One of the biggest parts of winter practice
Kenny Roberts Junior is one of Michelin's best MotoGP test rider and crucial contributor to Michelin's R&D programme. So what do he think is the secret to being a good tyre tester?
Why are you good at testing?
Jr: "I've always needed a lot of grip and a lot of turning from my tyres, and to get that you end up spending a lot of time getting to know the tyres. I don't know, it's just something I'm good at, I give good feedback. You just try and tell the Michelin guys what the tyre feels like, turning-wise, grip-wise, under braking and so on. It's basically all about understanding how a tyre works."
How important is winter testing?
KR: "There are a lot of things we go through during the winter, a lot of stuff that we need to get ready for the new year, but I'd say that tyres are the biggest thing. Tyres and the progress of your suspension set-up are probably 60 to 70 per cent of your testing load."
Why do Michelin have the edge in MotoGP?
KR: "From what I can see the company seems to be very motivated and very focused on what their achievements need to be. They want to win the championship, they want to win every race and they want to win qualifying. For them it's not just an engineering exercise, it's also a competition. Plus they've got a tremendous amount of experience.
How many tyres do you test at each winter test session?
KR: "Anything from ten to thirty. You'll do between five and seven laps on each tyre to get an idea of what it's like, then you may go try a race-distance run."
Is it more difficult to push a front to the limit and thus to test it fully?
KR: "In some ways it's easier to get the initial feeling of a front tyre. But you can only really base what you think about a front on the feeling and the turning it's giving you, rather than from sliding it into the corners. You don't slide much with the front, not on purpose anyway!"
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