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The tyre's challenge of Qatar

The tyre's challenge of Qatar

The tyre's challenge of Qatar

Michelin riders ruled the first two Qatar GPs, filling the first seven finishing places in 2004 and the first five positions last year. This year's race is expected to offer a slightly different challenge because the event has been moved from October to April.

`We hope conditions will be cooler than they were on our last two visits," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "We tested with Yamaha during February and it was less than 30 degrees, much nicer conditions than the extreme heat we had experienced before. Both Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards lapped inside the record because the circuit was cool and clean but will we be able to go as fast this weekend? It all depends on track conditions and temperature.

`We know Losail can hold some surprises. You may have everything under control, and then a sandstorm changes everything. There's not much you can do if the track is covered in sand. Not only does sand reduce grip it also accelerates tyre wear. From a layout point of view, Losail is a medium-wear circuit for the rear. The front tyre isn't a major issue, there are no downhill sections or big braking areas. "We are very happy with our 2006 rear slick, which continues our usual MotoGP concept, creating a larger footprint to give the riders more edge grip and traction. If race-day conditions are at least equal to last year's conditions we're pretty confident we can beat the race record. But this is only the second race, so we are still learning´, continue Goubert.

`You never quite know where you stand at the first few races, which is quite fun, quite exciting for us! Jerez didn't offer us any firm conclusions about the performance of our 2006 tyres because the track was much less grippy than last year, that's why the race was 14 seconds slower."´

Lap record-holder Nicky Hayden agrees with Goubert's assessment of Losail. `It's not that hard on tyres once the track is clean,´ says the American. `You need good grip, of course, especially through that long left-hander (turns 10 and 11), where you can make a lot of time if you've got good traction. The big thing is that the track is usually so dirty on the first day that front tyres don't last long, so it's hard to get the bike set up´.


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