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Weber assesses Michelin challenge ahead of Qatar season-opener

Weber assesses Michelin challenge ahead of Qatar season-opener

After an informative and successful test visit to Losail International circuit at the end of last week, Michelin are gearing up for the start of the season this weekend as the real action gets underway at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.

After an informative and successful test visit to Losail International circuit at the end of last week, Michelin are gearing up for the start of the season this weekend as the real action gets underway at the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar.

The historic first ever floodlit race will see the tyre suppliers having to make specific adjustments due to the cool temperatures, as experienced during night time testing and as anticipated for the first round of the year at the desert circuit.

While a busy winter testing period saw Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) pick up an unfortunate hand injury, Michelin's other established MotoGP riders for 2008 - Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR), Colin Edwards (Tech3 Yamaha) and Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda) - have all shown positive signs ahead of the forthcoming campaign.

Of course the French compound manufacturers have a reduced portfolio this year, but with newcomers Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot), Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) and James Toseland (Tech3 Yamaha) now also on their books there should be exciting times ahead. Especially given the timesheet topping performances of the latter two last Friday in the final preseason test session of 2008 under the Losail floodlights.

Michelin are making big efforts to be more competitive this season and have specifically focussed on tyre warm-up, operating range, side grip and traction over the winter. They will supply two different profile 16-inch front tyres and a choice of 16.5-inch and 16-inch rear tyres for the forthcoming campaign.

Having won three of the four MotoGP events staged in Qatar they have the knowledge to secure another successful return on Sunday night, though of course the unusual conditions will provide a unique set of challenges for the riders, teams and tyre technicians.

As Michelin's director of motorcycle racing: Jean-Philippe Weber puts it: "From a tyre point of view the night race changes everything. During the day Losail can be very hot, with very high track temperatures. But at night it is going to be pretty cool. In theory this should make the track less demanding on tyres, but that doesn't mean it's going to be any easier for us."

"We have to deal with a completely different set of circumstances and, as usual, our job will be to come up with the best balance of tyres to suit the conditions," continues Weber. "The track will be much cooler, which will make tyre warm-up very important. Not only that, the track temperature will get progressively cooler as the race goes on, which is the opposite of the situation we have to deal with at daytime GPs."

"Then there is the possibility of night winds blowing sand onto the circuit which can have a big effect on tyre wear, since the track surface becomes like sandpaper. This is a particular problem because the wind could change conditions suddenly and unexpectedly. It's also possible that the track will become damp with dew, which could be another problem. So, it's going to be a very busy weekend for us."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2008, Commercialbank GRAND PRIX OF QATAR

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