MICHELIN MEN SET FOR TITLE SHOWDOWN Michelin riders Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) go into this weekend's Dutch TT on top form and looking set for a ...
MICHELIN MEN SET FOR TITLE SHOWDOWN
Michelin riders Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) go into this weekend's Dutch TT on top form and looking set for a title showdown.
Hayden currently leads the World Championship points chase thanks to superbly consistent riding that put him on the podium at six of the first seven races. Meanwhile Rossi is in resurgent form, having won the last two GPs to move into third place, 29 points down on Hayden, following some poor luck at the first few events. Michelin enjoy great strength in depth too, with nine of the top-placed riders using the French tyres.
Michelin has won all but two of the last 22 premier-class races at Assen and this Saturday goes for its 15th consecutive win at MotoGP's oldest venue. The Dutch circuit is the only racetrack to have hosted a world round every year since the advent of the World Championships in 1949 but its history goes right back to 1926, so this year's event is the 76th Dutch TT (TT stands for 'Tourist Trophy', a label given to racing events in the earliest days of motorsport, before the term Grand Prix was used).
Assen has undergone substantial revisions in recent years, none bigger than this year's new track layout which sees the northern loop replaced by 'TT World', a new entertainment complex that will open in 2007. The old circuit used to be MotoGP's fastest venue but the new layout should be slower. The new Assen is also almost 1.5km/0.93 miles shorter than before.
MICHELIN'S RESPONSE TO THE CHALLENGE OF ASSEN
"Looking at the new layout, I think Assen will still be quite a fast track and I hope it will still be special because it's always been such a popular circuit with most riders and with us," says Michelin motorcycle racing director Nicolas Goubert. "The new section looks pretty slow, but apart from that there are still a lot of fast corners, and, considering there's no really long straight, the average speed could still be quite high.
"Assen has never been too demanding on rear tyres because riders don't use very high lean angles around most of the circuit. What you need at Assen is good traction at medium lean angles for all the fast sweepers. It has never been too demanding on front tyres either, because the fast and flowing sections don't put much stress on the front, riders don't brake deep into all the corners like they do at other circuits.
"The biggest issue for tyre companies atAssen is getting enough dry track time because the weather can be very changeable. Usually, you're happy if you get two hours of dry track time, if you get four hours it's a bit of a miracle!
"Apart from the layout, Assen's other special characteristic is the cambered surface. But this doesn't really have any effect on us, it's more of a concern for the riders, who have to be very, very precise with their lines. They can't afford to be off line even by a small amount, which makes overtaking very critical."