Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo was in dominant form at the season opening Qatar MotoGP, taking the race win from pole position ahead of teammate Valentino Rossi in second place and Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez in third.
Q&A with Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
Track conditions at Qatar were particularly dusty this year. What affect did this have on tyre performance? “The biggest outcome of the extra dust was that it caused lower than usual grip levels on the circuit, particularly during the early stages of the race weekend. Riders had to be very careful when they went off the racing line, but even on the racing line the grip levels were lower than last year.
“Sand is also quite abrasive and can cause excessive tyre wear, however analysis of used tyres showed that the tyres held up well with no abnormal wear characteristics. Graining is another phenomenon that can occur on cool, abrasive track surfaces but this was not a problem at this year at Qatar.”
Last year the majority of the grid selected the harder rear slick, this year every rider selected the softer option rear slick for the race. Can you explain why this happened? “The dustier than usual track conditions was the major contributor to the unanimous selection the softer rear slick, as in such challenging conditions riders will always want the highest level of warm-up performance and rear grip. However, there is always a trade-off between grip and durability and so the teams worked hard during free practice to find a setup to get consistent performance out of the softer rear slick over a race distance. They were able to do this and so all riders selected the softer rear slick for the race. If track conditions were better like last year, tyre choice for the race would have been different as some riders considered using the hard rear slick for the race after FP3. In the end, track conditions did not improve enough on Saturday and Sunday and teams decided to run the softer rear slick.
“All the teams and manufacturers have had a year to develop their bikes to work with the new family of Bridgestone MotoGP tyres that we introduced last year, so this is also a factor in why rear tyre choice was so different to last year. Another important thing to consider is that at Qatar last year, we had not yet introduced our new specification of front slick which is better matched to the current generation of rear slick. This year in Qatar, the better performance balance between the front and rear enabled teams to more efficiently utilise the softer rear slick option.”
The hard front slick was by far the preferred choice for riders. What advantage did this option offer at Qatar? “Qatar has an extreme braking zone at the end of the main straight which demands maximum stability from the front of the bike. There are certain sections, such as the sequence of right-hand turns through turns twelve to thirteen that also require good front-end stability. This is why the majority of the riders selected this option for the race, while others may personally prefer the slight advantage in edge grip offered by the softer option.”