Five races into the MotoGP's new Michelin era and the secret to extracting maximum speed from the French rubber is starting to become clearer.

As is so often the case on technical matters, it was Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Bradley Smith who provided the explanation, following Friday practice at Mugello.

"So basically with the Michelin, whether you enter [the corner] early and fast, or if you prepare the exit, your grip is the same on the exit," he said. "So actually preparing for the exit doesn't give you any lap time whatsoever.

"Where everyone seems able to gain lap time is from releasing of the front brake, through the apex and then probably 30 metres out the other side. The faster you can go through those areas and the less metres you can carry, the better your lap time will be."

"It's carrying the speed," the Englishman added. "Just let go of the thing and roll through the corner, because actually slowing up, pointing it and picking it up isn't gaining you anything. Because the grip seems to be quite strong with the Michelins in those areas.

"[So corner speed is going] up and up and up. It's just finding the balance between - initially you brake early, to then carry the corner speed. And then in the end you start braking later and later and just flicking it harder and harder through the corner.

"That seems to be the right key for how to ride [the Michelins]. And it seems to be consistent. Especially over the last three tracks. So that's what I need to continue to do. I'm slowly adapting to it. Days like today I'm trying to implement that riding style, so it's in there on a Friday and you can lift the game up tomorrow.

"When we look at the data I'm doing exactly what I need to, just doing everything far too friendly, nicely and neatly. So I can then take a little bit of my old riding style back tomorrow and bring a bit more intensity."

Finding and then exploiting the strengths and weakness of a tyre is crucial in any motorsport. But how did Smith reach his conclusions?

"It's a combination of things. Firstly I figured it out myself by following guys and realising that I'm gaining nothing on them on the exit of corners, although I'm prepping and getting on the gas maybe two bike lengths earlier," he said. "I'm not gaining anything from it.

"Then obviously that's reiterated from what Randy [Mamola] can see out on the race track and then finally what we can see on the data. It's quite clear to us, but with all of those things it creates a clearer picture. We know it from my eyes, Randy's eyes and the data itself. We know how it seems to be working."

Smith, who was 15th fastest but within 1.6s of the top during the lone dry session, also revealed that the more springy nature of the Michelins is making the 200mph crest on the Mugello home straight an interesting challenge.

"I jumped today!" he said. "It seems with the Michelins we have more amplitude from the tyre. The tyre moves a lot more. Whereas the Bridgestone always remained in a similar same. The Michelin seems to squash and come back, it loads going up [to the hump] and then unloads at the top and boing! I thought I was back at a Supercross track!"

Smith had used the damp morning session to understand the Michelin intermediate tyre. His main aim was to gather information on the performance difference should - for example - he need to choose between starting a race on wets and pitting for slicks, or doing the whole race on intermediates.

By Peter McLaren


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