The weather has not been kind to MotoGP or its single tyre suppliers thus far in the first year of the new tyre regulations, with highly difficult circumstances to deal with at three of the four Grands Prix which have already taken place in 2009.
The southern Spanish sunshine in Jerez came as a relief after the disruptive downpours in Qatar and Japan, but a visit to Le Mans with its notoriously changeable micro-climate meant the thinking caps were on again for the riders and their teams on Sunday.
Bridgestone do not supply intermediate rubber this year so the MotoGP stars commenced the Le Mans race on wet tyres with much of the track already drying, as the sun came out, the key strategy of the racing thus converted into when to make a pitlane entrance and switch onto a slick-equipped second bike.
Jorge Lorenzo rode brilliantly on both wet and slick tyres, and he was the last rider to pit, along with Toni Elias on lap 12, the Fiat Yamaha competitor leading from the first lap right through to the end of the race.
According to Bridgestone, the optimum lap for the change to slick tyres was at the end of lap eight, the Japanese firm citing Marco Melandri’s performance as of the ninth lap as evidence, the Italian having himself pitted on lap six. Melandri made excellent use of his soft compound front and rear Bridgestone slicks to climb from 11th to second after making the swap.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, meanwhile, snatched third position from teammate Andrea Dovizioso on the final lap, and in doing so he set the fastest lap of the race on lap 27 using a medium compound front and a soft rear.
Tohru Ubukata, Bridgestone’s Motorcycle Race Tyre Development Manager was satisfied after the race that the wet and slick tyres had performed well and that the riders did not miss last year’s intermediate option. He stated, "Our wet tyre showed good durability so I am very happy. Even in the drying conditions Jorge was getting faster and faster each lap until Marco went faster on the slick tyre, so this shows our wet tyre has a sufficiently wide range to cover all wet and damp situations."
"Also, the slick tyre performed well in damp conditions so we can see that with just wet and slick tyres we can cover all conditions during a race weekend."
Hiroshi Yamada, Bridgestone’s Motorcycle Sport Unit Manager added, "It was a very exciting race in difficult conditions which made the decision as to when to pit very difficult for the riders. This meant we saw a very good race with many battles. I would like to congratulation Jorge for a great ride, Marco and Hayate as it is very good to see a Kawasaki machine on the podium again, and Dani for his determination right to the flag."