The 2011 MotoGP season started this weekend with the first race in Qatar, which is unique because it is run in the desert and at night. Since the MotoGP test on 13-14 March conditions were windy which meant a lot of sand was blown onto the circuit, making it slippery and leading to graining. During the weekend though the weather conditions improved, particularly on Saturday and Sunday, and the track surface became cleaner meaning the times got faster, peaking during the MotoGP qualifying session. The Repsol Honda Team dominated the weekend with Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa constantly at the top of the MtooGP timesheets, and it was Stoner who took victory on Sunday night with Pedrosa in third, behind hard-charging Jorge Lorenzo. Q&A with Hirohide Hamashima – Director, Bridgestone Motorsport Tire Development, MotoGP Q. The race was run three weeks earlier this year than in 2010 MotoGP. Did this make any difference from a tyre perspective? HH: "Conditions this year were certainly cooler with track and ambient temperatures about seven degrees Celsius lower. This caused the track to be a little slippery, especially coupled with the dirty surface early on in the weekend, but we still used the same tyre compounds as last year with no problems. The operating range of our tyres is more than sufficient to deal with a change of ten degrees Celsius in track temperature. The laptimes were fast too, especially during the qualifying session." Q. How big a role did sand on the MotoGP circuit play throughout the weekend? HH: "We experienced quite high winds for most of the week until the Saturday of the Grand Prix which left the track quite sandy, especially for the first free practice sessions. As more laps were completed it got cleaner, but during free practice one and two in particular we experienced some graining of the softer option rear tire because of the sand. Graining occurs as the rear tire loses traction and starts spinning, so this gives us an indication of how slippery it was at first. Nevertheless, this is one of the unique challenges of the Losail circuit so from past experience it was expected." Q. The pace in MotoGP qualifying was very fast – how was tire performance in general? "Overall I am satisfied with tire performance this weekend. To lap within 0.2seconds of the outright pole position record, set on qualifying tires in 2008, using race tires is very impressive. Throughout the weekend the extra hard front tire was the preferred option as it provides more stability under braking and is more durable, although some riders did use the softer option and had no problems with it. "In the rear, the harder option was the favorite throughout the weekend because of its added durability and resistance to graining, though on the softer option in qualifying the times were very fast indeed which shows the level of grip it was producing once the circuit had cleaned was very high. "During the race durability was good. Casey and Jorge were able to lap within 0.6second of their respective fastest times until the end of the race and Andrea set his best on the final lap, which is a strong sign of tire performance right until the end. We have confidence in the consistent and high quality of our tires from last year to this and I am happy that the teams do too as this allows them to make good setups based on last year's data. A good MotoGP rider, bike and tire package is very important to get the most out of our tires." MotoGP Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium, Extra Hard. Rear: Medium, Hard
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.