Bridgestone Motorsport is preparing to kick-start its 2007 MotoGP season in the best way possible as the final pre-season test gets underway in Jerez, Spain today. After its most successful season to date last year, Bridgestone has bolstered its...
Bridgestone Motorsport is preparing to kick-start its 2007 MotoGP season in the best way possible as the final pre-season test gets underway in Jerez, Spain today.
After its most successful season to date last year, Bridgestone has bolstered its MotoGP activities over the winter with new teams and riders and a streamlined motorsport management structure as the Japanese tyre manufacturer begins its sixth season at the pinnacle of motorcycle racing.
In 2006, Bridgestone-shod riders claimed a total of four victories, frequented the podium on 11 occasions and took pole positions six times in the 17 events that comprised the championship. Ducati's Loris Capirossi scored a hat-trick of victories on his way to a determined third in the rider's championship, underlining the full potential of Bridgestone's MotoGP tyres over the course of the season.
For 2007, Bridgestone has seen an increase in the number of teams it supplies from three to five. In addition to its existing, strong relationships with the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, Kawasaki Racing and Ducati Marlboro teams, Bridgestone is also working with Honda Gresini and Pramac D'Antin, further enhancing its team and rider portfolio for the coming season.
"I believe we will really benefit from having such a strong, complete team and rider line-up this season," explains Manager of Bridgestone's Motorcycle Sport department, Hiroshi Yamada. "We can draw on many years experience with Kawasaki, Suzuki and Ducati as we further develop our tyres for 2007. We have already seen significant improvements in the off-season testing with some exceptional testing times being recorded by all three teams. We have also been able to accrue extra data through our newly-established relationships with Honda Gresini and Pramac D'Antin. We welcome both of these teams to the Bridgestone family and look forward to helping them in their championship endeavours this season."
Bridgestone's global motorsport activities have been streamlined over the winter months. The MotoGP programme, which was formerly under the control of the motorcycle tyre sales department, has now been moved under the management of the motorsport department.
Director of Bridgestone Motorsport, Mr. Hiroshi Yasukawa and Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development, Mr. Hirohide Hamashima will head up Bridgestone's MotoGP activities, in addition to their existing duties in Formula 1 and GP2. Hiroshi Yamada remains Manager of the renamed Motorcycle Sport department, where his responsibility is now concentrated fully on MotoGP.
The decision to bring together four-wheeled and two-wheeled motorsport activities is a deliberate move to reflect Bridgestone's unified approach to global racing. The move will allow a greater exchange of racing knowledge and experience, which in turn will drive forward tyre technology on the race track and ultimately on the road.
MotoGP tyre development for the coming season has been largely influenced by the introduction of new less-powerful 800cc machines for 2007, in addition to the implementation of new tyre restrictions during the GP weekend.
Yamada explains: "The new tyre regulations for this year will mean that tyre manufacturers will have to do their homework more thoroughly than ever before. Riders will only be able to use 31 tyres per weekend and these must be selected at the very start of the GP weekend. Qualifying tyres are also part of the strict 31 tyre limit, so we will have to find a compromise between our qualifying and race preparations to make sure we do not over-compensate in either direction. We have developed solid foundations with our five teams over the winter tests, so we can adapt quickly to these regulations with their support."
Tests with the 800cc machines have yielded unexpected surprises with some exceptionally quick lap times. The reduced power output that lowers top speed has been compensated by increased cornering speeds leaving the 800cc bikes quicker at some circuits than their 990cc predecessors.
"In initial tests with the 800s, our standard 2006-spec tyres already worked well," says Yamada. "But it was quickly apparent that the faster cornering speeds would change the focus of tyre development. We have had to look at enhancing edge grip but at the same time address problems we had at specific tracks last season. The new bikes, new regulations, new teams and riders, as well as the continuous improvements we search for year on year have all combined to raise the pressure this season, but it is a healthy pressure."
Bridgestone hopes that its hard work and effort over the winter will pay dividends in 2007, but it is not underestimating the challenge ahead.
Yamada concludes: "Our ultimate goal is to see a Bridgestone-shod rider win the championship, but that is easier said than done. The competition is tough. Our motivation and target is always to win races and to give our teams championship-winning tyres, but we will take things on a race-by-race basis to make sure that we have consistently competitive tyres at each GP. This will be the key."