Valencia: Michelin preview

World Superbike Championship Round 1 Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo Circuit (Spain) - March 10th 2002 Michelin riders among championship favourites Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin), Ruben Xaus (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) and...

World Superbike Championship Round 1
Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo Circuit (Spain) - March 10th 2002

Michelin riders among championship favourites

Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin), Ruben Xaus (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) and Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) all rank among the favourites to win the 2002 World Superbike Championship. Since WSC's first year in 1988 Michelin riders have taken 224 wins from 337 races - two-thirds of the total number of races run. Michelin's partners have also taken 9 riders' championships out of 14. Troy Bayliss won the title last year, Colin Edwards having been crowned the year before.

Superbike is a very competitive championship. Nine different riders won races in 2001 - Bayliss, Edwards, Xaus, Bostrom, Corser, Laconi, Hodgson, Chili and Tamada - a rare occurrence in motorsports.

Michelin has withdrawn from the World Supersport Championship this year to concentrate on the Spanish Supersport Championship in which slick tyres are allowed. The series starts at Albacete on May 12th before moving on to Jerez (9/6), Barcelona (7/7), Albacete (1/9), Jarama (15/9), Valencia (17/11) and Jerez (24/11). In 2001, several World Supersport riders raced in this championship. Riba won at Valencia with Chambon second and he won again at Jerez, this time beating Foret.

Michelin is getting more involved in Formula One this year. West McLaren Mercedes comes on board, alongside the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, winner of four races last year. Michelin is also racing in the World Rally Championship, the Le Mans 24 Hours, Moto GP, mot ocross, endurance, trial, enduro and desert events.

Rule changes

For this season, minimum weight is set at 159kg for 750cc four cylinder superbikes. 900cc three cylinder machines are at 162kg and 1000cc twins at 164kg. In 2004, minimum weights will be 158kg for twins and three cylinder bikes and 168kg for 1000cc four cylinder machines (all will have to be fitted with air-intake restrictors). From next year (January 1st 2003), races will no longer be stopped due to changes in weather conditions.

Testing from February 23rd to 25th.

Two weeks before the Valencia opener, World Champion Troy Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) beat the 1'35.504 official practice record set by Troy Corser on an Aprilia in 2001 with a 1'34.261 lap. Ben Bostrom (Ducati) and Noriyuki Haga (Playstation 2 Ap rilia) were 2nd and 3rd fastest ahead of Ruben Xaus (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) and Colin Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin). "We did five endurance tests with race tyres and they went very well," explains Jean Hérissé, Michelin's Superbike Racing manager. Troy Bayliss, Colin Edwards and Ruben Xaus, Michelin's three World Superbike contenders for 2002, all share that optimism. "I did three long runs on race tyres and their performance was excellent," Bayliss says. "While on my qualifying tyre I did the fastest lap I've ever done around here." <pre> 1. Bayliss (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) 1'34.261 2. Bostrom (Ducati) 1'34.401 3. Haga (Playstation 2 Aprilia) 1'34.777 4. Xaus (Ducati Infostrada-Michelin) 1'34.908 5. Edwards (Castrol Honda-Michelin) 1'35.053 6. Izutsu (Kawasaki) 1'35.169 7. Hodgson (Ducati HM Plant) 1'35.459 8. Lavilla (Suzuki Alstare) 1'35.584 9. Chili (Ducati NCR) 1'35.611 10. Pedercini (Ducati) 1'35.618 </pre>

Valencia and tyres

Bayliss: "I think Valencia is good because it's possible for everybody to come and have a look and see everything. The track itself is quite physical. You know you don't get too much time for rest. It's really hard work and you need to have the bike working really well."

Edwards: "It's a track that when I first came in 2000, I was faster than everybody and I thought I liked it a lot. And then it all kind of went down the tube. Few things were not working. I thought I enjoyed the track. But now with the new bike and everything being new I am back to where I really enjoy it. The track is good: It's tight in places, it's got the quick straight as well, it's a good track. I really like it."

Ruben Xaus: "It's a good circuit with a good location. I like it. It's a little too tight for superbikes, I prefer faster circuits. But it's a good track, really good for the spectators. I'm glad that Spain has such a good circuit."

The first Valencia World Superbike race was held in 2000. The circuit is next to the town of Cheste, 25km from Valencia, 320km from Madrid and 370km from Barcelona. The "Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana - Ricardo Tormo" is 4,005km long and between 12 and 13 meters wide. It has 9 left-hand turns and 5 right-handers (droitier)/ right-hand turns, with radii ranging from 30 to 250 meters. The start-finish straight is 876 meters long. Maximum downhill gradient is 5.33%. Maximum uphill gradient is 3.58%. Paddock area is 49,066m2. Maximum seating capacity for spectators is 60,000, with room for a further 50,000 on the hills surrounding the circuit.

"The track heats up the left-hand side of the rear tyre," says Jean Hérissé. "Especially in the double left-hander that leads down onto the start-finish straight and really puts the edge of the tyre under pressure. Ground temperature, which can rise above

50° in this part of Spain, can make this heat problem even worse. But as the race is in March this year, the heat might not be such a big problem."

Valencia is a fascinating but tricky circuit. It's easy to get caught out by the many slow turns. It's certainly not the kind of track where a Superbike rider can really use his machine's power and speed. First gear has to be used several times and that always means extra care has to be taken. Valencia is a real stop-and-go circuit where the front tyre has to be good for hard braking and fast cornering.

Michelin and Valencia

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.

Ruben Xaus: Looking for a top-three finish.

Last year, in his first full World Superbike Championship season, Ruben Xaus won twice, at Oschersleben and at Imola. He ended the year in sixth place in the overall standings, having also scored four second-place finishes in the last three rounds! Born in Barcelona in 1978, Xaus has been a Ducati factory rider since 2000, the year he won at Assen on the 748 Supersport.

Is the title your goal for this year?

- My first goal is to do the best I can, like I did last year when I ended the season with two race wins. After that, we'll see about winning the championship. I'll be taking things one race at a time and attempting to be a regular podium-finisher.

Are you happy with the testing you did over the winter?

- Yes I am. I rode at Valencia, Kyalami and Phillip Island and I set some good times. I'm very happy with the development of the bike and with the new tyres that Michelin has given us. We were faster at every circuit we went to so I'm confident for the races. Our team, Bayliss and myself, is the only one with two top riders in it and that is a big help as far as bike development goes. I'm sure that will help us to get the best results.

You turned 24 on February 18th. You're still young. Do you plan to race with Ducati in Grands Prix on a four-stroke?

- Yes, I'm still young and everybody in Spain is hoping that I will ride a Ducati in GPs. But to get there, I first need to get good results in superbikes. If I don't, I won't get the GP bike. I have to prove that I am a good enough rider.

The first race of the year is at Valencia. Does it mean a lot to you to start the championsip in Spain?

- I would rather come to Valencia half-way through the season, when the championship has started taking shape. But it doesn't bother me too much that the first race is there. I hope many people will come to see us and I will aim for a top-three finish.

What is your favourite circuit?

- I Like Monza, Assen... every circuit is good. Maybe the one I enjoy the least is Lausitzring. It's not perfect, but I still think it's ok. I don't hate any circuit, even though I feel more comfortable at some tracks than others. I don't have any mental blocs, no circuit really bothers me.


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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Troy Bayliss , Colin Edwards , Noriyuki Haga , Ruben Xaus , Troy Corser , Phillip Island
Teams Williams