TESTING IS OVER, LET THE RACING BEGIN Michelin aims to keep its grip on MotoGP after intense winter test programme Texan Colin Edwards talks about tyres, Jerez and 'phenomenal progress' The world's fastest, loudest, most technically ...
TESTING IS OVER, LET THE RACING BEGIN
Michelin aims to keep its grip on MotoGP after intense winter test programme Texan Colin Edwards talks about tyres, Jerez and 'phenomenal progress' The world's fastest, loudest, most technically challenging motorcycle racing World Championship roars into action at Jerez this weekend after another frantic winter of testing. While fans have been starved of MotoGP action since October, top MotoGP teams have crisscrossed the world developing their equipment for the 2005 campaign.
MotoGP dominators Honda and Yamaha have been working very closely with Michelin, improving the company's range of successful MotoGP tyres.
And since teams returned to work in January after MotoGP's compulsory six-week Christmas recess, Michelin riders have dominated winter testing, topping February's group sessions at Sepang and Phillip Island, and last month's tests at Losail, Catalunya and Jerez.
Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) headed that final Jerez outing with a lightning-fast lap of 1m 39.9s, 0.9 seconds inside last year's Jerez pole position and indicative of another major increase in the MotoGP pace.
Meanwhile Makoto Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda RC211V- Michelin) rode the fastest long-distance run during the Jerez tests, suggesting that World Champion Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and last year's Jerez winner Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) will have a tougher ride than ever in 2005. But testing is only testing, what we've all been working towards and waiting for is the racing. Let battle commence!
MICHELIN RIDER COLIN EDWARDS AND JEREZ
Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) wasn't the fastest rider during the recent MotoGP tests at Jerez (March 25/26/27) but he was up there with the quickest even though he didn't use a qualifying tyre for his best run, putting him in confident mood for the first race of MotoGP's longest-ever season.
"We had a really good pace on race tyres, which is what really matters," says Edwards, good and ready to begin his first MotoGP season with Yamaha.
"I just can't wait to get racing, it's been a really long winter of testing, it feels like I've done hundreds of thousands of miles in planes! But testing is always invaluable, once you see the results, the effort's all worthwhile.
"Michelin has made some phenomenal progress over the winter, working to give us more contact patch. The front has come on some, just like the rear. It seems like we've got a load more sidegrip this year.
"I'm happy we're starting at Jerez. I like the track a lot. Like every track you've really got to be able to get into the turns, but especially at Jerez because you've got some flat turns like the two rights (Nieto and Peluqui) then the last, fast rights (Ferrari). You've got to be able to get the bike right into those turns without sacrificing rolling speed. It's different this year because Michelin has come up with some pretty incredible sidegrip, so we'll see lap times coming down again.
"I'd say that the last, fast rights before the last corner are super important for a good lap time at Jerez because you've got to be exactly on the right line and you've got to carry as much speed as possible, so you can't be too far off. But whenever I get through turns one and two and hit turn three perfect, my lap times always seems to be good, those first turns kinda set the whole lap up."
MICHELIN TYRES AND THE CHALLENGE OF JEREZ
Michelin has an incredible record at Jerez -- the French tyre brand has won every premier-class race at the Andalucian track since it hosted its first GP way back in 1987.
This weekend the company's 12 MotoGP riders are out to maintain that record, utilising Michelin's ever-growing MotoGP know-how after another winter of intense testing and development.
"We are pretty confident for 2005, though as we always say, you only know where you really stand on Sunday evening, after the race!" says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycle competitions. "So although we're fairly confident we're always a bit nervous at the start of a season -- we know we'll have a big fight with our competitors and we know it's going to be tough. We are happy with what we've done over the winter but we will only know exactly where our competitors are on Sunday.
"The Jerez tests we did a couple of weeks ago went really well. We were pleased with our endurance tests, especially Tamada's, since he did the fastest long-distance run during which his tyres showed very consistent performance.
"The biggest change for us at Jerez this year is that we've been able to test with the same kind of temperatures that we are likely to experience at the race. In the past we would experience a difference in track temperature of maybe 15 degrees (with testing in February or March and racing in May) but this year the temperatures should be similar, so we should be able to test and then race with similar tyres. That's important for us.
"Jerez isn't too demanding on tyres, so long as the ground temperature isn't too high. I'd say it's a medium circuit for tyre wear. For me, the track's major characteristic is that it demands a bit of everything -- it's quite symmetric with plenty of rights and lefts, plus you need good maximum angle and traction performance, so it's really well balanced from a tyre point of view. There's no one point at which you have to be very good to make a good lap time, you have to be good everywhere."
Goubert expects lap and race times to tumble during 2005, just as they did during the last three years of MotoGP. "I think the improvement will be similar to last year," he adds. "If we get half a second a lap in race conditions that would be great, that's probably the maximum you can think about. We already know that Valentino did a very fast endurance at Sepang, Sete did a very good run at Phillip Island and Tamada did a very quick long run at Jerez."