Kyalami: Michelin preview

Michelin SBK3 - Kyalami (South Africa) - 04/07/02 Superbike World Championship -Round 3 Four wins in a row for Troy Bayliss. Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) comes to South Africa fresh from a spectacular run of four consecutive wins.

Michelin SBK3 - Kyalami (South Africa) - 04/07/02
Superbike World Championship -Round 3

Four wins in a row for Troy Bayliss.

Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) comes to South Africa fresh from a spectacular run of four consecutive wins. The Australian won both his home races at Phillip Island two weeks ago. A fortnight before that, he'd also won the first two races of the season at the Valencia opener on March 10th. Bayliss leads the championship with an impressive points tally of 100. Bayliss won the British Superbike championship on a GSE Racing Ducati in 1999 and then went on to score pole position at the Daytona 200 in 2000, this time riding a Vance & Hines Ducati. Bayliss was then given the tall order of stepping into Carl Fogarty's shoes after the four times World Superbike champion was injured. He hasn't looked back since. He won six times in 2001 and ended the seaso n as World Superbike champion. His start to the 2002 season shows that he's not about to let anyone take that number one plate from him without a fight. Bayliss has to be firm favourite for this week-end's Kyalami round, where he scored two fine second-pla ce finishes last year.

Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) was runner-up twice in Australia and is second in the championship with 69 points. Edwards took a superb win at Kyalami last year and will almost certainly have something to say about letting Bayliss run away with it this Sunday. Edwards had also won both races at Kyalami in 2000.

Spaniard Ruben Xaus (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) is sixth in the championship with 43 points. He was third in both races at Phillip Island which meant both podiums were 100% Michelin. The rest of the field was quite a long way back in Australia. In the fir st race, the fourth rider home was 21.1 seconds behind Bayliss. That gap dropped slightly to 18.9 seconds in the second leg but still remained sizeable, especially considering that the races were run in perfectly dry conditions.

Winter tests, 24th to 26th January 2002.

Troy Bayliss was fast during the Kyalami winter tests. He set a best time of 1m41.0 as compared to Colin Edwards' 1m41.6 and Ruben Xaus' 1m42.3. Although these times are unofficial and the conditions this Sunday will naturally be different, they are encour aging for the Michelin men. On December 6th 2001, with Bayliss and Xaus testing in Valencia, Ben Bostrom lapped Kyalami in 1m42.1.

Troy Bayliss : "This three-day test here at Kyalami has gone really well. My 2002-spec bike feels perfect and the engine is powerful. We sorted out the suspension and selected a couple of good tyres for the race."

Ruben Xaus : "The 2002-spec bike is really nice. The Ducati guys have done a lot of work on it and we're already a lot quicker than before. The team is working well too."

Colin Edwards : "Michelin have been doing their homework and some of the race tyres I tried are a massive improvement on last year's. This year's package is really coming together and there's every reason to believe the SP-2 can win the 2002 world title."

Kyalami and tyres

"Kyalami doesn't cause too many problems for us," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's motorcycle competitions chief. "Grip level is good and the track is fairly even, plus the straights aren't too fast. Kyalami doesn't cause any problems for us."

Troy Bayliss: "Last year Kyalami was not so bad for us, it was quite good. This year we tested at the end of January and compared to last year it was much better. I really like the circuit, it makes for some good racing."

Colin Edwards: "It's a good track, I like Kyalami. I am always going good there and it kind of reminds me of back in the old days growing up. It's a bit rough, rougher than the normal tracks where we race at, but everybody gets to race the same track. And the old tracks where I used to race at when growing up were rough as hell. I like it."

Ruben Xaus: "It's a difficult track where the altitude means that engines don't work as well as normal. But I like the layout because it has some interesting corners."

Kyalami is owned by the Automobile Association Group and run by AA Racing. It was built in 1961 and hosted its first F1 GP in 1967. It was modified in 1987 and 1991. Length is 4.263km and minimum track width is 13 meters. The circuit is far from flat and m aximum gradient is 8.80%. The start/finish straight is 470 meters long.

Kyalami is 1500 meters above sea level. This altitude means reduced air quality which has a negative impact on engine performance. It also has an effect on tyre performance. Track layout is challenging with a wide variety of turns, from slow corners with a 15 meter radius to fast 162.485 meter radius turns. Some turns are flat but in others the track has camber. All this, plus Kyalami's hilly nature means that riders have to make sure they stay fully focused for the whole lap.

Yet Kyalami offers a tyre manufacturer no specific challenge, unlike other circuits like Phillip Island for example. "At Kyalami tyres wear very evenly," explains Jean Hérissé, Michelin Superbike manager. "In January we tested extensively there and the tes ts were very good. We were able to develop our products well, for qualifying as well as for the race."

Michelin and Kyalami

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, two technicians, four tyre fitters and one press officer.

Interview. The differences between 4-stroke GP and Superbike tyres.

This week-end is a real treat for motorcycle racing fans around the world. On the top of the Kyalami World Superbike race, the Grand Prix season gets underway at Japan's Suzuka circuit. This race sees the return of four-strokes to the premier MotoGP class. Michelin is naturally heavily involved in this championship and equips both Honda and Yamaha's brand new four-stroke machines. Michelin already has a wealth of experience with four-stroke tyres through its partnership with Ducati and Honda in World Superb ikes. Nicolas Goubert has been Michelin's motorcycle competitions chief since 1997 and is therefore the ideal man to explain the differences between the two types of tyres. Goubert is 38 years old and comes from Ales, France. He supervises Michelin's racin g activities in both Grand Prix and World Superbike.

Rear slick:

"There is less difference between a Superbike and a GP four-stroke than there is between a GP 500 two-stroke and a Superbike. The main difference is weight, with the Superbike some 19 kilos heavier than a 4 or 5 cylinder four-stroke (164kg vs 145kg) and al so less powerful. But the main thing for us is the weight difference. It influences the type of construction and compound we use for the tyres. So far, we've seen that we need stronger and more resilient tyres for Superbike. That came as a surprise because we feared that, due to the power of the GP bikes, we'd have to use extremely robust tyres. But so far that's not been the case. But things can change very quickly so you have to be careful. So far we've worked on GP bikes that "only" make about 220 hp. Bu t we are worried about what will happen once the Hondas, Yamahas and Suzukis start racing each other. We may see dramatic increases in power. That may force us to make significant changes to our tyres in order to keep up."

Front Slick:

"We've been using 16.5 inch tyres for three years in Superbikes, but not on the GP two-strokes. It just didn't make any difference on the 500s. We tried the tyre when we started testing with the four-strokes but riders preferred to continue using the 17 in ch they were used to from their two-stroke days. So in the end, we haven't had to work on our front tyre so much as it suits the new four-strokes as well as it does the two-strokes."

Qualifying rear slick:

"Superbike regulations means that we have to make specific qualifying tyres for that championship and its Superpole. We need tyres that reach optimum conditions very quickly so that the rider is able to set his best time on his first flying lap. This type of tyre isn't necessary in GPs and we don't intend to use them there. But of course we are always ready to react to what our competitors might be doing and to provide what our partners request from us. If other tyre manufacturers use qualifying tyres and e nd up in front of us for the first 3 or 4 races of the season, we will consider using this type of tyre. But right now, we do not intend to. Instead, we will bring a selection of tyres so that our riders have a wide choice to suit their every need. But of course, everyone will tend to use softer tyres during qualifying."

No rain tyre comparison is possible at the moment as there is insufficient wet-weather racing experience with the new four-strokes.

4th round of the Superbike World Championship: April 21st at Sugo (Japan).

-michelin sport-

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Troy Bayliss , Colin Edwards , Ruben Xaus , Carl Fogarty , Ben Bostrom , Phillip Island