MICHELIN MEN ON TOP AT FIRST 2008 TESTS Hayden rides fastest-ever Sepang lap, four Michelin riders in top five Michelin kicked off its 2008 MotoGP testing programme at Sepang this week with a mightily impressive performance to end the...
MICHELIN MEN ON TOP AT FIRST 2008 TESTS
Hayden rides fastest-ever Sepang lap, four Michelin riders in top five
Michelin kicked off its 2008 MotoGP testing programme at Sepang this week with a mightily impressive performance to end the three-day session with four of the fastest five riders on its tyres. 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V-Michelin) topped the tests with a lightning-quick lap on qualifiers -- 1.551 seconds inside the 2007 Malaysian GP pole position time -- and backed that up with his best-ever Sepang lap on race tyres. Dazzling MotoGP rookie Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) was third fastest, Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR RC212V-Michelin) fourth and Colin Edwards (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) fifth.
Michelin's other two MotoGP rookies also put in very promising performances, Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda RC212V-Michelin) was eighth and James Toseland (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) ninth. 2007 MotoGP runner-up Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin) set the early pace on day one but fell in the afternoon, breaking his right hand. The injury was screwed and plated in Barcelona yesterday.
"The general feeling about this test is quite good," said Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "I'm happy with the consistency of our latest tyres, which is something we wanted to work on after last year's Sepang race. The front and rear profiles we are using with the 2008 bikes haven't changed so much from last year's, what we have been focusing on is constructions and compounds. We already had some very good results with our latest tyres at Jerez last November, so we have continued working in that direction. The feedback we are getting from the riders is good.
"It was very important to have some long runs and most of our riders have done some good long runs during these tests. We also wanted to improve tyre warm-up and the range of operating temperature, which we already confirmed at our last tests at Jerez, though that is something we will need to further confirm in cooler conditions at Jerez next month and maybe at night during the Qatar tests.
"We have also made good progress with our 16-inch rear at these tests. Randy set the fastest lap on day one using a 16, and Nicky, Jorge and Andrea have also tested the 16 and given us some positive feedback, though we still want to improve the tyre some more. We will continue working hard at the upcoming tests and get a good understanding of the evolution of our tyres as we move towards the first race of the year.
"Of course, there has been some bad news for us at these tests -- Dani got hurt on the first day and won't be able to ride at the next two tests. But we are confident in our other riders and we look forward to seeing Dani back on the bike when he is ready."
Hayden was delighted with his pace on the final day. The American proved his monumental commitment and peak physical condition by riding more laps than anyone during the three days. The American rode 228 laps (1264km) despite gruelling 30-plus degree heat throughout the session.
"I used qualifiers for my fastest lap and they worked well," he said. "After that we did a batch of front tyres because one of my weak points here is that sometimes I struggle when this track gets hot. So I did a batch of tyres at the hottest part of the day to improve on that.
"We hadn't really tested any tyres for Michelin here until today and we wanted to do a long run. That run was decent, probably the best thing I've done all week. I did the best lap I've ever done round here on race tyres on lap 18, a 2m 01.6s. At the end of three long days that wasn't too bad. I used a 16.5 on that run but I've also been trying some 16 rears here. The first time I tried the 16 last year I liked it. I'm the one who really pushed Michelin to keep going and stay with it and I'm pretty happy they did. Now we go to Phillip Island which is quite a different track with some long corners, some high-speed stuff and a lot of changes of direction. The big thing there is tyres so it'll be really important to do some more work with Michelin there."
Lorenzo's pace was amazing, considering he only graduated to MotoGP machinery last November. "Michelin have put a lot of effort into improving their tyres for 2008," said the double 250 World Champion. "We tried a lot of new tyres during these three days and I am proud of what we've done here."
De Puniet was fastest on the first two days and believes he can still extract more performance from Michelin's qualifying tyres. "Michelin has been working hard during the winter and I have to say that my feeling with the tyres gets better and better," he said. "This has been a positive test for me, so I am very happy! I was fastest on days one and two, and yesterday I did a good race simulation, but I still need to improve my pace on the qualifiers."
Edwards was also impressed with Michelin's latest product. "Michelin brought some tyres in today that let me do my quickest laps -- the new race tyre seemed phenomenal. They have been working really hard and it's paying off. It makes it kinda exciting to go to Phillip Island now."
Dovizioso found two 16-inch rears that perfectly suit his neat riding style. "We tried many tyres with Michelin here," said the former 250 rider. "Some of them were very good, especially two of the 16-inch race tyres I tried, I really like the profiles. I did my best lap on qualifiers but I still need to improve my qualifying pace, which isn't easy because there is so much grip that it's difficult to use these tyres to the maximum. My best lap on qualifiers was six tenths better than my race tyres and it needs to be more than that, so we will work on set-up to get more out of the soft tyres."
Double World Superbike champion Toseland continued to adapt to MotoGP, upping his pace on each of the three days. "After we got some good tyres I rewarded some of Michelin's faith with some decent lap times," said the Briton. "I hope they now have a bit more confidence in me to give good feedback; which is what they want. They are making a really big effort and, judging by the time sheets, it's going in the right direction."
MotoGP testing continues at Phillip Island, Australia, (January 30/31/February 1), Sepang (February 5/6/7), Jerez, Spain, (February 16/17/18) and finally at Losail, Qatar (February 28/29). The 2008 World Championship kicks off at Losail on March 7/8/9 -- the Qatar GP will be the first-ever night-time GP with the entire circuit lit by floodlights.
Michelin riders lap times
Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin): 2m 00.326s
Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin): 2m 00.766s
Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR RC212V-Michelin): 2m 01.139
Colin Edwards (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin): 2m 01.179s
Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda RC212V-Michelin): 2m 01.447s
James Toseland (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin): 2m 01.745
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin): 2m 01.864s