French GP: Michelin preview

MICHELIN MEN AIM TO THE MAIN MEN AT LE MANS Pedrosa & Lorenzo go into Michelin's home GP first & second on points The 2008 French Grand Prix begins the busiest period of this year's MotoGP World Championship with seven races over ten weekends.

MICHELIN MEN AIM TO THE MAIN MEN AT LE MANS
Pedrosa & Lorenzo go into Michelin's home GP first & second on points

The 2008 French Grand Prix begins the busiest period of this year's MotoGP World Championship with seven races over ten weekends. Thus Le Mans is the first race of the most crucial part of the season, and Michelin's MotoGP riders go into the company's home race with great confidence following the first four rounds of the 18-race series.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V-Michelin) leads the points chase thanks to his superb 100 per cent podium record at the Qatari, Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese rounds. But the Spaniard is only seven points ahead of rookie sensation Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), who missed the podium for the first time in China after injuring both ankles in a practice fall. In total, six of Michelin's seven riders are in the top ten of the current points standings, with Pedrosa and Lorenzo followed by James Toseland (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin), Chinese GP pole-sitter Colin Edwards (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin), 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V-Michelin) and Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda RC212V-Michelin).

After Sunday's race, riders, teams and Michelin's MotoGP crew stay at Le Mans for a crucial test session which will be their last chance to test before the upcoming series of six events at Mugello, Catalunya, Donington Park, the Sachsenring and Laguna Seca.

MICHELIN & THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE OF LE MANS

"Le Mans is a medium-demanding track for tyres," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "It's not so aggressive compared to somewhere like Estoril where the right sides of the tyres are worked very hard.

"Braking performance is very important, because there's a lot of hard braking into fairly slow corners. But compared to Shanghai we can use softer fronts. Shanghai is all about straight-line braking from very high speeds. At Le Mans it's more about braking into the corners, so we work to give our riders the grip and the feel they need to brake deep into turns.

"There are also a few longer corners where you need edge grip, like La Chapelle, Musee, Garage Vert and the 'S' Bleus. Corner-exit traction is also very important at Le Mans because quite a few of the low-gear corners exit onto straights. We use medium-range rear tyres here because although riders need good rear traction, the circuit isn't so aggressive. It's only when we get to tracks like Sachsenring, Phillip Island and Valencia, which are all very asymmetric and feature many long corners, that we use harder compounds.

"One of the big challenges for this race can be managing tyre performance according to track temperature and weather conditions because the region's weather varies a lot at this time of year. Track temperature can vary by around 20 degrees. But based on the experiences we've had so far this year with changeable track temperature, especially at Shanghai, we are confident.

For example, at Shanghai Lorenzo successfully raced with the same tyres he had used during practice, even though track temperature was 23 degrees less. This wouldn't have been possible a few years ago. Of course, it could also rain at Le Mans, like it did last year, but we are confident that this year we have the right tyres whatever the conditions.

The other factor at Le Mans is the surface which isn't so good, so we have to work hard to get grip by using the correct compounds.

"It's our home race so we will be aiming to win, but, of course, that's no difference from any other race. All our riders seem very motivated and very confident in their tyres at the moment, Dani is in a good position and likes the track and we hope that Jorge will be fully recovered. This is also a home race for the Tech 3 team with Colin and James and for Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR RC212V-Michelin), so we hope for a good result for everyone.

"On the Monday after the race there's a test session for all MotoGP teams. We will test some new fronts, with our existing profile, which are designed to further improve feedback and tyre edge grip. We also have new rear constructions and compounds to try. After Le Mans there are six races in eight weekend so it will be important to keep making forward steps during this test."

TRACK DATA

Le Mans: 4.180km/2.597 miles
Lap record: Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), 1m 35.087s, 158.255km/h-98.335mph (2006)
Pole position 2007: Colin Edwards (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), 1m 33.616s

-credit: michelin

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Valentino Rossi , Colin Edwards , James Toseland , Randy de Puniet , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Dani Pedrosa , Phillip Island