Q+A with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Sport Tuesday 12 June 2007
Closely fought battles in the last two MotoGP events, back-to-back races in Italy and Catalunya, have raised the tension at the head of the MotoGP championship with Valentino Rossi taking the victory in Mugello and Bridgestone-shod Ducati rider Casey Stoner excelling at the Circuit de Catalunya last weekend to take his lead of the classification to 14 points after seven races. Stoner's Catalan win, his fourth victory of the season, took the total number of wins on Bridgestone tyres this year to five so far while all five of Bridgestone's teams for 2007 claimed important results for their championship challenges.
An exhilarating set of back-to-back races, Mr. Yamada, what is your view on Bridgestone's performances?
"These last two races in Mugello and Catalunya are two tracks where rider talent undoubtedly played a big part, but of course in order for them to win races, they must also have a race winning package, including competitive and consistent tyres over the race distance. Valentino Rossi has always been the man to beat at these tracks, so to see Casey Stoner victorious in Catalunya last weekend was a very emotional and important result for us. No rider has ever taken a MotoGP podium there on Bridgestone tyres in the past, so the win was really a pleasure and a result of the maturity and sheer competitiveness shown by Casey and Ducati this season."
In addition to Ducati, how have you rated the performance from Bridgestone's other teams?
"I believe all of our teams have performed valiantly in these last two races with some very strong points scoring results. Suzuki continue to show strong form with top eight performances from both John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen in Mugello and Catalunya. The Pramac d'Antin team scored a well deserved podium in Mugello with a fine ride from Alex Barros, who became the seventh different Bridgestone-shod rider to score a podium this year. Honda Gresini have been unlucky but Marco's solid results have retained his fourth place in the championship while Toni was unlucky not to challenge for a top five result in his home GP last weekend. Finally, the Kawasaki team scored a great result in Catalunya with Randy de Puniet transforming a front row grid position into fifth place in the race. These results demonstrate the strength in depth of Bridgestone's teams this year."
Where do you see the balance of power between the tyre manufacturers as this European season unfolds?
"The level of competition is extremely high at the moment between bike and tyre manufacturers and the riders themselves. Last year we struggled a lot with the consistency and durability of our tyres over race distance at certain tracks, something that we have worked hard on to improve this year. I believe these improvements have been a real benefit to our riders in races like Mugello and Catalunya, allowing them to fight for the top positions right up to the chequered flag. As the so-called 'tyre war' intensifies, we are aware that our rivals are working hard but we must simply continue pushing ahead with our aggressive tyre development plan in an effort to continue the momentum we have built up in the first seven races."
De Puniet's second place on the grid in Catalunya would indicate that Bridgestone has made good progress in qualifying and you must have been pleased with Stoner getting your first pole position of 2007 in Mugello?
"We acknowledged qualifying performance as an area to improve as early as the pre-season IRTA test and we are always looking at improving our one-lap qualifying tyres. Although qualifying is not as important as the race performance, starting high up the grid is certainly an advantage through the crucial opening corners. Recently our qualifying performance has improved. Casey's pole in Mugello, albeit in wet-damp conditions, represented the first pole of the season on our tyres which was a very satisfying result. Randy's qualifying lap in Catalunya was very special and he took everyone a bit by surprise but it was a well deserved result for both him and the Kawasaki team and followed up with an equally impressive race result."