MotoGP: Michelin happy to give Valentino Rossi early Bridgestone release

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Michelin boss Jean-Philippe Weber has revealed the French tyre factory never considered banning Valentino Rossi from making his Bridgestone debut until 2008.

Despite being furious at Valentino Rossi quitting Michelin after a disastrous 2007 campaign, Michelin has released the Italian early from a contract to make his Bridgestone debut tomorrow (Tuesday) in Jerez.

Michelin’s current contract with Yamaha’s official factory team expires at the end of November and Michelin could have been banned Valentino Rossi from testing Bridgestone’s for the first time until January 22, 2008 in Malaysia.

But as a compromise, Michelin only barred Rossi from testing in Valencia and Sepang, though the ban was irrelevant as a broken right hand he suffered in the season’s final race ruled the 28-year-old out of those tests anyway.

Honda banned Valentino Rossi from immediately testing for Yamaha when he switched at the end of 2003, but Jean-Philippe Weber said Michelin had not seriously considered imposing a similar ban.

Weber told MCN: “The contracts we have are contracts that are signed until the end of November. But Michelin is a gentleman’s company.

“We made a big sacrifice by not making the tyres over the weekend and we know they have to develop the bike. On one hand we said ‘OK, it’s also useful for Yamaha because we are a partner with Yamaha and it’s useful for them to have information before the winter break on Yamaha and Bridgestone tyres.’”

Yamaha still has three riders on Michelin tyres in 2008, with double world 250 champion Jorge Lorenzo and double World Superbike champion’s James Toseland and Colin Edwards all running on Michelin rubber.

Valentino Rossi’s split from Michelin will see him operate out of a completely separate garage to Fiat Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt