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Pedrosa's Michelin technician: Q&A
14 August 2008
Patrick Isaaco has been present in grand prix road racing for over 15 years, working alongside the likes of Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner and Alex Criville.
Isaaco first began to work in grand prix in 1989, as Michelin's co-ordinator in all three categories, where he managed the team's complete logistics, from plane tickets to material transport.
In 1991 Michelin did not participate in the grand prix world championship and Isaaco went to Germany to work with Mercedes technicians in DTM. In 1992 he returned to motorcycle grand prix with Michelin, joining the official HRC team running Doohan and Gardner, in addition to an official 250cc team with Luca Cadalora and a 125cc outfit.
Isaaco is now Dani Pedrosa's Michelin technician at Repsol Honda, responsible for making sure the 2008 MotoGP title contender has the best tyres possible at each and every grand prix...Q:
To begin with, could you explain the main features of tyre construction?Patrick Isaaco
I won't go into great detail, but basically a tyre is made up of a carcass - the internal structure of the tyre - and the external rubber part, that is to say the tread and walls that make contact with the floor. All of these parts can vary their rigidity depending on the desired level of traction or grip. Whatever happens, research never stops so that all parts are improved and modified.
Riders are always asking for more, so we constantly work on developing tyres. And the dimensions can also be changed, although once the season has started they do not usually vary too much. Tests can be made, but in general during a single season everything stays the same; and this year all riders are using 16 inch tyres at the front and 16.5” on the rear.Q:
Last year was tough for Michelin. From your point of view how is the 2008 season working out?Patrick Isaaco
Competition racing is very demanding and there is never anything that is perfect. As I said there is always work to be done and improvements to be made. This year is also being very difficult since the championship is very tight and it is not easy to create any big differences. That is why we are constantly seeking new solutions. If you look at the championship the battle is very tough between Stoner, Rossi, Dani Pedrosa, and even Jorge Lorenzo, who is still there. All the riders can do a good job, and we have to carry on working. Nothing is ever decided before the start.Q:
What do you think about the current tyre regulations, which limit the number of tyres that can be used and make tyre selection on a Thursday crucial for the outcome of the race...Patrick Isaaco
It's not easy and the truth is that the regulations have made our job a little more complicated, but at the same time it is true that we have more tyres this year than last. Back then everybody criticised them because they were new regulations and it was not easy. Now everybody has got used to them and the work is done keeping them in mind. This is how the rules are and we have to respect them. So far this year things have not gone too badly, although the truth is that the work needs a better level of anticipation and a good co-ordination between the team, the rider and Michelin so that the right decision can be made on the Thursday before a raceQ:
The exact tyre selection made on a Thursday before a grand prix is almost a state secret, but could you give us a general description of how the tyres are chosen?Patrick Isaaco
We take quite a few tyres with different carcasses and rubber compounds, and what we attempt to do is to make the decision according to the weather forecast, knowing whether we are going to have a very hot weekend, or with rain, etc. Moreover, the Michelin tyre engineers and developers in France prepare a preliminary selection of suitable tyre for the circuit in question.Q:
Where do you think tyre evolution for the MotoGP World Championship is heading?Patrick Isaaco
Evidently nowadays tyres don't have anything to do with those used years ago because there is continuous research and improvements. Because motorbikes evolve tyre makers have also been forced to evolve. I believe that grip and adherence on corners has improved a lot, things that are totally different from when I began. The motorbikes are completely different, they also have very different demands, so the material evolves in at the same time.Q:
Electronics have improved rider control, especially in difficult conditions and when using worn tyres. Do these electronic systems place greater demands on the tyres?Patrick Isaaco
They help the rider to control the machine and therefore less is required from the tyre than when all the power was applied directly to them. Before it was the tyre that received all the power from the engine when the rider used the throttle, but now the power arrives in a more controlled way thanks to the electronics.Q:
Which are the most critical and demanding circuits for tyres, and why?Patrick Isaaco
The most critical is Phillip Island, since it is very demanding on the left part of the tyre and requires very rigid tyres on that side. It is something that is very specific for this track, just like in Germany. They also become a critical factor at circuits that have been resurfaced, since we don't know what we will find; and the completely new circuits, this will be the case of Indianapolis this year.Q:
Which rider has impressed you the most, either because of their riding style or because of how they understood and felt the way that the tyres were working?Patrick Isaaco
It is difficult to say, but for me the ones that have given me the most information, those that have best transmitted the sensations that they get when out on the track, have been Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa. They have a different way of working from many of the others, this is because they are more sensitive. This doesn't mean that the others don't have sensitivity, but it is a fact that they provide much more information.Q:
Could you briefly explain how tyre evolution has changed from the 'wild' 500cc two-strokes, to the powerful 990cc four-strokes and then on to the sophisticated 800cc motorcycles?Patrick Isaaco
The exact evolution would be difficult to explain, but to begin with the motorbikes are completely different regarding the power. The demands made by the engine when changing from 500cc to the [990cc] four strokes, and then to 800cc. In 500cc we changed size to move up to 990cc, since everything evolved depending on the engines. But the truth is that since then every year has seen very big developments.Q:
What are Dani Pedrosa's tyre preferences, with regard to his riding style and weight?Patrick Isaaco
Dani Pedrosa has a fluid riding style, although contrary to what people think about his [light] weight, he always requests quite hard tyres since he has a tendency to request tyres that last. This is because he likes to maintain stability and he doesn't only think of the ease. Even if the tyre is a little hard, he is aware that if it can give him a better race performance he should use it. Contrary to what many people think we do not use the softest tyres.Q:
Dani has only raced the valve-spring RCV engine so far this year. If he opted to join team-mate Nicky Hayden on the pneumatic-valve engine, what would be the main differences in terms of tyres?Patrick Isaaco
Nicky Hayden is already using the new bike and he doesn't use different tyres since at this moment in time I don't believe that there is a big difference. At this level the two engines are very similar, and with the miles that Nicky has ridden we have not made any special developments.