The day after an intense race at the Motorland Aragon circuit, MotoGP held its first full Michelin tire test since Sepang this year. The track was open to any teams wishing to give the Michelin tires a spin, or work on the setting of their bikes. Fourteen riders elected to make use of the opportunity, including both Repsol Honda riders, the Tech 3 Yamaha duo, both LCR Honda riders and the Aprilia men, along with Scott Redding, Aleix Espargaro, Danilo Petrucci and Valentino Rossi.
Michelin had brought three rear tires and four front tires to Aragon, keen to get some data from the circuit, as they have not had much testing at the track, and very little in the dry. That they needed the data became clear in the morning, as cold temperatures caught a number of riders out, including Bradley Smith, with several crashes happening. Those problems disappeared in the afternoon when the temperatures rose.
But not entirely. Valentino Rossi managed to crash in the afternoon, falling at Turn 2 and suffering some minor abrasions and bruising to his right arm. The cause of the crash, Nicolas Goubert told Speedweek, was because Rossi had slowed down a lap earlier and then pushed hard to test the bike. Turn 2 saw a lot of fallers during the weekend, as it is the first right hander after a long straight and a couple of left corners. The right side of the tire tends to cool rapidly in the wind which blows across the exposed Aragon circuit, causing problems when the bikes are tipped in to Turn 2, and precisely this appears to have happened to Valentino Rossi.
The crash, along with others, suggests there are still several problems with the Michelin tires which need ironing out. The front, Goubert acknowledged, still needs some improvement, and the French tire maker is working on a range of compounds to solve the issues. Testing during the current season, with bikes set up mainly for Bridgeston es, is still a tricky affair, as the character of the two tire brands is so radically different. The Bridgestone front is incredibly strong and very planted, and can be trusted implicitly into corners, while the rear does not excel in producing grip and drive. Michelins are precisely the opposite, the rear being outstanding, while the front does not have the grip of the Bridgestone. MotoGP bikes are set up with a rearward weight bias for the Bridgestones, the front not needing any help to gain grip. The opposite is needed for the Michelins, the front needing all the help it can get, while the rear grips and drives easily. The real testing of the Michelins will start at Valencia, on the Tuesday after the race. From then, the teams will be focused entirely on the Michelins, and will start work on setting the bike up around the new tire brand.
Because of the pre-existing agreement between Michelin, Bridgestone and Dorna, no times were released from the test, though Nicolas Goubert told Speedweek that the times were comparable to the best times set during the race weekend. Whether the tires can maintain the same level of performance throughout the race remains to be seen.
Along with the new tires, there were also a few new bikes on display. Repsol Honda had brought a version of their 2016 RC213V to the test, which got a few laps round the track. But there was no extensive testing, as tires and electronics will change for next season. The spec electronics have been tested on the dyno, and are due to make their debut on the track in the coming month, when test riders will try them for the first time. How the spec electronics will affect the bikes, and perhaps more importantly, the tires, is still an unknown. Valencia will prove a wealth of information in that respect.
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