Michelin are to bring an additional choice of front and rear tire specifications for the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring. The expanded allocation is Michelin's way of dealing with the extra grip they expect the track surface to have. To cover as many situations and conditions as possible, Michelin will offer a choice of four different front tires, and four different rear tires.
The reason Michelin has opted for this approach is because they were unable to test at the Sachsenring. The circuit's location, nestled up against the town of Hohenstein-Ernstthal, means noise restrictions placed on the track made testing impossible. The circuit only has a limited number of days on which it can run vehicles as loud as a MotoGP bike, and there was no way to expand that to add additional days to allow MotoGP to test for Michelin. Given the horsepower and lean angles MotoGP bikes are capable of generating, using Superbikes or standard road bikes to test tires would not have generated the same stresses in the Michelins.
"We tried everything to have a test," Michelin boss Nicolas Goubert said. "At the end it was not possible because of the noise regulations and so on. We agreed with Dorna that we could have one more specification of tire. One more front and one more rear to cover a wider range of situations. So that’s a way to cover wider conditions."
The step taken by Michelin is an attempt to avoid a repeat of the 2013 race at Phillip Island, after the Australian track was resurfaced. Bridgestone, official tire supplier at the time, had not tested at the circuit, and during practice, they found the extra heat generated by the additional grip was causing blistering in some rear tires. As a precaution, the race was shortened from 27 to 19 laps, and a compulsory pit stop added.
Michelin believe bringing four different tires should be sufficient to cover the conditions they will encounter at the Sachsenring, which like Phillip Island, is a track where the bikes spend a lot of time on the side of the tire. "Usually when a track is resurfaced the grip level is higher. So tire temperature is higher. It does not affect so much the wear. We took that information and built some tires but it’s an educated guess," Goubert explained. He pointed to the experience of Bridgestone in Australia in 2013 for the lessons they face. "They had trouble with tire temperature. Not with wear."
The choice of tires Michelin have brought is more complicated than on a normal weekend. The riders will have a choice of a soft and hard front tire, as well as two different specs of medium front. They will also have a soft and a medium rear tire, as well as two different specs of hard rear tire. The differences between the two medium fronts and two hard rears is unclear. The designation given to the tires is because the two medium front compounds and two hard rear compounds are closer to each other than the others selected.
The additional choices will not make selecting tires any easier for the riders. Already, riders are complaining that they have too many choices to get through on a weekend before arriving at the race, leaving little time for actual set up work. Add in losing the last five or ten minutes to the need to chase a fast time to ensure direct passage into Q2, and that leaves precious little time to concentrate on the race.
"I think a lot of riders are not happy about the regulation, the fact that they have to choose from three specs at the front and three specs at the rear," Nicolas Goubert said at Assen. "A lot of them would have been a lot happier to have only two to choose from. But, at the same time, they're very happy when they find something suitable for them. So, for me, you cannot have it both ways. And anyway, that's the rule which has been decided, so we have to cope with it."
Adding a fourth spec of tire will make things even more complicated for the riders, as will juggling the quantities of tires involved. The current system, which allows riders to have 10 front and 12 rear tires, may have to be revised for the Sachsenring, to ensure that everyone has sufficient tires for the race. Having more tires to test may has also lead Dorna to decide to extend practice times, adding 10 minutes more to FP1 and FP2 for the MotoGP class. Both sessions will start 5 minutes earlier, and last 5 minutes longer. FP1 will now take place from 9:50 to 10:45am, while FP2 will run from 2pm to 2:55pm.
The Michelin press release previewing the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring appears below:
MICHELIN READY FOR THE NEW CHALLENGE OF SACHSENRING
Michelin is heading to Sachsenring in Germany for the GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland an event which signals the half-way point in the 2017 MotoGP™ calendar and another new challenge for the French tyre firm.
The 3,671m Sachsenring is the shortest circuit on the calendar and its layout with 10-left-hand turns covering the majority of the configuration already makes it one of the most challenging tracks of the season. This year’s event will also have the added difficulty of a new surface for Michelin and the teams to contend with after the track was resurfaced earlier this year. Unfortunately, due to noise restrictions at the circuit, it has not been possible to conduct a test there with MotoGP machinery, so the paddock is heading to Germany with little information as to what the asphalt is like. The technical layout with fast and long left turns means a particular tyre is required to get the most from this demanding track. Michelin will bring front and rear asymmetric slick tyres in soft, medium and hard compounds to Sachsenring, which will feature a harder left-hand-side to cope with the stresses and attrition that side of the tyre goes through, whilst the right will be a softer compound to heat up quickly and give optimum performance through the track’s three right-hand turns.
Situated in Hohenstein-Ernstthal near Chemnitz in Saxony, Germany, the circuit staged its first road race in 1927. This was on a layout on public roads including the village of Hohenstein-Ernstthal and in 1937 the event was named ‘Sachsenring’. Racing continued on the public roads – despite stoppages for world conflicts and cancellations due to safety issues – until the early 1990’s when the last road-race was held. The latest incarnation of the Sachsenring circuit is a purpose-built racetrack that held its first motorcycle Grand Prix in 1998 and has staged the German round since then, making this the 20th running at the track. Weekend crowds of more than 200,000 people regularly head to this event and although it will never have figures from its prime in 1950 when 480,000 spectators turned up on race-day, it is still one of the most attended races of the year and a unique experience that is not matched anywhere else.
Last year’s event was a mixed affair with the race starting in wet conditions, but drying out as the race continued forcing riders to make a calculated decision when to change bikes from wet tyres to slicks to give them the best windows of performance. In the eventuality of inclement weather again, MICHELIN Power Rain tyres will be available in soft and medium compounds.
Preparation for Sunday’s 30-lap race will begin with two free practice sessions on the Friday, followed by another two free sessions on Saturday, before the qualifying takes place for the main event. The Sachsenring race is scheduled to get underway at 14.00hrs CEST (13.00hrs BST, 12.00hrs GMT/UTC) and will be the culmination of the first half of the season and a busy schedule which has seen four races in five weekends.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin Motorsport Two-Wheel Manager:
“Sachsenring is always a demanding circuit due to its unusual layout, and this year’s race will have the added challenge of a completely new surface. We have no data regarding the asphalt as it hasn’t been possible to test there due to the restrictions, so we are going a bit blind. We are sure we have the tyres to work well on the new layer and have prepared the compounds to the information we do have. The slick tyres will be asymmetric for the front and rear with a harder left-hand-side – as they were last year – this is to cope with the design of the track. The bikes spend a lot of time on the left on this track and Sachsenring needs a very special tyre, with a right that heats up quickly, to make sure the riders get good traction throughout the whole lap. It’s also a venue that can have some unsettled weather, as last year’s race showed where we had a wet start and then a drying track, so there were many types of tyres used in that race to get the best performance.”