To first 800cc battle
This long-awaited first 800cc MotoGP race follows a gruelling winter of research and development during which Michelin engineers have dedicated themselves to creating the best tyres for the new 800cc machines.
The 800s have quite different characteristics
to the 990s they replace. They aren't lighter but they are more nimble, allowing them to enter corners faster and maintain higher corner speeds, so even though the 800s are slightly slower on the straights they are often faster over a full lap.
Michelin's main focus of development is to help the 800s take full advantage of these qualities. The company's new 16in front slick replaces last year's 16.5in tyre to offer less inertia for lighter handling, so riders can flick the bike onto its side even quicker, and a larger footprint to give riders more grip and confidence in attacking corners.
Michelin's latest 16.5in rear slick has been developed to deliver even more edge grip, allowing riders to exploit the 800s' stunning cornering ability.
Although the 800s will race for the first time at Losail on March 10, the traditional preseason qualifying session took place last month at Jerez, where Michelin riders proved the effectiveness of their 2007 tyres by filling the top four places; Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha YZR-M1-Michelin) ahead of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC212V-Michelin), Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha YZR-M1-Michelin) and reigning World Champion Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC212VMichelin).
MICHELIN & THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE OF QATAR
Michelin has won all three MotoGP races staged at Qatar and had a successful preseason test at the track on February 13-15. The circuit was constructed in 2004 and is characterised by a series of interflowing corners that place a lot of emphasis on agility and corner-entry performance.
“Qatar is going to be very interesting and we are expecting a nice battle,” says Michelin's director of motorcycle racing Jean-Philippe Weber.
“I think the difference in performance between the various 800s isn't as big as it was with the 990s, so the racing could be very close. Also, with these bikes you need to be more aggressive to overtake, so I think it will be a very exciting race. We are really looking forward to it because we have tested a lot of tyres and done a lot of development, and now it's time to start racing. We got a lot of good information during last month's Qatar tests. Obviously, it's very useful to test at a track quite close to the race and our riders' lap times were quite fast. Dani was quick on qualifiers and also did a very good long run, plus the Yamahas also performed well, so we are quite confident for this first race with the 800s. As always at Qatar, the problem is that we don't know whether our work will be disturbed by sand. If it's windy then sand gets blown onto the track surface, reducing grip and working against the tyres like sandpaper. Even if we have two good days of practice we can't be sure that track conditions won't change on race day, so we need to have tyres to face this problem. Also, the conditions will be warmer than they were during last month's tests.”
There is one other big change in MotoGP this year, apart from the introduction of the 800s. All Michelin riders are now limited to 31 slicks (14 fronts/17 rears) per race weekend. All slicks are barcoded and logged with Grand Prix Technical director on the evening before practice starts and are controlled by pit-lane scrutineers equipped with barcode scanners. “We have had to do a lot of work to get ready for this new system, adapting our way of working to be best prepared Now we are ready” says Weber.
THE NEW TYRE & TESTING RULES – WHAT THEY MEAN
• All tyres must be registered with race organisation on the day before official practice begins at each GP. So tyres cannot be manufactured by tyre companies during GP weekends and taken to the track.
• Riders are limited to 14 front tyres and 17 rear tyres per event. This does not include rain tyres and other treaded tyres. And tyre manufacturers who haven't won at least two MotoGP races since the start of 2005 are not subject to this limit.
• During the racing season testing is limited to the three days succeeding a GP, at the track where the GP took place. Manufacturers may nominate one GP circuit where they can test at any time during the season, but they may not use current MotoGP riders during these tests.
• Winter testing is limited to eight three-day official test sessions. Manufacturers may also nominate one GP circuit where they can test at other times during the winter, though not during the six-week testing.