A bold investment programme to catapult Dunlop into the highest levels of motorcycle sport was being unveiled today.

The #1 million-plus project aims to ensure Birmingham-based expertise takes on current French high-fliers Michelin in tyre production for the prestigious MotoGP season.

A spokesman said: "It's Birmingham against the French. We're confident we can compete with the best." The initiative was being revealed today at the Motorcycle and Scooter Show's trade day at Birmingham's NEC.

Dunlop says the move underlines commitment to the company's Ford Dunlop plant which employs 350 people.

Tyres for the premier 500cc MotoGP championship are currently made at the site for both the Tech-3 Yamaha and D'Antin Ducati teams.

The idea was to help transform performances from top ten or midfield finishes to podium results.

A major research and development programme is leading to Dunlop's own specialist equipment to create tyres suitable for every track on the circuit.

For instance, at Donington Park in the Midlands, that could mean unique tyres which have compounds and designs to cope with the circuit's fast right hand and tight-left bends.

Other circuits feature hard-braking, hairpins and massive straights - all of which need to be addressed.

Climate, riders' preferences, and the racing set-up of bikes will all be taken into account.

Track surfaces are mapped using a highly sophisticated form of satellite navigation from which the findings are fed into a computer and the machine builds the tyre accordingly.

Dunlop said in previous years the company had targeted smaller sized bikes - 125cc to 250cc.

It was now stepping up its commitment to the top league, the 500cc Moto GP category currently headed by race-legend Valentino Rossi.

This year Dunlop tyres, designed and built in Birmingham, helped Ducati win the manufacturers' championship in the British Superbike Championship.

The new investment covers manufacturing technology at the Fort Dunlop plant in Birmingham.

It is a project which is not just an example of new technology, but an example of team effort, according to Jean-Felix Bazelin, general manager of Dunlop Motorsport.

He said: "Fort Dunlop can be considered as a motorsport centre of excellence in the global organisation. This investment is a signal that motorsport is at the heart of the Dunlop brand, and we are proud that we are able to reveal an investment in one of Birmingham's most famous manufacturing plants."

The programme was a result of a concerted team effort by the Birmingham based Dunlop Motorsport Team in partnership with sister facilities around the world.

Mr Bazelin said: "Specialists in the USA, Japan, Germany and the UK contributed to the development of the concept and the new race tyre build process, which will give us the opportunity to succeed in MotoGP."

He said the investment aims to bring continued success for our riders and teams in MotoGP and Superbike racing.

Dunlop has been manufacturing race tyres in Birmingham since 1902.

The Birmingham plant now produces around 300,000 specialist competition tyres a year. n The Motorcycle and Scooter Show at the NEC opens to the public from tomorrow and continues until November 5.