Chinese GP Debrief: Q+A with Tohru Ubukata Bridgestone saw the hoped-for return to winning ways at the Shanghai International Circuit in China last weekend with Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi scoring an impressive first victory of the ...
Chinese GP Debrief: Q+A with Tohru Ubukata
Bridgestone saw the hoped-for return to winning ways at the Shanghai International Circuit in China last weekend with Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi scoring an impressive first victory of the season and his first using Bridgestone tyres. Rossi set the fastest lap of the race, a record-breaking 1m59.273s, on lap 18 of 22.
Ducati's Casey Stoner also made a solid return to the podium with a third-placed finish, making it the second Chinese Grand Prix in succession with two Bridgestone-shod riders on the podium.
A total of six riders on Bridgestone tyres were able to claim top ten results in Bridgestone's most competitive showing of the season so far. Other notable performances came from Marco Melandri, who finished fifth for Ducati, Toni Elias in eighth for Alice Team, Loris Capirossi in ninth for Suzuki and Shinya Nakano tenth for Honda Gresini.
Q+A with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
Were the Chinese GP race results a good morale boost for Bridgestone?
"We have always been able to enjoy strong results in China, even though the track itself is very challenging. We never head to a grand prix venue expecting to get podiums or victories because the competition is very tough, but Valentino's win, Casey's third place and top ten results from several of our other teams certainly showed that our tyres worked well in Shanghai again. After a couple of difficult races, it was nice to see our riders in competitive form right from the very first practice session and able to be on the pace throughout the entire weekend."
Were you surprised by the lap times in the race?
"The lap times of Valentino and Dani were very fast in the final part of the race, and even quicker than the practice times. I was pleasantly surprised that our tyres were able to perform so strongly right up to the end of the race, and this is a testament to the work of our development engineers in Japan. In the fastest lap classification, Valentino was quickest, but with Casey third for Ducati, Toni fifth for Alice Team and Loris sixth for Suzuki, we were able to see competitive lap times by many of our teams."
Some riders were unable to recreate their practice pace in the race, was this related to tyre choice?
"The final tyre choice for the race is always made by our teams, but based on our recommendation. With the drying track conditions faced in China and track temperatures over 20 degrees cooler than during the practice sessions, we suggested to our teams to use medium compound rear tyres, which for most riders was one step softer than in the practice. Some riders were not able to recreate their practice pace, but we did not have any practice time in those track conditions, so it was not an easy situation. Nevertheless, I think all our teams should be commended for their adaptation in such changeable conditions."
Qualifying appeared to be another step ahead for Bridgestone, were the results within your targets?
"This was the first time this season that we have had two riders on the front row and it was a great qualifying performance from Valentino and Casey. The Suzuki riders also made big steps ahead with Loris and Chris in the top eight, their best qualifying results of the season so far. We brought new rear construction qualifiers to China which helped us improve the overall grid positions, even if the gap to pole position is still too much. Our rivals continue to perform very strongly in this area, so we must work even more, but we are getting there step by step."
How do you view the so-called tyre war after four events?
"There have been four different winners in the first four races, using both brands of tyre, so it is about as even as it could possibly be. There have been two victories using Bridgestone tyres with Casey in Qatar and now Valentino in China, so I believe we can be satisfied. The performance of both tyre manufacturers is at a very high level, as we have seen by the lap times and competitiveness in recent races, but this is the great thing about competition; we must keep up an aggressive rate of development for each and every race."