MICHELIN MEN GET TO KNOW INDY Michelin's MotoGP test team visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time on July 1 and 2 to test tyres in readiness for the inaugural Indy MotoGP event scheduled for September 14. The two day session...
MICHELIN MEN GET TO KNOW INDY
Michelin's MotoGP test team visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time on July 1 and 2 to test tyres in readiness for the inaugural Indy MotoGP event scheduled for September 14.
The two day session between the Dutch and German MotoGP rounds was scheduled thanks to new regulations which allow tyre manufacturers to test at tracks which haven't previously featured on the World Championship calendar. "These tests are a good thing," said Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "They allow us to get an initial feeling for the track. They also allow us to better understand the track and they give us an idea of how the race weekend will go."
Weber was accompanied to the tests by two Michelin tyre technicians, two fitters and two Michelin test riders: Frenchman Erwan Nigon aboard a Honda RC212V and compatriot William Costes aboard a Yamaha YZR-M1. Two hundred development tyres were sent to the tests from Michelin's Clermont-Ferrand base.
Nigon and Costes had the honour of being the first men to ride Michelin-equipped MotoGP bikes at the celebrated 'Brickyard' circuit which will celebrate its centenary in 2009. The Frenchmen mostly compete in Europe, so these tests gave them the chance to get to know a slightly more exotic race venue. "This track is very American, like the tracks used in the AMA Superbike championship which I follow on television," explains Nigon. "You skim past walls, and you cross bands of bitumen and white lines."
For Costes, it's the rhythm of the circuit that is its main characteristic. "The first corner is very fast, and difficult due to a lack of grip," he says. "After that the grip improves but the speed decreases with a succession of slower corners which are quite tricky to get right."
Following this first test session the unusual Indy MotoGP circuit will undergo further improvements, most notably to the start/finish straight where speeds should nudge 320 km/h.
The weather during both days, on the eve on Independence Day, was good, despite a strong wind on day two. The tests went off without incident, apart from one small crash on the second day, Wednesday.
"We've had good weather, with a track temperature of 50 degrees on the first day and 47 degrees on the second," added Weber. "We expect conditions to be not too dissimilar in September, when the temperature will be slightly less, which will be compensated by the faster pace during a race weekend. Both our riders have worked very hard. Thanks to them we have been able to pretty much complete our test programme which was quite ambitious. William was able to complete his tests with an endurance run, while Erwan managed a long run. We have now got plenty of data to analyse and information to verify."
The information gathered during the tests means that Weber already has a basic idea of what kind of tyres will be used by Michelin's MotoGP men in September. "The Indy circuit is more complex than we expected," said Weber. "The grip wasn't as good as we expected in the fast left after the start either, but it improved throughout the tests and will keep getting better as the bikes put down more rubber. On the other hand, the surface isn't very aggressive on the tyres. The circuit is unusual, with a fast main straight, heavy braking into the first turn and then a lot of slow corners. At the front it will probably demand a construction that gives stability during braking for the first left-hander, but the front will also need to offer good handling for the tighter sections. At the rear, traction will be important.
"As far as compounds go we think we will be looking at a medium range of compounds. In September we may start out with softer tyres, but we will have to focus on consistency of performance for the race." The Indy GP is programmed to last 28 laps, so it's a long race."
Once Michelin has undertaken full analysis of the information gathered during its two days at Indy the company plans to manufacture its specific Indy tyres at the end of August. Meanwhile the 2008 MotoGP World Championship continues with Weber, his MotoGP crew and Michelin's seven MotoGP riders moving on to Sachsenring for the German GP, tenth round of this year's MotoGP series, on July 11, 12 and 13.