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Nicolas Goubert: Michelin Q&A

French tyre manufacturer talks rubber as Michelin’s second season as sole supplier gets underway

After returning in 2016, it’s now the sophomore season for Michelin as the sole tyre supplier for MotoGP™. One race in, caught up with Nicolas Goubert – Michelin Racing Technical Director - to talk about the return, developments and what’s in store.

First, how would you assess your return?

Nicolas Goubert: "Positively. After seven years away we were well prepared and this was seen in Qatar where we broke all records, including the race time -  something we did four times during the season. Very often, people focus more on the qualifying time because it is the most spectacular, but the indicator that best represents the tyre performance is the time of the race. There were some more difficult situations we had expected: many circuits had changed, others had appeared on the calendar, or the surface was new.

“A big positive was to have had so many different winners. All these victories are obviously not attributable to us but we have nonetheless made it a point of honor to satisfy the greatest number of riders. We know that we have to find something suitable between the rider and riding style which must lead the riders to make different choices. The objective is to listen to the requests of each rider to adapt our allocation accordingly. Moreover, this year, the regulations allow us to propose three front and three rear tyres."

In preseason, a new front tyre appeared. What can you tell us about it?

NG: "We started working on this tyre from Brno with the objective of offering it this year. The Championship having been decided before Valencia, together with the teams, we thought it might be interesting to do a full-scale test during a race weekend. So we brought two tyres, one with a 2016 profile and two 2017 ones. 90% of the riders opted for the new one, showing so we had chosen the right direction. It was developed in such a way as to give more confidence to the riders at the maximum angle. "

There’s a private test between Austin and Jerez aimed at developing the wet tyre. How do you test to develop that?

NG: "We rented the track and invited all the teams on the board. We’ll wet the track, and the riders will do ten-minute sessions to evaluate the performance. It’s best to carry out an analytical test and control the conditions. Similarly, it is important to be able to test with riders in a different context to a race weekend."

And the intermediate tyre is now out the allocation…

NG: "We managed to prove with the riders that we were able to make a junction between the slick tyre and the rain tyre. Last season, we often found ourselves in situations with riders on slicks, intermediates and rain. When you see that the rain tyre and the slick tyre can be used at the same time, it shows that there is a link. So there’s no longer any interest in offering intermediates – their window of use is much narrower than the wets."

Finally, what’s the next evolution from Michelin?

NG: "In addition to the front tire, there are new rear tires with a new architecture that offers more traction. We will keep this architecture at the beginning of the season and we will see what we can improve as we go along. "