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Michelin men defending honour at home race

Michelin men defending honour at home race

The Alice Grand Prix de France is something of a question of pride for tyre manufacturer Michelin, who are at their ‘home race' this weekend.

The Alice Grand Prix de France is something of a question of pride for tyre manufacturer Michelin, who are at their ‘home race' this weekend.

Bridgestone have been on their best form to date at the past two races in Turkey and China, and Michelin will be looking to pull one back over their rivals in the tyre war.

Michelin rider Valentino Rossi was able to ride very aggressively at Shanghai to lead on several occasions. After the race he gave a thumbs up to the latest development work undertaken by Michelin, which is focused on increasing side grip for enhanced cornering performance.

Michelin has a great record in the French Grand Prix, having won the past 14 premier-class races at three different tracks, Le Mans, Le Castellet and Magny-Cours. The excellent performances of Casey Stoner and Bridgestone may be cause for concern in defending this streak, but Le Mans is a very different track to those which have gone before it….

"Le Mans is Michelin's home race but that doesn't really make it any different for us – each of the 18 races is as important as the others," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "We don't do specific tests at the track and the main complication during the weekend could be the weather, which can be a bit unpredictable at this time of year."

"We got a lot of information from Turkey and China which we are using for Le Mans. We've been reactive to our riders' feedback so things are going better now and we are continuing to work in the same direction."

"The big thing we are now working on is side grip. We saw that Valentino had good side grip at Shanghai because he could really fight with Casey Stoner despite a big difference in top speed. If we can give our riders even more side grip then we give them the possibility to be more aggressive through the corners, which is very useful if there's a big difference in speed between the different machines. The stiffer front and rear casings we have created since Turkey are performing well but we are working on both constructions and compounds because usually you have to work on both together."

"Valentino and some of our other riders will have some different tyres at Le Mans, adapted to their needs and to this track, based on the results of the tests at Istanbul and the race at Shanghai. The direction we have taken with Valentino's tyres also works for some of our riders, though others will use different tyres more suited for their own style at Le Mans."

"Le Mans is mainly a braking and traction circuit, though there are several long corners, like the Musee left-hander, and several long rights, like La Chapelle, the right of the ‘S' Bleu, where you need stability to be able to flick the bike out of there and into the next left, and the double right at the end of the lap.

"There are a few straights but they aren't so long as at Shanghai, so I think we should be in good shape to be competitive. We hope we'll be able to get as good side grip as we had in Shanghai because that means our riders will be able to get through the curves fast and then open the throttle early to get a good exit speed."

"You also need a good front at Le Mans to get into the hairpins at a good speed and I'm sure our 16 inch front will be good at Le Mans. All our riders like the 16 and it was obvious at Shanghai that the tyre gave Valentino the confidence to be really aggressive into corners. After the race he said the front was perfect."


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