Bridgestone GP Briefing - Round 9: Netherlands
MotoGP heads to one of its most historic race venues this weekend as the Assen circuit plays host to the Dutch TT, the halfway point of this season's exhilarating championship.
Ducati Corse's Casey Stoner leads the championship by 26 points after a dominant race victory around the Donington Park circuit in Britain last weekend, intelligently using his Bridgestone wet weather tyres in the wet-drying conditions over thirty long race laps on Sunday. With more rain forecast for this weekend's Assen event, riders will be looking to draw from the valuable wet running in Britain in preparation for Saturday's Dutch GP.
Assen has played host to an annual premier class event since the championship's inception back in 1949 at which time it was one of just six events on the calendar and was run on a 16.5km road course. Since its move to a circuit configuration in 1955, the track has been frequently modified, most recently in time for last year's race, a revamp which reduced the lap length from 6km to its latest 4.555km form.
Bridgestone will be looking to continue its competitive form in the 2007 season and to consolidate its best ever Assen result from last season when Suzuki's John Hopkins secured his maiden MotoGP pole position and Shinya Nakano finished a strong second in the race for Kawasaki.
Tyre Talk with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Sport Department
What technical challenges does the new-look Assen circuit offer tyre manufacturers?
"In some ways, the new Assen track is a bit like Donington with a higher proportion of right-hand corners to left-handers. This will again place a lot of importance on the warm-up performance of the tyres on the left-hand side. The asphalt is not the same all round the 4.5km lap because the first sector has been notably altered recently and has resulted in a very tight, slow section which is quite reminiscent of the first corners at Shanghai. After that we are faced with a series of tricky 90-degree angle corners which are one of the unique aspects of the Assen layout." What lessons did Bridgestone learn from last year's debut race at the revised, shorter Assen? "The biggest issue that we faced in last season's Assen race was tyre degradation and inconsistency over the race distance, even if Shinya and Kawasaki did a very good job to finish in second place. The right-hand side of the tyre is punished quite a lot and it is this area which is our real focus. We have not experienced too many degradation issues this season and overall our race tyres have been regularly competitive with all of our five teams, but we must treat each circuit on its own and not take anything for granted."
Does Bridgestone have anything new for Assen?
"We will be bringing medium and hard compound rears to Assen in an effort to counter the degradation levels we saw last year. We were able to evaluate our new 16'' rear tyres in Donington and some teams indicated their intention to race with them had it been dry on Sunday afternoon. The track characteristics could suit better the 16'' rear tyres because it gives some teams more stability and traction with their machines, which is helpful in Assen. Qualifying is important too because the track does not offer as many overtaking opportunities, so we will have new compounds for our qualifiers which were assessed in the post Catalunya test. We may even see teams opt for more qualifying tyres in their allocation of 17 rear tyres, but, like Donington, rain is predicted, so it is possible our wet weather tyres will get even more track time this weekend."
Riding Perspective with Kawasaki's Anthony West
"My first race in MotoGP was amazing. Everything was new: the team, the way that the bike and tyres work. I was really nervous at the beginning but lap after lap I felt more and more comfortable. The performance of the Kawasaki and Bridgestones is amazing. It was quite cold and slippery, not the best conditions for tyres, and I also had very few hours on the bike but the Bridgestone tyres felt really good, especially in the wet it is incredible how much grip you can get. But the biggest surprise were the qualifying tyres. I didn't know what to expect and it was just unbelievable! It is amazing how much grip they have but you need to get used to the feeling first to take advantage of it during the only lap you have. I like Assen's track and I have as well good memories from there as I won my first GP race in 2003 riding a 250cc. It used to be really fast and flowing track. The first part was changed and it lost a bit of the magic but the last part, the nicest one, remains the same. There are some corners that you can go in there really hard. I am really looking forward to ride around there with the Ninja ZX-RR. I would like to go there and be fast but still there is a lot to learn and I need more time. The aim is just to go there and do the same good job we did in Donington, improving session after session. I am still getting used to the whole thing and it is going to take a while yet but I am having a lot of fun at the moment and it is all good."