Michelin boss talks 16

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Having made the first aggressive move in the 2007 MotoGP tyre war with a new 16-inch front tyre becoming one of the big talking points of winter testing.

Michelin boss Jean-Philippe Weber has told MCN about the switch.

Designed to help stability under braking and corner speed with the new generation 800cc machines, bosses at the French manufacturer are convinced it has helped hugely with the transition to the new 800cc bikes.

The 16-inch front is not a new concept by any means, with Michelin and Bridgestone trying it in the past.

Makoto Tamada raced the 16-inch front several times in 2006, but its impact was far less beneficial on the more powerful and less manoeuvrable 990cc four-stroke MotoGP bikes.

Valentino Rossi, Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards are all confident the new rubber is the future direction and new Michelin boss Weber said: “The main points of this tyre is on corner entry and manoeuvrability.

“With more contact patch it also gives better feeling for the rider on braking and also turning in. It is also makes changing direction faster.

“Now with 800cc the maximum speed is less so the tyre has more stress under braking because the riders can brake much later being a little bit slower on the straight, and this tyre helps a lot in braking.”
Weber said 80 per cent of Michelin’s winter concentration had been focused on the new front, but rear development had not been sacrificed.

“We have concentrated on side grip and traction but we work on this every year. Now though the corner speeds are much higher and that’s why we have looked for some side grip at full lean angle, “added Weber.
Rossi’s feedback is critical to the direction Michelin follow and Weber was pleased to learn the factory Yamaha rider was happy with the new 16-inch front.

He said: “I think it’s a good way for the future. It has good stability in the entry of the corner while you are still braking and this is a very important part of the corner for the lap time.

“In braking now with these bikes it is critical and it’s a little bit easier to stop the bike, so you can brake later and its possible to go deeper.”

Rossi was relieved that Michelin had focused its efforts on improving the front tyre, which is the accepted advantage of rivals Bridgestone, who currently deny they will experiment with a 16-inch front.

“In braking where we had some problems compared to Bridgestone and corner entry I think it is a good step,” added Rossi.

“At the end of last year and following the Bridgestone riders, the front is the point where Michelin needed to improve. Bridgestone has a very good level with the front.”


Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt