Q: MotoGP season so far from Bridgestone’s perspective? Are you happy with the way things are going – riders’ feedback, etc..
Bridgestone Motorsport: So far this season, after three pre-season tests and two races, we’re happy with the way things are going. There were no significant changes since last year, when the single supply situation worked well and feedback from teams and riders was good, so we didn’t expect anything to be different. It is unfortunate that the Japanese GP has been postponed for a second year running owing to the tragic events in Japan, and it means that everyone has had something of a break since Jerez four weeks ago. There were no problems with tyre performance in Qatar, and in Jerez the pace was incredibly fast during qualifying – one second under the lap record – which we are very pleased about. Seeing as the tyres are almost exactly the same as last year, this demonstrates the improvements made by the teams in Winter testing, but also the capacity left in the tyres to deliver even better performance as the teams improve their bike and tyre packages.
Of course we have to mention raceday of the Spanish GP at Jerez when conditions were incredibly difficult for our wet tyres. This is the first wet running that teams had with their 2011 bikes and the 2011 rookies hadn’t ridden in MotoGP in the wet before, which added to the challenge. But a race that starts wet and becomes less wet throughout is the worst situation for wet tyres. As they are wearing throughout the course of the race, the level of grip and abrasion from the track is increasing as the circuit becomes less wet, so tyre wear is even higher, especially at a place like Jerez which is an abrasive circuit. This is why, by the end of the race, most of the wet tyres were almost tread-less, but actually we were happy with the way they lasted given the conditions, and the riders were mostly mindful of this in their comments and feedback. Under the current tyre regulations we are only permitted to select one compound of wet tyre per GP and because of the ambient and track temperature we see in Jerez, we used the soft compounds. Even with hindsight, we wouldn’t have changed this as the hard compound would have been more durable but provided less grip as tyre temperature would have been lower, and this is the crucial factor. We always make our tyre selections with rider safety in mind.
Q: The use of CFD/modern simulation tools in MotoGP and tyre development in particular? Is there any at all?
BM: All our tyre development and design is conducted in our Technical Centre in Japan, using a combination of computer technology and modelling and data gathered from past races and rider feedback. In MotoGP tyre development detailed rider feedback and data is as important as anything, as the riders are able to give remarkably precise feedback which is very valuable in continually striving to improve our tyre performance. It is by this same system that MotoGP technology and lessons learned in competition filter down into road tyres, such as the Battlax BT-016 PRO.
Q: Tyres for next year’s MotoGP regulations (1000cc) – can you tell us more about that? What’s going to change and what will remain?
BM: Basically there will only be a few changes between the ‘800cc’ tyres and those that will be used in the 1000cc era. Ultimately, weight limits will be similar, fuel loads and power outputs similar and therefore the forces translated through the tyres, so there is no need for a fundamental redevelopment. Also, to do this would mean drastically moving the goalposts for the teams at a time when testing is limited which would not help the teams. As it remains, our tyres are a known entity for the teams and this is very valuable in setup work and development of the new bikes.
The tyre development and on-event testing that we started last year is all valuable for the move to 1000cc so it’s something we have been working towards for a while, and with only a few changes we are confident that our current MotoGP tyres are capable of delivering performance suitable for the 1000cc era.
Q: Control tyres – does that bring the costs down for the teams? What are the benefits here and how does it contribute to the “show”?
BM: Under the current single tyre agreement with Bridgestone, the teams do not pay for the tyres. Bridgestone provide them free of charge in return for access to marketing and public relations rights to the championship and to the teams and riders. This is different to the situation Pirelli have in World Superbikes and now in Formula One, and to that Dunlop have in Moto2. So of course this is a big benefit to the teams, especially in these tough financial times. In terms of the show, the single tyre rule removes one more variable between the teams and riders, putting the emphasis more squarely on the overall bike and rider package rather than on who has the most suitable tyre compound for a given situation or which manufacturer can specifically manufacturer a tyre compound for each race. Of course, this is a big benefit to the tyre companies and to us too, as it means tyre development costs are reduced but importantly it also means that there is much more relevance to our road tyres. For example, a tyre that is made specifically to work in one condition at one circuit has no meaning on the road, whereas our current MotoGP tyres that have to work across a range of conditions and temperatures, on a number of different surfaces and with different bikes and riders have a great deal in common with those characteristics desirable in road tyres. This makes it easier for us to translate our MotoGP technology, experience and success into our road tyres for the benefit of consumers worldwide.
Q: Bridgestone’s message to the Portuguese MotoGP fans is…
BM: We are very much looking forward to coming back to Estoril, this time at the beginning of the year again and we hope we can do our bit to give you all an exciting race on Sunday, come rain or shine… We’re watching the weather forecasts closely!
Special thanks to Tom Tremayne and Bridgestone Motorsport.