Rob Hoyles fires back his synopsis of Michelin's latest from Portimao
MICHELIN'S latest range of rubber is essentially three different tyres – a street and track day tyre designed to warm up quickly and give superb grip in all conditions, a production race tyre to rival the likes of Pirelli’s Diablo Supercorsa, Bridgestone’s BT-003 and Dunlop’s 211GP to name but a few.
On top of that is the introduction of a brand new 16.5” slick, which we’re told is exactly the same as offered to the MotoGP paddock until Bridgestone were named as the sole supplier. The slick is arguably the most exciting tyre in the Power One as it features an asymmetric design that means the tyre can be run in either direction. But that’s not the clever bit. The clever bit is that after detailed research into over 30 tracks around the world, the boffins at Michelin have been able to produce a triple compound tyre with a harder compound in the middle, a soft compound on one side and a super-soft qualifier type rubber on the other. The sides are denoted by a + and a – sign on the sidewalls with + being soft, - being super-soft. What it means for the rider is that he can simply choose which way to run the tyre based on the track, so for Snetterton where there are only two lefts, neither of which put much heat into the tyre, the tyre could be run with the super-soft compound on the left hand side of the rear tyre. It’s really simple but clever stuff that could make a massive difference to a lap time.
As you’d expect, there’s a range of compounds available for the slicks and the production race tyres. Again, Michelin have come up with a simple but clever solution to most club racer’s problems – what compound to run at what temperature for the type of circuit. With most riders simply opting for ‘soft front’ with a ‘medium rear’ due to a lack of understanding of what would work best for them, a straightforward, easy-to-use website (www.michelinpowerone.com) has been set-up where the rider can simply tell Bibendum (the Michelin Man!) what bike he rides, where he’s going to ride it, what the weather is like, if it’s a trackday (and he needs to be able to ride on the road to get home afterwards) if he’s racing, the level he’s racing at, race duration, etc etc. Within seconds a solution will be provided along with the recommended pressures. If ever there was a time to buy a wireless dongle for your laptop, it’s now!
The three models
Power One Road and Track
Pitched as a road tyre with track capabilities, the Power One road and track has been designed to warm up quickly, give good dry grip and work well in the wet.
Why I can’t tell you how it works in the wet, what I can tell you is that Michelin weren’t kidding when they said the tyres warm up quickly. Following Michelin development rider, William Costes out of pit lane and onto the unfamiliar track for the first time, I can’t quite believe his pace from the off and we’re knee down by the third corner – within a lap I’m braking deep into corners. The usual ‘don’t lean me over’ feeling you get from a cold tyre has been all but eradicated from the street version of the Power One. It’s quite a bizarre feeling.
Feedback from the tyres once they are fully up to temperature is also very good. Front-end feel isn’t too dissimilar to Pirelli’s Diablo Supercorsa with plenty of warning before the tyre lets go, rather than the old Michelin two-step that could have you on your backside before you knew it if you weren’t too careful.
We had four sessions on these new tyres and I can tell you that on an MV 1078, a new R1 and a Fireblade I had to ride pretty hard before I could find any fault with the tyres. In fact, for a while I was convinced that Michelin had made us a special press test tyre – then I tried the production race tyres…
Power One Race
As Portimao is a fairly abrasive, grippy circuit, we were sent out on B fronts and C rears. This equates to using a medium front and a hard rear.
Unlike the road and track versions, the full-on race versions take a little longer to warm-up. Bearing in mind that few racers don’t use tyre warmers, this is unlikely to be a problem.
The profile of the race tyre is a little different too, meaning quicker steering and a larger footprint when leant over. All the bikes we tested were on standard suspension which if anything, just emphasised how much grip and how much lean angle could be carried with every bike being decked out with several riders including myself complaining that the huge grip from the rear was pushing the front. Great news if you’re a racer as it means plenty of scope to speed up the steering without losing out on rear grip.
It has to be said that Michelin has put a lot of work into developing this new tyre. Indeed, they’ve been working on the project for the last three years. Without a back-to-back test against the competition complete with lap times and thorough analysis, it’s hard to say whether they’ve bettered the rest.
I for one wouldn’t bet it against though.
Power One 16.5” Slick
There’s only one thing better than riding someone else’s Honda Fireblade round one of the best racetracks in the world. And that’s riding one with kit HRC race parts, rearsets, race suspension and Marchesini wheels shod with MotoGP spec tyres.
This is exactly what I got to test for the final two sessions and I have to say, I can’t remember the last time I had so much confidence in a bike. The latest 16.5” slick is a direct result of Michelin’s departure from the MotoGP paddock.
While the range of available compounds is a few less than Toseland got to choose from last year, we were told that the performance is very similar.
And who am I to argue? I don’t think I’ve ever ridden so aggressively or pushed a front tyre that hard before. The asymmetric rear tyre (soft on the right hand side, super-soft on the left) gave masses of confidence through the left-handers, feedback is superb and it took a mammoth effort and over twenty hard laps to get the rear sliding. Even when it did, it was easy to control and only let go on the off camber corners with the throttle pretty much pinned. And these can now be bought over the shelf by anyone, whether you’re racing in the World Endurance Championship or giving it large on a track day. Awesome!
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