The United States Grand Prix is the first overseas race since the opening round in Qatar back in March, and for round ten MotoGP travels to the west coast of California and to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the most famous and iconic circuits on the calendar.
Last year Bridgestone brought asymmetric rear slick tyres to Laguna Seca MotoGP for the first time to improve grip through the right-handers, and this season the Japanese manufacturer has taken another step in a continual bid to offer the riders better warm-up performance.
This year, softer compound rear slick tire options have been selected for the US MotoGP and the softer option features Bridgestone’s extra soft compound rubber designed for the cool morning sessions.
In the afternoon however the weather at the Monterey peninsula can be very different with ambient and track temperatures markedly higher.
This large variation in temperature between the morning and afternoon sessions is tough from a tire perspective because in the morning good warm-up performance is needed whereas in the afternoon it is durability and wear resistance that are crucial and striking this balance is challenging.
The softer MotoGP compounds will help improve and accelerate warm-up performance in general, while the softer right shoulders are designed in particular to maximise grip and feel in the early MotoGP laps through turns three, four and ten, the circuit’s main right-handed corners.
The circuit’s elevation changes, particularly through the Corkscrew complex, require a well-balanced MotoGP machine setup and place a lot of importance on front tire stability, so for this reason the front tire compounds remain unchanged.
Laguna Seca is the shortest circuit on the 2011 MotoGP calendar with a very short main straight. This meaning that the bikes and therefore the tires spend little time upright and therefore have less time to cool down, resulting in higher residual tire temperatures than the ambient and track conditions would suggest.
Hiroshi Yamada (Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department) says: "America is a very important market for us so I am looking forward to going to Laguna, especially as the circuit has created some very thrilling and memorable MotoGP races over the years.
"The US MotoGP is the last of the very busy summer run that has seen six races in the past eight weeks, so whilst of course it is important to maintain momentum, everyone will be looking forward to a little break after this weekend.
"We have changed our tire selection for this race to offer the riders a softer rear tire choice as we shift our focus very much to warm-up performance, and because being so close to the coast the conditions can be cool on a morning. After this race our wider tire allocation change comes into effect from the Czech Republic MotoGP, but already Laguna is the sixth race of the season that we have brought softer tires to."
Hirohide Hamashima (Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tire Development Division) says: "Last year at Laguna we saw an improvement in tire performance when we selected our asymmetric rear slicks for the first time in the single supply era there, and I hope by choosing softer rear compounds this season we will see another step forward in performance.
"The conditions, especially in the mornings, can be quite cool as Laguna so our softer rears will improve warm-up performance, especially through the right-handers. There are fewer rights than lefts at the circuit, and the first two, turns three and four, are 90 degree corners which are more challenging for warm-up.
"Long corners allow the tires to be leaned over and gradually build up heat throughout the corner, but 90 degree turns require a quick change of direction and the shoulder of the tyre, the right shoulder in the case of Laguna MotoGP, to warm-up very quickly indeed. This is where the introduction of softer specs, and our extra soft compound in the right shoulders of the rear slick tires, will be most beneficial. The Corkscrew is also really demanding corner with the fast change of direction and elevation, and a strong front tire and good front-end feeling for the riders is essential with the general elevation changes in the lap."
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium, Hard. Rear (asymmetric): Soft, Medium