Sepang, Malaysia

Michelin's Piero Taramasso Explains How The New Rear Michelin Tire Helps The Riders Go Faster

One of the big talking points from last week's Sepang MotoGP test was the performance of the new Michelin rear tire. The new construction tire, first tested at the Barcelona test in June 2019, met with widespread praise. The new rear had more grip, both on the edge of the tire, and in the traction area, the slightly fatter part of the tire which riders use just as they pick up the bike on exit.

The new tire was popular with everyone, although some riders believed it benefited the bikes which use a lot of corner speed, like Yamaha and Suzuki, more than the point-and-squirt bikes like the Honda and Ducati. Riders who carried a lot of corner speed could immediately use the additional edge grip. Riders who needed to pick up the bike and drive out of corners felt they needed more time to understand how to get the most out of the tire.

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The Yamaha riders were overwhelmingly positive about the new rear Michelin. "Since the first lap I did on those tires in Montmelo last year, I felt really good," Maverick Viñales said. "Also for the way I pick up the bike, it's quite good."

Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi agreed, but pointed out that the new Michelins benefited everybody. "The tires from Michelin are better," the Italian said. "This is good but unfortunately the tire from Michelin are for everybody. So we make the step but also the other guys."

Franco Morbidelli described the tire as filling in the holes where the Yamaha lacked drive and grip in 2019. "The new tire gives more grip and it fills our emptiness with grip that we had last year, so that's positive for us. This tire performs better so edge grip and drive grip."

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Sepang MotoGP Test Subscriber Notes: The Tightest Field Ever, New Tires, Suzuki Smells, Yamaha's Revival, And More

What can you learn from the Sepang MotoGP test? A lot, and not a lot. The balance of power on the MotoGP grid already seems to have shifted, for all sorts of reasons. The construction used on the 2020 rear Michelin tire is having a major impact on the performance of the bikes, with more grip available in all conditions, and more durability. But because the tire has changed, it will take at least the first part of the season for the factories and riders to figure out how to get the most out of the tire. That means we are likely in for a fair few surprises throughout the year. This could be like 2016 again, some inside Michelin believe.

That doesn't mean that we can share the championship spoils out among the bikes which are ahead at the Sepang test already. The test raised more questions than it answered. It's not so much that factories and riders were sandbagging, more that so much is new this year that most factories are closer to the beginning of their development project than the end. Add in the complication of Marc Márquez coming off his second shoulder surgery in two seasons – and Miguel Oliveira and Taka Nakagami in the same boat – and there are more unknowns than knowns. The balance is likely to shift several times though the 2020 season. Which is good for fans, though it tends to annoy the manufacturers.

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Sepang MotoGP Test Sunday Final Times: Quartararo Secures First Testing Crown of 2020

With rain bringing an early end to testing duties in Sepang, Fabio Quartararo stayed at the top of the timesheets but the gaps remained minuscule. The Frenchman was closely followed by Cal Crutchlow and Alex Rins, while Pecco Bagnaia was lead Ducati ahead of mentor Valentino Rossi – all four riders within two tenths of a second of the leader. Marc Marquez wrapped things up with a small crash at Turn 15 and finished the day 12th on the timesheets, while Maverick Vinales in 18th position was only eighth tenths off his future teammate.

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Sepang MotoGP Test Sunday 4pm Times: Quartararo Still Fastest As Riders Try Race Runs

In the heat of the afternoon, the riders who haven't already packed up and gone home are trying race simulations, or at least longer runs. At Yamaha, meanwhile, Maverick Viñales will be getting to test the new holeshot device which has previously been tried by the test team.

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Sepang MotoGP Test Sunday 2pm Times: Quartararo Still Fastest As Test Winds To A Close

Not much has changed on the last day of the Sepang MotoGP test since noon, despite a flurry of activity on the track. That looks like being the last burst of real activity, as teams start to pack up and head toward the airport. At 2pm, there are only a few riders putting in race simulations in the heat, including Jack Miller, Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo.

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Sepang MotoGP Test Sunday Noon Times: Quartararo Leads Crutchlow

The final day of the test has started in ideal conditions, with cool track temperatures and almost the entire grid out on track. Fabio Quartararo is once again fastest, dipping ever closer to his pole record set at the race last year. Cal Crutchlow is second, under a tenth behind the Petronas Yamaha rider, and just ahead of Alex Rins on the Suzuki.

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Sepang MotoGP Test Saturday Notes: Speed And Tires Help Yamaha And Suzuki, And Marquez Chasing Power, Not Handling

It is becoming a familiar pattern. Whenever MotoGP bikes gather for a timed session, Fabio Quartararo usually finds a way to get his name to the top of the list. Usually by using the cunning strategy of riding his motorcycle that little bit faster than anyone else. It happened with increasing frequency during the 2019 season. It happened again on the first day of the Sepang test in 2020. And it was no different on the second day.

It didn't look that way at the start of Quartararo's first day on the Factory Spec Yamaha M1. (As I explained to MotoMatters.com subscribers on Thursday, there are now two different specifications of Yamaha M1 – the Factory Spec ridden by Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, and Valentino Rossi; and the A Spec, ridden by Franco Morbidelli.) For most of the day, Quartararo's name was some way down the timesheets. But at the end of the day, as track temperatures dropped back into the zone where grip makes a reappearance, Quartararo banged out a lap faster than the rest, leapfrogging past Jack Miller to finish the day as fastest.

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Sepang Test Saturday Final Times: Quartararo Tops Second Day Of Testing

Times plummeted at the end of the second day of testing at Sepang, the riders using the cooler temperatures and ideal track conditions to chase a quick time at the end of the day. Fabio Quartararo came out on top, setting the quickest time of the day and coming up a quarter of a second short of his own qualifying record. The Petronas Yamaha rider spent almost all of his day on the 2020 Factory Spec Yamaha M1, and set his quickest time on the bike.

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Sepang MotoGP Test Saturday 4pm Times: Miller Still Fastest As Action Starts Again

The riders have restarted after taking a long break to avoid the extreme heat of the afternoon. So far, there have been no real changes. Jack Miller still leads, ahead of Joan Mir, Franco Morbidelli, and Maverick Viñales. The riders have two more hours to finish their test program, and with the weather looking like it will cooperate, they should get all their testing done.

Times at 4pm:

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