MICHELIN MEN READY FOR TROPICAL SHOWDOWN The 2006 MotoGP World Championship moves closer to its climax at the Malaysian Grand Prix, the first of three back-to-back flyaway races that will play a crucial role in deciding who gets to wear ...
MICHELIN MEN READY FOR TROPICAL SHOWDOWN
The 2006 MotoGP World Championship moves closer to its climax at the Malaysian Grand Prix, the first of three back-to-back flyaway races that will play a crucial role in deciding who gets to wear motorcycling's most soughtafter crown.
With fives races remaining, four Michelin men lead the hunt for the 2006 MotoGP title: Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin), Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Marco Melandri (Fortuna Honda RC211V-Michelin). These four riders have won ten of the 12 races so far this year, Michelin's nine MotoGP riders filling 30 of a potential 36 podium positions.
Michelin has won 12 of the 15 premier-class GPs staged in Malaysia at three different tracks -- Sepang, Shah Alam and Johor. Sepang, which joined the GP calendar in 1999, is a venue much visited by MotoGP teams, who regularly use the circuit for winter test sessions.
MICHELIN'S RESPONSE TO THE CHALLENGE OF SEPANG
"This will be a very interesting race for us because we were disappointed with our results at Sepang last year," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's motorcycle racing director. "The 2005 race was strange, less than two seconds faster than the previous year's, because track conditions weren't so good. Sepang is like that, the grip character can change very quickly and for no apparent reason, even though the surface looks the same and the temperature stays the same. At last year's race the grip level was much less than during preseason testing, when we were very fast. This year's preseason testing didn't go quite so well for us at Sepang, partly because the bikes weren't as ready as they had been in 2005, so we weren't able to do so many long-distance runs. But maybe that means we will have a better race this time!
"Sepang has been a very popular test track ever since we first went there in 1999. The reasons for this are straightforward: it's a challenging circuit, with similar weather conditions throughout the year and it's quite close to Japan.
"The track isn't one of the most aggressive for tyres, but it is quite demanding, with high track temperatures, long straights, some heavy braking and many long right-handers which put a lot of heat into the right side of the tyres. The front tyre is very important at Sepang because it's a very wide track, so the corner entries are quite long. This should be good for both our new front tyres -- the wider profile tyre and the narrower profile with new construction -- because these tyres give better grip and more feel during the crucial corner-entry phase. Our 2006 rear should also help because its bigger footprint delivers improved edge grip which is particularly important through Sepang's longer corners. So I think we should be quicker than last year. The big question is how strong our competitors will be.
"We are now entering the final phase of the 2006 World Championship with four of our riders at the top of the championship. This moment of the season is always very exciting for everyone, including us, because the fight between the different riders and teams becomes even more intense. Our riders and the teams inevitably become even more demanding during this period when every championship point counts for so much, but we are used to this pressure, it is all part of the game, part of the interest."