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Weber reflects on Michelin season so far

Weber reflects on Michelin season so far

With five races already gone it is perhaps a chance to reflect on the season so far and for Michelin's director of motorcycle racing Jean-Philippe Weber it has been an eventful series of Grands Prix.

After this weekend's Gran Premio d'Italia Alice at Mugello a third of the 2007 MotoGP season will have been completed, with the current premier class landscape markedly different from this time last year, demonstrating the unpredictability of the sport.

With five races already gone it is perhaps a chance to reflect on the season so far and for Michelin's director of motorcycle racing Jean-Philippe Weber it has been an eventful series of Grands Prix.

Having spent pre-season preparing for the introduction of the new tyre rules, adapting to 800cc racing and introducing their new 16-inch front, Michelin have not enjoyed quite the start to the current campaign they would have hoped for – in part due to the red hot form of Bridgestone equipped Ducati Marlboro rider Casey Stoner who of course currently leads the World Championship.

However, Weber was as open as ever in his straightforward and honest assessment of the current state of play as he fielded the questions from Michelin's press office:

What can you tell us about the start of the 2007 MotoGP season?

"Quite frankly, the results so far aren't up to our expectations. The last race at Le Mans is the best example. We chose relatively hard compounds for the wet part of the French Grand Prix which didn't pay off. To be quite clear, we gambled with our partners that the rain would gradually stop. We opted for a hard compound rain tyre for the majority of our riders. It turned out that the rain increased drastically, so Valentino (Rossi) was unable to fight with his opponents. However, Dani (Pedrosa) chose a softer tyre that proved more competitive in the closing stages of the race, so he was able to climb back to fourth position. Given our initial hypothesis and the change of weather, we now know that our riders could have raced with at least one notch softer compound."

"However, this disappointment shouldn't hide all the good work we have done since the beginning of the season, notably with the new 16-inch front, which gets praise from all our riders. We will pursue our development to increase rear tyre performance."

The early stages of this season have also shown a redistribution of roles amongst the premier class role-players. Is it possible to say that Michelin has been destabilised?

"Not destabilised, but things have changed. For sure the 800cc hierarchy is totally different today compared to the 990cc era. From a machine performance point of view, one can say that the Japanese manufacturers are all on a similar level after the first five races. At the moment only Ducati seems to have a distinct advantage. Also, the seven riders equipped by Michelin haven't been spared by race turmoil. The Turkish Grand Prix is the best example. We had the three fastest qualifying times at Istanbul but the first lap collision seriously hurt us, taking out Dani and Colin (Edwards)."

"One can say that so far circumstances have not been favourable to us. However, our global performance is quite competitive. You need only look at Valentino's performances, especially in Qatar or China. Despite his top speed deficit he kept contact with Casey Stoner's Ducati at Shanghai and did everything he could to put pressure on Casey. At Jerez we achieved a hat trick both in practice and in the race. At Le Mans we had three riders in the first four on the starting grid, including Colin on pole position."

How do you approach the rest of the season?

"With a calm and focused attitude. There are still 13 Grands Prix to go. Our goal at Michelin is clear: we must concentrate on our mission to give each of our riders the best possible product. This championship is extremely competitive in every way – for the riders, for the bike manufacturers and for the tyre manufacturers – which in my opinion shows the excellence of MotoGP. In racing as elsewhere, hard work always pays off."


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