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Michelin explain the reasons for 16.5" front tyre experimentation
A key area during the recent end of year tests has been the analysis of the potential concerning new Michelin's 16.5" front tyre as opposed to the accepted standard 17". The rear tyre, so magnificently introduced to Grand Prix racing as Garry McCoy slid his way around circuits in 2000, was considered a success. Many teams and riders are now looking towards the new rubber on the front of their machinery so motograndprix.com decided to plunder the knowledge of Michelin racing manager Nicolas Goubert to gain some more information regarding the advancement."The 16.5 front is something that we really wanted to work on because we ran the tyre this season with the Aprilia team due to the fact that both of their riders preferred the size and both Noriyuki and Colin asked us to develop one for MotoGP," remarked the Frenchman. "They were quite happy with the result by the end of the year so we thought we would ask the other teams to try it over the winter. However it is a long process to get the tyre generally accepted. Right now we don't know if it is the main direction we will take for next year, it is too early to say. A lot of riders have their own tastes so we will see." "The biggest difficulty with making any kind of major innovation with tyres is that you are upsetting the stability and settings of the bike. They are all tuned around a specific aspect. If you change one part drastically, no matter if it is the tyre or some other component, it will upset the balance. Even if you are convinced it will help, time is needed to adjust everything around it to make sure that you gain something," he continued. "We were convinced that the 16.5 rear would work but getting to the stage where you can actually show the teams the improvement is not always so easy. We got lucky with the rear because Garry McCoy was the first rider to like it and use it and won the first time out in 2000 at Welkom, everybody then thought that it must be the way forwards if Garry was winning." "It then took between half a season to a season for that tyre to be suited to all conditions and the teams to adapt their bikes to the new model and, for this reason, concerning the front, it is too early to say the impact it will have." Goubert insists the alternative size label masks significant differences: "The two tyres have completely different constructions. We worked in one direction with the 16.5 using the requirements of Colin and Nori and ended up with a diverse construction compared to the 17". There are many other factors behind the size label, such as compound, profile, construction." Having used the 16.5 from his World Superbike days Colin Edwards is naturally more familiar with its characteristics and is leading the tyre's evolution in MotoGP. "It's a feel thing," Honda's new recruit stated. "Just a contact patch preference. I've been developing it since 2000 and I really like the footprint that it puts on the ground. We are always working to develop bigger and better stuff." Virtually all of the riders at the recent Valencia test had a go with the 16.5, the factory Ducati team in particular devoted a sizeable chunk of track time to evaluate the tyre's performance. Another former Superbike Champ with experience of the 16.5, Troy Bayliss, feels that the new ‘boot' could be a favoured addition if embraced by the majority of his peers. "I used the 16.5 in all my time in WSB but then had to switch to the 17 here because that was what everybody was using," he said. "When everybody follows in one direction all the development takes place in that area. I know Colin used the 16.5 this year and I tested it at Jerez and liked it. It depends on how many people feel the same and want to work with it; it'll just keep getting better then."
14 years ago