Bridgestone-shod Casey Stoner and the Ducati Corse team has today clinched the 2007 MotoGP World Championship title, the first ever premier class motorcycle championship on Bridgestone tyres in only the company's sixth season in MotoGP. Stoner's...
Bridgestone-shod Casey Stoner and the Ducati Corse team has today clinched the 2007 MotoGP World Championship title, the first ever premier class motorcycle championship on Bridgestone tyres in only the company's sixth season in MotoGP.
Stoner's success is the culmination of a dream debut season with Ducati and Bridgestone which has seen the 21-year-old Australian sensation take a mighty eight race victories aboard his Ducati Desmosedici GP7 equipped with Bridgestone tyres.
For Bridgestone, it is the realisation of many years of dedication and hard work, and has ensured that its impressive motorsport CV can now boast a premier class two-wheeled world championship to add to its enviable list of four-wheeled triumphs, including the pinnacle of four-wheeled racing, Formula 1.
Bridgestone's MotoGP career was carved out from its humble beginnings as tyre suppliers in the 250cc and 500cc classes of the All Japan Championships in the 1980s, but it was not until 1991 that Bridgestone's foray into world championships commenced as the manufacturer embarked on a 13-year involvement in 125cc world championship racing.
Along the way, Bridgestone tyres helped 125cc riders to amass thirty race victories and 85 individual podium results up to and including its final season in 2003. Bridgestone also concurrently supplied tyres to a handful of private teams in the 250cc class in mid-1990s.
At the turn of the century, Keisuke Suzuki, then Bridgestone Board Member and now Advisor attended the Spanish GP in Jerez and was so amazed by the rapturous and enthusiastic 150,000 fans in attendance that he decided to expand Bridgestone's involvement in motorcycling to the 500cc pinnacle (now known as MotoGP).
A five year plan was subsequently implemented to take Bridgestone step-by-step on the way to the ultimate goal of seeing a rider on Bridgestone tyres win the MotoGP championship.
In 2001, Bridgestone took its first tentative steps with inaugural track tests of 500cc specification racing tyres. In stark contrast to the passionate throng of fans who had inspired Keisuke Suzuki's decision to enter MotoGP, initial tyre testing took place at a deserted Jerez in southern Spain. Meanwhile, development work was ongoing at Bridgestone's Japanese technical centre in Kodaira on the outskirts of Tokyo, in preparation for the company's debut season in the renamed MotoGP championship in 2002.
Bridgestone supported two teams and three riders in its debut MotoGP season with Juergen van den Goorbergh and the Kanemoto Racing team, as well as Nobuatsu Aoki and Jeremy McWilliams in the Proton Team KR, run by three-time 500cc world champion Kenny Roberts Senior. Highlights of the debut season were a best race result of fifth scored by van der Goorbergh in Phillip Island and a debut pole position on Bridgestone tyres scored in the same weekend by McWilliams.
Bridgestone continued to supply three riders in 2003, its final year in the 125cc championship. Both Aoki and McWilliams stayed on with the Proton Team KR but the Pramac Honda team opted for Bridgestone tyres with its rider Makoto Tamada.
Tamada would set some of the landmarks for Bridgestone's participation in MotoGP starting in the 2003 season with the first ever podium finish on Bridgestone tyres at Rio. Tamada finished an encouraging third, just 7 seconds from the race winner, Valentino Rossi.
In 2004, Bridgestone's portfolio of teams and riders began to take a familiar shape with the Kawasaki and Suzuki teams coming on board. Tamada also continued with the renamed Camel Honda team for what would be his final season on Bridgestone tyres. Tamada took the first two victories on Bridgestone MotoGP rubber in Rio and on home soil at the Motegi Twin Ring. An additional podium result in Estoril helped Tamada to 6th in the championship, while Nakano took the first Kawasaki podium on Bridgestone tyres with third place in Motegi.
In 2005, Ducati Corse took the decision to switch tyre manufacturers and chose Bridgestone as their technical partner to join Suzuki and Kawasaki as Bridgestone-equipped teams. All three teams enjoyed podium success with Olivier Jacque taking a career-best second place in the debut Chinese GP and Kenny Roberts Junior enjoying a trip to the rostrum in Donington Park, but it was Loris Capirossi aboard his Ducati who shone in Bridgestone's fourth season.
The Italian veteran scored two consecutive pole-flag victories in Japan and Malaysia which helped him to 6th place in the end-of-season standings.
Last season, Capirossi went even further and had it not been for the now infamous Catalunya crash, he may have mounted an even greater assault on the championship title. He kick-started his season in style by claiming the first ever Bridgestone-shod win on European soil with victory in Jerez. He followed that up with impressive podium results in Qatar, Le Mans and Mugello to lead the championship moving into the Catalan round. Once fully recovered from injuries sustained in that accident, which also took out several other riders, Capirossi returned in style to claim victories in Brno and Motegi, as well as a thrilling runner-up slot in Malaysia. He ultimately took a hard-fought third place in the championship with three wins.
The improvements made to Bridgestone's range of MotoGP tyres was made more evident across its three teams with Shinya Nakano taking a second-placed podium finish for Kawasaki in Assen and Chris Vermeulen laying claim to second place for Suzuki in Phillip Island. As a stand-in for the season finale in Valencia, Troy Bayliss stunned the paddock with a victorious ride to take the number of wins on Bridgestone tyres to four, double the number of the preceding year and the combined number of podiums to 11.
Over the winter 2006-2007 numerous changes were made to offer Bridgestone an even greater MotoGP challenge than ever before. New tyre regulations were introduced restricting the number of tyres that a rider can use during the race weekend to just 31 pre-selected tyres (17 rears and 14 fronts). At the same time, bike technical regulations were changed to reduce engine capacity from 990cc to 800cc. Bridgestone also expanded its number of supplied teams from three to five and the number of riders from six to ten. For a tyre manufacturer with such comparative inexperience, Bridgestone had set its hurdles high.
Among the riders new to Bridgestone tyres in 2007 were Honda Gresini duo Toni Elias and Marco Melandri, Pramac d'Antin rider Alex Barros and Ducati's new recruit Casey Stoner.
Stoner's early wins in Qatar and Turkey set him on course for a championship assault that would be insurmountable with eight victories, equalling to the total number scored on Bridgestone tyres in the previous five seasons, and five pole positions. On difficult weekends, Stoner still ensured an unbroken run of top six race results and up to today's Japanese GP, he has been the only rider to have scored points in every round.
For Bridgestone, its most successful season to date, was further proven with strong results across its five teams.
Honda Gresini scored its first Bridgestone-shod podiums with Toni Elias in Turkey and Motegi and Marco Melandri in Le Mans and USA, Pramac d'Antin took a surprise podium in Mugello with Alex Barros, while Bridgestone veteran Loris Capirossi enjoyed continued winning success in Motegi today and further podium success in Turkey and Sachsenring. Suzuki has also enjoyed its most successful season in the MotoGP era with seven podiums courtesy of its rider pairing John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen with the latter taking a well deserved and popular win in the French GP at Le Mans.
Bridgestone has benefited from a stable workforce over the years with the majority of its German-based fitting team still the same as in the 125cc days. Bridgestone prides itself on the strength in depth of its team and partners and is pleased to have played such an integral part in Stoner and Ducati's championship-winning season, which has been secured in advance of the Valencia GP, which, perhaps fittingly, will be Bridgestone's 100th MotoGP event.