Round 14 of this year's MotoGP championship takes place at the technically demanding Estoril circuit in Portugal this weekend with Bridgestone-shod Ducati rider Casey Stoner leading the riders' classification with an impressive 85 point margin...
Round 14 of this year's MotoGP championship takes place at the technically demanding Estoril circuit in Portugal this weekend with Bridgestone-shod Ducati rider Casey Stoner leading the riders' classification with an impressive 85 point margin with just 125 points still up for grabs in the final five events of the season.
Portugal was one of the hardest race weekends for Bridgestone last season with Suzuki rider John Hopkins the top Bridgestone-shod rider in sixth position. Bridgestone heads to Estoril in 2007 having seen nine wins on its tyres this season courtesy of Stoner (eight wins) and Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen (one win) who, along with Hopkins, swept the podium places at the San Marino/Rimini GP less than two weeks ago.
Bridgestone has already successfully tackled previously troublesome tracks this season with wins on its tyres in Qatar, Turkey and Britain, circuits which, together with Estoril, were flagged up by the tyre manufacturer before the season as crucial venues for improvement. In spite of recent successes, Bridgestone is still taking each race one at a time, simply hoping once again to demonstrate a significant year-on-year increase in the performance of its range of tyres.
Tyre Talk with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Sport Unit
What challenges will tyre manufacturers face this weekend in Estoril?
"The Estoril track is arguably one of the most technical on the calendar with a big disproportion of left and right hand corners, four left and nine right. The slower speed left handers combine with faster right-hand corners all of which are joined by a 1km-long start-finish straight meaning all aspects of tyre and bike performance are put to the test. The track was partially resurfaced ahead of last year's event, so this year we will need to put into practice the lessons we learned from that experience."
Last year's Estoril race weekend was very tough for Bridgestone, what are your expectations this season?
"Bridgestone riders generally struggled last year as our tyres did not produce a sufficient level of consistency over the full race distance, mainly due to complications caused by the parts of the track with new asphalt. We had similar experiences at tracks like Doha, Istanbul and Donington last year, but we have seen a big increase in tyre performance at these circuits this season. Casey and Ducati won in Qatar, while we saw three Bridgestone-shod riders on the podium in Turkey. In Britain, although the race was held in wet conditions, we were pleased with the tyre performance in dry practice which indicated that important progress had been made at this track. I am hopeful of continuing this trend in Estoril this weekend."
Does Casey Stoner's increasing grip on the championship add pressure on Bridgestone to perform?
"With five events still to run this year, we are still working on a race-by-race basis, looking at the specific track characteristics and developing our range of tyres accordingly. Of course we look at championship positions, but this should not alter our working methods. Our aim is always to produce the most competitive tyres for each of our five teams and to help our riders extract the most out of their bike-tyre package."
Riding Perspective with Alex Barros (Pramac d'Antin)
"Last time I raced at Estoril was back in 2005 and I won the MotoGP event that season. It is a track which I have good memories of, so I hope to be competitive again this year aboard the Pramac d'Antin Ducati. One of the most characteristic points of the Estoril circuit is its long start-finish straight, so I hope the Ducati could have an advantage in terms of power output and engine performance. I know this track very well and I hope I can use my experience to get a good result this weekend. From a tyre point of view, Bridgestone is the first to admit that Estoril was one of their weakest tracks last year, but Bridgestone has already proven this season that they have improved at previously difficult tracks. Donington Park was a good example of this, they won the race in the wet and in the dry conditions on Saturday the performance was very competitive. So I believe we will not have any weak points in Portugal either and I'm sure Bridgestone will be able to continue in a competitive way."