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Michelin celebrates 300th victory

Michelin celebrates 300th victory

Michelin celebrates 300th victory

Sete Gibernau´s victory in the wet conditions at Assen made it 300 wins for Michelin in the premier-class. The French rubber manufacturer have been supplying winning tyres to MotoGP for over thirty years, ever since Australian legend Jack Findlay took victory on the Suzuki TR500 at the Isle of Man TT in 1973.

`When I first saw Jack Findlay sliding with his first slicks at Misano it was a real revelation to me,´ remembers Pierre Dupasquier, who has worked at Michelin since the 1960s and now alternates his work between MotoGP and F1. `I realised that my work would be to help and support these guys, understanding what they were looking for and providing them with the best possible tyres. What I really like is the human dimension of the motorcycle. Compared to a motorcycle, a car seems too objective, quantifiable and predictable. Because the whole balance of the motorcycle shifts critically with the slightest change in rider position, factors like outlook, attitude and moral become fundamental´.

$$$ Dupasquier played a key role in Michelin´s commitment to top level motorcycle racing over the next three decades, as they went on to dominate the modern era of the sport – winning 22 World Championship titles, including the last eleven consecutively, with twelve different riders. The first was with the late, great Barry Sheene, who rode the Heron Suzuki RG500 to the title in 1976. Later, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Scwantz, Mick Doohan, Alex Crivillé, Kenny Roberts and Valentino Rossi would all win the 500cc crown on Michelin rubber, with Rossi adding the first title of the new 990cc four-stroke era to the collection last year.

`Barry first asked for our tyres at Imola in `75, after he´d had a big crash at Daytona,´ says Dupasquier. `I got a call from my guy at Imola saying: `I´ve got this English rider called Sheene who wants to use our tyres,´ so I stuffed the car full of tyres and drove through the night from Clermont-Ferrand to Imola. Barry was still limping from the accident but that was the start of a long relationship with us, and that was our first exposure to a star rider in 500s´.

$$$ The tyres have come a long way since those early days, and current World Champion Rossi has noticed the improvements even since he moved up to the premier-class three and a half seasons ago. `Michelin make them very much better!´ smiles the Italian. `During my first year in 500s the big thing was the change from 17 inch rear to 16.5. Most riders used the 17 inch for many years, but with more and more horsepower it was necessary to find better traction. When the four-strokes arrived, the hardest 500 tyre would last only five laps. So Michelin worked to understand what the bikes and riders needed and built a completely new tyre for last season´.

Findlay, who worked as a test rider for Michelin for ten years after his racing career ended, recently retired from his post as Grand Prix Technical Director, but admits he has stayed proudly in touch with the achievements of his former employers. `I watch practice and the races on the television all the time,´ he says. `I love seeing slow motion shots – you see the bike sliding, the suspension working and the rider correcting with his body, I still think that is one of the greatest things you can see. And when I see someone come off – going through the dirt and the gravel – I still feel the pain.´

MotoGP, 2003

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