Japanese GP - Bridgestone Post-Race Debrief
Q+A with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Racing
Bridgestone capped off a trouble-free weekend with its third victory of the season after Ducati's Loris Capirossi rode to his second consecutive Motegi win last Sunday. The success makes 2006 Bridgestone's most successful season ever since its debut in the racing category back in 2002 with three wins, nine podiums and six poles. Bridgestone's Motorcycle Racing Manager Hiroshi Yamada looks back on an historic weekend for the Japanese tyre manufacturer.
Mr. Yamada, a perfect end to a competitive weekend for Bridgestone in the Japanese GP?
"There were many positive aspects to our Japanese GP weekend, not least Loris and Ducati's dominant pole position and convincing race victory. The end result was particularly pleasing given that it marked our third consecutive Motegi win and our third win of 2006 to make it Bridgestone's most successful season ever since our racing debut in MotoGP back in 2002. Loris's win was also the ninth individual podium result of the season, one more than our total from 2005 with two races of this season still to go--"
Was the competitiveness of the Bridgestone rubber apparent as early as Friday?
"There were certainly some encouraging signs from the two free practice sessions on Friday, as each of our three teams worked on different aspects of qualifying and race preparation. In the afternoon session, the timesheets were quite mixed as some riders conducted qualifying simulation and some focussed solely on race tyres, but it was clear to see that our range of tyre specifications and compounds were competitive with each of our three teams."
How meaningful is it to use qualifying tyres on Friday afternoon?
"The priority with our teams on Friday is to evaluate race tyres and to ensure that we have a solid foundation for the rest of the weekend. However, qualifying is becoming increasingly important, so we can not always wait until Saturday afternoon to harmonise the bike-tyre package for those few important qualifying laps. Saturday morning practice will usually be cooler and less representative for the qualifying session, so we occasionally use Friday afternoon to simulate qualifying runs. Not all our teams use this opportunity, but Suzuki and Kawasaki did in Motegi, which was also of benefit to their wildcard entries."
Did Bridgestone derive any benefit from the two wildcard riders in Motegi?
"The wildcards that raced in Motegi, Kousuke Akiyoshi for Suzuki and Naoki Matsudo for Kawasaki, are primarily test riders. Their concern for Friday was to get a good feeling with their bike around the track and to acclimatise themselves to race conditions. They did a commendable job all weekend, but it was mainly the job of regular riders to evaluate race tyres on Friday in preparation for the race.
Did the threat of the typhoon or rain affect strategy in anyway?
"Since Malaysia, when qualifying was cancelled due to rain, I think a lot of teams have become slightly more cautious when it comes to setting qualifying laps. The typhoon threat disappeared quite quickly on Friday, but when dark clouds appeared at the start of qualifying, some teams decided to set a "safe" qualifying lap in the early part of the session in case the rain started mid-way through the session."
Were you surprised by Loris Capirossi's impressive pole position time?
"We knew that the Ducati-Bridgestone package was strong in Motegi, as demonstrated by their race win in 2005 and I was confident for Loris to set a fast qualifying time. To go seven-tenths quicker than last year was phenomenal, but the performance of Shinya, Sete and Randy who all qualified in the top eight, really underlined the overall strength of the Bridgestone tyres."
How much pressure was there to get a race win in front of the Bridgestone employees and guests?
"There is always a strong will to perform well and to challenge for the win, but Motegi is special because it is our home event. We have a good record there and having been runners-up in Malaysia and Australia, we really wanted to take that third victory of the season. It was close in the opening laps with a challenge from Marco, but once Loris started to build up a gap he was soon unbeatable. It was another trademark Loris performance all weekend. However, we must also acknowledge Sete who rode well to fourth and Shinya who was consistent throughout the whole weekend and the race, although he lost fifth place on the last lap. Again, all three of our teams were able to show the potential of their package on Bridgestone tyres in Motegi and our 700-plus guests surely enjoyed the event."