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Kropotkin Thinks ....

Rossi On Bridgestones, Repsol Honda On Michelins, Dunlop Out

The Valencia MotoGP round is steeped in tradition, despite only having been the final round since 2002. The most interesting part of that tradition is the rolling out of the 2008 MotoGP bikes for the first official test on the Tuesday and Wednesday following the race. But before that can happen, there's the end-of-year test for journalists, former racers and miscellaneous celebrities (this year including Michael Schumacher and Gerhard Berger), who all get to try out some, or for the really lucky ones, all, of the 2007 MotoGP bikes. The teams all loathe this with a vengeance, as well you might expect, handing the machine they have slaved on and pampered all year long over to a bunch of hamfisted writers who are never going to approach 60% of the machine's potential. There is little they can do about it, however, as the manufacturers' marketing departments all see it as a vital part of selling more motorcycles.

But having the world's press hanging around the track for a couple of days with little to do means that for the teams, it is an excellent time to announce their plans for 2008. As a consequence, we have been flooded with announcements on tires, teams and anything else you care to think about.

For the moment, we'll stick to tires. On Sunday evening, as everyone was expecting, Yamaha announced that Valentino Rossi would run Bridgestones, and be joined by Jorge Lorenzo. They also announced that though the two men would share a garage, that garage would have a giant wall running the length of it, keeping the two sets of tire technicians apart. The fact that it would help keep the two biggest egos in the MotoGP paddock apart was not mentioned explicitly, but did not really need to be. The question remains how Jorge Lorenzo will handle this news, as one of the conditions which Lorenzo gave for joining Yamaha was that he would be on equal equipment with Valentino Rossi. Lorenzo has also mentioned in numerous interviews that he was looking forward to learning a lot from the Italian multiple world champion, a prospect which is also looking ever less likely.

Davide Brivio, manager for the factory Yamaha team, admitted to Motorcycle News that the switch to Bridgestone tires was a risk. With Valentino Rossi being the only Yamaha rider to use the Japanese rubber, he will have no data to fall back on, and the other manufacturers using Bridgestones all have at least a year's experience with the tires. What's more, the chances that Michelin will come back strongly in 2008 are very high, as evinced by the improving results they have shown over the past few races. It should be clear by the time we hit Mugello whether Rossi has made the right choice.

As for Michelin, they seized the opportunity of Yamaha's, or rather, Valentino Rossi's announcement to make an announcement of their own. They told the waiting press to much fanfare that Repsol Honda would be staying with Michelins, with both Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden expressing their trust in the French tire firm. The announcement rings hollow, however, when you consider that what they were actually announcing is that they had managed to persuade someone not to leave. They now have 12 months to prove to Dani Pedrosa (Nicky Hayden's contract will expire at the end of 2008, with renewable questionable, if Hayden has any sense) that they can make winning tires again, or else the MotoGP series could return to being a de facto single tire series, but this time with Bridgestone rather than Michelin at the helm.

The series took a step closer after Sunday, with the news that Tech 3 Yamaha would not be using Dunlops in 2008. No announcement was made as to what they would be using, but the assumption is it will be Michelins. The loss of Dunlop is a real shame, as the Dunlop project had made huge leaps forward over the past two years, and was within 6 months or so of being truly competitive, if their current rate of progress had continued. Dunlop will have to console themselves with being ruling the 125 and 250 series instead.
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