I definitely will ride, it's been a long time since I missed a race through injury," adds the 29-year old. "It's my home GP and whether I like that or not, it's the biggest race of the year for me, but after Assen it's going to be a tough one. But everyone in the team is really trying hard, Michelin are being real good and I'm learning all the time. We just need a little luck to make the breakthrough."

MICHELIN TYRES AND DONINGTON

Michelin have won nine of the past 12 500 GPs at Donington Park, and the company's dominance of bike racing's most demanding class promises more success this weekend. But the British GP is a challenging event for Michelin because the track's contrary character means plenty of work for the company's GP technicians.

"Donington is definitely a challenging circuit," says Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques Morelli.

"And it's as much a challenge for Michelin as it is for the riders and their teams. There's always a lot of compromise involved in racing ­ every racetrack features several different types of corner so you have to work to find tyres that work well through all of those corners. Usually there's a small amount of compromise involved, but at Donington we have to make a bigger compromise because the track has two sections which are so contrasting. Whoever makes the best compromise wins. ."

"Ideally you'd want a grippy, soft construction front for Donington's slow turns but you need a stiffer construction tyre for the heavy braking into the hairpins and especially for the faster sections, like the run down Craner, where there's maximum pressure on the front. It's a similar story for the rear. The very high-speed sections through Craner and Starkeys demand a stiffer construction tyre, which may not work so well through the slow corners, where there's less pressure on the tyre. But riders make the most time through fast corners, so that's the priority for most of them. The track is also slippery but probably no worse than Suzuka and some other tracks."

Jacques Morelli believes the three-year-old lap record will definitely go this weekend as riders get to grips with Donington using Michelin's radical 16.5in rear slick. The tyre came to dominate 500 racing last season and is now the popular choice, over Michelin's more traditional 17in.

"In fact the record would probably have gone last year if it hadn't rained for the race, but we're sure it will go this time," Jacques Morelli adds. "We think the 16.5 will be good at Donington, well, we know it will be because Kevin Schwantz won his last GP at the track in 1994 using our very first 16.5in rear. It's ideally suited to the circuit because riders need to ride on the fat part of the tyre through much of the track, and that's what the 16.5 is all about, putting more rubber on the road when the rider is using a high lean angle through the corners."

After Sunday's racing riders and teams head to another tight 'n' twisty circuit, the Sachsenring, for the German GP on July 22. The GP circus then takes a mid-season break before the Czech GP on August 26.

<pre> PROVISIONAL STANDINGS 2001 (after 7 rounds)

Rider Nat Points JPN SFA JER FRA ITA CAT NED 1 ROSSI VALENTINO ITA 136 25 25 25 16 25 20 2 BIAGGI MAX ITA 115 16 8 5 25 16 20 25 3 CAPIROSSI LORIS ITA 97 8 20 8 9 20 16 16 4 ABE NORICK JPN 74 13 11 20 13 7 10 - 5 NAKANO SHINYA JPN 74 11 13 13 5 8 13 11 6 BARROS ALEX BRA 73 10 7 10 8 25 - 13 7 CRIVILLE ALEX SPA 62 7 10 16 11 13 5 - 8 UKAWA TOHRU JPN 53 - 16 11 - 9 9 8 9 GIBERNAU SETE SPA 49 - 6 6 7 10 11 9 10 ROBERTS KENNY USA 47 9 9 9 10 - - 10 11 GOORBERGH J VD NED 37 5 5 3 6 4 7 7 12 CHECA CARLOS SPA 36 6 - 2 20 - 8 - 13 McCOY GARRY AUS 27 20 - 7 - - - - 14 AOKI HARUCHIKA JPN 22 4 4 - - 11 1 2 15 HAGA NORIYUKI JPN 22 - - 4 - 6 6 6 16 CARDOSO JOSE LUIS SPA 17 - 3 - 3 5 2 4 17 JACQUE OLIVIER FRA 9 - - - - - 4 5 18 WALKER CHRIS GBR 8 - 1 - 4 - 3 - 19 HASLAM LEON GBR 6 3 - - - - - 3 20 WEST ANTHONY AUS 4 - 2 1 - - - 1 21 WILLIS MARK AUS 3 - - - 3 - - 22 VENEMAN BARRY NED 2 - - - 2 - - - 23 JANSSEN JARNO NED 1 - - - 1 - - -

DONINGTON EN CHIFFRES Record du tour Simon Crafar (Red Bull WCM Yamaha) 1'32''661 (1998) 156.298 km/h Pole position 2000 Alex Barros (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin) 1'32''316 Récents vainqueurs du Grand Prix d'Angleterre 2000 Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin), 52'37''246 (pluie) 1999 Alex Crivillé (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 47'06''290 1998 Simon Crafar (Red Bull WCM Yamaha), 46'45''662 1997 Mick Doohan (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 46'55''378 1996 Mick Doohan (Repsol Honda-Michelin), 47'11''135

Michelin partners - 500

No. Pilote              Nation  Constructeur    Team
1   Kenny Roberts       USA     Suzuki          Telefonica Movistar Suzuki
3   Max Biaggi          ITA     Yamaha          Marlboro Yamaha Team
4   Alex Barros         BRA     Honda           West Honda Pons
5   Garry McCoy         AUS     Yamaha          Red Bull Yamaha WCM
6   Norick Abe          JPN     Yamaha          Antena Tre Yamaha d'Antin
7   Carlos Checa        SPA     Yamaha          Marlboro Yamaha Team
8   Chris Walker        GBR     Honda           Shell Advance Honda
9   Leon Haslam         GBR     Honda           Shell Advance Honda
10  Jose Luis Cardoso   SPA     Yamaha          Antena Tre Yamaha d'Antin
11  Tohru Ukawa         JPN     Honda           Repsol-YPF      Honda Team
12  Haruchika Aoki      JPN     Honda           Arie Molenaar Racing
14  Anthony West        AUS     Honda           Dee Cee Jeans Racing Team
15  Sete Gibernau       SPA     Suzuki          Telefonica Movistar Suzuki
16  Johan Stigefelt     SWE     Sabre V4        Sabre Sport
17  Jurgen vd Goorbergh NED     Proton KR3      Proton Team KR
19  Olivier Jacque      FRA     Yamaha          Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
21  Barry Veneman       NED     Honda           Dee Cee Jeans Racing Team
24  Jason Vincent       GBR     Pulse           Pulse GP
26  Vladimir Catska     SVK     Paton           Paton
28  Alex Criville       SPA     Honda           Repsol-YPF Honda Team
41  Noriyuki Haga       JPN     Yamaha          Red Bull Yamaha WCM
46  Valentino Rossi     ITA     Honda           Nastro Azzurro Honda
56  Shinya Nakano       JPN     Yamaha          Gauloises Yamaha Tech 3
65  Loris Capirossi     ITA     Honda           West Honda Pons
68  Mark Willis         AUS     Pulse           Pulse GP

-Michelin

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Kevin Schwantz , Max Biaggi , Carlos Checa , Garry McCoy , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Norifumi Abe , Alex Criville , Alex Barros , Tohru Ukawa , Sete Gibernau , Shinya Nakano , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Noriyuki Haga , Chris Walker , Olivier Jacque , Jose Luis Cardoso , Haruchika Aoki , Mick Doohan , Leon Haslam , Anthony West , Johan Stigefelt , Barry Veneman