A busy three-day test session came to a close at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia on Thursday with the entire complement of Bridgestone-shod teams and riders in action at this opening MotoGP test of the 2008 season. Work was centred...
A busy three-day test session came to a close at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia on Thursday with the entire complement of Bridgestone-shod teams and riders in action at this opening MotoGP test of the 2008 season.
Work was centred on initial development of Bridgestone's latest generation tyres, including an exhaustive programme of front and rear tyre evaluation, as well as testing of qualifying rubber, and race simulation runs, all of which has left Bridgestone's Japanese technicians with valuable data at this comparatively early stage of the season.
The quickest time of the week was set by Honda's Nicky Hayden, a 2m00.326s recorded on the final day, just ahead of reigning champion Casey Stoner who got his year underway in style with a 2m00.660s on qualifying tyres and an impressive 2m00.964s on race tyres, 1.2s quicker than his official lap record from last year's Malaysian GP.
Many riders made their first appearances in 2008 liveries with Marco Melandri in Ducati red and Loris Capirossi in Suzuki blue, while the newly-named Alice Team also made its debut. New to Bridgestone tyres in 2008 are Alice Team rider Sylvain Guintoli, Yamaha's Valentino Rossi and Honda Gresini debutant Alex de Angelis, while the latter's team-mate Shinya Nakano returns to using Bridgestone tyres after a one-year hiatus.
Most Bridgestone-supported teams now move to Phillip Island in Australia for a three-day test which is scheduled for 30-31 January and 1 February next week.
Q+A with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
Q: What has Bridgestone's main area of focus been over the winter months?
TU: "Since the last test of 2007, which was in Jerez back in November, we have carefully analysed all of our work from last season, as well as the results from post-season testing, to find a competitive step ahead in all areas for this season. Specifically, we have been looking at further improvements to the overall grip of our front and rear race tyres and improving the consistency of our tyres year-on-year. Another important area has been improving our qualifying tyre performance, something that we struggled with during 2007."
Q: What has been Bridgestone's testing programme for this first test of 2008?
TU: "Our target this week has been to extensively evaluate a wide range of compounds, constructions and shapes which will form the basis of our 2008 campaign. We bought around 1,000 tyres to test and we have carried out a lot of detailed work in order to determine the best direction for further development. We also tried some new qualifying tyres but we are still looking for the necessary improvement to close the gap to our rivals. We now understand what is required in this area and we have some good information, which is a very positive point from this week's test."
Q: What are the next developments and the plan for Phillip Island next week?
TU: "We will continue in Phillip Island where we left off in Sepang, so that we can best prepare ourselves for the IRTA test in Jerez in mid February. We have more work to do on our compound, construction and shape evaluation at a technically complicated and high-speed circuit such as Phillip Island. Our teams will also continue development of their new machines so that we can work in parallel to harmonise the bike-tyre package."
Q: Is it easy to draw conclusions after this test?
TU: "It is never easy nor really accurate to draw conclusions after one test, but the results do give some early indications that the MotoGP field is very competitive already. The competition looks set to be very tough this season, so we are not taking anything as guaranteed. From a tyre point of view, we expect a big effort from our very experienced rivals, but we are working hard to find the best direction for our season development to give our teams the most competitive tyres possible at all times."