“We need more grip and consistency in Turkey and China”
Bridgestone Motorsport is preparing for two of its biggest challenges of the season as MotoGP turns its attentions to the forthcoming Turkish and Chinese GPs, round three and four of this year's MotoGP championship.
Bridgestone tyres have struggled in Istanbul and Shanghai in previous years, although Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen took a surprise pole position at a wet Istanbul Park last year before taking seventh place in the race itself just behind Ducati's Loris Capirossi. Vermeulen's team-mate John Hopkins shined in Shanghai and was the top Bridgestone-shod rider with and a near-podium finish in fourth.
“Turkey is one of the more severe circuits on the calendar for the tyres”, comments Hiroshi Yamada, Manager of Bridgestone's Motorcycle Sport Department, “so basically we will bring medium and hard compounds for all teams, but for China we have to bring wider range of specs to adjust to the climate condition.”
“Looking back to the last year's results”, he adds, “we need more grip and consistency for our tyres in Turkey and China, so we have decided to bring the next generation of compound for these events, the direction for which we were able to the post-Jerez test.”
Teams, riders and tyre manufacturers have benefited from pre-season testing at the venues of the opening two races of the year in Qatar and Jerez, enabling a relatively trouble-free transition to the new 800cc era and the new tyre restrictions, which limit riders to 31 tyres (14 fronts, 17 rears) per GP weekend.
“It is relatively easy to decide tyre specifications when we have had a good result in the pre-race test”, explains Yamada. “In those circumstances, we can decide the line-up of race specification tyres far more precisely using direct feedback from the circuit. From that point of view, Qatar was more straight-forward than Turkey and China will be because we have no data with 800cc bikes or 2007 specification tyres at these circuits.”
However, even slight deviations in track conditions can greatly affect benefits derived from pre-event testing, as the last race in Jerez highlighted. “We didn't have ideal weather conditions at the pre-season test in Jerez and that affected the accuracy of the data we were able to accumulate”, says Yamada. “We therefore had to consider our approach to Jerez more deeply than Qatar taking more factors into consideration.”
It has been almost one full year since a MotoGP bike turned a wheel at either the Istanbul Park or Shanghai International Circuit, two of the newest circuits on the MotoGP calendar. Such a lack of recent data inevitably poses fresh tests for MotoGP's trio of tyre manufacturers, but Bridgestone will use hope to put recent test success to good use.
“We have decided the race specs for Turkey and China from Qatar and Jerez including results from the post race test sessions”, concludes Yamada. “We have naturally had to take into consideration the unique circuit characteristics, using data obtained from last year's event, as well as adapting to cope with the behaviour of the more nimble, less powerful 800cc bikes for this season. After our initial recommendations, in-depth discussions with our five teams are instrumental in making the all-important final selection of 17 rears and 14 fronts for each rider for the GP weekend. The final decisions will be made during race week, once we get a clearer indication of the weather forecast for the weekend.”