MICHELIN MEN AIM TO BE WILD WEST HEROES Michelin makes a transatlantic dash from Germany to the United States this week to tackle one of the most entertaining circuits on the MotoGP calendar. Following back-to-back victories at the Dutch TT and...
MICHELIN MEN AIM TO BE WILD WEST HEROES
Michelin makes a transatlantic dash from Germany to the United States this week to tackle one of the most entertaining circuits on the MotoGP calendar. Following back-to-back victories at the Dutch TT and German Grand Prix, Michelin and its riders will be working hard to make it three wins in a row at Laguna Seca, a veritable Wild West racetrack quite unlike any other circuit in the championship.
Reigning MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin) comes to Laguna on a roll, with two consecutive podiums behind him as he aims for a hat-trick of wins at his home Grand Prix. But the popular Kentucky rider will come under serious pressure from rivals, including fellow Michelin men Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin), winner in Germany last Sunday, and former World Champion Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin), winner of the previous race in the Netherlands. Hayden's fellow American Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) also comes home in confident mood after finishing just 1.5 seconds off the podium last weekend.
MICHELIN AND THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE OF LAGUNA SECA
"We were very happy with the performance of our tyres at the last two races, but Laguna presents another challenge, especially since it's been resurfaced again," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "That will be the big unknown this weekend because a new surface can change everything from a tyre point of view. Before such a race we try to get as much information as we can about the characteristics of the asphalt, in order to define the type of compounds we need to use.
"Laguna Seca isn't normally so tough on tyres, it's certainly less demanding than the Sachsenring, where we were last weekend, which is one of the top three most difficult circuits for tyre manufacturers. Laguna is very up and down and it's got the famous Corkscrew, but most of the corners are quite short, so they don't put a huge amount of heat into the tyres. That said, the weather conditions can make it a real challenge; last year the track temperature reached 50 degrees. Laguna is a real riders' circuit with a very technical layout, that's why riders who know it well have an advantage.
"Of course, we still have to work very hard with our partners to find the right balance of front and rear tyres for this circuit. We adjust compounds and constructions depending on the stresses exerted upon the tyres at each track. Normally, Laguna demands medium tyres, maybe it would be possible to use something softer but newly resurfaced tracks are usually quite aggressive, so we need to consider that on this visit.
"Since April we have been using a new construction rear slick. We are now on the third generation of this tyre which is working very well, as we could see with our wins at Assen and the Sachsenring. The tyre gives riders more edge grip and more traction. We also think that our 16 inch front, which we introduced before the season, will work well at Laguna. The track has a lot of downhill corners, for which you need good grip and good confidence. The 16 offers lighter handling and allows riders to enter corners very fast.
"Laguna is a real challenge logistically, coming so soon after the German GP. We produced our last tyres for this race on Monday and they left Clermont-Ferrand on Tuesday, so they were due to arrive at Laguna on thursday morning. It's an extremely tight schedule!"
MICHELIN IN THE UNITED STATES
Michelin North America operates in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. With sales of $7.25 billion in 2005, Michelin North America operates 19 major manufacturing plants in 17 locations and employs 22,300 people. It manufactures and sells tyres for airplanes, automobiles, farm equipment, heavy-duty trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and the space shuttle. Michelin tyres are manufactured in four states: Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition, there are three plants in Canada and one plant in Mexico. Two Michelin plants take raw materials and turn them into components for the plants that produce tyres. Another plant produces synthetic rubber and rocket fuel components for NASA. Finished goods are produced in 18 plants.
LAGUNA SECA DATA:
Lap record: Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC211V-Michelin), 1m 23.333, 155.953km/h-96.906mph (2006)
Pole position 2006: Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R), 1m 23.168s