Michelin men set fast pace Down Under
16-inch rear growing in popularity, Dovizioso tests new profile front
There were four Michelin riders in the top five at this week's Phillip Island tests, the second outing of a busy preseason period for Michelin and its MotoGP partners. As usual, most riders used qualifying tyres to set their best laps of the three-day session, Colin Edwards (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) in fine form as he set the second fastest time, just ahead of Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin) who was a fraction ahead of impressive MotoGP rookies James Toseland (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) and Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda RC212V-Michelin). Edwards was once again impressed by Michelin's efforts in the run-up to the 2008 MotoGP season. "Michelin seems to have really taken steps forward with both slick and rain tyres," said the Texan.
"The general feeling from these tests is quite good, we learned a lot," said Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "On the one hand we saw that Casey (Stoner, Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici) was very fast but on the other hand we were very competitive against all the other riders, so it isn't obvious where the exact performance is in terms of tyres.
"We tested some quite different rear tyres during these three days, their performance wasn't so bad but we wanted it to be better. Running temperatures are always very high at Phillip Island, so we wanted to try a big change in construction. We tried a softer construction, looking for more edge grip, but maybe we went too soft, so the tyres weren't as consistent as we wanted them to be. But this is what testing is for and now we know in which direction to go.
"We continued working with both our 16.5-inch and 16-inch rears. More and more of our riders are now working with the 16, so for our upcoming tests we are looking at supplying 50/50 16.5s and 16s. The 16 is definitely growing.
"Although we focused mostly on rear tyres during this test, we did some more work adapting compounds for each of our riders with our two different fronts. We also tried a third profile front with Andrea. We already tested this tyre last year at Motegi with Nicky and Colin. Both of them liked the tyre but when they tried it again later the results weren't so conclusive. Andrea had a good feeling with the tyre at Phillip Island, though the construction was a little too hard, so we will make some softer constructions for Jerez later this month."
"Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR RC212V-Michelin) worked very hard too. We really appreciate his motivation in our tyre development program. We also have to work more to fulfil his needs with qualifying tyres. We would like to thank all our riders for their efforts during these first tests of 2008. "
Italian newcomer Dovizioso was delighted with progress Down Under. "We've done a lot of work with Michelin, testing many, many different tyre and compound options," he said. "I'm very satisfied with my relationship with them. They have reacted so fast to my feedback, so I feel our relationship will grow together. My pace is pretty good with race tyres, but with qualifying tyres and qualifying set-up I'm still getting some engine-braking vibration going into corners."
Much of yesterday's testing was done on a wet track following morning rainfall, giving riders a valuable opportunity to test Michelin's latest rain tyres. Edwards was particularly impressed. "I tried a new front Michelin rain tyre and I was really happy, it felt more natural for my style," he said. "Seeing Michelin putting in so much hard work adds a lot of motivation for me."
MotoGP testing continues next week at Sepang (February 5/6/7), where Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) will be back in action after missing the Phillip Island outing. The first European tests of the year take place at Jerez, Spain, (February 16/17/18). Teams then move on to Losail, Qatar (February 28/29), where the 2008 World Championship kicks off on March 7/8/9.
Phillip Island lap times
- Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici): 1m 28.777s
- Colin Edwards (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin): 1m 29.566s
- Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin): 1m 29.734s
- James Toseland (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin): 1m 29.754s
- Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda RC212V-Michelin): 1m 29.780s
- Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R): 1m 30.216s
- Alex de Angelis (Honda Gresini RC212V): 1m 30.438s
- Shinya Nakano (Honda Gresini RC212V): 1m 30.728s
- Toni Elias (Alice Ducati Desmosedici): 1m 30.966s
- Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR RC212V-Michelin): 1m 30.978s
- Sylvain Guintoli (Alice Ducati Desmosedici): 1m 30.983s
- Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R): 1m 31.274s
- Marco Melandri (Ducati Marlboro Team Desmosedici): 1m 31.377s
- John Hopkins (Kawasaki Racing ZX-RR): 1m 31.623s
- Anthony West (Kawasaki Racing ZX-RR): 1m 31.957s