Michelin Looks To MotoGP's 800 Era.
MotoGP is all set for its second big technical regulations change in half adecade. Following the shift from 500cc two-strokes to 990cc four-strokes in2002, next year's bikes will be reduced to 800cc in a bid to reign inperformance. All the manufacturers involved in bike racing's biggest seriesare designing all-new motorcycles for these new rules. But while enginecapacity is being cut by almost 20 per cent, the bikes won't be dramaticallysmaller because minimum weight limits will barely change.
Michelin is already preparing for the switch, with its first tests withMotoGP partners Honda and Yamaha scheduled after the summer.
"The last big change we had, from 500s to MotoGP bikes, was a huge step,"says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's director of motorcycle racing. "Long beforewe began testing the new MotoGP bikes in 2001 we knew that we were lookingat a huge increase in horsepower and we knew the torque characteristicswould be very different. So we worked on our MotoGP tires for more than awhole year before we started racing the bikes.
"Looking at the 800s, the bikes will stay pretty much the same but they willmake slightly less horsepower and torque, which should make the bikes lessdemanding on tires. It's difficult when you have to develop a tire to handlemore horsepower, but when you're going the other way, it should be easier.
"We will soon start testing with the 800s, evaluating the new bikes with ourpartners, mainly in Japan. But we have been thinking about 800s for a while.We keep them in mind even when we are working with the 990s at the moment.If we think of some new development which might be useful for the 990s, butwould take six months to get right, we don't continue with that development.But if we are working on something that we think will be useful for the800s, we obviously keep working in that direction.
"Everyone says the 800s will be more agile than the 990s, though I'm notabsolutely sure about that because the bikes will weigh about the same.True, the engines should be slightly lighter which should allow thedesigners to put the mass where they want it, which may make the bikesslightly easier to handle, but it certainly won't be a huge difference, itwon't be like going back to 130-kilo 500s.
"We expect the bikes to produce a little bit less horsepower than the 990s,but for how long? One year, two years? For sure we won't be making biggertires for the 800s, there won't be any dramatic change in profiles, but I'mnot convinced that we'll be making smaller tires for these bikes.
"Less horsepower should put less heat into the tires but the 800's torqueoutput could be more brutal than the 990s, so it's difficult to predict howthey will wear the tires. If the torque is more brutal, it could mean thatthe predictability of the tires will become more important, but the fact isthat the latest electronics are so sophisticated that torque delivery maynot be an issue. We will see when we start testing..."
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