The man heading up Bridgestone’s assault on bike racing has spoken after the end of the MotoGP testing for the year.
The firm has upped its input into the class after signing two more big names – Marco Melandri and Alex Barros – alongside its roster of Ducati, Kawasaki, and Suzuki’s works men.
Hiroshi Yamada, the company’s head of bike racing operations, speaks here about how the new 800s have changed the game.
How has the approach to winter testing changed this year with the introduction of the new 800cc bikes?
“Generally, our approach to winter testing has followed the same lines as previous years with a specific focus on evaluating the performance of our standard specification tyres with the new bikes. We have studied the behaviour of the tyres on both 990cc and 800cc bikes to allow us to determine the basic direction of tyre development for front and rear tyres for the coming season.”
What type of tyres has Bridgestone been evaluating in Sepang and Jerez tests?
“In addition to our standard 2006 specification tyres, we have also tested a variety of new tyre shapes and constructions in response to the demands of the 800cc bikes. Tyres are just one element of the package, so we have been working closely with all five of our teams in these first winter tests to begin tuning the tyres together with the bike and rider.”
How do the characteristics of the 800cc bikes affect tyre performance?
“So far, we have seen that lap times have been largely unaffected by the switch to 800cc bikes and, in some instances, have actually improved, albeit in different conditions. Rather than development of a specific ‘800 tyre’, we are looking at natural progressions and evolutions of our existing tyre technology for 2007. The reduced power output of the 800cc may mean that we can adopt softer compounds at some circuits, but we may need to develop harder compounds to cope with the increased cornering speeds at others.”
What is the development plan between now and the next test in January?
“We will carefully analyse the information collated from the post season tests and look into finalising a direction for the all-important tests in January and February. We will look at developing tyre constructions for 2007 that complement the increased cornering speeds while at the same time compensating for the overall reduction in power.”
How much progress has been made with Bridgestone’s new teams D’Antin and Gresini?
“We have been very pleased with the initial tests with both D’Antin and Gresini teams. Together with our existing teams, Suzuki, Ducati and Kawasaki, we have hit the ground running in post-season tests and have seen some encouraging results. Of particular note, Suzuki has excelled with some very quick lap times. We head into the winter break with some valuable feedback from all of our teams. We will be supporting four different manufacturers, and since the characteristics of each bike are different, we have a lot of work to help all our teams to achieve the best results possible, but we are ready for the challenge.”
Does the addition of two new teams place more strain on resources?
“The new tyre regulations for next season that demand a limit of 31 tyres per rider, per weekend have made it possible for us to supply more teams. We will be producing fewer tyres for each GP weekend, so we will have a greater production capacity in our Tokyo factory. As such, we expect a relatively smooth transition to accommodate the two new additions to the Bridgestone family, Gresini and D’Antin.”
With five teams and ten riders, will Bridgestone be under increased pressure in 2007?
“It seems that Bridgestone will be supporting a majority number of bikes in MotoGP next season, and we are very proud to be such a major contributor in the motorcycle racing world by supplying more teams. We will be further enhancing the healthy competition we enjoy with our rival tyre manufacturers, which is something that we look forward to. The new tyre regulations add an unknown dimension to the competition next year, but I hope that we are in a position to challenge for victories on a regular basis.”