After a humiliating US Grand Prix weekend, caused by overly hard tyres ill suited to the Laguna Seca circuit, Michelin aims to rebuild confidence in its product by returning to what it knows works at this weekend's Czech Republic Grand Prix.
"We will return to the types of construction that we used at places like Qatar and Catalunya, these are constructions that deliver a much wider working range than those which we used at Laguna Seca," says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin's chief of motorcycle racing. "So we will use the type of construction that has already brought us success this year, with front and rear compounds adapted to Brno."
Clouding the issue of tyre choice for this weekend's twelfth round of the world championship is a full resurfacing of the Brno circuit since last year's event. To help both Michelin and Bridgestone - which has won the last two Czech Republic GPs with Ducati - provide effective rubber a test session, for non-MotoGP riders, was held in June.
"Brno has been resurfaced since last year's event so we have had to revise our approach to the weekend," confirmed Bridgestone's Tohru Ubukata. "Even if we have been competitive in recent seasons, we have had to produce different tyre compounds for this year's event compared to the usual Brno-spec in order to adapt to the new surface. In accordance with the sporting regulations, and thanks to IRTA, tyre manufacturers were permitted to test at the circuit for two days back in June, and this allowed us the chance to acquire data from this new asphalt, which appears less grippy than before."
Michelin offered a more detailed opinion of the grip characteristics:
"We tried out the new surface at Brno on 17th and 18th of June with our test riders Erwan Nigon [Honda RC212V] and William Costes [Yamaha YZR-M1]," said Weber. "Those tests told us that the track is really aggressive on the front tyre but not so aggressive on the rear tyre, which means that the new tarmac isn't particularly aggressive but that the combination of the layout and the new tarmac does work the front very hard.
"The resurfacing job seems to have been done well, but we will have to wait and see what our MotoGP riders make of it, because they'll be going even quicker. We certainly think the new surface will make the track considerably faster than it used to be because the old surface was in quite a bad state.
"It will be the first time that MotoGP riders have used the new surface, so it will be important to have a wider range of tyres, with a bigger step from, say, tyre one to tyre five than we might have at some other tracks," Weber confirmed.
Bridgestone heads into the final third of the 2008 season with two of its riders at the head of the championship classification: Valentino Rossi's win in Laguna Seca extended his lead of the series to 25 points, while reigning title holder Casey Stoner continued his championship revival to claim second in the table.
"We have two very formidable riders at the top of the table with Valentino and Casey, but there are still 175 points available over the next seven races, so the championship is far from over," said Bridgestone manager Hiroshi Yamada. "This weekend's race has the added complications of a new track surface, but I am sure we will see a competitive battle at the front, especially with our rivals more determined than ever to renew their championship challenge."
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa is the highest placed Michelin rider, holding third position, 41 points from the top, after being forced to withdraw from the US Grand Prix due to injury.
Pedrosa had been leading the championship standings prior to his accident at the wet German Grand Prix, one week before Laguna Seca.