Hiroshi Yamada, manager of Bridgestone‘s Motorcycle Sport department, is sure to be a very busy man in 2007. Supplying the rubber for Ducati Marlboro, Gresini Honda, Kawasaki Racing, Pramac dAntin and Rizla Suzuki means that he has five teams and four different manufacturers to work with during a season in which Bridgestone have to make their own, specific adaptations to historic shift from 990cc bikes to the new, smaller SOOcc prototypes. With this comes the added responsibility of adapting to particular individual demands, although Yamada is confident of finding a solution for everyone.
“Generally, our plan has been focused 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 can only offer reassurances at this early stage that we will do everything to fulfil our teams‘ and riders‘ requests,“ he commented after last week‘s Official Test in Qatar.
Additionally, there are of course the new ‘parc ferme‘ regulations for Bridgestone and Michelin to contend with in 2007, restricting the quota of tyres that can be used by each individual rider and requiring that each competitor is delivered with his entire allocation of rubbers for a Grand Prix weekend on the eve of the first practice session — which essentially means on the Thursday night.
OnIy Dunlop, who will supply Yamaha Tech3‘s tyres, will be excluded from the restrictions until such time as their tyres have been used in two Grands Prix victories in dry conditions.
Therefore, the data collected by Bridgestone at the first Official MotoGP Test of the year at Qatar‘s Losail International Circuit last week was just as essential for Yamada and his staff as it was for the each of the premier dass teams themselves.
The season-opening GP in Qatar takes place in less than three weeks and Losail has always provided a highly specific challenge for MotoGP engineers, mechanics and riders, often because of desert sand drifting onto the track.
As Yamada explained: “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. lt was a very interesting test week, though not at all straight-forward. 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.“
Whilst Michelin are introducing a smaller 16“ front tyre this season Yamada and his Bridgestone crew believe that their traditional 16.5“ front offers the best performance for their teams, even with the introduction of the smaller MotoGP models.
“We expect the grip levels to be quite similar when we return to Qatar in a few weeks,“ continued the respected Japanese chief. “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.“
Meanwhile, Yamada assured his collaborators that despite increased pressure on the tyre manufacturers this year, the Japanese firm will continue to supply teams at the highest level of professionalism: “We are fully committed to fair service of our teams across all areas of Bridgestone‘s Motorsport activities. lt 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.“