After being postponed from its original date of April, the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, Round 14 of the 2010 MotoGP Championship, was held at the beginning of October, meaning higher ambient and track temperatures and still the possibility of rain.
Rain only fell on Thursday and the track remained dry for the rest of the grand prix weekend, but to cope with the increased temperature Bridgestone brought harder slick tire compounds than had been selected for the April date.
This year, Bridgestone also brought asymmetric rear slicks to Motegi. Casey Stoner doubled-up for Ducati with victory on Sunday, although he was pushed throughout by debutant pole-sitter Andrea Dovizioso of Repsol Honda.
For the final step of the podium an intense battle raged between Fiat Yamaha teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, with the reigning world champion just edging out this year’s champion elect Lorenzo.
Q&A with Tohru Ubukata – Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tire Development Department
Q. Looking back at the weekend, are you happy that you revised the tyre selection for the rescheduled date?
TU: “I think all weekend we saw that both compound options of front and rear slick tires worked very well and for some riders their race choice wasn’t finally decided until they were on the grid before the race start, so this is always a very clear sign that all our tyre specs were well suited to the conditions over the weekend. I am happy with the specs we chose because of this, and I think we succeeded in giving the riders tyre options that both performed well in Motegi.”
Q. What about the use of asymmetric rear tyres this year?
TU: “This year we brought our asymmetric rear tires to Motegi whereas last year we didn’t, and rider feedback was very positive this weekend. The riders like our asymmetric rear slick tires so this year we are trying to bring them to many more races; in fact this year we will use them at 11 grands prix instead of just six last season.”
“I can say that I am happy with tire performance too, as in qualifying both Andrea and Valentino were faster than the existing lap record, which was set by Casey on our tires in the last year of tire competition in 2008. Race pace was generally faster and more consistent than last year too and this is at least in part thanks to our asymmetric rears. This year the race pace was mid to high 1m 47second laps, whereas last year it was mid 1m 48second laps and for us this is a good indicator of performance.”
Q. You mentioned that the available tyre specs were similar in performance but were you surprised that in the race Rossi and Lorenzo were so evenly matched when using different front tire specs?
TU: “I am very happy that we could see with Jorge that even our softer option front slick had good consistency and durability over race distance, especially as the pace between he and Valentino was so high and they were pushing so hard until the end. We knew from the practice and qualifying sessions that the performance of both front specs was very even, but I was very pleased to see how well our softer front performed in the race.”
“We have always tried to engineer our tyres with the widest possible temperature operating range and now we have an overlap in the ranges of each of our two specs. I can say that the conditions at Motegi were in the middle of the operating range overlap of our two front tire specs, and this is why they were both so well matched for performance.”