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Michelin men ready for "real rider's track"

Michelin men ready for 'real rider's track'

Michelin men ready for "real rider's track"

The MotoGP World Championship continues its roving start to 2006 in Turkey. Following the season-opening race in Europe, the MotoGP circus moved to the Middle East and now settles briefly in Istanbul, Europe's gateway to Asia. The brand-new Istanbul Park hosted its first MotoGP event last year and was an instant hit with riders and teams alike. Designed by Germany architect Herman Tilke (who also created the Sepang and Shanghai circuits), the venue features excellent paddock facilities and a rollercoaster racetrack that rises and falls across hillsides, building to the awesome turn 11, taken at around 260km/h, flat out in fifth gear.

Michelin's nine MotoGP riders come to Turkey full of confidence after dominating the recent Qatar GP, where they filled eight of the first ten finishing positions. Qatar victor Valentino Rossi is up for his first back-to-back success since last October but Marco Melandri, who won his first MotoGP race at Istanbul last year, is aiming for a repeat win at Istanbul.

Michelin riders dominated last October's inaugural MotoGP event at Istanbul Park, monopolising the first eight places on the grid and filling eight of the first nine finishing positions, including a clean sweep of the first four. This year Michelin aims to build on its experience at the challenging venue which entertains riders with a complex range of corners across an undulating layout.

"The Istanbul layout is really good," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "It has got all kinds of turns, plus plenty of ups and downs and it's also quite symmetrical, so it's perfect and completely different in style to the other new track we went to last year. Shanghai and Istanbul are night and day to this track even though they were both designed by the same architect. "It looks like a lot of fun and it's a real rider's track, which really challenges riders, and where a good rider can make the difference. We appreciate that because we still think that MotoGP is number one a rider's sport, unlike Formula One, where team strategy and other factors seem to matter more. During the first few practice sessions last year we saw a lot of riders missing their braking markers and so on, which suggests that Istanbul is not an easy circuit to master.

"The very fast Turn 11 attracted a lot of comment during the weekend last year because it must be very impressive for the riders, but it's not such a big deal for tyres. It's so fast that riders don't use extreme angles of lean, plus they're not using a lot of throttle through the corner. From a tyre point of view, the triple left (Turns 7 and 8) is more critical because riders stay leaned over for a long while through there which puts a lot of heat into the tyres. "Last year the surface was quite aggressive and the grip was quite good, which is what you expect from a new track. We haven't been back there since but we don't think the track has been used much, so hopefully the surface character won't have changed much. Last time we used medium-hard tyres and we'll stay in that range. Istanbul is also quite bumpy, though our riders didn't have a problem with tyre absorption. And last time we were there we noticed that it can be very cold in the morning, so you need tyres that will give grip well, even in those conditions. We still believe we have more to learn about this track because we've only been there once."


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