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Michelin make winter improvements to MotoGP tyres

Michelin make winter improvements to MotoGP tyres

Michelin make winter improvements to MotoGP tyres

Michelin approaches the 2003 MotoGP season aiming to continue its dominance of motorcycling racing´s elite series after winning its eleventh consecutive premier-class crown last year. Over the winter period the French tyre manufacturers have produced a range of new fronts and rears that have been tested at racetracks around the globe during the preseason tests, starting just two days after the final GP of the season at Valencia in November. Since then its riders have tried more than 50 new tyres during the winter - around 40 rears and 15 front – and lap records have been smashed at pretty much every circuit the have visited, most notably at Sepang, where Valentino Rossi obliterated the track record by 2.3 seconds.

Michelin supply more than 2000 tyres for each and every Grand Prix, so after an intense first season with the four-strokes you would think their engineers have enjoyed a slower pace over the break. Not so, according to Michelin´s motorcycle competitions chief Nicolas Goubert. `Last season may have been the first year of four-strokes but the factories seem to have been working harder than ever this winter, so they´ve kept us very busy! All the bikes are still improving at a rapid rate, because this is still the early stages of MotoGP four-strokes, so we expect the racing to be faster in 2003 because both machines and tyres have improved. But we don´t think we´ll see quite the same kind of improvement that we saw last season.´

Last year Michelin created a new rear slick for the four-stroke MotoGP bikes, called the S4, which gives a larger contact patch at high lean angles to harness the four-strokes´ massive power output. The profile of the tyre remains the same for 2003, as development shifts to compound and construction. `Our main focus has been on finding even better race-distance consistency,´ continues Goubert. `The S4 was already very good from this point of view, but the riders always want more! Poor weather at many European tests hasn´t helped, because endurance tests are always left to the very end of test sessions, when riders have already worked on all other aspects of set-up. And if they haven´t completed all that work due to rain, they won´t have time to do a race-distance run.´

The S4 was perhaps the biggest advance for Michelin last season, and Goubert reveals that his engineers have been busy trying to level out its success with a new generation of front tyres. `Whether it´s the front or the rear, every time you gain something at one end, you have to make a similar step forward at the other. This winter we have put most of our effort into the front tyre, which is always a long-term process. It takes much longer to move front-tyre performance forward because it´s not so easy for riders to push the front to the limit during testing. The front tyre involves deeper involvement between us and our riders. The big thing has been our work on construction – we´ve been looking for more stability during braking and turn-in, and for more feel, always more feel. We think we´ve found a good direction with our latest fronts, but we´ll only really be sure after the first few races.´

MotoGP, 2003

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