The MotoGP circus travels to Japan Oct. 2 for round 15 of the championship at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit near Mito and Utsunomiya, just a few hours’ drive from the Tokyo headquarters of Bridgestone Corporation.
The original date was set for April 24 but the natural disasters and subsequent crisis in Japan forced the postponement so the event now lies one week before an overseas back-to-back pair of MotoGP races on Australia and Malaysia.
The date change puts the MotoGP race at the same time of year as it was held last season, the first weekend in October, so the weather conditions are expected to be similar – around 25 degrees Celsius ambient.
This means that the MotoGP tire compound options are unchanged, but with the addition of the third soft compound front slicks, although the rear asymmetric slicks have been modified slightly.
Compared to last year the left shoulders of the rear slicks are now one step softer for improved warm-up and safety in the opening laps, in response to MotOGP rider feedback. The Medium compound rear has a soft compound left shoulder whereas the Soft compound rear uses Bridgestone’s extra soft rubber in the left side. This season the extra soft compound rubber will be used at a total of eight MotoGP races.
The 4.8km MotoGP Motegi circuit features four long and fast straights, and its layout is characterised by hard acceleration followed by heavy braking. This places the emphasis on front tyre stability and a strong center section, and good traction from the rear tire.
With eight right-handed corners and just six lefts, warm-up performance from the left side of the rear tires is particularly important hence the use of softer compounds this year to improve MotoGP rider safety in the early laps and in the instance of cold conditions.
The fastest and most committal corner of the circuit is turn six, the 180+kmh 130R, which leads into a fast and flowing left-right section through which absolute confidence in the bike and tires is critical.
The MotoGP field will turn-out at Motegi in force, with the addition of two more bikes from Honda supplied for HRC test riders Shinichi Ito and Kosuke Akiyoshi. Ito will compete as a HRC wildcard, whereas Akiyoshi will ride alongside Toni Elias for the LCR Honda squad.
Hiroshi Yamada (Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department) says: “There has been much talk about Japan this season because of the events earlier in the year but I am honored and proud to see so much support for our nation and for the Japanese MotoGP within the paddock. Motegi has always been an important event for Bridgestone and one at which we have reached many milestones so I am looking forward to going, enjoying what I hope will be a great race, and doing what we can to show our support for Japan.”
Hirohide Hamashima (Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tyre Development Division) says: “Being held at the same time as it was last year, at the start of October, we can expect the conditions at Motegi to be similar and therefore we have not revised our MotoGP tire options this season, but we have made one change based on rider comments.
“We have made the left shoulders of the rear asymmetric slicks one step softer, meaning that we are also using our extra soft compound for the first time at this circuit. This will give the riders improved warm-up performance and safety around the left-handers, which are fewer than the rights, in the opening laps, like they asked for.
“We saw in Aragon that warm-up performance was very good and tyre wear was relatively high, but Motegi is cooler and the surface less abrasive so durability should be better. Motegi has a stop-and-go nature featuring some heavy braking and hard acceleration points which traditionally tend to bunch the field and provide close racing, like last year’s thrilling battle between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
“There are eight rights and six lefts but many of the corners are quite tight and slow and this staccato nature places a lot of emphasis on braking stability from the front tyres and edge grip from the rears.”
Bridgestone MotoGP slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium, Hard. Rear (asymmetric): Soft, Medium