Bridgestone preview season opener in the desert conditions of Qatar
Now established as the curtain-raiser for the MotoGP season, Qatar’s Losail International Circuit again heralds a return to action on 20 March for motorcycle racing’s top category and for Bridgestone who return as the Official Tyre Supplier to the premier class for the third year.
The Qatar Grand Prix, the season’s only night race, presents unique and unusual challenges for Bridgestone’s tyres. Night-time temperatures are relatively cool at below 25 degrees Celsius, meaning that softer tyre compounds are required to generate good grip and feeling for the riders. However tyre wear is relatively high because of the nature of the tarmac. Being located in the desert outside Qatar’s capital Doha, sand blown onto the circuit makes for a very abrasive surface, demanding harder tyre compounds in order to provide sufficient durability.
Bridgestone’s approach to these challenges remains unchanged from last year when tyre performance and rider feedback was good. This means the medium and extra hard compound slick tyres have been selected alongside the medium and hard rear slicks, to provide a balance of cool-weather performance and good wear resistance.
The circuit conditions also change throughout the course of each evening as the temperature starts to drop and the track becomes more slippery. The temperature differential can be sufficient to create high humidity and damp patches on track. This is one of the main reasons that the race this year, will start one hour earlier than in 2010, at 2200hrs local time. This year the MotoGP schedule has returned to three 45minute free practice sessions and one hour of qualifying. At Losail the first practice session gets underway on Thursday 17 March at 1955hrs local time.
Mikio Masunaga – Vice President and Official Member of the Board, Bridgestone Corporation "We send our deepest condolences to the people suffering from last week’s terrible Pacific Coast of Tohoku Earthquake Disaster. We sincerely hope that quality of life and a sense of normality can be restored for all those affected by this tragedy and the Bridgestone group promise to help with the all-out relief and recovery effort. At this moment, in the current situation, we are working hard to ensure our MotoGP tyre supply is unaffected and I am confident that we will achieve this. Many Japanese manufacturers and personnel are involved in MotoGP and our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families at this time. We will continue to provide our best support to all MotoGP teams and riders throughout 2011.”
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department “This is perhaps the most publicised start to a season in recent times because of all the rider and team changes and I think we are in for a very exciting opening race and whole year. Last year, our tyre allocation process worked fairly and was well supported by everyone, so we will keep it the same this year. Pre-season testing has gone well, so I am confident of another strong season as the Official Tyre Supplier to MotoGP, in which we hope to continue playing our part in making the racing exciting and giving the riders safe and predictable tyres."
Hirohide Hamashima – Director, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development “The Qatar GP is a totally different challenge for us because it is the only race of the year to be run at night and in the desert. By the time the bikes are on track under the spotlights, the track temperature are around the lowest of the year in dry conditions, but the desert sand often blows across the circuit. The sand is not like you’d find on a beach, but more closely resembles a powder, which makes the surface slippery yet very abrasive, which is a difficult situation to deal with. It is very tough for our tyres, as they have to be soft enough to provide grip with the low track temperature, but hard enough to resist wear and graining and have sufficient strength to cope with the heavy braking points.
“This is the reason that we have selected the medium and extra hard compound front slick tyres for Losail, instead of the usual consecutive pair of compounds. The medium compound gives good grip in the cool conditions when the track is clean, but when the track gets sandy, the additional hardness of the extra hard compound provides the necessary durability and wear resistance to consistently cover race distance without graining.”