"Winning 400 times in a sport as competitive as the motorcycle Grand Prix is a real exploit. We are particularly proud of our success and have celebrated in style, with thoughts for our colleagues who started out on this adventure, 40 years’ ago. They developed tires which were radically new at the time, such as slicks and radial tires."
Jack Findlay, Michelin’s first biker
Jack Findlay gave Michelin its first MotoGP victory in 1973 at the English Grand Prix 500, on the famous Isle of Man Tourist Trophy circuit, where he beat Barry Sheene. He was also the first biker to use slicks in 1974. “At the time the commissioners were totally opposed to slicks. They didn’t want to see us on the track with smooth tires. These tires massively changed the way we were driving. But it wasn’t long before everyone wanted to use them. To begin with we had slicks fitted only at the back. And then Michelin made slicks for the front and I was the first to use them.”
1976, first 500cc title with Barry Sheene
Barry Sheene began using Michelin tires after his accident in Daytona in 1975. After scooping half the championship victories in 1976 Barry Sheene (Suzuki) gave Michelin its first MotoGP world title. Sheene repeated his performance in 1977, and in that same year Michelin won every race in the MotoGP. Over the course of the following years, victories and titles came in abundance, whilst Michelin continued to innovate.
1984, the triumph of radial technology
Michelin developed radial tires in the seventies. In 1978 a first test was carried out; this did not prove successful but Michelin continued to work on research and development, convinced that radial was the right answer to problems with the handling of motorcycles.
The American Freddie Spencer was very involved in this development work and it is to this brilliant biker that Michelin owes the first victory with radial tires (rear tire), in 1984 at the Nations Grand Prix in Misano (Italy). At the season’s final race, at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, Randy Mamola won on a motorcycle fitted with radial tires, front and back.
“The radial tire was the most important innovation in my career”, remembers Freddie Spencer, World Champion in 1983 and 1985. “A biker wants adherence, feedback and endurance. Radial tires brought improvements in all these areas and also influenced other aspects of motorcycle design.”
The 1990s: silica and dual compound
Silica technology was then developed, and saw its first victory with Mick Doohan on March 29th, 1992 in Suzuka (Japan), in wet weather conditions.
It was also Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, Luca Cadalora and John Kocinski who made dual compound technology a triumph throughout the 1994 season.
The years 2000: 16.5 inch tire
After slick and radial tires, Michelin revolutionized the motorcycle world once more when it launched the 16.5 inch rear tire. This new size improves the performance of a motorcycle considerably, sometimes by over thirty seconds!
Although this tire saw its first victory with Kevin Schwantz back in 1994, it wasn’t until the 2000s that it was seen in general use.
Thanks to this new technological development, Michelin dominated the sport, winning every title from 1999 to 2006.
Álex Crivillé and Kenny Roberts Jr won the title in 1999 and 2000. Like Mick Doohan, Valentino Rossi won five consecutive titles between 2001 and 2005. And in 2006, Nicky Hayden gave Michelin its 26th world title.
In 2008, Michelin decided to withdraw from Grand Prix racing, after 360 victories, 26 world titles and a win rate of 73%. In 2016 the French manufacturer was back as Official Supplier. At the Australian Grand Prix in 2017 Michelin announced that its contract had been extended until 2023.
48 bikers , from 11 different countries have won a Moto Grand Prix with Michelin on 51 different tracks worldwide, some having seen major modifications. Proof that Michelin tires have always been at the top of their game. Michelin has won with six manufacturers: Sanvenero (1), Cagiva (2), Ducati (10), Suzuki (76), Yamaha (96) and Honda (215).