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Winter work pays dividends for Michelin

Winter work pays dividends for Michelin

Sunday's final session of preseason preparation at Jerez brought to an end a particularly busy official winter testing programme for Michelin.

Sunday's final session of preseason preparation at Jerez brought to an end a particularly busy official winter testing programme for Michelin.

For every individual involved with motorcycle racing's premier competition, from MotoGP riders to their mechanics and those working for the three tyre manufacturers, the transition from the 990cc era at the end of last season to the new dawn of the 800cc age, the current close season has produced numerous unique challenges.

Michelin and their collaborators have travelled far and wide over the last few months to undertake tyre development for the new, smaller 800 prototypes in various tests at Jerez (Spain), Losail (Qatar), Phillip Island (Australia), Sepang (Malaysia) and Valencia (Spain).

The French manufacturer have taken it all their stride, developing a new 16 inch front tyre, adapting the 16.5 rear for the 800s, readying themselves for MotoGP's new tyre regulations and implementing a new policy of producing ‘tailor-made' compounds for each of their nine premier class riders.

The hard work paid off in Jerez with Michelin riders dominating the event and occupying the top four in Sunday's BMW M Award qualifying simulation. The 40 minute special session saw five-time former World Champion Valentino Rossi record the fastest-ever lap of the southern Spanish circuit on his Michelin-shod Yamaha Factory YZR-M1, just 0.133 seconds ahead of title rival Dani Pedrosa on his Michelin-equipped Repsol Honda RC212V.

Rossi was 0.67 seconds faster than the previous Jerez lap record, which Michelin's motorcycle racing director Jean-Philippe Weber believes was in part due to the new 16 inch front, which facilitates riders entering corners more aggressively on the new nimble 800s.

"The emphasis is changing," stated Weber. "Top speeds aren't so high with the 800s but the lap times are very fast, because riders can enter corners faster, harder on the brakes, and use more corner speed, so they need a good front tyre more than ever and they need high confidence in the front too. That's why we switched to the 16. It is slightly smaller and lighter than the 16.5, which gives better handling and allows riders to flick the bike very quickly, and it's got a slightly bigger footprint for more grip and confidence."

He continued: "Developing new front tyres isn't easy because riders need to really push the limit to understand a tyre. But once they know a front tyre and feel really confident in it then they have the confidence to be more aggressive in their riding. Knowing how difficult it is, it's amazing that we've been able to make such quick progress."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2007

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