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Goubert talks qualifying tyres

Goubert talks qualifying tyres

Goubert talks qualifying tyres

Nicholas Goubert, Michelin Motorcycle Competition Manager, talks to about how riders use qualifying tyres, and what Michelin specifically do to give their riders that all-important advantage.

As MotoGP get closer and as the tyre war hots up, will qualifying get more and more important?

I wouldn't say more and more important. It's quite important but this isn't car racing, so riders can still win races if they don't start from the front row. We've seen that with Valentino and we saw it in Turkey earlier this year when Marco Melandri won from the fifth row. Of course, it is psychologically important for the rider to be on the front row but positions can totally change within a lap or two.

What aspects of performance does a Michelin qualifying tyre improve?

The extra grip available maybe improves corner entry a little, but the main differences are grip at maximum lean angle and, most of all, corner-exit traction.

Some riders are better than others at exploiting qualifying tyres, why is that?

I would say that using qualifying tyres is a very specific exercise. Some riders don't like to fully exploit their bike/tyre package from the very first lap. Usually it's these guys who aren't the best on qualifiers, they prefer to ease up to maximum speed. Valentino is a good example. I'm not saying he's not good on qualifiers because he's good everywhere but when you see what he can do on race tyres, you would think he would be unbeatable on qualifiers. But he doesn't like to give 100 per cent until he's comfortable with the bike and track conditions. There are a few guys who seem to gain an advantage with qualifiers, maybe Loris Capirossi and it seems like Casey Stoner, have the potential to do this. Whenever Casey goes out, whether it's on qualifiers or race tyres, you can be sure he will use the tyres' maximum potential right away.

Why doesn't Michelin produce rain qualifying tyres? They would be easy enough to produce…

Maybe some of our rivals have already made rain qualifiers! But we have no plans to do that.

And what about front qualifiers, will we see them in the future?

Again, it wouldn't be that difficult to build a front qualifier, but riders would need time to get used to it on different circuits and to be fully confident with it. Riders always find it more tricky to exploit the full performance of a front tyre. We have never used front qualifiers but Capirossi used to use the softest front race tyre available during qualifying when he was riding in 500cc for Sito Pons. He had confidence in that tyre because he had raced with it once or twice. But if riders wanted to use front qualifiers and had the opportunity to get comfortable with them, for sure it would be an advantage. We have never wanted to put too much emphasis on qualifying tyres. In fact we've never really been happy with the whole concept of qualifying tyres. They may improve lap times during qualifying but they also reduce the amount of time available to riders to work on race set-up, which is much more important. We use qualifiers because to be competitive we have to, but they don't improve the show for the fans and they do raise safety issues; if a rider is out on a qualifier which he knows will only do one good lap, he will do just about anything to overtake any slower riders on that lap.

When did Michelin start using qualifying tyres?

We first started using them in World Superbike, after the introduction of Super Pole (which allows riders just one qualifying lap). We didn't need them in GPs until some of our rivals started using them. We started using qualifiers in 500s in 1999.

How many qualifiers do you give each Michelin rider?

We started with two tyres per rider, per event, but then we realised that some of our competitors were feeding their riders more qualifiers, so we had to follow suit or risk not getting on the front row. Since the middle of last year we supply each rider with three qualifiers, though not all riders always use their full allocation. Sometimes we may supply a qualifier to a rider who's looking to see if some extra grip will help him solve a problem or give him more information. At the Spanish GP we gave Casey Stoner a qualifier on Saturday morning, simply because he had never even used one before, so he needed to see what it would be like.

MotoGP, 2006

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