With the first MotoGP pre-season test of 2013 less than a month away, Hiroshi Yamada, Manager of Bridgestone’s Motorsport Department, explains the development work the Japanese tire manufacturer has undertaken ahead of its fifth year as Official Tire Supplier to the world’s premier class of motorcycle road racing.
Q. Yamada-san, last season presented Bridgestone with a significant challenge to produce tires that met the demands of the new 1000cc MotoGP machines while delivering improved levels of rider safety. Are you satisfied that the 2012 specification tires achieved their objective?
HY: “Most definitely. Our goal was to provide a family of tires that were safer, easier for riders to understand and have the performance to meet the demands of the new generation of 1000cc MotoGP motorcycles. Based on the empirical data and feedback from the riders, we achieved this objective so yes, I am very satisfied.
“The top speed, acceleration and general level of performance of the MotoGP machines improved last year due to the extra power of the 1000cc engines and in addition, the minimum machine weight also increased which combined to create even harsher conditions for tires. Despite these challenges and our shift in development focus to making safer tires, the performance of our 2012 tires was excellent with nine new race record lap times being set and many races having quicker overall race times.
“Also, the introduction of the CRT machines meant for the first time since becoming sole supplier to MotoGP we had to develop a tire to suit machines with vastly different power outputs and performance. This challenge was especially important to us as it made our MotoGP tire development more relevant to our motorcycle road tire programm than ever before. Last season was valuable in learning how to develop a tire that can deliver safety and performance under a wide range of operating conditions.”
Q. What development path has Bridgestone taken for the 2013 specification MotoGP tires?
HY: “We will continue to use same basic specification for our 2013 tires. The construction of the 2012 specification tires received a good appraisal from the riders and it makes sense for the riders, teams and manufacturers to use the same construction for this season.
“However, we have undertaken some compound development for this season and will also use our current rubber compounds in different ways. Perhaps the biggest change for this year is that we have utilized our existing extra-soft rubber compound to create a range of soft rear slicks purely for the CRT entries, providing them with a more suitable rear tire allocation for races. We have also continued development of a new hard rubber compound that will bring this option closer to the medium rubber compound and make the harder option rear slicks a more desirable option among the works machines.”
Q. So like last year, Bridgestone will offer the same specification of tire to all the bikes on the grid, but for this season there will be a split in the compound choices available to CRT and works bikes?
HY: “Yes the construction of all the tires for the 2013 season will remain the same, only the compounds available to each specification of machine will differ. For this year there will be up to three rear slick options available for each race, with the CRT entries being able to select the softer and medium rear option, while the works bikes will select from the medium and harder options.
“We believe there is no need to develop a specific tire construction for CRT entries as our feedback from riders on these bikes is that the feel and behavior of the tires is excellent. However, we did have some CRT riders request a softer option of rear slick so we will be using our softer rubber compounds to make rear slick options that better suit these less powerful machines.
“This decision is also verified by the data from last year which showed that CRT riders didn’t select the harder rear option for the race very often, so after discussions with Dorna and the FIM it was clear that the most logical solution was to make separate tire choices available for works and CRT bikes.”
Q. Are there any other changes to the tire supply for MotoGP in 2013?
HY: “From a development perspective there won’t be any other changes, however, there will be a revision to the front and rear slick allocation to give riders greater flexibility when selecting their tires for the race weekend.
“In response to the increase in practice and qualifying sessions this season, each rider will be granted one extra rear slick tire in their allocation, bringing the total up to eleven rear slicks per rider. Also, a slight change has been made to the front tire allocation, with the extra-soft front option that was previously available but never used being dropped, allowing for riders to choose a greater number of front tires from the regular softer and harder options specified for each race.
“This revision to the front tire supply is being implemented following feedback we had from riders last year – they are very happy with our current generation of front slick but want the ability to select a greater number of the specification of tire they are more likely to use in a race setting.”
Q. From a personal perspective, what are you expecting for the upcoming season?
“There is so much to look forward to this season! We have talented riders moving into MotoGP and many established stars changing teams. Jorge will be determined to defend his title, but Dani showed last season he will be hard to beat, while Valentino moves back to the team he won two world championships with. Ducati have also put together an extremely strong team with four excellent riders, so I anticipate some fantastic racing this year.
“Of course, fans will watch with interest to see how the CRT teams develop in their second season. Last year we had new bikes, teams and riders coming together for the first time and so with a year of experience under their belt these teams should start to show their real potential. Also, the new practice and qualifying format should create a real competitive edge among the riders throughout all the sessions, so I think MotoGP fans are in for an exciting season.”