Valencia: Michelin preview

Gibernau Aims to End 2004 with Home Win World Championship runner-up targets home victory at season finale Michelin aims to continue unbeaten run of premier-class wins at Valencia Two weeks after Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha ...

Gibernau Aims to End 2004 with Home Win

World Championship runner-up targets home victory at season finale
Michelin aims to continue unbeaten run of premier-class wins at Valencia

Two weeks after Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) secured Michelin's 13th consecutive premier-class crown in Australia, the MotoGP circus comes to Valencia for the final race of 2004. Although the title is already decided there will be much to play for at the Spanish venue -- riders and teams want to end the season with the best-possible result before they commence winter testing, while Michelin wants to continue its unbeaten run of premier-class victories at Valencia.

Michelin has won all five premier-class GPs held at this low-speed venue since 1999 and monopolised the podium on each occasion. And it was here last December that Michelin first tested its 'big foot' rear slick (as riders like to call it) which delivers a larger contact patch for extra grip and improved wear. This tyre, in unison with Michelin's 16.5in front, has dominated the 2004 MotoGP season, by far the fastest ever.


Sete Gibernau (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin) had to accept second place in the 2004 MotoGP World Championship a fortnight back, so the Spaniard is in determined mood to end his season with victory on home tarmac at Valencia.

"It would have been nice if we still had some chance of winning the title this weekend but since we don't I just want to get the best result possible," says Gibernau. "I like the track although it's nothing special. Basically it's another home race so I have to make it special!"

Gibernau has been Rossi's strongest rival throughout 2004, scoring four wins (at Jerez, Le Mans, Brno and Losail) and taking five pole positions (at Le Mans, Mugello, Catalunya, Brno and Phillip Island) so far. He has now won a total of nine premier-class GP successes, the first achieved at a damp Valencia GP in September 2001. Like Rossi, Gibernau has scored all his MotoGP/500 victories on Michelin tyres and, like Rossi, he understands that tyres are without doubt the most crucial part of the MotoGP equation.

"Tyres are so important," he affirms. "And they're becoming more and more important all the time because of the amount of horsepower the bikes are making and because of the amount of lean angle we can use."

Gibernau has almost always used Michelin tyres ever since he graduated to the premier class in 1997, building a very close relationship with the French tyre brand's MotoGP technicians.

"We work very closely together," he adds. "Michelin know what's required, so pretty much every time they give you a new tyre to try it's better than the last tyre they gave you. That's why Michelin is the leading tyre brand in this championship.

"This year they've done an unbelievable job developing the 16.5in front. The tyre has kept improving during the season but we still need to focus on making it work even better with my bike. The 16.5 definitely helps the lap time because you can go faster from one side to the other through changes of direction but I still want to work with Michelin at making it more stable on the brakes. That will be one of my focus points during winter testing. The 2004 rear is really good too, it gives you a little more of everything -- sidegrip and driving traction -- so it definitely helps the lap time."

Even if Valencia isn't the toughest track for tyres, Gibernau knows that tyre choice will be a vital factor in deciding the outcome of Sunday's race.

"The track isn't that demanding on tyres, simply because it's so slow and tight that you rarely put all the horsepower to the ground. But at the same time, the more power you can put to the ground the faster you're going to go, so tyres are important here like they are everywhere. Valencia is also physically demanding because it's all corners and because the corners are tight, so the bike is always trying to lift the front and run wide, so you really have to work it.

"It's one of those circuits where every corner is important, it all counts, so you've got to be good all around the track. There's no place where you can make up a few tenths all in one, it's all a tenth here and a tenth there. You need a lot of front tyre for turning in on the brakes, because there's a lot of tight corners, then you need good rear traction for acceleration."


Michelin has continued to dominate MotoGP in its toughest, fastest season, winning 13 of 15 races so far and scoring 13 of 15 pole positions so far. No wonder then that the French company's MotoGP technicians go into the final race content with the work they've done during 2004.

"It's been a very good season for us -- many successes and a very big improvement in lap times at most tracks," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "At the same time we knew we weren't alone, but competition is a positive thing. And, of course, we are happy at the end of the day to have continued our domination of MotoGP despite the presence of the world's biggest tyre manufacturers in this championship.

"As always, we worked to evolve the front and the rear to maintain a good balance. Last winter was probably our busiest ever as we worked with our partners to develop the 16.5in front and the new rear. We wanted to create new tyres that would give something to everyone. It's a never-ending job but the lap and race times prove that all the work paid off.

"Another point of satisfaction for us was the continuing development of our wet tyres. Our advantage in the wet is even bigger than in the dry, with the gap in wet and dry lap times narrowing all the time.

"Valencia will be the second cold race in a row after two very hot races. At Losail and Sepang we had to contend with track temperatures in the mid-fifties and our tyres worked really well in those conditions. But it is a very different challenge to create tyres that work well in the cold. At Phillip Island the track temperature was less than 25 degrees sometimes, and our tyres worked really well. We expect conditions at Valencia to be around 20 to 30 degrees.

"Valencia is a slow circuit but it's not undemanding for tyres. The track is all corners, plus it's asymmetric with more lefts than rights, and that long left at the end of the lap works the rear quite hard, which is why our 2004 rear will help. The 16.5 front will help riders at Valencia because the track includes many changes of direction. Front-choice is particularly crucial at this track because there are quite a few downhill corner entries."


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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Sete Gibernau , Phillip Island