Michelin German GP preview

Slow track in a fast world Michelin men aim for 18th victory from the past 20 German Grands Prix Loris Capirossi explains the fast way around one of GP racing's slowest tracks This weekend Michelin's MotoGP riders aim to continue their ...

Slow track in a fast world
Michelin men aim for 18th victory from the past 20 German Grands Prix

Loris Capirossi explains the fast way around one of GP racing's slowest tracks

This weekend Michelin's MotoGP riders aim to continue their domination of bike racing's fastest series at the Sachsenring, the second slowest circuit on the Grand Prix calendar. The 154kmh/96mph Sachsenring presents a particular challenge to MotoGP riders and engineers, who must tame their 220-plus horsepower machines for the German venue's tight, twisting layout.

Michelin has been lord of the 'Ring ever since GP racing returned to the venue in 1998 after an absence of a quarter of a century. The French tyre company has won all five premier-class races at the track, as well as establishing lap records and pole posit ion on each occasion. Indeed Michelin has won 17 of the past 19 German (and West German) GPs at the 'Ring, the Nurburging and Hockenheim.

Current MotoGP points leader and 2002 German GP winner Valentino Rossi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) will be working hard to get back to his winning ways at the 'Ring after being stripped of his recent British GP for a rules infringement. Meanwhile e ventual Donington winner and current third-place man Max Biaggi (Honda Camel Pramac Pons RC211V-Michelin) will be keen to repeat his success as he bids to overtake second-placed Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) and chase Rossi.


Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici-Michelin) rides the most powerful machine in MotoGP racing. Last month his 220-plus horsepower V4 reached a top speed of 332.4kmh/206.5mph at super-fast Mugello, but this weekend the little Italian will be taming his Duke around a track with an average speed of less than half his machine's top-speed capability.

In other words, throttle control is everything at the Sachsenring, where riders are able to use full throttle for maybe only 15 per cent of each lap. "The second part of the track isn't so bad, it's not too slow," says Capirossi. "But the first part is ver y slow and twisty -- more like a go-kart track than a GP circuit. That section isn't so much fun on a MotoGP bike, in fact I think the 125s are faster through the first few corners because they're lighter and smaller than the bigger MotoGP bikes, but then a gain it's the same for every MotoGP rider. We don't use a special detuned engine for this kind of track, but we may work with the engine management system to calm the power, especially in the lower gears."

One of four anti-clockwise GP tracks, along with Rio, Phillip Island and Valencia, the Sachsenring's dominant feature is its succession of fast left-handers that form the middle section of the lap. But Capirossi doesn't believe that to be a problem, becaus e Michelin are well on top of designing tyres for the world's fastest race bikes.

"It's not a real concern, because Michelin has made a huge jump forward over the past few years," adds the Italian, who made history last month by winning Ducati's first premier-class GP victory at Catalunya, Spain. "The consistency and endurance of the ty res is excellent now. You only need to look at the results sheets to work that out -- at Mugello I set a new track record just three laps from the finish and Valentino made a new record at Catalunya three four laps from the end.

"Also, the lefts at the Sachsenring aren't a worry because you don't use a lot of throttle through them, you're never on full-throttle, I'd say we only use 70 to 80 per cent. The only place we get to use full throttle at this track is on the straights, and they're not very long. The important factor for the Sachsenring is manoeuvrability and nimbleness, especially through the first section. All you do through the first five corners is change direction and shift gears, you're using very little gas through th ere.

"My favourite corner is turn 12 -- the fourth-gear right-hander near the end of the lap. This corner is one of the most unbelievable corners in MotoGP racing -- it's very fast, blind, and you get a lot of wheelspin when you get on the throttle to go down the hill towards turn 13."


The Sachsenring may be one of the slowest circuits in GP racing, but that doesn't mean it's easy on tyres. The venue's peculiar layout -- with so many left-handers bunched together in one section of the racetrack -- places extra demands on tyres, but Micheli n's engineers have this well in hand.

"This track is slow, twisty and demanding on tyres," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "The most challenging area of the track from a tyre point of view is the six successive left-handers. Riders are on the left side of t he tyres for a long time through there, so they need strong tyres to cope.

"The situation is made more complex by unpredictable weather conditions. Like Donington, this race can either be quite cool or very hot, so we need to bring a wide range of compounds and constructions to make sure that our riders have exactly what they nee d.

"Riders also need their bikes to be very agile through the first section of the track. That's why the lighter 500s were so fast last year -- 500s led most of last year's race, the only time that happened all season, and a 500 would almost certainly have won if there hadn't been a crash in the final few laps."


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