MICHELIN DOMINATES JEREZ SESSION TO CONCLUDE WINTER TEST PROGRAMME Michelin riders dominated today's official preseason prologue event at Jerez, filling the first four positions in the special 40 minute timed session. Former World Champion ...
MICHELIN DOMINATES JEREZ SESSION TO CONCLUDE WINTER TEST PROGRAMME
Michelin riders dominated today's official preseason prologue event at Jerez, filling the first four positions in the special 40 minute timed session. Former World Champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha Factory Racing Team YZR-M1-Michelin) rode the fastest-ever lap of Jerez to beat Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin) by just 0.133 seconds. The Italian was 0.67 seconds quicker than the previous best lap at Jerez, proving once again that the new 800s are already faster than the 990s they have replaced. Colin Edwards (Yamaha Factory Racing Team YZR-M1-Michelin) was a close third, just ahead of reigning World Champion Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin).
"It's nice to win the first battle of the year," said Rossi. "This means the M1 is more competitive than last year and we are fast more or less everywhere. Here I have a good rhythm with race tyres and I was able to do a fantastic lap with the qualifying tyre, so my thanks to everyone."
Today's final day of preseason testing at Jerez concludes an incredibly intense winter testing programme. Since the final race of the 990 era last October, Michelin and its partners have crisscrossed the world developing tyres for the new 800s: from Valencia to Sepang and Jerez, back to Sepang, onto Phillip Island, back to Sepang again, thence to Losail and Jerez.
It's been a unique experience, not only because Michelin has been developing a new 16 inch front tyre and adapting its 16.5 rear for the 800s but because the company has been readying itself for MotoGP's new tyre regulations and implementing its new philosophy of creating tailor-made tyres for each of its nine riders to ensure maximum performance within the rules.
Michelin is happy with the work done so far, especially concerning development of the 16 front, which replaces the 16.5 that won the last three MotoGP World Championships. Michelin's motorcycle racing director Jean-Philippe Weber believes that the new 800s need better front tyre performance than the 990s because their nimbler handling characteristics allow riders to enter corners more aggressively. The 16in front, which has been under development since early 2006, is thus proving to be a great success.
"The emphasis is changing," says Weber. "Top speeds aren't so high with the 800s but the lap times are very fast, because riders can enter corners faster, harder on the brakes, and use more corner speed, so they need a good front tyre more than ever and they need high confidence in the front too. We realised this as soon as we talked to our riders after the first 800 tests at Motegi last September. That's why we switched to the 16. It is slightly smaller and lighter than the 16.5 which gives better handling and allows riders to flick the bike very quickly, and it's got a slightly bigger footprint for more grip and confidence.
"Initial development didn't go as quickly as we expected because not all our riders were available for testing in November (Hayden and Pedrosa both underwent surgery on old injuries at this time) and there weren't enough wheel rims available. But all the riders who tried the 16 really enjoyed its performance and from that data we prepared new tyres for the January tests at Sepang. That test was a very rich experience for us, the tyres were better for everyone, so we found the right direction very quickly.
"We are working on three main families of 16, all with the same profile but with three very different constructions. Each of our riders is more or less focusing on one family that suits their style. Guys like Valentino and Nicky brake very deep into turns so they need a stable tyre that doesn't move that much. Other riders like Shinya (Nakano) go into corners more smoothly, which requires a different construction and compound. In some cases the differences between our riders' tyres can be quite big.
"Developing new front tyres isn't easy because riders need to really push the limit to understand a tyre. But once they know a front tyre and feel really confident in it then they have the confidence to be more aggressive in their riding. Knowing how difficult it is, it's amazing that we've been able to make such quick progress.
The 800s also make different demands on the rear tyre, so Michelin has adapted its 16.5 rear that dominated all five seasons of 990cc MotoGP. "The size and profile haven't changed but corner speeds are higher now so the stress on the edge of the tyre is even greater," adds Weber. "Our work on the rear tyre has therefore been focused on creating more stability on the edge of the tyre and also good traction for the corner exits, adjusting stiffness of the tyre casing and compounds, so it more or less continues the development work we had already done with the 990s. But it's been a lot of work because there are some big differences between the rears we make for our different riders. Guys like Valentino and Nicky put a lot of load on the rear, they put a lot of stress into the tyre."
Michelin is also looking forward to working with MotoGP's new tyre rules that restrict riders to 14 front slicks and 17 rear slicks per weekend. "It's more challenging for us because we need to go even deeper into the details with our different riders to make sure we give each rider the best package of tyres within the restrictions," he says. "Overall I'm quite happy with the results we've had over the winter, especially with the big job of developing the 16. Now we are really looking forward to the first race."
MotoGP's first 800cc campaign kicks off at Qatar on Saturday 10 March. Michelin has scored more than 350 victories in premier-class motorcycling racing since 1973 and has won 26 500/MotoGP World Championships over the past 31 years, including a clean sweep of the last 15 titles.