Bridgestone Qatar test debrief
An intensive and challenging Qatar test for Bridgestone Motorsport's five teams at the Losail International Circuit last week yielded positive results and interesting developments ahead of the season-opening GP in Qatar in under three weeks'
Hiroshi Yamada, Manager of Bridgestone's Motorcycle Sport department, reviews the week's activities.
Qatar has always been a tough track for Bridgestone. Was any progress made last week?
“It was a very interesting test week, though not at all straight-forward, I must admit. We started the test using similar specification tyres to last year's race as a base and we could quickly see that the track characteristics have altered since our last visit. The track seems to offer more grip than last year which in turn prompted us also to try different specification tyres to what we had planned.”
How exactly has the tyre performance changed ?
“Qatar has always been a very unique track, one for which we have had to develop tyres that are not used elsewhere on the calendar. Those tyres have demonstrated themselves to be durable in race simulations but we have seen over the course of the three days that front tyre performance in particular has changed. We were pleasantly surprised that the increased grip levels now suit our ‘standard' front tyre specification. When we tried this tyre in the past we noticed high levels of degradation early on in race simulations, but when we tried them again last week, the performance was noticeably improved with some of our teams.”
Is this situation likely to be the same for the opening race of the season in Qatar?
“We expect the grip levels to be quite similar when we return to Qatar in a few weeks. Our normal front tyre may benefit some of our teams, although our special Qatar-spec front tyre could also be made available. Tyre preference is very individual so each of our teams will be working closely with their appointed Bridgestone engineer to ascertain the best direction. Whatever the case, we have a lot of new data from the 800s to make further improvements before this year's race.”
How was the rear tyre performance?
“While we are still open for front tyre selection for the race, this three day test really helped us to finalise the direction for rear tyre construction and shape. We started the week with some issues over rear tyre life but we were able to use a new specification to good effect. This new tyre appeared to work well over a full race distance, something we verified with some of our teams.
Our next job is to adjust the compounds to best fit the bike and rider characteristics.”
Have any teams or riders struggled to adapt their riding style to the Bridgestone tyres?
“Generally, our plan has been focussed on getting the direction of tyre construction correct but now we will be starting to adapt the tyre to meet the requirements of each of our teams. Some riders still require additional support to have tyres that work with their riding style. We are aware that our riders all need tyres that work with their style and we have built this into our development plan. We can only offer reassurances at this early stage of the season that we will do everything we can to fulfill our teams' and riders' requests.”
With four manufacturers, Bridgestone's job is much tougher this season – can the company ensure that all demands are met?
“We are fully committed to fair service of our teams across all areas of Bridgestone's Motorsport activities. It is true that supplying four manufacturers will raise the pressure on us to perform this season but we know where the limits lie. The tyre restrictions this season have given us the capacity to supply more teams and we have service engineers dedicated to each team in order to ensure that feedback is transferred and subsequently implemented.”