Michelin To Bring Stability To Tire Allocations For 2018, Says Piero Taramasso

Michelin's return to the MotoGP paddock has been nothing if not eventful. Since taking over from Bridgestone as official tire supplier to MotoGP, Michelin has had both spectacular success and highly visible failure. Lap records (and more importantly to Michelin, race time records) have been broken, but there have also been delaminating tires, compulsory pit stops, and at the start of their time, a lot of crashes as the riders, teams, and Michelin all struggled with the front tire.

It is hardly surprising that the first two years of Michelin's return did not go entirely to plan. Having been out of MotoGP since 2009, it was predictable that Michelin would run into unexpected problems. The spate of front end crashes which marred the first Valencia test was quickly remedied as riders learned to fathom the different nature of the Michelins, teams adapted the geometry of the bikes, and Michelin changed the profile of the front tire to improve the contact patch. The extreme tire wear was dealt with by using harder compounds, which Michelin then slowly adjusted back in search of the right balance.

By the end of their second year in the class, Michelin had a much better understanding of the demands of MotoGP, and tires had become much less of a talking point. That is something of a double-edged sword according to Piero Taramasso, head of Two-Wheel Motorsport for Michelin. "We want people to speak about the tires, but in a good way," Taramasso joked to reporters on the final day of the Qatar test. "But I know this is not the case, I know that when we do well, nobody speaks about the tires, when something goes wrong, everybody speaks about the tires, this is the way it is since forever."

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Saturday Round Up: The Fast, The Slow, And Learning By Crashing

The phony war is finally over. The last MotoGP test has finished, with riders completing their final day of testing at Qatar. The next time the MotoGP grid assembles, it will be for something of real value: race wins, and world championship points.

Did the last day of the test offer any clear indications as to what might happen in two weeks' time? Plenty, though they were as confusing as all of testing has been this year. Johann Zarco managed to be both blisteringly fast and worryingly slow simultaneously. Danilo Petrucci managed to do exactly the same, though in a diametrically opposite manner. Valentino Rossi managed to impress both in terms of race pace and a single fast lap, but he was still worried whether his pace would last race distance. Maverick Viñales was terrible for the first six hours of the test, then brilliant in the last forty minutes, after basically wasting a day and a half.

Underneath the surface drama, the two biggest winners of the preseason just got on with their work. Their headline times were great but not breathtaking, but the race pace of Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Márquez was impressive. They reinforced their status as the title favorites going into the first race of the season through sheer consistency. While others raced up and down the timesheets like hyperactive kittens from day to day and hour to hour, Márquez and Dovizioso were always there or thereabouts, just getting on with business.

There were others, too. Cal Crutchlow has been repaying HRC's faith, especially with a phenomenal long run on Saturday. Alex Rins has shown every sign of growing into the rider we thought he could be. Rins' Suzuki teammate Andrea Iannone (absent due to illness on Saturday) may have been quicker, but Rins has shown the kind of consistency that puts him in the top five just about everywhere he goes.

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Combined Times: Zarco Fastest, Rookies Show Major Progress

Johann Zarco was the fastest rider over all three days at Qatar, his time on Saturday a quarter of a second faster than the man in second, Valentino Rossi, while Andrea Dovizioso was third fastest. As everyone except Andrea Iannone (who didn't ride due to illness) and Taka Nakagami set their fastest times on Saturday, the combined standings are very close to the times at the end of Saturday. Iannone's quick time from Saturday put him in fifth overall, just ahead of Marc Marquez.

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Saturday Final Times: Zarco Leads Yamaha One-Two

Johann Zarco leaves the final MotoGP test of the season as fastest overall after having set a scintillating lap in the final couple of hours of Saturday. The Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider was a quarter of a second faster than anyone else at Qatar, and posted a respectable long run during the final day.

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Saturday 7pm Times: Zarco Nears Outright Lap Record

Johann Zarco has topped the timesheets with two hours left of the Qatar MotoGP test, with a stunning lap which got him to within a tenth of a second of the outright pole lap. The Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider came up just short of Jorge Lorenzo's 2008 pole record, set back when MotoGP still had special one-lap qualifying tires.

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Saturday 6pm Times: Zarco Fastest As Riders Start To Chase A Lap

Johann Zarco leads the MotoGP test in Qatar, beating Cal Crutchlow's quickest time from earlier in the day. The Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider put in three sub-1'55 laps in a row, including the one which beat Crutchlow. 

The LCR Honda rider is still second, with Danilo Petrucci third, but the timesheets are starting to change rapidly as riders try for a fast lap before 7pm. At this stage, multiple riders are chasing their best lap time, before attempting a long run or race simulation after 7pm, which is race time at Qatar.

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Saturday 5pm Times: Petrucci Leads Crucial Final Day

Danilo Petrucci leads at the halfway mark on the final day of the Qatar MotoGP test, the track busy for the last couple of hours despite the strong winds. The Pramac Ducati rider is the only man into the 1'54s at the moment, leading factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso by nearly half a second.

LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow is third, a tenth behind Dovizioso, and another tenth ahead of Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda rider had struggled on Friday, after banging his hand hard in a crash on the first day of the test.

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Friday Round Up: Marc Marquez Moves The Markers, Tires Matter, MotoGP More Art Than Science

There is a peculiar type of athlete mathematics. It involves a failure to grasp the concept of percentages, leading to elite athletes promising to give "110%", or sometimes even "1000%". Logic dictates that an athlete putting 100% of their effort and reserves into an activity would lead them to collapse and die of exhaustion as they crossed the line. That would deny them the joy of victory, but more importantly, it would drastically curtail an athlete's career to just a single event, making it a rather fruitless avenue to pursue.

Of course, what they actually mean when they talk of giving 110% is of course making the maximum effort to achieve a goal. Some, commendably, refrain from mathematic hyperbole, sticking to the 100% maxim. Marc Márquez belongs to this group, speaking of giving 100% during practice and races.

A case can be made that Marc Márquez is the rider who most closely approaches 100% while riding. The list of legendary saves the Repsol Honda rider has chalked up at tests and races seems to grow every time he gets on the bike. Of course, he gets plenty of chances to practice: Márquez had 27 crashes in 2017, second only to Sam Lowes. Respected motorcycle guru Kevin Cameron believes that Márquez' saves are not saves, but actually the result of a technique he studies. With every monster save Márquez manages, that gets harder to argue with.

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Friday Final Times: Iannone Fastest Overall On Second Day

Andrea Iannone has ended the second day of testing at Qatar on top of the timesheets, the Ecstar Suzuki rider putting in a quick lap at the end of the test to just squeeze ahead of Andrea Dovizioso. The factory Ducati rider ended the test in second, four hundredths of a second behind Iannone, but having done a quick long run at around race time. 

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Friday 8pm Times: Dovizioso Leads Through Race Simulation Hour

Andrea Dovizioso continues to lead the way at Qatar, the Italian putting in a long run between 7pm and 8pm, which is race time on 18th March. The Italian slightly improved his time, extending his advantage over the Tech3 Yamaha M1 of Johann Zarco to nearly a quarter of a second. Cal Crutchlow remains in third spot, while Maverick Viñales used a set of softer tires to punch into the top four on the Movistar Yamaha.

Times at 8pm:

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Friday 6pm Times: Dovizioso Under Lap Record As Pace Heats Up

As the sun starts to set in Losail, the MotoGP riders are picking up the pace. Andrea Dovizioso has broken the 1'55 barrier, diving under the race lap record of Jorge Lorenzo by a couple of tenths of a second. Tech3 Yamaha's Johann Zarco soon followed suit, clocking a 1'54.874, just a tenth of a second behind the Ducati rider. Andrea Iannone is currently third fastest on the Suzuki, half a second behind Dovizioso, while Marc Marquez leads Cal Crutchlow in fifth and sixth.

Times at 6pm:

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2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Friday 5pm Times: Dovizioso Leads After Slow Start

Andrea Dovizioso leads the second day of the final MotoGP test at Qatar, the factory Ducati rider having the slimmest of leads over the Hondas of Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow, while Aleix Espargaro holds the fourth quickest time on the Aprilia.

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