TWIN RING CHALLENGE AWAITS MICHELIN TITLE HOPEFULS A week after celebrating Michelin's 350th premier-class bike Grand Prix victory in Australia the Michelin MotoGP crew readies itself for the Japanese GP, another vital event for the...
TWIN RING CHALLENGE AWAITS MICHELIN TITLE HOPEFULS
A week after celebrating Michelin's 350th premier-class bike Grand Prix victory in Australia the Michelin MotoGP crew readies itself for the Japanese GP, another vital event for the French tyre company's four World Championship hopefuls.
Michelin men Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Valentino MRossi (Camel Yamaha Team YZR- 1-Michelin), Marco Melandri (Fortuna MHonda RC211V-Michelin) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V- Michelin) currently hold the top four positions in the points chase, Mhaving won all but two of 14 races so far this year.
All 17 rounds of the MotoGP World Championship are important to this quartet of riders but Motegi is an extra- special event for Michelin because Japan is the epicentre of the global motorcycle industry and also home to Michelin's MotoGP partners, Honda and Yamaha. Victory there wins 25 points just like every other GP, but there's a distinctive taste to Grand Prix success in Japan.
Motegi was opened in 1998 and hosted its first bike GP the following year. The venue was christended Twin Ring Motegi because it features a traditional racetrack, used for MotoGP and other car and bike events, plus an IndyCar oval. The circuit layout is very `stop and go', dominated by in-and-out corners which place the emphasis on how riders enter and exit corners, rather on how they get through them.
MICHELIN'S RESPONSE TO THE CHALLENGE OF MOTEGI
"Motegi is a peculiar track," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "Traction is very important because there are many low-gear corner exits. I think engine power is also important for the same reasons, because although there aren't any long straights you need good acceleration out of all the slow-speed corners. It is a big challenge for us because we don't test there very often and it is the home race for one of our competitors. "The circuit isn't very hard on tyres and edge grip isn't that important because all the corners are pretty tight and short, there are no really long corners where the bike is on the edge of the tyres for a long time. We think our 2006 rear will help here but maybe not as much as at most other tracks because the tyre is more about increasing tyre footprint at more extreme lean angles.
"Finding grip for accelerating out of the corners is the big thing at Motegi. Last year we made some good improvements compared to our previous visit, we had better consistency. Last time there Max (Biaggi, Repsol Honda RC211V-Michelin) fought Loris (Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici) for the lead for more than half the race, so we will see what we can do this time.
"The circuit does demand quite a lot from the front tyre because there is a lot of heavy braking into several tight corners, so you need a stronger-than-usual front construction, different to the construction we use at other tracks. But it's only the centre of the tyre that gets stressed, because the turn-in time into these tight corners is very short, the riders go very quickly from upright to full lean.
"We will have to wait and see what the weather brings. September can be quite warm in Japan, just like it was at last year's race, but there's also the possibility of rain."
MICHELIN IN JAPAN
The Japanese motorcycle market is huge and so is the Japanese motorcycle tyre market with around six millions bike tyres sold per annum in the country. The national biking scene is also very diverse, covering all kinds of powered two wheelers, from supersport bikes to scooters and from off-road bikes to super scooters. Michelin has one factory and an R&D centre in Japan, based in Ota City in the Gunma Prefecture. Nihon Michelin Tire Co., Ltd, established in 1975, employs about 1400 people.