On the eve of their first Grand Prix as the tyre supplier to the entire MotoGP grid, Bridgestone are all geared up for an exciting weekend in Qatar.
Taking over this season as tyre supplier to all 18 riders and 11 teams on the MotoGP grid, following winter regulation changes, Bridgestone’s preparatory work will be put to the test this weekend as the championship commences in the Qatari desert.
By the end of last year the Japanese firm were already working with 12 riders and seven teams and had a highly successful campaign as they supplied the rubber to the MotoGP title-winner for the second year in succession.
With even greater responsibility in MotoGP this season, Bridgestone’s Motorcycle Sport Unit Manager Hiroshi Yamada and his team of dedicated staff have approached the logistical challenges of 2009 in a typically methodical manner.
The floodlit Losail International Circuit and nighttime staging of the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar provide unique challenges for Bridgestone, with track temperatures dropping after sundown and the desert wind often blowing sand onto the asphalt – giving the tyres plenty of work to do.
This is the sixth staging of a GP in Qatar and the second running under the remarkable Musco lighting system which was installed for the opening round of 2008. Bridgestone also have relevant data to work from following the 2009 Official MotoGP Night Test at the beginning of March, at which there was even some unexpected rain adding to the variation in conditions.
Indeed, one of Bridgestone’s key objectives this year has been to produce rubber with an increased ‘operating range’ which is competitive and durable in varying circumstances, whilst their allocation to each rider has been simultaneously reduced this season.
Yamada looks ahead to the weekend stating, "Now pre-season testing is over we are looking forward excitedly to the first race which is when we will really see how the title fight will develop throughout the year. Qatar has been a tricky event in the past for us because the whole race requires a different approach to deal with the cool night temperatures and the sand that litters the circuit, but Casey has taken the last two wins here on our tyres, so we are confident of the experience we can draw upon."
The Japanese manager continues, "Last month’s three-day test gave us more valuable data, although we expect slightly different conditions for the race, hopefully without the high winds and the rain. Nevertheless, we will bring the same soft and medium compounds to the race as we selected for the test, so all the riders who were there will already have experience of these tyres at the Losail circuit."
On the hope for even closer racing in MotoGP in 2009 he added, "In the recent tests we have seen some gaps between the front-runners like last year, but I believe we need to wait until the first few races to see just how close the competition will be. As we continue to support all teams and riders fairly, I believe we can have very close racing this year. We’re proud to be the series’ official supplier at the start of a new era for MotoGP, and as we approach our first MotoGP round as single supplier, I’d like to thank everyone for all their support."