Kawasaki Ninja ZX Forum banner

1 - 2 of 2 Posts

990 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Michelin made its Grand Prix debut back in the early seventies. The rounded profile of the PZ tyre – a road tyre offering a contact patch larger than its competitors – gave an immediate advantage to its riders, who were able to enjoy higher grip levels.

Aussie rider Jack Findlay (Suzuki TR500), was the first rider to win a Grand Prix on a Michelin-shod bike. It was in 1973, at the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, which was then the British round of the World Championship.

In 1976 the late Barry Sheene (Texaco Heron Team Suzuki) won the first 500cc World Title for Michelin. The next year, the French manufacturer went on to clock an impressive series of wins in the 50, 125, 250, 350 and 500cc classes, with Sheene retaining his crown in the premier class. In 1975 Michelin introduced the first slick tyres, a major breakthrough for motorcycle racing.

“At the beginning we didn’t realize that the slick tyres were such a revolution because we didn’t know how to make the most of them,” explained the late Barry Sheene a couple of years ago, before his death in 2003. “I remember that I thought: ‘Wouldn’t they be better with nice grooves?’ I didn’t understand parameters like the tyre temperature and such, but something was clear: we were entering a new era…”

The eighties saw the beginning of Michelin’s domination in the premier class, with five different riders taking eight titles between 1981 and 1989.

Wayne Gardner

Italian riders Marco Lucchinelli (Nava Olio Fiat Suzuki) and Franco Uncini (Gallina Suzuki) were on top, before the American and Australian riders arrived to take over - with the likes of Freddie Spencer (Honda), Eddie Lawson (Marlboro Yamaha) and Wayne Gardner (Rothmans Honda). In 1987, Gardner scored Michelin’s 100th win in the premier class.

The eighties were also a decade of an important innovation. Michelin introduced the new radial tyre, which gave a whole new dimension to the handling of the 500cc bikes and became the new standard for road-tyre ranges. Spencer was the first rider to win a race with the Michelin radial tyre, in 1984. Since then, this type of tyre has dominated the category.

“With the rear radial tyre we gained a lot of grip and the bike became much more stable in high-speed corners,” says Spencer. “That’s what impressed me at first. We had no problem making the rear tyre work perfectly once we reinforced the swing arm. We spent about half of the 1985 season developing the front radial tyre. After that, I eventually improved my lap times by two seconds. It was incredibly stable under hard braking.”

Freddie Spencer

The eighties was a sensational decade for Michelin on the motorcycling scene and the next decade confirmed that they had perfectly mastered their groundbreaking innovations, with nine further World Championship crowns.

It was a legendary era which saw Wayne Rainey (Marlboro Team Roberts Yamaha YZR500), Kevin Schwantz (Lucky Strike Suzuki RGV500), **** Doohan (Repsol Honda NSR500) and Alex Crivillé (Repsol Honda NSR500) successively taking the honours.

Kevin Schwantz

The progress made during the last decade of the 20th century proved more subtle, but saw major improvements with regard to cornering speeds. After the titles clinched by Rainey and Schwantz, **** Doohan took five consecutive titles, setting a new record in the premier class. He gave Michelin their 200th win in October 1996.

“With Michelin, we understood each other really well,” says Doohan. “This trustfulness is needed when you have to step into the unknown. Before trying something unusual, the engineers always told me to be careful, especially if they thought the tyres could be unpredictable. Michelin, more than any other manufacturer, has this quality assurance and this consistency. ”

**** Doohan

The first two titles of the 21st century were clinched by the sons of former Grand Prix winners, one from the New World, the other from the Old Continent. Kenny Roberts (Telefonica Movistar Suzuki RGV500) and Valentino Rossi (Nastro Azzurro Honda NSR500) opened the new century winning on Michelin tyres, Rossi making history by taking the last 500cc World Championship in 2001, and the first three MotoGP titles from 2002 to 2004.

Kenny Roberts Jr

The introduction of the big thumpers in 2002 marked the beginning of an era where the various actors of the Championship made tremendous strides on the technological point of view. Michelin used the innovative C3M production process for the first time in motorcycle racing. From the 190 bhp delivered by the 500cc 2-stroke, the first MotoGP 990cc machines reached 230 bhp – and the latest 4-stroke reportedly deliver around 250 bhp ! Thanks to Michelin’s work, the riders can make the most of this power without destroying their tyres or compromising their grip or their consistency.

“Back in 2001, when we tested the 4-stroke for the first time, the tyres designed for the 500cc couldn’t take more than five laps,” explains Rossi.

“Michelin made a lot of effort to develop better tyres.”

Valentino Rossi

Over 29 years of continued innovation, Michelin took 323 wins and 24 titles. Undefeated over the past decade, Michelin clinched their 13th consecutive title last year. 2005 looks set to continue this tradition of excellence, the French manufacturer having already won the first four Grand Prix of the season.

Source: MotoGP website
1 - 2 of 2 Posts