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MARCH 14, 2001

Weather gives tires a Malaysian challenge

MICHELIN and Bridgestone will resume their tire war at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix and both companies believes they are well prepared for the challenges the Sepang circuit will provide.

The tire groups, like the teams and drivers, are expecting a hot and humid race like last year, despite the events move up the calendar from October in 2000 to March this season. The change in date, however, has increased the chance of rain for the race

Michelin and Bridgestone were lucky with the weather in recent testing and experienced wet conditions during their sessions since the Australian Grand Prix. Bridgestone saw rain at Silverstone, Magny-Cours, and Fiorano.

"All three tracks had rain at some point in testing," said Bridgestone's Technical Manager Hisao Suganuma. "It gave us plenty of opportunities to gather some useful data regarding the wet-weather compounds we will have in Malaysia."

But the heat is as much a concern as the rain. Temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius are expected, and that has led to concerns over tire degradation.

Michelin's Grand Prix Director Pascal Vasselon agrees: "The higher temperature will be one of the biggest factors at this track. For only our second Grand Prix this will be a stern challenge."

Bridgestone clearly have the upper hand once again as they occupied the top-seven places in Australia, and they are confident they will be able to go with softer tires despite the intense temperatures.

"Not unlike Melbourne, the challenge at Sepang is to have tires that grip well but also perform consistently in the hot weather," said Bridgestone's Suganuma.

"I believe our tires will perform well both during qualifying and the race," he added. "Because they have good initial grip and behave consistently."