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Two World Champions, two worlds apart

Two World Champions, two worlds apart

Two World Champions, two worlds apart

The loads imposed on Michelin's Formula One and MotoGP tyres are significantly different. Here's why Michelin furnished many World Champions in 2005, including Formula One star Fernando Alonso and MotoGP talisman Valentino Rossi.

In both cases, Michelin made full use of its legendary expertise and commitment to add to its historic haul of title conquests – but that's more or less where the similarities end. When it comes to producing tyres capable of withstanding the demands of F1 and MotoGP, there are contrasting sets of problems to resolve. Even to a layman, the physical differences between Formula One and MotoGP tyres are strikingly obvious. Their size and shape have nothing in common – but that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what sets them apart.

Nicolas Goubert, technical director of Michelin's motorcycle racing operation, says: "One of the main differences between MotoGP and F1 is that bikes only ever have a narrow ribbon of tread in contact with the track: their tyres are quite often asymmetrical – just like the circuits. Using this approach we can better tailor rubber to individual tracks. For instance, the left-hand side of the tread will differ from the right at a circuit where there is a significant imbalance between the number of left- and right-hand turns.

In F1, of course, a much greater percentage of the tread tends to be in contact with the track." Michelin's Formula One technical director Patrick Cohen is quick to pick up on this point. "In Formula One," he says, "the size of the contact patch can actually vary enormously, depending upon the type of corner and the prevailing downforce levels. It can even drop to the point that it is almost zero, when a front tyre on the inside of a corner is barely touching the track." The size of the contact patch is a critical factor when it comes to generating the phenomenon known as grip.

And in motorcycle racing, we might be talking something no bigger than the size of a credit card. Goubert says: "Contemporary MotoGP bikes develop 240bhp and we have to transmit that to the track via a surface that is 5cm long and 10cm wide. The maximum load on a rear tyre is five times greater in F1 than in MotoGP .

" The contact patch for an F1 rear tyre, incidentally, is approximately 16.5cm long and 27cm wide. Naturally, motorcycle racers lean considerably when cornering – to an angle of more than 55 degrees in dry conditions. Consequently it won't always be the same part of a tyre that maintains contact with the track, but overall the loads are less dramatic than those in F1. "That's because there is no aerodynamic influencein bike racing," says Goubert. "The greatest weight a tyre has to bear will be equivalent to that of the rider and bike combined, approximately 80 and 145 kilos respectively."

MotoGP, 2006

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