Michelin Czech GP preview

Title battle hots up at Brno Brno king Max Biaggi reveals his secrets for the epic, challenging Brno circuit Why Michelin's MotoGP tyres rule Brno's bumps, downhill turns and fast esses Nine races gone, seven to go and the 2003 MotoGP World ...

Title battle hots up at Brno

Brno king Max Biaggi reveals his secrets for the epic, challenging Brno circuit
Why Michelin's MotoGP tyres rule Brno's bumps, downhill turns and fast esses

Nine races gone, seven to go and the 2003 MotoGP World Championship is really hotting up. Three weeks ago in Germany Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) defeated reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michel in) at the final corner to close the points gap on the series leader. Gibernau has now won four races to Rossi's three, by this time last year Rossi had won eight GPs!

The Spaniard and the Italian will continue their title duel at Brno this weekend but they won't be alone in chasing victory at the epic Czech venue. Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) has an unrivalled record at Brno: seven wins from his last nine visits, three in the premier class, four in 250s. And the Roman is on top form at the moment, pole sitter at the last two GPs, he also topped last month's Brno tests. Then there's Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) who wa s also lightning fast during that test session. Can the little Italian win his first Brno victory since he commenced his World Championship career in 1990?

Michelin riders have won the past seven Czech GPs and currently occupy the top 12 places in the 2003 MotoGP World Championship.


Max Biaggi and Brno get on very well together - the Italian has failed to win at the Czech track just twice in his last nine appearances. There are good reasons for this astonishing success rate: his artful, inch-perfect riding style perfectly suits the ul tra-wide circuit's sweeping nature, and his mastery of the front end is vital through the venue's many off-camber corners.

And yet the four-time 250 World Champion disagrees with people who suggest that his style is still that of a 250 rider and thus biased towards the front end. In 250 racing corner speed is everything, which places the emphasis on the front tyre, but MotoGP bikes are bigger, heavier and much more powerful, which requires riders to focus on corner-exit speed and the rear tyre. Biaggi still has that graceful style, riding with both wheels very much in line, but he's just as hard out of the turns as he is into t hem.

"I'm not a 250 rider nowadays," he says. "I ride with the rear tyre, just like all the other guys. The telemetry shows that I spin the rear, maybe not as much as some riders, but you don't need to smoke your tyres to be fast! Every MotoGP rider spins the r ear tyre, these bikes have so much horsepower that it's impossible not to spin, but you don't want so much wheelspin that you lose time. I think the way I ride is the best way to save the rear tyre for the end of races. Sometimes I can choose a softer rear tyre than Rossi, though not often. I think I've only chosen a softer rear twice so far this season, and the difference in compounds isn't huge."

"During last month's Brno tests we did a lot of work on improving progressing sliding. You always want the rear tyre to slide progressively and predictably on the throttle, which requires a tyre construction that doesn't deflect too much when the load come s off the tyre as it starts to slide. I think we've made some good progress on this."

Biaggi knows exactly what he requires from his tyres at Brno. "You need stable tyres, so the bike doesn't move around when you're at high lean angles, so you can get good drive off the corners," he says. "Last month's tests were very busy. We tried a lot o f different constructions and compounds, so I rode a lot of kilometres, maybe 150 laps during the two days, which is tough because you've got to ride at race pace to properly evaluate the tyres, so you need very strong focus and concentration. We found som e new constructions and compounds that work very well, so I think Michelin has the ingredients to make the next step. Michelin is doing a fantastic job at the moment, I have a very strong relationship with them, I like the way they work, they're very profe ssional."

Over the past few seasons Michelin's non-stop development programme has improved grip, feel and race-long consistency to the extent that many race records have fallen dramatically. Last year's Czech GP, for example, was a massive 55 seconds faster than the 2000 event. And that's not all, Michelin has also helped to solve the problem of chatter - a high-frequency vibration at the tyre contact patch caused by the interaction of the frequency of three different springs - chassis, suspension and tyres. "We've n ot had any chatter for the last two years," adds Biaggi. "In '99 and 2000 we had some problems but the tyres and bikes have improved since then."


Fast, sweeping, negative-camber corners are a major part of Brno's layout, so grip is vitally important at the Czech venue. No wonder then that Michelin has ruled the Czech GP in recent years, indeed the French tyre brand has won every premier-class Czech GP since 1996.

Michelin understand what is required at Brno - it's one of those circuits where front-tyre choice is every bit as important as rear-tyre choice. "From a tyre point of view, Brno's characteristics are these - plenty of downhill corners, a lot of bumps, a ve ry symmetrical layout and not particularly demanding on tyres," says Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions Nicolas Goubert, who had a shorter summer break than most people in MotoGP, flying to Japan to look after the company's interests in the Suzu ka Eight Hours. "The fact that it's got bumps, downhill turns and fast esses makes it a little like Mugello. And it's no coincidence that these two tracks demand careful front-tyre choice, probably more so than at other GP tracks. You need quite a stiff fr ont-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, probably initiated by the bumps and high loads involved in the downhill sections. When you're close to the edge on grip, chatter can be a problem. But chatter is a very rare phenomenon these days. I think the four-strokes have made a difference. True, Superbikes had chatter a few years back, but I think everything has improved since then - the tyres, the bikes and the suspen sion - plus the MotoGP four-strokes are definitely less sensitive than the old 500s.

"We had a very good test session with a lot of our teams at Brno last month. We tested a lot of different compounds and constructions, mainly for the rear. The tests helped everyone get ready for this race."


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Max Biaggi , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Sete Gibernau
Teams Repsol Honda Team