The final test session of 2007 drew to a close at the Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain today after three days of intensive work yielded useful results for Bridgestone ahead of the winter testing break.
Many riders have been busy acquainting themselves with new teams, new machinery and, in some cases, new rubber in preparation for next season with notable changes to the line-up of riders using Bridgestone tyres. Marco Melandri has joined Stoner at Ducati Corse, John Hopkins has moved to the Kawasaki Racing Team to partner Anthony West, Loris Capirossi has joined Chris Vermeulen at Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, Sylvain Guintoli and Toni Elias will be team-mates at Pramac d'Antin (to be known as the Alice Team), while Shinya Nakano and Alex de Angelis have joined forces at Honda Gresini.
Bridgestone has also started working with the Fiat Yamaha Team for the first time this week, supplying tyres for its rider Valentino Rossi, in anticipation of a new technical collaboration in 2008. Keeping a watchful eye from Japan, Manager of Bridgestone's Motorcycle Sport Unit, Hiroshi Yamada reviews the most recent test activities.
Mr. Yamada, what is Bridgestone's approach to post-season winter testing?
"As usual the post -season tests are all about teams working with new bikes, often with new riders and occasionally new tyres. We have to structure our testing programme to allow new riders sufficient time to adapt to new surroundings, while at the same time giving our existing riders development items to carry out with old and new machines. This year, we have seen a real combination of movements within the paddock. On the one hand, we have riders, like Casey Stoner and Chris Vermeulen, who continue in the same team on the same tyres, but the other extreme is when riders move to a new bike-tyre combination, for example Alex de Angelis. We also welcome back Shinya Nakano to the Bridgestone family as he joins De Angelis at Honda Gresini."
How have you approached testing for riders that have never used Bridgestone tyres before?
"We have two existing teams who welcome new riders with no previous experience of Bridgestone tyres; Honda Gresini with De Angelis and the Pramac d'Antin team with Sylvain Guintoli. Both have tested recently, Alex also this week in Jerez, and they seem to have adapted quickly to new circumstances. We have additionally started to work with the Yamaha factory team and Valentino Rossi, a new manufacturer and rider for us in MotoGP, so we have had a lot of important groundwork to cover in these last three days, the results of which have been promising."
How has Bridgestone started its work with Yamaha and Rossi?
"We started to gather data related to the performance of the Bridgestone tyres together with the Yamaha machine and rider. In this way, we start to create an accurate baseline from which we can best understand the direction we need to develop the tyres in accordance with our 2008 development strategy. At the same time, the team looks at how the set-up of the bike changes using Bridgestone tyres. So far, after these three days, we are happy with the test results and have obtained very useful data although Valentino is still recovering from his recent injuries. The addition of a fifth manufacturer to our team line-up will certainly give our technical centre in Japan an extra challenge over the coming winter months, as we look at the same time to further enhance the tyre performance with our existing five teams."
What progress has been made at testing in Jerez this week?
"Ducati, Kawasaki, Honda Gresini and Yamaha have all tested our tyres this weekwith encouraging results. The Spanish weather has given us valuable track time, although track temperatures were quite cool, especially in the morning. The opening day was focused mainly on the teams setting up their bikes for this Jerez track, but the final two days have allowed us to carry out development work on new constructions, shapes and compounds in preparation for next season. It is a real pleasure to work with the six teams and eleven riders that we expect to form the Bridgestone line-up in 2008, not forgetting the tremendous efforts of the Ducati test team and the test riders who play such an integral part in our tyre development."
What expectations do you have for 2008?
"Although there are several weeks of testing break, I can assure all of our teams that we will keep pushing back at the factory in Japan over the winter. Once testing resumes at the end of January next year, the 2008 model bikes will have been further developed based on these recent tests and we will have to fine-tune our tyres to create the most competitive overall package with each of our teams. It will be a lot of work for the teams and for us but we are certainly up for the challenge."