The Bridgestone F1 Story with Hiroshi Yasukawa - Part 2 Instrumental in creating Bridgestone Motorsport and bringing the great Japanese brand into the arena of Formula 1, Hiroshi Yasukawa has worked for Bridgestone since graduating from...
The Bridgestone F1 Story with Hiroshi Yasukawa - Part 2
Instrumental in creating Bridgestone Motorsport and bringing the great Japanese brand into the arena of Formula 1, Hiroshi Yasukawa has worked for Bridgestone since graduating from university with an economics degree.
After a brief motor racing programme of his own, Yasukawa realised the importance of motor sport and how it could bring the Bridgestone brand to a worldwide audience and show that the qualities of the product which were well known and respected in the home market also bore close scrutiny on the world stage.
Now Director of Bridgestone Motorsport, Hiroshi Yasukawa offers a fascinating insight into how Bridgestone's motorsport division came into being in a three-part feature. Here, in Part Two, Yasukawa discusses the early days of Bridgestone Motorsport.
In 1976 Bridgestone decided to enter motorsport again and I became involved in this. We supplied tyres for some small teams for the 1976 and 1977 Japanese Grands Prix at Fuji. At the time the motorsport department was very small, just me, a member of senior management and a very old engineer.
Initially, our marketing department was going to just support the 1976 race with sponsorship. I disagreed with this and said we needed to make tyres too. This was a difficult challenge as our department was only formed in July and the race was in November. My arguments worked and we were given the go ahead to make tyres for the event.
In actual fact, our engineering department had already started making the tyres and even though we only supplied tyres to some small teams in the race the Japanese driver Hoshino ran as high as third position in the extremely wet conditions. We took a lot of tyres for the teams but unfortunately Hoshino's team did not have sufficient wheels for there to be enough wet and dry tyres fitted to cover the conditions. Despite this, it was a strong start for us.
In 1977 we entered again but that year there were two deaths at the circuit after Villeneuve's Ferrari left the track. After this, there was no further Japanese Grand Prix until 1986, and that stopped our Grand Prix participation.
When we founded Bridgestone Motorsport Aguri Suzuki's father had given me some advice. He said, 'Hiroshi, it is better to produce kart tyres: if a child drives on Bridgestone tyres when they get older they will remember Bridgestone tyres and buy them'.
This is the same principle used by our founder Mr Ishibashi when he decided to produce bicycles for young children. As the concept was the same, the company accepted the logic and we concentrated on making kart tyres.
In 1977 the first world cup kart series occurred in Sugo and this was the first time I met Ayrton Senna. At the time he used Dunlop tyres but over time we developed a very good relationship and eventually he used Bridgestone tyres.
Senna was fantastic. At that time he was 16 or 17 years old, but he came from Sao Paulo to Japan, just himself and a kart. He could not speak Japanese, and not many Japanese people could speak English, so the communication between us was quite amusing.
His impact was very strong though. At that time other karters just wore black rider suits and plain helmets, but Ayrton's kart was very well turned out: he was good looking and he had a bright yellow race helmet. We all took notice and it was obvious that he was a special talent.
Our motor sport department grew and we made many tyres for different categories, but all of these were mainly in Japan like the Formula 2000 and Grand Championship Series for sports cars. At the time we were using cross ply technology for our racing tyres, so a major project for us was to change to radial tyre technology.