The Catalunya Grand Prix was sweltering, with an ambient temperature of 33 degrees Celsius and a track temperature that reached 55 degrees Celsius during the MotoGP race.
Jorge Lorenzo took his third victory in a row at Catalunya in tricky conditions. He and his Yamaha M1 machine used the harder front and softer rear Bridgestone slicks most efficiently on a hot and slippery track.
After witnessing the performance of the softer slicks during qualifying session, during which they proved their durability and consistency even in such hot conditions, the softer option rear tire became the preferred race tire for many riders.
Only Randy de Puniet, Loris Capirossi, Mika Kallio and Wataru Yoshikawa opted for the harder rear tire for the race. The softer rear slick proved to be the winning choice, being used by the top three riders.
Every rider with the exception of Hector Barbera favored the harder front slick tyre because of the high track temperature, which reached 55 degrees Celsius.
The heavy braking points and the condition of the tarmac, which was not helped by the high temperature, tested the durability of the front tires as the front-runners pushed hard in their respective battles.
Tire performance was consistent though and the final laps of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were within 0.9seconds of their respective best efforts, which came within the first three laps of the 25-lap race.
The race itself got off to a nail-biting start as Dani Pedrosa led into turn one only to run wide, slipping back to 12th. Up front, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner were locked in battle, Stoner himself fighting back from running wide.
Dovizioso fell which gave Lorenzo breathing space at the front, whilst Dani mounted a remarkable comeback to climb to second, pushed by Stoner to the line. Randy de Puniet also scored his best finish of the season from the front row of the grid, whilst Alvaro Bautista claimed fifth for his best MotoGP finish just ahead of Ben Spies.
Q&A with Tohru Ubukata – Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tire Development Department
How did the heat affect tire performance this weekend?
“Track conditions were hot and the ambient temperature was also high which leads to higher tire temperatures, and this is why we needed to bring harder tire compounds to Catalunya. Generally I am happy with their performance – in the race we saw that both specifications of front and rear tire worked, as the top three riders used the harder front and the softer rear, Randy in fourth used the harder rear, and Hector in tenth used the softer front.”
“Our objective since last season has been to select two specifications of tire per grand prix that can both be suitable for race distance at each particular venue, giving riders a choice of tires for the race. I am happy that we have achieved that objective this weekend. Our selected tire compounds were identical this year to last year so it was interesting for me that the rear tire choice favored by most riders was the softer option – exactly the opposite of last year at Catalunya when every rider used our harder rear tire option.”
Why do you think this year the softer rear slick was the favored option?
“I think the fact that most machines could use the softer rear tire in Catalunya this year shows how the teams have worked hard to improve the way their overall bike packages work with our single supply tires. The track temperature was slightly higher this year yet still the machines and riders were able to extract relatively more performance from our softer compound rear and, importantly, make it last race distance which they could not do at this race last year. This also shows just how much influence on tire performance the machine and rider package has, and the importance of a good setup that uses our tires effectively.”
What can you say about tire performance in general this weekend?
“Generally tire performance was good, although the track condition was not ideal and this is one of the reasons that ultimately lap times were slightly slower on Sunday. As we have seen already rear tire choices were reasonably mixed, but front tire choice showed much more preference for the harder front slick. Some riders commented that braking stability was affected slightly during the race because of the high temperature, but in these conditions and a circuit like Catalunya that features some heavy braking areas, this is to be expected.”
“Heavy braking generates high loads on the front tires that translate to increased tire temperature, especially when the track and ambient temperatures are so high already. As the rubber gets hotter it starts to move more that has a direct affect on front-end ‘feel’. Importantly though, the lap times show the tire performance to be consistent throughout the race which I am pleased about.”