Q+A with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Sport Unit The final intercontinental races of the 2007 MotoGP season saw recently-crowned champion Casey Stoner take consecutive victories aboard his ...
Q+A with Hiroshi Yamada - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Sport Unit
The final intercontinental races of the 2007 MotoGP season saw recently-crowned champion Casey Stoner take consecutive victories aboard his Bridgestone-shod Ducati, the first in his home grand prix at Phillip Island and the latest in Sepang, which took his season tally to an impressive ten wins in 17 starts.
Two other riders using Bridgestone tyres claimed podium results in this latest set of back-to-back races with Stoner's team-mate and Japanese GP victor Loris Capirossi finishing second in Australia, while Honda Gresini's Marco Melandri added a third podium to his 2007 collection with an excellent second in Sepang.
Competition among bike and tyre manufacturers was close in both rounds but the technical demands of Phillip Island and the uncertainties of a resurfaced circuit in Sepang made life tough for tyre manufacturers in these penultimate events of the year.
Mr. Yamada, with the championship decided, how important was it for Bridgestone to win at Phillip Island?
"We always enter each race weekend with same mentality, to challenge for victory with our teams and riders. Australia was still a very important championship race, for Ducati especially, because the manufacturers' title was still open. It was also the home race for three riders on our tyres, Casey, Chris and Anthony, so there was a lot of extra motivation for a good result. Phillip Island is one of the most demanding circuits on the calendar for tyres and we have never seen a rider on Bridgestone tyres win there, so Casey's victory this year was an historic achievement for us. With Loris in second place, it was the first Ducati 1-2 since Valencia 2006, which helped them take a clean sweep of the championships in style, and deservedly so after such a dominant season."
Moving on to Malaysia, with totally new track surface, what expectations did Bridgestone have?
"We came to Sepang knowing that it had been resurfaced earlier this year. The basic characteristics of the track remained the same though with two long straights and anticipated high temperatures, which usually require harder compound tyres to be used. On Friday, we started to get a clearer picture of the track's behaviour, even if the circuits had not fully 'rubbered in' yet. The new asphalt appeared quite abrasive and a lot of riders found it quite slippery. Nevertheless, the performance of the harder specification tyres gave very good initial results. We were unable to carry out any really long runs in practice, so the durability did remain a question mark before the race, especially with the very hot temperatures that we had on Sunday afternoon."
Were you surprised by the competitiveness in the race?
"Based on the Saturday practice times, there were some riders who were setting times in the low-mid 2m02s, including many Bridgestone-shod riders, so we were quite optimistic for the race. There were some very quick lap times in the race itself and the top riders were all lapping within tenths or even hundredths of a second of each other. Our rivals were strong and it is quite clear that the level of performance, in both dry and wet conditions, among the bike and tyre manufacturers has been very close, especially in recent races. The race itself was 4 seconds quicker than last year, in spite of the drop from 990 to 800cc machines. We saw in pre-season testing that the 800s were lapping quickly, but with the new asphalt as well, it was surprising to see just how competitive the race was."
What contribution do you think Bridgestone has made to the Stoner and Ducati successes this year?
"The tyres, bike and rider must all work in unison to win races. In the past, our tyres have been competitive at some tracks, but we have lacked the consistency during the season. I think that the improved performance of our tyres at most circuits this season has played an important part, but it has been the overall package that has won the championship, above all the supreme riding skills of Casey Stoner. Casey has won ten races from 17 this year and we cannot say that is because of just bike or just tyres, but it is more simply because he is the rider to beat this season."