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.
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."
Suzuki test rider Sylvain Guintoli, who has had more time on the rear tire, due to trying it at the shakedown test, had a more complete view of the new rear Michelin. "This tire has more performance than the previous version," the Frenchman said. "Michelin has made a good change in regards to consistency. The tire is an important parameter of the package for the race distance and when you change this you have to understand as a team and for each rider what you need to get the best of it. You have got to permanently adapt and the tire is an important part of it and I think we are going to see more consistent racing next year, better and faster racing performance thanks to this tire."
Ever the analytical mind, Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso also noted that it would take the riders and teams a long time to understand the new Michelin rear. In the end, the way the tire behaved would only truly become apparent in a race, Dovizioso though."From what I feel from the tire, I think it can help a bit more the bikes which make a bit more speed in the middle of the corners. But this is my feeling, I’m not sure about that, I still I didn’t ride with them. And still I think there is a lot of work to do for everybody so I don’t know how much margin there is from us and from the competitors. But I’m not that surprised because in the way they have to ride, maybe it works a bit better. But only the race can show this."
Marc Márquez also underlined the amount of work still needed to optimize the performance of the tire for each bike. The new Michelin had one clear advantage, the Repsol Honda rider pointed out. "It’s better grip," he said. "If all the riders accept the tire or if Michelin bring a new one, normally they try to bring some rear grip. When you gain rear grip the balance can change: the electronics and also a little bit the riding style. For some bikes will adapt better, some worse. We still have to understand how to work well with that rear tire."
Having more grip would be most evident during qualifying, Márquez believed. ""There is better grip, especially for the time attack, you can be very fast and push a lot the tire. It will be interesting and also difficult to understand this grip. This I think will benefit some riders to make the time attack." But qualifying wasn't racing, the reigning champion was keen to point out. "For race distance the way the tire drops is more or less in the same way, but with more grip all the time. The time attack is one thing, but this tire is much better for the race distance too. Also you need to adjust and adapt the setup of the bike."
Straight to the source
After hearing from the MotoGP riders on the rear Michelin, I spoke to Michelin Two-Wheel Motorsport Manager Piero Taramasso about how the French tire maker saw their new rear tire, and how it was received. Taramasso gave an in-depth explanation of why the riders were describing the new rear the way they were.
Q: A lot of people are happy about the new rear tire. It seems to have a lot more grip, and it seems to be more consistent even in changing conditions, both in the cooler morning conditions and in the heat of the middle of the day. How do you see it?
Piero Taramasso: Yes. When we started to develop this tire, we wanted to have a rear tire with more grip and more consistency, that it keeps the grip longer, for all the race distance. This is what a tire manufacturer looks for. This is the best reward for us, to have grip, not just for one lap, like qualifying, but a quick tire for the whole race. This was our goal.
We developed this new rear construction, then when we started to use it, we saw that the grip was higher. If you remember last year, we tested in Barcelona and Brno and Phillip Island and Misano, and every time it was quicker compared to the 2019 construction. The average was 0.4, 0.5 seconds quicker. So the grip was there. Also the consistency, we saw that the lap time stays more consistent for longer. When it drops, it drops more slowly, more progressively than the other tire, that was dropping sometimes quicker. So all this is good news.
In these three days also we saw that when you restart with the old tire, it’s much better. The warm up and used tire is much better. Also the aspect [the way the tire looks when it comes back in to the pits - DE], if you use the same compound in 2019 construction, the same compound in 2020, we can see visually that the aspect of the tire is much better. It looks like the compound works better. The wear level is maybe a little bit less. So all positive. From all sides, is all positive points.
Q: We saw a lot more riders this year were in the 1'59s, and consistently in the 1'59s, and also in the '158s, than last year. This is a result of this tire?
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