Q&A with Hiroshi Yamada, Bridgestone Manager Motorcycle Racing
After a tough weekend for Bridgestone Motorsport, Suzuki riders John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen scored creditable sixth and ninth positions respectively in the Portuguese Grand Prix, a race in which Bridgestone
riders struggled to near the pace of the frontrunners.
Toni Elias won a thrilling last-gasp sprint to the chequered flag to take his maiden MotoGP win beating Valentino Rossi into second place by a mere 0.002s.
Hopkins was the first of four Bridgestone riders to cross the line ahead of Vermeulen, Randy de Puniet (tenth) and Loris Capirossi (twelfth), while Sete Gibernau and Shinya Nakano were both forced out of the race by lap two due to accidents.
Mr. Yamada, that was not an easy weekend for Bridgestone, did the final results reflect the performance?
HY: "I think John and Suzuki did a very good job in spite of the difficulties that all of our teams faced over the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend. To finish sixth was a fine achievement in these conditions, as too was Chris's ninth place on his debut race at Estoril. We are the first to admit that we struggled over the three days with the performance of our tyres and that prevented us from helping our teams to challenge for higher points-paying positions in the race."
What exactly were the problems that Bridgestone encountered in Estoril?
HY: "Essentially we suffered with the same problem all weekend, which was a fundamental lack of rear edge grip.
Usually when we experience this type of problem on Fridays we use a softer compound tyre to enhance the grip from the tyre to the track but when we tried this solution, we noticed that our tyres started to experience endurance issues, in that the rear tyres were wearing too quickly. Although we opted ultimately to run harder compounds, we still suffered from a lack of grip and subsequent tyre wear over the full 28-lap race."
To what factors can you attribute these troubles?
HY: "We have gathered a lot of data from the weekend which we need to study to establish the actual cause of our troubles in Estoril. The track was resurfaced in parts and we believe that this had a lot to do with it. We know from previous seasons that our performance in Portugal should be quite good based on the second place we scored in 2004 and fifth place in 2005, but this year we were unable to replicate the behaviour of the tyres from previous seasons and the asphalt changes appear to be the only significant variable."
How can Bridgestone learn from this for the future?
HY: "We unfortunately did not have the opportunity to test at this circuit since the resurfacing, so we did not realise that there would be such an impact on our performance. Now we have learned more about the circuit's characteristics and behaviour with the specification tyres we used, so we have a lot of work to go through and we will react accordingly. The first thing to do will be to look into the durability issues to make certain that the tyres will perform consistently over the full race distance."
Loris Capirossi said after the race that in order to win the championship, it is important to go fast at every track. How can Bridgestone help?
HY: "I certainly do not disagree with Loris's comments. I can assure each of our teams that we are continuing to put our full efforts into developing tyres that can be competitive at every track on the calendar. This season is only our fifth in MotoGP and we are learning things race-by-race, but 2006 has been our most competitive yet and we are improving all the time. Each tyre manufacturer, team and rider has their strengths and weaknesses, good tracks and bad and we are no exception. Estoril was one of our worst circuits of the season, but we will learn from this and can only thank our teams for their understanding and co-operation."
Looking to the future, how will development of Bridgestone tyres be affected by the introduction of the 800cc bikes in 200?
HY: "Some of our teams have already tested with 800cc bikes for which we have supplied standard 2006-specificaton Bridgestone tyres. We have done this in order to set a base for ourselves, so that we can compare the behaviour of the tyres with both types of bike. So far, the lap times have been closely matched because what the bike loses in outright power, it can make up with increased cornering speed. This will probably mean that we can develop softer compound tyres for next year's races, but we have already begun initial analysis into this in addition to our ongoing research and development."