Michelin Racing's technical director Nicolas Goubert says the official tyre supplier's new profile front represents a 'big step forward' after receiving favourable feedback at the MotoGP test at Sepang.
Michelin started working on the new profile from Brno onwards last season with the emphasis on improving edge grip and Goubert is satisfied a clear direction has been found.
Riders agreed that the new 'fatter' profile offered more feeling and grip in the middle of the corner, although some believed it was harder to lean the bike into the corner on entry.
“With the front, if you remember, starting from Brno last year, we started working towards 2017, especially working on a new tyre profile. Because the championship was decided before the end, we decided to use the new profile and we had two compounds on the old profile and two compounds on the new profile. Ninety per-cent of the riders chose the new profile, so it was good confirmation for us,” he said.
“We had never tested it [at Sepang] and although we were very confident, it was the first time all of the riders had the new profile here. We have gathered some good information to keep for the rest of the season but basically it is a big step forward. Some riders did crash during the three days but the crashes they had were not related to the tyres and we are really happy about that.
“The new profile gives more edge grip and that was the objective, with more potential in the middle of the corner. Sometimes people were in trouble last year entering the corner, especially when it was quite cold or on asymmetric tracks, when there was not so much demand on one side of the tyre,” he added.
“As was the case for most of last year, but not always, for the slicks there will be available three specs and five tyres per spec. It will be the same for the rear, three specs – soft, medium and hard.
“To be clear, the soft is not a 'qualification tyre', although naturally it will be used during qualifying. But the objective is for at least one rider to be able to do the race distance with the soft tyre.”
Riders, including some at the Sepang test, have occasionally spoken of receiving a 'bad tyre' with less grip or vibration. Goubert said the tyre is not always the cause, but has vowed Michelin will continue working hard for a solution.
“Dovi had a problem with vibration this morning. It is something we have to keep working on. Vibration on the front of a racing bike can happen for different reasons, sometimes it can be the tyre or sometimes it can be a combination of the tyre and suspension, so it's very specific,” he said.
“This morning we know it was from the tyre. Some riders are sensitive to that and for Dovi, he is very sensitive and as soon as he gets a little vibration, he cannot push. Some of the riders can have double the level of vibration that he has, but they don't care, so it is something we have to take into account.
“We have to look carefully into it and we don't have any explanation so far [for Dovi's tyre]. Sometimes tyre pressure or temperature can make a difference – I'm not saying it is that, but we need to see.”
Michelin also brought some new rear tyre constructions to Sepang, which many of the riders have also hailed as a marked improvement over the previous variation.
“With the rear, remember that all through last year, since [the tyre problems in] Argentina, we worked hard to be able to come back to the [grip] level we had at the beginning of the year here. We brought new construction for the rears, which worked very well.
“Marc [Marquez] did his fastest lap with that tyre. It's not soft with the soft compound; it's with the medium compound. Basically for the rear to make it simple, we brought back here the two tyres we had in the race, plus one new construction based on the medium compound, and a lot of guys say it is big step forward.
“Also, we brought as well a softer compound because the race weekend was very wet and did not race on dry conditions, so we need to know what tyre variations we can bring, if we can go for the softer. For example, Maverick [Vinales] and Dovi tried the soft tyre on the rear, so altogether it's been very useful for us and we found some new solutions.
“For Qatar, the base will be what we have found here at Sepang that's for sure and you will see some adjustment in the compounds.”
Goubert also explained the additional soft tyre that will be made available for race day to the two riders who competed in both Q1 and Q2.
“For the riders who have to go through Q1 and Q2, we will provide one additional soft tyre on the Saturday night, for the Sunday,” he said. “This would not be [before] Q2, because it would obviously be an advantage.”
Meanwhile, a new automatic tyre identification system will be introduced this year, which it is hoped will be up and running in time for the opening race of 2017 in Qatar.
Rather than relying on visual identification via coloured bands on the sidewall of the tyres, information relating to the compound being used will be relayed to Race Control through the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System [TPMS] via the ECU and bike's transponder, before being displayed on screen for television viewers.
The second MotoGP pre-season test starts at Phillip Island today (Wednesday).