MotoGP: Michelin explain 2008 development plans

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Michelin has outlined its 2008 MotoGP development strategy that French tyre bosses hope will spark a revival against dominant rivals Bridgestone next season.

Bridgestone emerged as the dominant tyre brand in the premier class last season, winning 12 races against the six won by Michelin.

Michelin has committed extra investment and manpower to retaliate next season, which starts in just over two weeks time under floodlights in Qatar on March 9.

Race boss Jean-Philippe Weber said one of the priorities in winter testing had been to broaden the range of conditions that Michelin's tyres work in for '08, with several complaints from riders last season that performance levels varied too much in different conditions.

"Technically speaking we've worked very hard and our work isn't finished yet. We had to improve the working range of the tyres, that's very important. Last year we sometimes had difficulties in morning sessions, especially when the temperature was low.

"We have done some good work - we have some new constructions and some new profiles and we have optimised compounds, because once you change one thing you have to adjust all the other parameters to suit. It's a lot of work but we are working in the right direction," said Weber.

The main focus of winter development has been in improving the performance of the rear tyre, with Michelin working on the 16.5-inch, while also concentrating heavily on the new 16-inch profile.

"We have worked most of all on rear tyres," added Weber. "We had to improve working range and tyre performance. Our riders are using both 16.5 and 16 rears, and it seems that more and more riders like the 16. We did some good work on the 16 with Nicky (Hayden) towards the end of last year and the recent feedback we've got, including Jerez, suggests that the 16 is a good way to go."

Weber then explained the performance benefits gained from switching to the new 16-inch profile, which has also been supported by rookie Andrea Dovizioso.

"We are always looking for a good balance of performance from both the 16 and the 16.5. You can always count on your riders to use the maximum of a tyre's potential, and at the moment I would say more riders prefer the 16.

"This tyre has good potential, it has better traction than the 16.5. To begin with we had to work hard to improve the 16's edge grip, which was quite complicated, because the tyre wasn't as consistent in this area as the 16.5. Now it seems to be much better, so probably more and more riders will be using the 16."

With so much emphasis placed on improving rear tyre performance, Michelin hasn't sacrificed any development on the front tyre.

Weber said: "Last year we had two front profiles, one wider than the other, and towards the end of the season we started testing an even fatter profile tyre.

"Last year half the riders used the narrower of the first two tyres, the other half used the wider of the first two tyres. After the test in Jerez it looks like everyone is switching to the wider tyre.

"We haven't done so much testing with the widest profile, because we wanted to focus on getting our riders comfortable with the wide tyre. Confidence is especially vital in front-tyre performance. We will test the wider tyre later, we don't want to confuse riders with too many front-tyre choices."

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt