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Unpredictable weather presents new challenge for Michelin

Unpredictable weather presents new challenge for Michelin

One of the tracks on the MotoGP calendar with the most unpredictable weather conditions, Donington Park presents a fresh challenge for the three manufacturers involved in the 2007 tyre war.

One of the tracks on the MotoGP calendar with the most unpredictable weather conditions, Donington Park presents a fresh challenge for the three manufacturers involved in the 2007 tyre war. Temperatures can vary wildly in the Midlands, and rain is always a threat; as seen in the drenched 2005 race.

With new regulations limiting the amount of tyres brought to any Grand Prix, the dilemma for affected parties Michelin and Bridgestone is a difficult one. With an 800cc bike yet to ride round Donington Park, the teams will not only have to take a gamble on the weather but on how their 2007 machines will need to be shod for the Nickel & Dime British Grand Prix.

"This track isn't so easy when you throw in the extra factor of unpredictable weather," says Michelin's Jean-Philipe Weber. "Sometimes we get good weather at Donington, other times it's very cold and wet, so we have to produce tyres that cover a large range of temperatures. Also, we have to consider the likely temperature changes during the day. There could be a big difference between the morning and afternoons session temperatures, like at Jerez where it was very cold in the morning and 15 degrees warmer in the afternoon. It's not so easy to cover that temperature range within the new tyre rules, it's a real challenge.

"The two sections of the track are very different, demanding different things from the tyres," he added. "Through the faster part riders need good manoeuvrability for the high-speed direction changes and good stability, especially through the longer corners like Hollywood and Coppice. For the slow part they need good traction. The track is also very asymmetric, with very few left-handers, so tyre warm-up, especially on the left side is crucial.

"We use a medium range of rear tyres at Donington because the tarmac isn't so aggressive, because riders need good traction out of the slow turns and because there's not a lot of long corners where riders are using a lot of throttle for long periods of time, much of the track is part throttle. We know from our experience what to do with compounds and constructions to offer more stability or more traction. All tracks demand some kind of compromise between these two, though Donington requires quite a big compromise.

"We also use medium range fronts at Donington because although there's some heavy braking it's not from super-high speeds and riders certainly don't need harder fronts like they did at Mugello and Catalunya, which both place much greater stresses on the front tyre. "

Aside from talking about the race at hand, Weber also passed comment on the new generation of Michelin rear slicks, which have been developed over the past few races.

"We started working on a different family of stronger constructions after April's Turkish GP and we've been improving step by step. We made some good improvements during the post-French GP tests at Le Mans – Valentino Rossi won in Italy using a new construction he tested at Le Mans and came so close to winning again a Catalunya. Of course, we have to adapt tyre stiffness of this new family of tyres to suit the stresses experienced at each circuit. The construction we use at Donington may be close to what we used at the last two races but it won't be the same because the British track isn't as aggressive on tyres as Mugello and Catalunya.

"Not all of our riders prefer this family of stiffer constructions. Dani Pedrosa tested the harder tyres at Le Mans and although he didn't immediately want to go in that direction he did choose a stiffer construction at Catalunya, identical to the construction used by Rossi. In the past Dani preferred a slightly softer construction tyre that gave him a good feeling in the early stages of a race, but it seems the harder tyre gives him the chance to be more competitive over full-race distance."

MotoGP, 2007

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