Catalunya MotoGP Bridgestone Tire Debrief

Grip Level Issues at Catalunya MotoGP | Analysis
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo

When track temperatures reach over 120 degrees (F), motorcycle-grip levels become a major issue. High track temps cause even more of an issue on the old tarmac at the Catalunya-Barcelona Circuit, which hosted round seven of 2015 MotoGP this past weekend.

And race conditions were hot – over 130 degrees (F) – causing major issues for the Bridgestone staff and teams. This was nearly 60 degrees hotter than last year’s Catalunya MotoGP, though lap times were quicker, which shows the ever-advancing technology of the spec-Bridgestone rubber.

Conditions were cooler on Saturday when Suzuki Team Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro earned the Catalunya MotoGP pole aboard the GSX-RR with a new Circuit Best Lap record of 1:40.546; this was Suzuki’s first pole since 2007 (Chris Vermuelen, Assen). The previous Best Lap was actually beaten by four riders.

Come race day, and conditions were the hottest of the weekend. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo appeared unfazed by the conditions, earning his fourth-straight win of 2015 aboard the dominate YZR-M1. The two-time MotoGP Champion was joined on the Catalunya MotoGP podium by teammate Valentino Rossi, who has perfect-podium record so far this season, and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.

Following is some technical analysis of Catalunya MotoGP from a tire perspective with Shinji Aoki, Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tire Development Department.

Q. Many riders were complaining about the state of the track last weekend, how did Bridgestone help the riders manage the difficult conditions at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya?

Shinji Aoki says: “We were well prepared for this weekend as for a while now, the condition of the track surface at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has been getting worse every year. As there was no resurfacing work taken since last year’s race, we knew we could expect even poorer conditions in 2015.

“The two biggest issues with the track is the low grip level of the tarmac and the large bumps, particularly in the braking zones. We took this into consideration when planning our tire allocation for this race and optimized the rear tyre options for this race with softer compounds – two of three rear slick options at this year’s Catalan Grand Prix were softer than last year.

“These softer rear slick options helped compensate for the lack of grip provided by the track surface. One major point to consider is that the track temperature for the race this year was 55°C, which was 15 degrees more than last year’s race. Generally when track temperatures reach over 50 degrees, the grip level of the tarmac is reduced considerably, and this is especially the case at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. So the track condition for this year’s race was much worse than last year, but the total race time was 3.7 seconds faster than last year which is an excellent result for us!”

Q. The hard compound front slick you brought to Catalunya MotoGP was only used by four riders for the race. Were you expecting this option to be used by more riders for the race?

Shinji Aoki says: “The hard specification front slick we provided last weekend was the first time this option was available at the Catalan Grand Prix. In fact, this specification of front slick was first tested at the post-race test at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last year and due to the positive reception it received then, we decided to include it in our allocation.

“This new hard front slick is an improvement over the previous hard front slick and we knew it would work better at the challenging Montmeló circuit. However, although the hard front slick performed better than its predecessor, the continual degradation of the track surface meant the medium compound front slick was the preferred option for the majority of the riders. This is mainly due to the better bump absorption it offered in the braking zones, and better edge grip which helped cornering performance. It seems the four factory Ducati riders preferred the greater stability and durability offered by the hard compound front slick.”

Q. On the Monday following the Catalan Grand Prix Bridgestone supported riders at a MotoGP group test. For how long will Bridgestone continue to support teams during testing throughout the 2015 season?

Shinji Aoki says: “We will continue to support teams in private testing until August, but the group test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was the last group test Bridgestone will support this year. We now have enough data to ensure we can provide the best possible support to the teams at the remaining eleven rounds this year and still have some new developments that we will introduce later in the season. This is all part of our goal to ensure that our final year in MotoGP concludes in the best way possible.”