Q&A with Hiroshi Yamada – Manager motorcycle racing
Troy Bayliss took an incredible fairytale win on Bridgestone tyres in Valencia, leading his team-mate Loris Capirossi over the line for a dominant Ducati one-two. While the focus was on the World Championship with Nicky
Hayden securing an emotional title, Bridgestone was enjoying its fourth win of the season and second of the year in Spain.
A sensational Ducati 1-2 on Bridgestone tyres must have been the perfect end to the season, Mr. Yamada?
Hiroshi Yamada: "The Valencia GP was an excellent weekend for Bridgestone and the 1-2 on Sunday afternoon was a fitting end to our successful season. Right from the start of the weekend our tyres appeared to be competitive with each of our teams setting some encouraging times on race tyres. But I do not think anyone would have been able to predict correctly the race result. Troy Bayliss was exceptional and was backed up by another strong performance from Loris which meant that the Ducati- Bridgestone package started and ended the 2006 season with Spanish victories."
How were things looking after the debut practice sessions on Friday?
HY: "We experienced two relatively trouble-free sessions on Friday and at the end of the day all three of our teams were front-runners. The pace on race tyres was looking good with the Ducatis, Kawasakis and Suzukis all capable of lapping in the low 1m33s bracket. The timesheets on Friday were a bit mixed up because we also completed some runs on qualifying rubber with Loris, Randy and Chris, which in fact masked the solid performance on race rubber.
How much benefit was derived from completing these qualifying simulations on Friday?
HY: "There is always a benefit to be derived from simulating a qualifying run on Friday afternoon because the track conditions will usually be more representative. On this specific occasion, we opted to evaluate some of our softer compound qualifying tyres and we saw that the riders were not able to get a full lap out of the tyre. This allowed us to plan accordingly for Saturday afternoon, knowing that a harder qualifying tyre would yield better results. Loris's best lap was 1m32.220s, around 0.4s off last year's pole time and 0.9s off his eventual qualifying time."
Valencia was one of Bridgestone's strongest qualifying results of the year. Was that an important factor in the final race result?
HY: "Valencia is a notoriously tight and slow circuit, which in turn limits overtaking options, so obtaining a good grid position is important. Riders then have a vital job at the start to retain their position off the line and through the first corner. With Ducati in second and third, as well as Shinya in fourth, we were well placed for a good race result. The Suzukis were in eighth and ninth but more importantly only 0.6s from Rossi's pole time and 0.2s quicker than last year's pole time. It was a good all-round performance from all Bridgestone-shod teams."
You must be pleased with the Qualifier of the Year results with five Bridgestone riders in the top ten?
HY: "We are proud of our qualifying performances this year, which really demonstrate the outright performance of our tyres at their limit. Only in two races this season have we not seen a Bridgestone-shod rider on the front row and it is particularly pleasing for me to see a Kawasaki, Suzuki and Ducati rider each represented in the top six of the entire year with Shinya third, John fifth and Loris sixth overall."
On to the race, what were your thoughts with Troy and Loris leading 1-2?
HY: "It was amazing to watch and a great performance by Troy, Loris, Ducati and Bridgestone. We had only been able to simulate a distance of 20 laps in practice and we had seen that the tyres were quick, consistent and durable over that distance, but that was 10 laps less than the complete race distance! Those last ten laps were a bit nerve-wracking, but by that point they had built up a good lead over the new
World Champion Nicky and the result was well deserved. Loris set the fastest lap of the race, 1m32.924s, but he also claims fastest lap of the weekend with a 1m32.255s which was set on race tyres at the start of qualifying. It was a great way for Bridgestone to end our most successful season in MotoGP to take our number of 2006 wins to four. I'd also like to note Shinya Nakano's seventh place which equals Kawasaki's best at Valencia, a fitting result in his final race for Kawasaki."
Will the expectations be higher in 2007?
HY: "We have already started to look at 2007 with new teams, new riders and of course new 800cc bikes. There is a lot to do in the few months before next season but on the back of our competitive 2006 season, our sights will naturally be set even higher in 2007, but our rivals are working equally hard so the competition will be tougher than ever."