Q&A with Bridgestone boss
Bridgestone’s Manager of Motorcycle Sport Hiroshi Yamada spoke to MCN about his firm's winning start to the MotoGP season in Qatar.
Ducati’s Casey Stoner took the first win of 2007 on Bridgestone tyres at the Losail International Circuit.
Further acknowledging the performance of the Bridgestone tyres in Qatar, Suzuki duo John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen finished in fourth and seventh place respectively, while Marco Melandri scored a fine fifth place result in his maiden race on Bridgestone tyres for Honda Gresini.
How confident were you of the Bridgestone tyre performance in Qatar?
“Qatar was one of a handful of circuits where our tyres have struggled for consistency and competitiveness in the past. Although Loris Capirossi finished in third place on the podium last year, the characteristics of the track have often caused us some durability issues, so we set out to improve the situation through a detailed test programme at the Qatar test in February.
“We noticed that there had been improvements to the grip levels at the circuit compared to last year, which in turn seemed to benefit our new generation tyres. We left the test in a positive frame of mind, but the level of competition is so high in MotoGP, race wins are never easy to come by.”
Were you able to draw any conclusions from Thursday’s two practice sessions?
“The biggest advantage we saw from running on Thursday was that there were no major issues with tyre performance. That allowed our teams to get straight on setting up the bikes without changing the tyre variable.
“The new regulations restricting riders to just 17 rear tyres and 14 front tyres over the weekend perhaps made teams a bit more cautious with tyre use. In both sessions, most riders used only one set of tyres and the lap times were still quite respectable.
“With more than a race distance on the same tyre, we could see that the durability trouble that we have seen in the past had been greatly reduced. I think by focussing on bike set-up, the teams were in good shape by Friday.”
The first time with the new tyre restrictions, how were the 31 tyres decided with the teams?
“Based on the results from the test, we already had a good idea of our teams’ preferences heading into the weekend. On the set-up day of each GP, our technical staff had a detailed tyre briefing with all teams to finalise the plan for the weekend.
“In Qatar, we knew that we would offer a medium and a hard spec to all of our teams and suggested that each rider had enough tyres available for two qualifying runs. There were some individual adjustments to the allocation, for example Randy de Puniet opted for three qualifying tyres, while Toni Elias asked for softer front and hard specs to fit with his riding style.
“Tyre allocation is ultimately the teams’ decision to make based on our advice.”
After winter testing, were you satisfied with Bridgestone’s range of qualifying tyres in Qatar?
“Development of qualifying tyres is something that we have been working on a lot over the winter and we could definitely notice the improvements in Qatar.
“The four manufacturers which we supply this year – Ducati, Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki – all had one of its bikes in the top eight on the grid with some very strong performances from Casey and Toni especially.
“It was also particularly pleasing to see that the top Honda bike (Elias) was on Bridgestone tyres.”
And the race itself?
“Casey showed himself to be a real contender this season with a controlled and mature victory, fending off pressure from Valentino throughout the race. From a tyre point of view, we were generally pleased with the durability of the tyres and the competitiveness which they showed in race trim.
“Casey set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap, a 1m56.528s, which was the fastest time he had set on race tyres over the entire weekend, while John Hopkins’ and Marco Melandri’s end results reflected their overall competitiveness.
“We took particular satisfaction from the year-on-year improvements made at Qatar, which became the sixth track on this year’s calendar where a rider on Bridgestone tyres has taken victory (after previous success in Jerez, Brno, Motegi, Sepang and Valencia)”
Was the post-GP test productive for Bridgestone?
“We had planned quite an extensive tyre test in Qatar with some of our teams on Sunday in preparation for the forthcoming GPs, but heavy wind prevented us from completing most of the programme.
“Our riders reported that although there was a lot of sand blowing on to the track, that the grip level was okay, it was just too difficult to ride.
“We were able to acquire some useful information for compound development in the morning, but the remaining test items will be carried out in the post-Jerez GP test, including further work on qualifying tyres.”