Brands Hatch: Michelin preview

Bayliss and Edwards still at it Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) ranks once again as Troy Bayliss' (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) main rival for this week-end's world superbike race. The "Texas Tornado" has won four times at Brands ...

Bayliss and Edwards still at it

Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) ranks once again as Troy Bayliss' (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) main rival for this week-end's world superbike race. The "Texas Tornado" has won four times at Brands Hatch. After a single race win in 1998, he then scor ed a double the following year and won once more in 2000. Bayliss was one of the other race winners that same year and since then, the Australian as become the championship's strong man. He leads the provisional standings with 405 points, 53 more than seco nd-placed Edwards. Aprilia rider Noriyuki Haga holds the Brands Hatch practice record: 1m26.235 at an average speed of 176.212 kph. Haga, who rode a Yamaha when he set that record back in 2000, is therefore among this event's main contenders. Another poten tial results-getter is Ruben Xaus (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin), the Spaniard having scored a 2nd place at Laguna Seca.

Bayliss was once again on form at Laguna. He won the first race and was second in the following event. "I had two pretty good races and I was pleased with the results," says the 2001 World Superbike Champion. "I made a few points up on Colin but I was real pleased for Michelin getting a 1-2-3 as it isn't one of their best tracks. But I wrecked race 2. I could have won it I think, and it's one of the best Superbike races you'll see this year. I made a couple of mistakes and Colin got away from me and that wa s it."

Bayliss may be Australian-born, he's spent so much time racing in Europe in the last few years that just like his rivals, he found it hard to adjust to California time for the Laguna Seca round. "I think it was the Tuesday me and Kim got into the States," he recalls. "So that night it's like 2am and I'm wide-awake and I think, "I'll go and walk for a bit." So I walk back to the hotel, but I know Kim is fast asleep and I haven't got a key and I don't want to wake her, so I end up going for a drive around the place at 3am to have a look around. I was so wide-awake it wasn't funny. There were some pretty loose looking people wandering the streets as well." For Colin Edwards, the second race at Laguna was a joyful event. "I've never won at Laguna and I knew the crowd wanted to see my machine take the chequered flag," claims the Texan. "It's always a hard battle when you're on the race track with Troy (Bayliss ) but it was the time to dig deep. I don't think I could have gone any harder. That race was about four seconds faster than the first race and it was a relief to start the last lap having got a 0.6 second gap to whoever was behind. It's been a long time si nce I've won and with half of Texas at Laguna Seca to see me and a team that wanted a win badly I'm pleased to have given them something to cheer about." With 14 wins already under his belt, Bayliss is still very much on course to beat Doug Polen's record of 17 wins in the 1991 season. Since the start of the Superbike World Championship in 1988, Michelin has taken 244 wins in 359 races. That's an awesome 67.9% success rate. Nine of the 13 world titles have also gone to Michelin. Out of 18 races this year, Michelin has 17 wins! The podium has been 100% Michelin 8 times. 18 races equate to 54 podium places and 40 of those (74%) were taken by Michelin men, even though there are only four of them in the championship.

British champions and Michelin

Britain's best have long trusted Michelin. There's Carl Fogarty of course, the four times world superbike champion (1994, 95, 98 and 99 on a Michelin Ducati). Barry Sheene was Britain's most successful GP rider. He rode his Michelin-shod Suzuki to 500cc GP glory in 1976 and 1977. Off road, Doug Lampkin (Montesa HCR-Michelin) is set to win his 6th trials world championship this year.

On four wheels, David Coultard drove his West McLaren Mercedes-Michelin to the Monaco F1 GP win last May. In the world rally championship, Michelin tyres are fitted to Richard Burns and Robert Reid's Peugeot as well as Alister McRae and David Senior's Mits ubishi Ralliart. Johnny Herbert's Le Mans 24 Hours Audi racer wears Michelin rubber, as do the works MGs of Blundell, Bailey, Mc Garrity and Reid, Hugues, Kane.

Brands Hatch and tyres

"Brands is quite a demanding circuit," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's motorcycling competitions chief. "It heats up the tyres in a similar way to tracks like Phillip Island or Monza, but that heat build up doesn't happen in the same part of the tyre. Bra nds is quite an even track and is only slightly tougher on the right side of the tyre. There are no specific problems at Brands and no grip issues."

Troy Bayliss: "It's a track where I have done quite a few races on because of the British Superbike Championship. Last year was not so good for me, we had some little problems and I started back on the grid but in the end I had two half decent rides. It's a lovely circuit, I love the back through the forest, it's great. It's a real riders' track. It's a little bit dangerous in a few places, for sure, up in Dingle Dell, but it's one of the places where they get one of the biggest crowds in Europe. It's good , really good, to have a win here."

Colin Edwards: "I like Brands Hatch. It's not necessarily one of the best tracks but it's a good venue for the spectators. You can see most of the track from the grandstands area. It's a bit rough but it's a good technical track. I have always been good at technical tracks and I enjoy it."

Ruben Xaus: "It's a medium fast circuit, an uphill-downhill track. There are several places where you brake really hard. I really like this track where you always get many spectators. It's tough, but very beautiful. Plus at this time of year the weather is usually very good."

Brands Hatch was opened in 1928 as a motorcycle race track. It is now owned by the Octagon Group, who also looks after television and marketing rights for the World Superbike championship.

In 1953, Brands was lengthened by taking advantage of the hill leading to Druid's Bend. In 1960, the Hawthorn and Westfield corners were added. That gave the track the required length (4.19 km) to get it homologated for international events. The first Bran ds Hatch Grand Prix was held in 1964. Ideally located only 32 kms from London, Brands is an extremely popular venue. Last year, an unprecedented 120 911 spectators flocked to the circuit for the world superbike.

Michelin Superbike manager Jean Hérissé talks about the circuit. "The way Brands has evolved explains why there are two types of asphalt here. Grip on the Grand Prix track is not the same as that of the "small" circuit and that can take riders by surprise as they go from one to the other, especially in the wet. Grip is better in the Grand Prix section than on the part where the pits and the grandstands are."

Brands makes for a great show because the track rises and dives as it winds along the hills. It's also a track where tyres build up a lot of heat, mainly because the main straight is actually a very long, slightly off-camber, right-hander.


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Series World Superbike
Drivers Richard Burns , Alister McRae , Troy Bayliss , Colin Edwards , Robert Reid , David Senior , Noriyuki Haga , Ruben Xaus , Carl Fogarty , Phillip Island