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The 2008 MotoGP World Championship kicks off in historic style at Losail on March 9, with riders competing for the first time at night under floodlights. This exciting new challenge is relished by Michelin’s seven MotoGP riders, all of them keen to enjoy a new experience and get back to racing after a busy winter of testing.

Michelin’s 2008 riders have shown strong form while evaluating and developing the company’s latest MotoGP tyres during the winter and they are now ready to put their winter’s work to the race test. Established MotoGP stars Randy de Puniet (Honda LCR RC212V-Michelin), Colin Edwards (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) and 2006 champ Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda RC212V-Michelin) have dazzled with their speed during the last six weeks, while world number two Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V-Michelin) has been battling to regain fitness after breaking his right hand at the first test of 2008. Pedrosa finished third at the 2007 Qatar GP, but the talented Spaniard won’t be at full fitness for this year’s event. Michelin’s three MotoGP rookies – Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot Honda RC212V-Michelin), Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) and James Toseland (Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1-Michelin) – have also shown stunning speed and are ready to shake up the MotoGP establishment.

Since the end of the 2007 season Michelin has worked hard on all aspects of tyre performance, most notably on tyre warm-up, operating range, side grip and traction. Its riders go into 2008 equipped with two different profile 16-inch front tyres and a choice of 16.5-inch and 16-inch rear tyres.


The entire Qatar MotoGP programme will take place under the cover of darkness, with Friday and Saturday free practice taking place at 7pm, Friday afternoon practice and Saturday qualifying at 10.50pm and Sunday’s race at 11pm. The post-race podium should therefore happen at around midnight!


Michelin knows how to win races at Qatar. The French tyre company has won three of the four MotoGP events staged at the Losail International circuit, though this year’s night-time race should offer a very different challenge to riders, team crew and tyre technicians.

“I think everyone is looking forward to this race because it’s going to be something very special,” says Jean-Philippe Weber, Michelin’s director of motorcycle racing. “It’s a totally new challenge for all of us, so it’s going to be a very interesting weekend.

“From a tyre point of view the night race changes everything. During the day Losail can be very hot, with very high track temperatures. But at night it is going to be pretty cool. In theory this should make the track less demanding on tyres, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be any easier for us. We have to deal with a completely different set of circumstances and, as usual, our job will be to come up with the best balance of tyres to suit the conditions. The track will be much cooler, which will make tyre warm-up very important. Not only that, the track temperature will get progressively cooler as the race goes on, which is the opposite of the situation we have to deal with at daytime GPs. Then there is the possibility of night winds blowing sand onto the circuit which can have a big effect on tyre wear, since the track surface becomes like sandpaper. This is a particular problem because the wind could change conditions suddenly and unexpectedly. And it’s also possible that the track will become damp with dew, which could be another problem. So, it’s going to be a very busy weekend for us.”

Losail’s sinuous layout isn’t the toughest on tyres – it’s a medium-wear circuit for both front and rear tyres. The first day of the event can be especially difficult because it takes a while for the bikes to clean the surface to a point where it offers good and consistent grip. Arguably the track’s most important section is the long left-hander (turns 10 and 11) where riders can make a lot of time if they’ve got good traction.

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