Imola: Michelin preview

Hodgson looking to celebrate world title at Ducati home track Neil Hodgson (Ducati Fila-Michelin) rode to the 2003 World Superbike title at the last round, in Assen, on September 7. He comes to Italy ready to celebrate his new crown at a track...

Hodgson looking to celebrate world title at Ducati home track

Neil Hodgson (Ducati Fila-Michelin) rode to the 2003 World Superbike title at the last round, in Assen, on September 7. He comes to Italy ready to celebrate his new crown at a track located only minutes from his employer's home. Imola is only 35 km away fr om Ducati's Bologna HQ so Hodgson and Spanish team-mate Ruben Xaus (Ducati Fila-Michelin) will be aiming for more glory in front of Ducati personnel and numerous local Ducati fans.

Hodgson's title is Michelin's twelfth in the championship. In a recent interview, Hodgson, who previously worked with a rival manufacturer, revealed some of the secret to Michdelin's success. "People think they didn't do as much development work, but I did three tests with Michelin and they turned up with twenty new tyres just because I didn't like the feeling at the front," Hodgson answered, when asked how much of a difference his Michelins made this year, despite the fact that the French tyre giant didn't do a lot of development work. "They couldn't have worked much harder, they must have produced sixty tyres for me to test, which I'd never experienced before. They didn't really have to because I was leading the championship and going well. They realised I had a problem and so they worked hard. At the start of the season I was nervous about doing the transition from Dunlop to Michelin but I took to them like a duck to water. They are the best tyres I have ever used."

Michelin and Ducati in World Superbikes

Michelin and Ducati started winning together as soon as the World Superbike championship was created. At the very first round held at Donington in 1988, Marco Lucchinelli won the second leg on a Ducati-Michelin. Michelin's years working alongside Ducati ha ve yielded great results including Carl Fogarty's four world titles in 1994, 95, 98 and 99, Raymond Roche's 1990 title. Then came the Australians with Troy Corser becoming world champion in 1996 and Troy Bayliss in 2001. Neil Hodgson put Britain back in fr ont this year as Ducati's latest Superbike world champion.

Foggy Petronas Racing's development work

The Foggy Petronas Racing team recently asked rider Jamie Morley to ride a development session at the Bruntingthorpe test track. "We are very happy that the development of the FP1 is heading in the right direction," said Ariff Ahmad from the Petronas motor sports division. "And also with the incredible hard work and commitment displayed by everyone involved in this project."

Imola and tyres

Imola is one of few European anti-clockwise tracks (Misano is another). It used to be extremely fast but average speeds were greatly reduced after Ayrton Senna's tragic 1994 crash.

Imola is 35 km southeast of Bologna, 90 km from Florence, 16 km from Faenza and 35 km from Forili.

"You need a nimble machine for Imola's three chicanes," says Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions Nicolas Goubert. "The chicanes mean that the right-hand side of the tyre doesn't get loaded up much under braking so grip characteristics need to be good. Combining high levels of sidegrip with light steering is hard, especially on a bumpy surface like this one."

The Autodromo Enzo and Dino Ferrari started life in 1950 as a public road circuit. Imola's first large-scale motorcycle race was held in 1953. Imola became a permanent racing circuit in 1979 and welcomed the Formula One championship for an exhibition race (held a week after the Italian GP at Monza). The first F1 championship race happened the following year and was called the "Gran Premio Dino Ferrari". Twelve motorcycle GPs have been held at Imola: 7 Nations GPs (1969, 72, 74, 75, 77, 79, 88), two San Mari no GPs (81, 83) and three City of Imola GPs (96, 97, 98). Freddie Spencer (Honda-Michelin) took his first 500cc World Championship at Imola in 1983, beating Kenny Roberts by just one point.

Michelin and Imola

Michelin brings a total of 600 tyres (400 rears and 200 fronts), wet and dry, for this race. Sizes are 19 / 67-420 (16,5 inch) for rear slicks, rain tyres and intermediates. Front tyre sizes are 12/60-420 (16.5 inch) tyres.

Michelin's on-site personnel includes one team manager and two tyre fitters.

Since the start of the world Superbike championship in 1988, Michelin riders have won 264 races out of 383 and taken 12 out of 16 world titles. Michelin won 25 races out of 26 in 2002 and 15 out of 20 this year.

12th and last round of the Superbike World Championship: October 19 at Magny-Cours (France)


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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Ayrton Senna , Troy Bayliss , Kenny Roberts Jr. , Neil Hodgson , Ruben Xaus , Troy Corser , Carl Fogarty , Freddie Spencer