With two new teams
After their most successful year ever in MotoGP, one could forgive Bridgestone for taking a well-earned break.
However, the tyre manufacturer have been at the centre of some exciting changes to the 2007 MotoGP grid, with new deals announced with
Gresini Honda and Pramac d'Antin Ducati for the 800cc era.
We caught up with Hiroshi Yamada, Bridgestone Motorsport Manager for Motorcycle Racing, to ask him for his opinions on the exciting happenings of recent weeks.
The Gresini team's change to Bridgestone is a huge move for both parties. How did the deal come about?
“We had initial talks with the Gresini Racing team in the latter part of the season about the possibility for Bridgestone to supply tyres to them for 2007. Although rumours were rife for many months, we only reached an agreement with the Gresini team during the Valencia GP weekend to cover winter testing and the 2007 season. We are very pleased to have joined forces with them and look forward to developing a close relationship in the coming months.”
D'Antin Ducati are also moving to Bridgestone. Do you believe that with their experienced riders they can make the step up in competitiveness this season?
“We are also happy to have the d'Antin team with us for next season and hope that a move to Bridgestone tyres will contribute to a competitive step forward for them. Tyres are just one element of the package, so we will be working with all of our teams to tune the performance of the Bridgestone tyres together with the bike and of course the rider.
With two extra teams to provide tyres for, will there be added strain on Bridgestone resources, or is it easy to adapt to demand?
“The new tyre regulations for next season that demand a limit of 31 tyres per rider, per weekend, have made it possible for us to supply more teams. We will be producing fewer tyres for each GP weekend, so we will have a greater capacity in our Tokyo factory. As such, we expect a relatively smooth transition to accomodate the two new additions to the Bridgestone family, Gresini and d'Antin.”
Have any other MotoGP teams enquired about changing tyre manufacturers?
“It is quite normal for teams to hold informal talks as the season draws to a close to determine all options for the coming season. As a general policy, we do not divulge the names of teams we have talks with unless an agreement is subsequently reached. We have been flattered by the interest shown in Bridgestone tyres for the coming season, which I think is a testament to the progress we have made in MotoGP since our debut just five years ago.”
It is early days, but what has stood out/been learned so far from the 800cc tests?
“It is correct that we are still in the very early stages of the new 800cc era but we have already seen that lap times have been largely unaffected and, in some instances, have actually improved with the new machines, albeit in different conditions. Using our 2006 specification tyres as a benchmark, we are already analysing the effects of the new bikes on the tyres. The reduced power output of the 800cc may mean that we can adopt softer compounds at some circuits, but we may need to develop harder compounds to cope with the increased cornering speeds at others.”
With some of the top teams running on Bridgestone tyres in 2007, is confidence high for following on from your most successful season?
“The Valencia victory was the perfect way to finish the season but our work never stops. We are in a positive frame of mind but are looking not only to adapt our tyres to new bikes and new teams for the coming season, but we are also actively addressing the key problems that we encountered in 2006, especially at tracks with a low friction co-efficient.”
With a lot of experienced riders on your tyres next season, who do you see leading the way in tyre development?
“I believe that each of our teams have a significant role to play in pushing forward Bridgestone tyre development. We will be supporting four different manufacturers and, since the characteristics of each bike are different, we will have a lot of work to help all of our teams to achieve the best results possible.”
What's the significance of joining Honda bikes in Bridgestone's sporting and political strategy?
“Bridgestone has had a long and prosperous relationship with Honda. We made our debut back in 2002 with a Honda NSR500 with Jurgen Vd Goorbergh in the Kanemoto Racing Team and we took our first victory with Honda RC211V when Makoto Tamada won in Rio in 2004. We are happy to join forces again in the MotoGP class for the coming season.”
What significance does the fact that Bridgestone is going to work with more MotoGP teams than its competitors hold ?
“It seems that Bridgestone will be supporting a majority number of bikes in MotoGP next season, and we are very proud to be such a major contributor in the motorcycle racing world by supplying more teams. We will be further enhancing the healthy competition we enjoy with our rival tyre manufacturers, which is something that we look forward to.”
What are Bridgestone's 2007 goals?
“It is a bit too early to fix specific goals for the 2007 season, but we scored four victories in 2006, so we must improve on that next year. Considering that we are increasing the number of teams to five, this undoubtedly adds more healthy pressure on us. The new tyre regulations add an unknown dimension to the competition next year, but I hope that we are in a position to challenge for victories on a regular basis.”
DORNA / CAPSIS International