The Spanish Grand Prix, held at the immensely popular Jerez de la Frontera circuit in Andalucia, marks the first European MotoGP race of the season and after a thrilling opener in Qatar three weeks ago, anticipation is high.
This year the Spanish race has become the second round of the season after the postponement of last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, Bridgestone’s home event.
There have been no changes to the circuit since last year and the Bridgestone slick tyres chosen in 2009 worked well so they remain the same this year: medium and hard compound fronts, and soft and medium rears.
The only difference is that the rubber compound of the rear slicks has been improved since last season to offer a wider temperature operating range. The medium rear slick tyre was used in Qatar, but with Motegi being rescheduled this is the first time that the new soft rear slick will have been used in competition.
Jerez has eight right-hand corners and five lefts but has a balanced nature that uses each shoulder of the tyres equally. The track temperature can be expected to be higher than that seen in Qatar, as last year it reached 45 degrees Celsius during the race.
This makes warm-up performance less of a concern as the tyres will naturally warm faster but it does test the overall temperature operating range as the tyres can reach a higher peak temperature. This is the area in which the improved soft and medium rear slick compounds will be most beneficial.
Last year the Spanish Grand Prix delivered the third different winner from the first three races of the 2009 season. Valentino Rossi won his first of the year followed by 2008 winner Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner in third. On his way to victory, Rossi set a new lap record and a new total race time record, demonstrating the sustained pace he was able to achieve using hard compound front and medium compound rear Bridgestone slicks.
Hiroshi Yamada (Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department) says: "It is strange going straight to Europe after the Qatar Grand Prix, and for us it is a shame that our home race in Japan was postponed. We had prepared various events for riders and fans alike during the weekend so it is a shame. I have never heard of a GP being cancelled so close to its scheduled date, but of course we understand the situation and fully support the decisions and swift action taken by Dorna, IRTA and the FIM.
"It is always exciting to start the European season, and I hope that after the thrilling race in Qatar we will see more exciting competition in Jerez. The Spanish Grand Prix is always popular with many fans coming from all over Europe, and it is also a valuable event for us as the Spanish market is important to Bridgestone’s European activities. I hope that we will have no delays to our travel schedule from Japan and that we will see a good race!"
Tohru Ubukata (Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tyre Development Department) says: "Jerez is a good test circuit because of the diversity of the corner layout and this means that we require a tyre with a very balanced character to provide good handling from low speed to high speed and from flat corners through changes in elevation. The layout doesn’t generate particularly high loads for the tyre’s centre section, and the left and right shoulders are used equally so asymmetric rear slicks are not required here. The circuit is fairly abrasive and the track temperature during the race weekend is historically high which adds to the challenge of durability and wear but Jerez is not the most severe from a tyre point of view.
"This year we will supply rear slick tyres that each feature an updated compound with a wider temperature operating range, providing better warm up performance in cold conditions and better consistency in hot conditions. The riders gave positive feedback when the improved medium compound was used in Qatar so hopefully the wider operating range is better for riders and we will see another exciting race in Jerez."