Bridgestone motorcycle program takes on WGP 500 challenge

Buoyed by its success in other areas of competition, the Bridgestone motorcycle racing program will take on what many consider to be the pinnacle and ultimate challenge of the sport - World Grand Prix 500cc racing. Bob Graham, Manager of ...

Buoyed by its success in other areas of competition, the Bridgestone motorcycle racing program will take on what many consider to be the pinnacle and ultimate challenge of the sport - World Grand Prix 500cc racing.

Bob Graham, Manager of Bridgestone/Firestone Motorcycle and Kart programs, said the entry to the World Grand Prix 500cc arena "sends a powerful message about the technological capabilities of Bridgestone tires."

"We've been involved with World Grand Prix 125cc motorcycle racing since 1991, and have earned an excellent reputation in that competition," Graham said. "By moving up to the more powerful 500cc class, we're going to demonstrate to more people around the world just how serious we are about winning in the top forms of racing. This move to compete in the top forms of motorcycle racing complements our efforts in the open-wheel automobile motorsports arena, where drivers on Bridgestone and Firestone tires have earned top honors."

In 2000, Bridgestone- and Firestone-equipped drivers made a clean sweep of the world's top open-wheel racing competitions. The FIA Formula One World driver's championship was earned by Michael Schumacher on Bridgestone Potenza tires, while the Championship Auto Racing Teams title was won by Gil de Ferran on Firestone tires, as was the driver's championship in the Indy Racing League (earned by Buddy Lazier).

Another Bridgestone/Firestone success in 2000 was the performance of its Dayton brand tires in the Dayton Indy Lights championship.

Successes in the two-wheel world were highlighted by Jeremy McGrath winning his seventh AMA 250 Supercross title, riding a Bridgestone-shod Yamaha, while rising star Ricky Carmichael captured the AMA 250 National Motorcross series title. Bridgestone also took top honors in the FIA Formula Super A Karting Championship in Portugal with Italian rider Davide Fore.

"The first of 11 planned testing sessions for the tires in the 500cc competition is set for Thursday of this week (Jan. 18) at Spain's Jerez circuit," Graham said. "Kanemoto Racing is assisting in our testing efforts, using NSR500 machines manufactured by Honda Racing. Our riders for this testing include Nobuatsu Aoki and Shinichi Ito. Aoki has been in 500cc competition since 1997, after four seasons in 250cc racing. Ito competed in WGP 500cc racing from 1993 to 1996, and won the Japan Super Bike Series in 1998."

Graham said the more powerful 500cc machines place greater performance demands on tires than the 125cc motorcycles, affecting the testing process.

"Fortunately we're not totally unfamiliar with 500cc machines," he said. "While we haven't competed in WGP 500cc racing, Bridgestone tires have been used in the 500cc All Japan Road Race Championship in the 1980s and 1990s. This experience, coupled with our research in developing tires for the 125cc competition, puts us ahead of the learning curve."

Graham said the status of the testing and development work will determine the date when actual racing will begin. Thirty-eight people have been assigned to the project, headed by Akira Inoue, vice president of tire development at Bridgestone's Tokyo Technical Center.

"Just as in Formula One, CART, IRL and other series, we make sure our tires are ready before we jump into the fray of competition," he said. "We don't go racing as a hobby; we race to win. When we're confident our tires are ready for the competition, we'll start racing."

Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is the largest subsidiary of Bridgestone Corporation, the world's largest tire and rubber company. Bridgestone/Firestone develops, manufactures and markets Bridgestone, Firestone, Dayton and associate and private brand tires. The company also produces Firestone air springs, roofing materials, synthetic rubber and industrial fibers and textiles.

-Woody McMillin

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About this article
Series Automotive , MotoGP
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Buddy Lazier , Gil de Ferran , Davide Fore , Ricky Carmichael , Jeremy McGrath , Nobuatsu Aoki , Shinichi Ito