Guy Coulon Interview - Edwards' Crew Chief Talks Tires

On Thursday afternoon as the teams were setting up their garages, MotoGPMatters spoke for a few minutes with Colin Edwards’ Monster Tech 3 Yamaha crew chief, Guy Coulon about some of the challenges presented in the 2009 MotoGP season.Monster Tech 3 Yamaha crew chief Guy Coulon

MGPM: My first question is about the switch from Michelin to Bridgestone tires. Has Rossi’s team shared much of their data from last year?

Guy Coulon: Yes, of course, because Yamaha already had good experience last year with Bridgestone, and quite early last year we knew that Bridgestone would be used by everyone in 2009. So Yamaha designed the 2009 bike with the Bridgestone specification. Last year Valentino used a bike at first mostly designed for Michelin, and as the season went on, his team started to understand how to modify his bike to suit the new tires. So I believe at the end of last season they had designed a proper chassis for Bridgestone tires. It’s not so different than before. It’s only some small details. So for all Yamaha riders, it’s easier to start on Bridgestone tires this year because Valentino already used them last year.

MGPM:  Given that all teams are on Bridgestone this year, how will this affect your approach at Tech 3?

GC: It’s difficult to say, because this year we have regulation changes in addition to one tire maker: Tire allocation has also changed. We have only two kinds of front tires and two kinds of rear tires for each race. Last year there was much more difference between front tires and also between rear tires, and there were two brands of both. Valentino is able to compare both makers because he used Michelin when they brought many kinds of tires, and Bridgestone also before the new rules. But for Tech 3, we can only compare last year with Michelin’s many kinds of tires, and this year, with Bridgestone’s two fronts and two rears. So it’s difficult for us to compare. 

MGPM:  How will having fewer choices of tires affect setting up the bike?

GC: We don’t know because there is another change this year, which is that we have much shorter time to practice before each race. Last year we had four one-hour sessions, this year we have three 45-minute sessions. For us that is a lot less. But already in winter testing, using only two kinds of front and two kinds of rear tires, in fact we had quite good lap times and achieved good settings in a shorter period. When you have many kinds of tires, at first you must check them all, then select your choice, and sometimes you can have some confusion about if you made the right choice. And if conditions change a little bit, you need to come back to the other tire choices and test them again in the new conditions. You needed so many tests to compare, it was quite difficult. Now we know we have two kinds of fronts and two kinds of rears. It’s very easy to compare in the same conditions. We have a plan, of course, during practice, and fewer choices make following the plan simpler. It’s the same for everybody. In winter testing we reduced the number of laps by around 30 percent, and lap times were very similar. Bike settings were also quite good. We worried about the reduction of laps before the winter tests, but it went well.

To return to your question, we will have the final answer when we race at a new track.  Already we tested this winter here at Losail, we already tested at Jerez, but we did not test at Motegi this winter. So in the third round we will have for the first time the real conditions for race week: no testing before, three 45-minute sessions, then race. Of course in these conditions, it’s very important to have a bike that’s easy to set up. We know some bikes need longer set-up time, and some riders need more time than others to get their bikes ready. So after Motegi, Le Mans and Mugello, three tracks where we have not tested this winter, we will have a good idea about setting up the bike with the new rules.

MGPM:  Speaking of some bikes and riders requiring more set-up time than others, certain combinations of bike and rider go better together, yes? Casey goes fast on the Ducati but others struggle. Dani and the Honda go well but others struggle. But the Yamaha seems to suit a broader range of riders. Any idea why this is?

GC: I think that one is quite easy to answer, because this year’s bike and last year’s are not so different, and last year of four Yamaha riders we had two newcomers, and two who had already been with Yamaha for a long time, Valentino and Colin. One rider with Bridgestone tires, three with Michelin. And all four riders had good results, even the newcomers. So I believe the Yamaha is simply an easy bike to ride, and also easy to set up. This is an interesting point, and again, one we will understand better after Mugello.

MGPM:  Making participation in MotoGP more affordable is currently a big concern. Do you think the new rules such as limited testing and limited engines will save money? 

GC: Some rules, such as the one regarding engine mileage, will help makers such as Yamaha. After Brno, we can use only five engines for eight races, and I believe this will save a lot of money for Yamaha. The tire rules will save teams a lot of money because we will have less testing during winter. The new rule about three practice sessions is good because teams can save some nights at hotels. So basically, less mileage saves a lot of money for teams and manufacturers. Because the more mileage you have, the more maintenance you need. We need to reduce costs and I think these new rules will help.

MGPM:  What else do you think could be done to reduce costs in MotoGP?

GC:  There are many possibilities, but most important element is to save money and keep technology at the top of motorcycle racing. This is not so easy, but if you want to accomplish both, the solution is to reduce mileage, because you can continue to develop the technology while reducing maintenance. So I think the regulations we have now are good. Because if you try to save money by, for example, reducing engine RPM or requiring engines to last much longer, of course performance will decrease. So I prefer to keep the technology free but have less mileage to save money. So we cancelled the Friday morning session, but Friday there is no TV and few spectators at the track. So I believe the spectator interest will stay the same. And maybe we could have some organizers help to do, for example, open pit lane on Friday morning. So the teams are working and spectators who come can visit pit lane with the pit box open, which would be interesting for them. 

Note: MotoGPMatters would like to thank M. Coulon for taking the time to speak with us, and Paola Dos Santos, The Tech 3 press officer, for arranging the interview. 

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