25 February 2016
MotoGP: Smith 'Michelin rear hooks around the corner'
“With the Michelin, if you touch the throttle early, it hooks around the corner” - Bradley Smith.
The difference in grip character between MotoGP's new Michelin tyres and the former Bridgestone rubber is also reflected in the racing lines being taken out on track.
While the stand-out feature of the Japanese rubber was its front grip, it is the rear tyre that excels for Michelin. And it's not only bike design and set-up that needs to adapt, the riders are also changing their technique.
“The thing that we're able to do with the Michelins that we weren't able to do with the Bridgestones is carry more lean angle on more throttle,” explained Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Bradley Smith. “You can actually get the bike to hook around the corner from the rear tyre a little bit more.
“Whereas with the Bridgestones, you had to kind of go in and then you sat for a little while, while it spun, and then you had to pick it up and go. But with the Michelin, if you touch the throttle early, it hooks around the corner.
“I think that's why you're seeing a few different lines; it's actually guys have a bit more side grip than we've had here in the past.”
“Bridgestone also brought tyres here to be fully safe, after their drama with the two-part race [in 2013]. What we got in October was the softest compound front tyre that Bridgestone made, and an absolute rock in the rear.”
While riders have long been happy with the Michelin rear, progress was needed for the front, which initially offered a worrying lack of feedback. A significant step came in the form of a bigger profile, first given to the factory riders at Sepang and then available to the likes of Smith at Phillip Island.
“This new front tyre, slightly bigger profile, that's even better again,” Smith declared. “You can feel that bigger contact patch all the way in [to the corner], which is finally what we need. It steers like a truck, but we can force it round the corner, and we can make it work like that.
“It doesn't make it easy to ride, but it means you can carry the corner speed through and that's what finally gives us lap time. There's a few subtle things that we have to change for it. But really it's just bolt it in and go half a second quicker, which is nice.”
But there is clearly more work to be done: After two relatively incident-free days, the last day at Phillip Island saw no less than eleven riders fall - almost all due to losing the front.
The cooler than expected weather, plus trials of some harder front compounds were cited as factors, but with the opening race less than a month away riders will be eager for a less eventful final test in Qatar.
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