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GP Week : Issue 21
>>Moto GPInsight by Bridgestones, and corporate pride was severely punctured. But the engineers will not be treading water over the summer break as they battle to get a grip. This was last week’s promise from M competitions director Frederic Henry- Biabaud, as he outlined technical improvements and revised strategy to get the Michelin teams back to a winning situation. The problem in America, as explained in last week’s GPWeek, was that Michelin had erred heavily on the side of caution. Expecting the same blistering track temperatures and aggressive track surface as last year, they took only harder tyres. Even when riders – notably Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards – had requested softer tyres, they were not available. Both riders bitterly criticised Michelin at the race, adding to past accusations of high-handedness and arrogance from the ICHELIN’S US tyre debacle has galvanised the French tyre company into action. The tyres were thrashed previously dominant company. The response from trackside Michelin chief Jean Philippe Weber, pictured inset,was an immediate climb-down: he promised that in future the wishes of riders and teams would be taken into account to a far greater extent. It was clear, he said, that “the talks we do have with the riders and the teams must be more efficient, when we share the race strategy. It’s not only Michelin which says that, that, and that. If a rider wants to use a soft tyre lasting hopefully the whole race, why not?”He should be permitted to take the risk. “This is something maybe we have to share better with the rider,”he said. Henry-Biabaud reinforced what amounts to an ad hoc change of strategy: “We will evolve the way we recommend tyre solutions to our teams, because this way we can deliver better performance,”he said. “Over the next three weeks, we will work in two directions. First, we will organise tests at several tracks. Second, we will continue developing some new solutions we already have under development, and which we will recommend to our teams for the next races, representing a more ambitious direction.” The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but Michelin will hope for a further step in their adaptation to the new restricted- number tyre rules that came in last year. At first, the company was left wrong- footed. Having previously had the ability to make special tyres during a race weekend had meant a focus on narrow areas of performance. As a result, the Michelins tended either to work very well or hardly at all. Having to guess in advance of the race made selection a hit-or-miss affair last year; while the higher corner speeds of the 800s gave the rider less chance to find ways to ride around the problems. At the same time, Bridgestone tyres, made in far-off Japan, already offered a broader range of performance, and it paid big dividends. Michelin had started to reverse that trend by the end of last season, and Dani Pedrosa has challenged strongly for the title this year. But wins so far this year go 8:3 in favour of Bridgestone, and the company remains on the defensive. The results so far have justified Rossi’s controversial switch to Bridgestone. At the start of this year, when Bridgestone had a couple of poor races, he had no hesitation in insisting: “I am still sure I have made the right decision”– subsequent events appear to have proved him correct. 31