Bridgestone responds to Phillip Island tyre disaster

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The fallout from last weekend’s tyre fiasco in Phillip Island is still being felt in Japan this week, with senior Bridgestone management staging a specially convened press conference to explain what went so badly wrong in Australia.

A new surface at Phillip Island created a nightmare for Bridgestone and Dunlop, with both MotoGP and Moto2 races shortened well below the scheduled race distance on safety grounds.

The MotoGP race was turned into a two-part 19-lap encounter, with Bridgestone unable to guarantee the safe performances of its tyres beyond 10 laps.

That led to a first ever dry flag-to-flag race, with riders having to pit after nine or 10 laps for fresh rubber.

Last weekend’s race turned into a PR disaster for Bridgestone and today’s press conference at the Twin Ring Motegi took place with Bridgestone Motorsport Manager Hiroshi Yamada, Motorsport Tyre Development Manager Shinji Aoki flanked by Public Relations General Manager Keita Ide.

Ide didn’t speak during the 15-minute press briefing but regularly paused to take notes as Yamada explained in-depth precisely what had gone wrong in Phillip Island.

He said: “As you are aware last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix was a flag-to-flag race, which was a situation because Bridgestone was not able to guarantee the safety of the rear slick for more than 10 laps.

"We prepared an extra hard slick just for this race but the extreme temperature suffered by our tyre was beyond our expectations. We have been working around the clock since last weekend to determine the cause of the issue and providing a clear strategy so that such problems do not occur again at Phillip Island in the future.

"We performed detailed analysis of our used tyre at our technical centre in Japan and we also reviewed telemetry data from the teams that showed due to the improved track condition, the corner speed that was already very severe on tyres was on average 12kph faster than last year.

"This higher than anticipated increase in speed caused huge increase in load and side force and traction on the tyre which resulted in 20% more energy being put into the tyre. This caused the extreme rising tyre temperatures and cracks in the tread.

"We expected an increase in speed and tyre load but not to this very high level. We are currently negotiating with Dorna, IRTA and the FIM to arrange testing at Phillip Island next year and the data from which will be used to develop the future tyre allocation for races at Phillip Island.

"We are confident if we can test at Phillip Island with works riders we can develop rear slicks for this circuit that will last the full 27-lap race distance.”

When asked by MCN when the crucial test session will take place in Phillip Island, Yamada said specific dates are still being discussed.

He also said to get an accurate assessment of the tyres though it would need to use as many of the 12 prototype machines as possible.

“The important thing is the corner speed, so we would like to test with works riders on prototype machines that have very high power. There are 12 riders and it best if they are all there but if four or five riders can be made available it will be enough.

"We are still discussing with Dorna and the teams to see when we will go but we are busy from the beginning of February and until the end of January we can’t test anywhere. We have already planned Sepang 1 and 2 in February and also the availability of the circuit is not sure, so we are discussing,“ said Yamada.

It is known than Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta has held meetings with senior management of Bridgestone and Dunlop in Japan this weekend.

But Bridgestone denied its failure to provide tyres up to the standards expected for world championship competition had resulted in a financial penalty.

Yamada said: “I never heard of any kind of penalty in our discussions.”

It has been rumoured in the paddock that HRC had submitted a specific request to test on the new surface at Phillip Island during last winter, but the request was denied on cost grounds.

International Race Teams Association boss Mike Trimby denied any formal request was made and Yamada added: “We were discussing a winter test at Phillip Island but at that time we went to Austin between Sepang 1 and 2 and we also had a test in Austin in the middle of March.

"At that time the situation was we didn’t know the layout at Austin, so that’s why the first priority was Austin. Then we were busy in this time with Sepang 1 and 2 in February and we needed to go to Austin. That’s why finally we decided to not go to Phillip Island, "said Yamada.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt