MotoGP & Bridgestone: Behind the Scenes
It all comes down to race-day. All the preparation, the effort, the blood sweat and tears are summarized each Grand Prix weekend in 45 minutes or 120 kilometers on Sunday afternoon. At least in the eyes of the outside world it is…
The reality, however, is that Sunday is just the culmination of all the hard work put in during the days and weeks before each race by the Rizla Suzuki Team and its partners, give or take a bit of luck or lack thereof.
An integral part of this preparation, and playing a crucial role in performance and ultimately results, are the Bridgestone tyres that Alvaro Bautista uses. The Suzuki/ Bridgestone relationship is the longest in the paddock, having started back in 2004 in only Bridgestone’s third season in MotoGP; and existed ever since, yielding multiple podiums and a win for Chris Vermeulen in 2007.
But how much can there be to the black hoops at each end of the GSV-R? Well, Bridgestone’s work with the team starts in earnest on the Thursday before each race. Yukihiko Kubo is the Bridgestone tyre engineer responsible for Alvaro and the Suzuki squad, and here he explains his task.
"I start working closely with Suzuki and Alvaro’s engineers on the Thursday at each Grand Prix" says Kubo. "It’s important that before Alvaro takes to the track everyone in the team knows and understands the tyre compounds we have at each race so this is where we start. I’ve been working with Alvaro since just last year but we work well together and have a good relationship, which is very important in establishing trust.
"I sit in meetings with the team engineers on Thursday to agree upon the plan for the weekend. I carefully explain the tyre compound choices we have, how they are different from the previous year and why we have made that choice. I then outline which front and rear tyre compounds we recommend for the race, and from that point we agree upon a plan of tyre usage and setup direction and the goal for the race."
Bridgestone has been the Official Tyre Supplier to the MotoGP class since 2009 and under regulations imposed from that year; each rider is allocated 18 slicks (eight fronts and ten rears) and eight wet tyres per weekend. The FIM randomly allocate tyres to every rider on Thursday, at which point they are registered to each rider using each tyre’s unique barcode, recorded by both Bridgestone and the FIM.
"So once we have decided upon the weekend plan, we have a clear idea of when Alvaro will use each tyre compound option" continues Kubo. "With a restricted number of new tyres it is very important to ensure that tyre usage is managed carefully to make sure Alvaro has at least one new set for qualifying on Saturday afternoon and for the race. New tyres have a distinct performance advantage, so this is critical in helping the team achieve the best possible grid position and then race result.
"At the end of each day I join the de-brief with Alvaro and the team engineers to discuss where we are in relation to the plan and what steps we take next. Throughout each day though we are constantly collecting tyre data in the form of temperatures and pressures as both of these are key indicators of setup – for example the rear slicks should be operating at above 100 degrees Celsius to provide maximum grip, and if the actual tyre temperature is lower, we know peak grip is not being reached and that therefore the bike, rider and tyre package is not working as well as it could. I am then involved with the engineers making setup changes to try and achieve this optimum. In the years of tyre competition, tyre manufacturers would produce specific tyre compounds for each rider and bike, but now in single supply, Bridgestone must work closely with the teams to help them get the bikes working best on our tyres."
After all, two Bridgestone tyres are all that connect the Suzuki GSV-R to the tarmac and they play a key role in translating the efforts of the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP Team to race results. Even though tyre choices are now fewer in the era of single supply, Bridgestone’s role remains just as important and the relationship with Suzuki continues as strongly as ever.