Nov 12, 2001
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It's not too often that you see a tire-company CEO on the back of a Yamaha YZR500.<BR><BR>But that's exactly what fans saw when Michelin Group Chairman and CEO Edouard Michelin visited Valencia, Spain last September to witness Michelin's 50th consecutive 500cc Grand Prix. Before the race started, Edouard Michelin took a two-lap ride aboard Marlboro Yamaha's specially-equipped two-seat YZR500, with Randy Mamola at the controls.<BR><BR>"After the pre-ride briefing I knew I was in for something very special, because Randy (Mamola) only told me two signals – one to ask him to stop, the other to ask him to go slower, there's no signal for ‘please go faster!'" Michelin was quoted as saying in a press release from the tire company. "I was worried how far we were away from the limit. The forces generated in braking, cornering and acceleration are unbelievable, so when Randy told me that our times were a wet-weather pace, it took my breath away. I'll never forget that ride, and my thanks to everyone who made it possible."<BR><BR>Michelin also got to see Telefonica Movistar Suzuki's Sete Gibernau take his first 500cc Grand Prix win in a thrilling race with Alex Barros and Kenny Roberts on a drying track. <BR><BR>"This has been a very memorable day for me – motorcycle Grand Prix racing is a fantastic show," Michelin, 38, was also quoted as saying in the release. "It's all been a lot of fun, but obviously I didn't come here to enjoy myself. I came here to remind everyone that we are totally committed to bike racing. Michelin is the most successful tire manufacturer in two-wheel and four-wheel motorsport, and while our return to F1 this year has generated huge interest, and perhaps even better results than we'd expected, we are still totally dedicated to our two-wheel work.<BR><BR>"Although racing is a marketing tool, most of all we are passionate engineers, that's why we work so hard to create new technology and new tires. The improvement in lap and race speeds is down to the riders and the bikes, and we like to think we have also made a good contribution. We never stand still. Bike racing is very different from car racing. In cars, 99 percent of the drivers will choose the same tire, but in bikes there are so many different riding styles that riders need many different tires. That's why we produce such a range.<BR><BR>"I have one regret – that we don't have any competitors. But that will change next year when 990cc four-strokes enter the premier GP class. Of course, we've not been alone in 500s for long, only since last summer, and it's true to say that none of the other tire manufacturers pulled out, it's just that nobody asked them for tires.<BR><BR>"The new four-stroke GP class is another great technical challenge for us and we relish that. The bikes make more power and they're heavier, so we're looking at building bigger tires that can handle those demands, especially on faster circuits. We've already had some streetbike riders ask us for 16.5s and I think this shows the link between road and track is even closer in bikes than it is in cars."<BR>