Aragon Michelin Test - Crashes Show French Tire Maker Still Has Work To Do

The day after an intense race at the Motorland Aragon circuit, MotoGP held its first full Michelin tire test since Sepang this year. The track was open to any teams wishing to give the Michelin tires a spin, or work on the setting of their bikes. Fourteen riders elected to make use of the opportunity, including both Repsol Honda riders, the Tech 3 Yamaha duo, both LCR Honda riders and the Aprilia men, along with Scott Redding, Aleix Espargaro, Danilo Petrucci and Valentino Rossi.

Michelin had brought three rear tires and four front tires to Aragon, keen to get some data from the circuit, as they have not had much testing at the track, and very little in the dry. That they needed the data became clear in the morning, as cold temperatures caught a number of riders out, including Bradley Smith, with several crashes happening. Those problems disappeared in the afternoon when the temperatures rose. 

But not entirely. Valentino Rossi managed to crash in the afternoon, falling at Turn 2 and suffering some minor abrasions and bruising to his right arm. The cause of the crash, Nicolas Goubert told Speedweek, was because Rossi had slowed down a lap earlier and then pushed hard to test the bike. Turn 2 saw a lot of fallers during the weekend, as it is the first right hander after a long straight and a couple of left corners. The right side of the tire tends to cool rapidly in the wind which blows across the exposed Aragon circuit, causing problems when the bikes are tipped in to Turn 2, and precisely this appears to have happened to Valentino Rossi.

The crash, along with others, suggests there are still several problems with the Michelin tires which need ironing out. The front, Goubert acknowledged, still needs some improvement, and the French tire maker is working on a range of compounds to solve the issues. Testing during the current season, with bikes set up mainly for Bridgeston es, is still a tricky affair, as the character of the two tire brands is so radically different. The Bridgestone front is incredibly strong and very planted, and can be trusted implicitly into corners, while the rear does not excel in producing grip and drive. Michelins are precisely the opposite, the rear being outstanding, while the front does not have the grip of the Bridgestone. MotoGP bikes are set up with a rearward weight bias for the Bridgestones, the front not needing any help to gain grip. The opposite is needed for the Michelins, the front needing all the help it can get, while the rear grips and drives easily. The real testing of the Michelins will start at Valencia, on the Tuesday after the race. From then, the teams will be focused entirely on the Michelins, and will start work on setting the bike up around the new tire brand.

Because of the pre-existing agreement between Michelin, Bridgestone and Dorna, no times were released from the test, though Nicolas Goubert told Speedweek that the times were comparable to the best times set during the race weekend. Whether the tires can maintain the same level of performance throughout the race remains to be seen.

Along with the new tires, there were also a few new bikes on display. Repsol Honda had brought a version of their 2016 RC213V to the test, which got a few laps round the track. But there was no extensive testing, as tires and electronics will change for next season. The spec electronics have been tested on the dyno, and are due to make their debut on the track in the coming month, when test riders will try them for the first time. How the spec electronics will affect the bikes, and perhaps more importantly, the tires, is still an unknown. Valencia will prove a wealth of information in that respect.

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Comments

interesting to see Rossi participating in this test considering what's a stake. David, correct me if I'm wrong but didn't both Yamaha's skip the previous Michelin test? Or was that one mainly weather related?

Could they potentially benefit from the track time on some setting related changes for upcoming races?

Interesting indeed. Something tells me that nomatter this year's championship result, next year Rossi is thinking of starting en-force, especially since the dice will be re-rolled with the Michelins and we may witness all sorts of weird or at least unpredictable results.

In a season with many changes set to occur all at once, I think the most experienced riders will have an advantage, albeit a small one. I think Rossi is happy to take a calculated risk and test the tires so he can bank as much info as possible.

Where I used to think the new rule changes might help level the field, I now tend to think that so many changes will exaggerate the difference between the true masters and the rest of the merely unbelievably talented racers that make up the grid

Only because that's the brief from Dorna - to limit the machine changes the manufacturers need to make at this time.

To understand why the Bridgestone is difficult to replicate and why Dorna want it replicated the story needs a bit of the history fleshed out;

Hark back to 2007 and Bridgestone were supplying Kawasaki, Suzuki and Ducati with bespoke tyres.

Ducati were on the crest of a wave, the new 800 was a top engine and the trellis steel chassis had a lot of flex and feel- it was also rearward biased with respect to weight distribution.

So, Bridgestone constructed a supersticky stiff sidewalled tyre to match the flex of the chassis which was very successful.

Stoner won the championship and Rossi got the tyres for 2008.

But, to start with they didn't work on the Yamaha - why you ask? Because the Yamaha had a front end weight bias and they overworked the tyre and couldn't get the feel from the tyre stiffness.

Solution? Bike geometry change and totally new swing arm to make the weight distribution more Ducati-esque.

Pity Ducati never read the memo though because in 2008 they introduce the carbon frame that was too stiff to work with the front tyre and Rossi as you all know went on to be 2008 World Champion.

So, 2009, spec tyre comes in and with Rossi already on the Ducati tyre you can guess which one of the three different tyre types Bridgestone picked for the spec rules - hint it wasn't the Kawasaki or Suzuki slicks.....

Yamaha were then gifted a massive head start compared to the other factories and Ducati blamed the riders for the bike not handling properly.

So back to the point, Dorna want no particular factory to gain the massive advantage Yamaha got last time so to opportunity they asked Michelin to make a Bridgestone type front.

Truth is Michelin cant make a Bridgestone.

And they one factory who could get a massive advantage out of Michelin making a Michelin is.........................

Yamaha.

Shove on 07 swingarm on an M1 and Rossi on the bike he'll be gone by the time the others work out which way the coloured codes work to say which tyre is which.

Thats what Cadalora did back in '95 I believe, front tyre Dunlop, rear tyre Michelin :-)

Is anyone testing their 2016 bike with the michelins? It was stated that Honda brought their 2016 bike but didn't do much with it since tires will be changing next year. Does that mean they were using bridgestones on their 2016 bike? Also I'm curious to know more about michelins strategy for developing the new tires. It seems strange to develop them on the 2015 bikes that were designed for smaller wheels and b/stones.

necessarily mean that Michelin is developing tires based on 2015 bikes. The thing is, they haven't got much info of any kind atm. They are really desperate to get some pointers, rider feedbacks etc.. Even this aragon test points to that, which was not part of the schedule initially. And usually, the tire bike relation goes the other way... Tires are developed, and then bikes follow to match the characteristics of tires. Not the other way around...

Bridgestone can make better rears (they did completely smash Michelin in last 2 years of competition) but since 2009 have instead gone for balance of grip, good wear and wide operating parameters. They have the balance right at the moment between front/rear grip and have worked on years getting that balance right.

Michelin need to make a better front or reduce the performance of their rear tires or problems will continue.

The factory and satellite Honda riders may disagree that the Bridgestones offer plenty of rear grip ;o)

that Bstone can do about it... Honda brought that one on itself... Thought their wonder kid can manage anything that they throw at him...

... how the Michelin 17-inch front is inherently at a disadvantage, regardless of the compound and construction differences. On the side of the tire in particular there's simply less rubber on the track to resist lateral sliding. I know you've mentioned this before David, just reminding people that maybe haven't experienced the difference between a 16.5 and 17-inch tire for themselves, it's quite noticeable!

Sounds to me like anyone currently relying on the super-stable and grippy Bstone front for their lap times could be in trouble next year. Especially someone who needs conditions near perfect to compete for wins.

News for me is primarily that the times were so similar on bikes designed for Bstones. Great!

Curiousity re advantages at least at the onset. Edwards is the primary development rider for Michelin. Who is Yamaha bred. Who always liked set-up very similar to Rossi.

Same has been said for the 2016 electronics and Ducati given the common ground. The braking and turn entry characteristics of the Michelin and the weakness of the Ducati in that area - I keep wondering, will it benefit? Which bike/team/rider will get it right?

The front will have a softer carcass, so less "smashing and trusting," more feel and rider sensitivity. On the gas more traction is available. Until it isnt, when the tire will give less warning when it goes off suddenly. Again, rider feel.
Advantage Yamaha?

But wait, less edge grip up front with which to carry corner speed. More rear grip with which to drive out from a stop and go.
Advantage Honda?

Short term I prefer to guess relative advantage to Ducati, then Yamaha, and some indeterminate synergy and luck factor (if there really is such a thing). Honda could surprise. I am glad I don't know - that is why I HAVE to watch!

ADVANTAGE FANS!
;)

Edwards' only similarity to Rossi was the front end. Both are extremely picky about the front end of the motorcycle. Edwards used Rossi's tires and called them "bricks", much too hard for his preference and riding style. A setup to use "bricks" is different than using softer tires. Their riding styles were not alike.

David, thanks again for a brilliant write-up. (my comment was sparked by the Sunday Race report)

A thought on DP26 that i would like to clear.

Do you know if he rides the same Chassis as the Other Honda's?
I know Marquez uses the 2014 chassis, but dani, Cal, and Scott all ride the 2015 chassis, right? or do they all have different specs?

In the latest after the flag I heard Livio mention they (Dani and Marc) raced the new swingarm.
do you have anything to add to that?

thanks!

That question is not as simple as you might think. Marquez is using a 2014 chassis with a new, 2015 swing arm (they were using another new one at Aragon, though I believe he did not race it). Pedrosa and Crutchlow are using a 2015 chassis with a 2015 swing arm. Pedrosa has a newer swingarm than Crutchlow. Redding is using an oversized version of the 2015 chassis, if I understand the information I have correctly. They have made a few bits longer to accommodate his taller frame. He has the same swingarm as Crutchlow.

this site is just invaluable!

PS: nice that Dani's photo was up there on the calendar this month, iannone next!