Qatar Tire Talk
The first MotoGP race of the 2010 season was a thrilling one, with the top four riders finishing within 1.9 seconds of each other. With all the finishers using the harder option Bridgestone slicks front and rear, it was a straight fight on equal rubber in which Valentino Rossi triumphed, and Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden were separated by just 0.8 seconds at the finish.
The top four also each recorded a total race time faster than the winning time from last year’s Qatar GP, using slick tires of a harder compound than were available for last year’s race.
Q&A with Tohru Ubukata – Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle tire Development Department
Q: Harder tires were brought to Qatar this year – how did this affect tire performance?
A: "Both the front and rear slicks were available in harder compounds this year – last year we brought soft and medium front and rear, and this year we had medium and extra hard fronts, and medium and hard rears. Last year, the Qatar Grand Prix was our first challenge in the single tire era. After the race, we closely analysed the data from the weekend and saw that there was the possibility that we could select harder compounds without compromising performance, so this time we refined our compound selection and verified their performance during the test here."
"Tire performance was better this year because of the harder compounds – they provided greater durability and this ultimately resulted in the total race time being faster than last year. Also, during qualifying Casey went faster than the existing lap record using both available rear compound options. This shows that the outright performance was good, and that there is a good overlap between the operating ranges of each compound. We brought harder compounds and riders favoured the harder of the selected options, so I believe we made the right selection."
Q: What can you say about the riders’ tire compound selection for this grand prix?
A: "As we expected, the extra hard compound front tire was favoured throughout the weekend, both for its durability and the additional stability it provided under braking. Every rider chose five of the extra hard front tire and only three of the medium compound, so it was clearly the preferred choice. The harder option rear was also chosen by all but one rider for the race, because we saw in practice and qualifying that it lasted much longer than the softer option. What was interesting though was the similarity of the laptimes set on each of the rear options – the performance of each was very close."
Q: How well did the new regulations concerning riders’ choice of front tire compounds work?
A: "The process worked well in Qatar. This year, the regulations mean that each rider receives six front tires before first practice, three of each compound, and then chooses his final two front tires after the first practice. Here, it was slightly unusual because of course the first free practice was not Friday afternoon but Friday night, but still the principles stayed the same and every team made their choices smoothly. Because of the conditions in Qatar, every rider on the grid chose their final two tires in extra hard compound, but I expect the choices to be more varied at many events this year, leading to some interesting comparisons in a race between the outright grip of the softer and the increased durability of the harder options."
Q: This was the first race with the new regulations that reduce the number of rear tires per rider. Were there any problems?
A: "No, there were no problems. Every rider used their allocation of rear tires, but we found from last year that five tires of each compound per grand prix were more than enough. The teams and riders did not have any objections, so I expect there to be no problems with this all season."