From the moment Michelin Competition's MotoGP tyres are produced in Clermont Ferrand until the post-race victory ceremony, and even beyond, tyre logistics are critical. We follow the movements of the world's most avidly sought after motorcycle tyres....
How many rider partners does Michelin have in 2005?
Michelin works with all the Honda, Yamaha and KTM riders, which makes a total of twelve. It actually works out at twenty-four bikes if you take the spare bikes into account.
How many tyres does Michelin take to each Grand Prix?
Approximately 1,200, of which 40% are front tyres and 60% are rears. This figure can even be higher when two races follow on from each other in quick succession and we don't have sufficient time to return to the Competition Department in Clermont-Ferrand. Rain tyres account for around 10% of this quantity, while intermediates are re-cut on-site as a function of the weather conditions. On average, some 500 tyres are actually used in the course of a Grand Prix weekend, but Michelin takes more than twice that amount – comprised of different types – in order to be in a position to respond to every type of situation.
How is the transport of tyres organised for European Grands Prix?
The tyres and fitting equipment are carried in three trucks. The different covers are grouped in 'families' and loaded vertically on flexible racks to prevent deformation. To facilitate stock management and tyre movements, individual tyres are identified by a barcode label. The convoy also includes a mobile truck/office which serves as base for Michelin's MotoGP Programme Manager and technicians. Taking travelling to both testing and European races into account, these vehicles cover between 30,000 and 35,000 km each every year.
When does this convoy leave Clermont-Ferrand?
Depending on how far away the circuit is, the trucks leave Clermont-Ferrand on the Monday or Tuesday prior to the race with a view to arriving in the paddock by Wednesday afternoon at the latest.
Tight security must be a key concern while the tyres are in transit?
Absolutely. The trucks drive in convoy and the personnel never leave their vehicle unattended. If they have to make an overnight stop, they sleep in their cabins. The vehicles are also equipped with alarms.
How many Michelin staff attend each Grand Prix?
In addition to the engineers and Michelin's MotoGP Programme Manager, the team comprises eight fitters who also drive the trucks and set-up the Michelin compound in the paddock, plus a stockman responsible for stock-keeping and tyre movements. At circuits, a security guard watches over the tyres at night.
Is it possible for you to have extra tyres sent out once you're at the circuit?
At European races, it is possible to organise an additional delivery in the course of a Grand Prix weekend if the production of tyres based on data obtained during the preceding Grand Prix has not been completed by the time the main convoy leaves. These last minute deliveries are simplified by the proximity of Clermont-Ferrand to the European circuits.
What equipment do you take to races?
We take three tyre-fitting machines, three wheel-balancing machines, two compressors and an air-dryer which is employed to remove humidity from the air we use to inflate our tyres.
How does this routine differ in the case of a non-European Grand Prix?
Outside of Europe, tyres and equipment – which amount to around ten tonnes – are sent out by airfreight in secure containers. We actually take a bigger range of tyres to flyaway races; about 10% more than for a European Grand Prix because last minute deliveries are out of the question. Our tyres are taken by truck from Clermont Ferrand to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport where they are handed over to an international freight specialist. It takes the tyres between five days and a week to reach their destination. The most delicate phase is customs clearance which can be quite long in certain countries.
Do the bikes travel fitted with race tyres?
No. For transporting the bikes, we give our partners standard tyres with no advanced technology and which are designed solely for transport purposes or for use on show bikes at exhibitions, etc.
What do you do with the tyres after races?
All the covers are returned to Clermont-Ferrand. For confidentiality reasons, that is an absolute rule. Used tyres are analysed and then destroyed.