Michelin German GP preview

MotoGP 500 World Championship Round ten: German Grand Prix Sachsenring, July 21/22/23 2000 Sunday's German Grand Prix is the tenth round of the 2000 500 World Championship, almost two-thirds distance in the battle for the last 500 crown of...

MotoGP 500
World Championship

Round ten: German Grand Prix
Sachsenring, July 21/22/23 2000

Sunday's German Grand Prix is the tenth round of the 2000 500 World Championship, almost two-thirds distance in the battle for the last 500 crown of the 20th century. It is from here on in that the title tension really builds, with riders and teams anxious for every precious championship point.

Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin) currently leads the series, as he has done since April's Japanese GP. After finishing second to first-time 500 winner Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda-Michelin) in tricky damp conditions at Donington Park two weeks ago, he heads Carlos Checa (Marlboro Yamaha Team-Michelin) by 29 points. Jeremy McWilliams (Blu Aprilia Team-Michelin) took a close-fought third in Britain and looks forward to the Ring, since GP racing's tightest track should be ideal for his nimble twin-cylinder RSW500.

Riders and teams take a three-week break from racing after this weekend, reconvening at Brno for the Czech GP on August 20th. However, there'll be little peace for some, since many teams have tests planned before Brno.

The riders and the track

World Championship leader Kenny Roberts won the Î99 German GP at the Sachsenring and will be working towards another win at the track to build a further advantage over the chasing pack. With six races to go on the 2000 calendar, the American knows this is a crucial time, since he can't afford to make mistakes that might allow his rivals to put him under serious pressure at the final few GPs.

As you'd expect from last year's winner, Roberts likes the Ring and is confident he can score his fourth win of the season at the track. Sachsenring is a notable circuit because it is the slowest current GP venue, where brute horsepower counts for little and a nimble chassis and grippy tyres mean everything. Average lap speeds are less than half the top-speed potential of a 500 GP bike. And top speeds here are around 260kmh/160mph, compared to 320kmh/200mph at Hockenheim, German GP venue until the mid-nineties.

"I like the place because it levels things out machinery-wise," declares Roberts, who beat reigning World Champion Alex Criville' (Resold YPF Honda-Michelin) at the Ring last year after a tense duel. "There's not much of a straightaway at the place and that takes a lot of horsepower stuff out of play, though I believe they've changed the track out the back for this year, so it should be a bit faster, a bit more open". "Some people like tight tracks, others don't, and I guess a lot of it comes down to whether your bike feels good at the place. Sachsenring is a pretty technical circuit from a rider's point of view. It's so tight that most of the corners lead into one another, so you've got to hit everything real precise and try not to override the 500. That's tough for some riders but not for others. Last year I beat Alex and won the race by doing some pole-puttin'. I didn't have the best bike that day and it's the kind of track where you can keep the guy behind by riding tight into and through the turns. Other places, where the circuits are bigger and wider, you can't do that".

"It's not such a tough track for tyres but you still have to work with your engineers and the guys from Michelin to find the best front and rear to go the distance, just like you always do."

Michelin's solution to the challenge of Sachsenring

Just because Sachsenring is the slowest circuit encountered by the GP circus doesn't mean it's a pushover for riders and their technicians. The track features no less than 19 corners within its 3.508km/2.180 miles and that means riders spent much of the time banking into and accelerating out of turns, relying on excellent grip from front and rear tyres.

Riders use full throttle for just five seconds a lap at the Ring, that's less than five per cent of the time.

So they spend much of their time on mid-throttle, working their way through the inter-linking corners, careful not to apply too much power, or two little. Last year Michelin riders totally dominated the event, taking all but one of the top-ten places.

"Riders spend a lot of time at high lean angles, accelerating out of the slow corners, that's the hardest feature of the track from a tyre point of view," says Michelin Grand Prix manager Jacques Morelli. "But we've never found it a difficult track for our tyres. Generally riders can afford to choose quite soft fronts and rears, I think tyre choice here is easier than at most other tracks. The most important thing here is that the bike is easy to handle and easy to turn because the track is so twisty - this isn't a problem for us because our tyres offer very light handling characteristics."

Morelli expects more riders to run Michelin's latest tyre, a 16.5 inch front slick, at the Ring. The tyre was first introduced for last month's Dutch GP but poor weather at Assen and in Britain two weeks ago has prevented most riders from putting in substantial miles on the new dimension.

"A lot of the guys really like the tyre and some would have raced with it at Donington, if it hadn't rained for the race," he adds. "I think it should work well in Germany because it offers improved feel into turns and there are so many corners at this track."

Morelli's biggest wish for this weekend is dry weather. Rain has fallen over most GP weekends so far this year, affecting five of the nine races and playing havoc with team's efforts to work on machine settings and tyre choice.

"The changeable weather we've had all this season doesn't help us," he says. "It means the riders have just enough dry track time to set up their bikes, but not enough to run interesting tyre tests for us." <pre> Sachsenring tyre information

Michelin transports approximately 2800 tyres to Sachsenring this weekend - 2200 slicks and 600 rain/intermediate tyres. A total of 17 Michelin staff looks after the needs of riders - six technicians, nine fitters, one manager and one co-ordinator. And Michelin has five juggernauts at the track - four tyre transporters and one office/fitting equipment truck.

Sachsenring data

Lap record Alex Barros (Emerson Honda Pons-Michelin), 1m 28.072s Average speed: 143.391kmh/89.099mph

Pole position 99 Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki-Michelin), 1m 27.318s

Recent winners of the German GP 1999 Kenny Roberts (Suzuki-Michelin), 45m 59.732s 1998 Mick Doohan (Resold Honda-Michelin), 46m 00.876s 1997 Mick Doohan (Resold Honda-Michelin), N¸rburgring 1996 Luca Cadalora (Kanemoto Honda-Michelin), Nurburgring Provisional positions

Provisional positions

1 - Kenny Roberts  (Suzuki-Michelin)       145 points
2 - Carlos Checa  (Yamaha-Michelin)       116 points
3 - Loris Capirossi  (Honda-Michelin)       102 points
4 - Norick Abe  (Yamaha-Michelin)        101 points
5 - Valentino   (Honda-Michelin)         92 points
6 - Alex Criville'  (Honda-Michelin)         88 points
7 - Alex Barros  (Honda-Michelin)         79 points
8 - Nobuatsu Aoki  (Suzuki-Michelin)        75 points
9 - Garry McCoy  (Yamaha-Michelin)        62 points
10 - Jurgen van den Goorbergh  (Honda-Michelin)       56 points
11 - RÈgis Laconi ( Yamaha-Michelin)        55 points
12 - Jeremy McWilliams  (Aprilia-Michelin)      54 points

500cc category o Michelin partners

 N8 Rider      Team
 1 Alex Criville'     Resold YPF Honda Team
 2 Kenny Roberts    Telefonica Movistar Suzuki
 4 Max Biaggi     Marlboro Yamaha Team
 5 Sete Gibernau     Resold YPF Honda Team
 6 Norifumi Abe     Antena 3 Yamaha - DÌAntin
 7 Carlos Checa     Marlboro Yamaha Team
 8 Tadayuki Okada    Resold YPF Honda Team
 9 Nobuatsu Aoki    Telefonica Movistar Suzuki
 10 Alex Barros     Emerson Honda Pons
 12 Shane Norval     Sabre Sport
 15 Yoshiteru Konishi    Technical Sport Racing
 17 Jurgen v.d. Goorbergh   Rizla Honda
 18 SÈbastien Legrelle    Tecmas Honda Elf
 24 Garry McCoy     Red Bull Yamaha WCM
 25 JosÈ Luis Cardoso    Maxon Dee Cee Jeans
 31 Tetsuya Harada    Blu Aprilia Team
 43 Paolo Tessari     Team Paton *
 46 Valentino Rossi    Nastro Azzurro Honda
 55 RÈgis Laconi     Red Bull Yamaha WCM
 65 Loris Capirossi    Emerson Honda Pons
 99 Jeremy McWilliams    Blu Aprilia Team

* On few European races

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Series MotoGP
Teams Williams