Q&A with Bridgestone boss following Turkish GP
Bridgestone enjoyed its most successful race weekend to date at the Istanbul Park in Turkey at the weekend. This is a circuit which has previously offered the tyre manufacturer one of its toughest technical challenges.
All five Bridgestone teams featured strongly in free practice sessions and, although its rivals held an advantage in qualifying, it was riders on Bridgestone tyres who dominated the 22-lap GP. They took the first six positions to mark the first ever Bridgestone 1-2-3 in MotoGP.
Bridgestone riders dominated the Turkish GP, how would you assess the weekend?
“Istanbul Park has always been a track where our tyres have struggled for performance, so our expectations for the weekend, right up to Sunday morning, were realistic rather than optimistic.
“To take our first ever 1-2-3 and to see so many of our riders involved in such a thrilling race was a proud moment for us and definitely the highlight of our MotoGP involvement to date.”
What areas of performance has Bridgestone had to focus on since last year’s difficulties?
“The major problem we encountered in the past was not being able to generate enough grip and durability. The track has smooth asphalt with a low friction co-efficient, which has always been where our tyres struggle for performance.
“Over the winter, we have looked deeply into this area and appear to have found a good direction based on the results in Turkey.
“We acknowledge that other factors have played an important role in the Istanbul race, for example, the new tyre restrictions and the first lap crash which unfortunately took two riders on rival tyres out of the race, but overall I think we should be very pleased with our improved competitiveness and with the excellent results.”
Were there any specific problems over the course of the weekend?
“The results from qualifying show that we still need to work a lot on Q tyres to make up ground to our rivals. We brought a new rear qualifying tyre to Turkey which performed quite well, but still not enough to get our riders on to the front row.
“The post race test in Turkey resulted in yet more improvements in qualifying performance, which we hope we will be able to benefit from in China. The other question mark over the race weekend was with the durability of the tyres, since we were not able to truly simulate a race distance in free practice.
“We put a lot of laps on the tyres and were still able to see good lap times in practice, but the track conditions were improving all the time, so it was hard to assess the true consistency of the tyre.
“In the end, the tyres lasted very well and gave good pace over all 22 laps. Most of our riders set their quickest race laps near the end of the race with Chris Vermeulen setting the fastest lap of the entire race on the penultimate lap.
“His best time of 1:54.026 was actually the quickest lap of the whole weekend on race tyres!”
Bridgestone tyres have performed well in the opening three races of the season and have helped Casey Stoner score wins in Qatar and Turkey, two circuits where Bridgestone has not been victorious in the past – can Bridgestone now be confident at every track on the calendar?
“We have been pleased with the competitiveness of our tyres in Qatar, Jerez and Istanbul, but it is a very long season with a variety of track characteristics still to come.
“The wins in Qatar and Turkey mean a lot to Bridgestone because they have never been easy tracks for us. We are working hard to develop the tyres on a continuous basis, at the same time putting into practice what we have learnt in previous seasons.
“We must never take good results for granted, because the MotoGP field is very competitive this season and the new tyre restrictions have greatly reduced the margin for error.
“China is another complicated circuit, but John Hopkins finished fourth there last season for Suzuki and I am hopeful that Bridgestone supported riders can make it onto the podium in this year’s race.”