French GP Debrief: Q+A with Tohru Ubukata Bridgestone-shod Valentino Rossi took his second consecutive MotoGP victory of this highly competitive 2008 season at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans, France last weekend, to lead the riders'...
French GP Debrief: Q+A with Tohru Ubukata
Bridgestone-shod Valentino Rossi took his second consecutive MotoGP victory of this highly competitive 2008 season at the Bugatti Circuit in Le Mans, France last weekend, to lead the riders' championship by three points after five rounds.
Ducati's Casey Stoner was unfortunate not to add another podium result to his 2008 account having been forced to concede third position due to engine trouble. Stoner was on competitive form all weekend, consistently among the front runners in practice and was also the top Bridgestone rider in qualifying, claiming his second consecutive front row position with third place.
Last year's Le Mans victor, Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen, proved as competitive in the dry as he is in the wet by claiming a strong fifth position, his best result of the year so far. Suzuki's strong showing was supported by Vermeulen's team-mate Loris Capirossi who battled to seventh position.
Many of Bridgestone's teams were able to set encouraging lap times over the course of the weekend, demonstrating the continued improvements by the tyre manufacturer since the start of the season, as the championship enters its busiest phase with seven races in ten weekends.
Q+A with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
Were you satisfied with the performance of the Bridgestone race tyres in Le Mans
"The Le Mans weekend was quite positive for us because, generally, we could see a competitive and consistent performance from our race tyres over the course of the weekend. I think it was one of the most evenly fought race weekends of the season so far in terms of bike and tyre performance and we saw three different bike-tyre combinations take the top five positions. Valentino's win was incredible; he and his crew did a great job. It was a good overall result for Yamaha with a podium clean sweep, but we are naturally pleased that the top placed Yamaha was on Bridgestone tyres. Casey and Ducati also demonstrated a pleasing return to top form and were unfortunate not to score a podium. With the Suzuki team also fighting for top five positions, we could see many encouraging performances."
It seems that Bridgestone still has a deficit in terms of qualifying performance?
"Casey did a good job in qualifying to claim his second front row of the season, but we are still chasing the first pole of the year. Casey thought he could have challenged for the pole position, but third place was still a good result in the circumstances. Our rivals continue to show impressive pace in qualifying trim but we are working hard to reduce the gap. Of course, as we make improvements, so too do our rivals, therefore we need to make even bigger development steps to make up ground."
Has Bridgestone found any significant improvement for its qualifying tyres?
"For Le Mans, we used our most recent qualifying spec, which was first used in China, and we had four riders on the first three rows. Although I feel better about our qualifying performance in general, it is still not enough. We used the post-race test session to continue development in this area, and I think we found some more interesting results with a new construction rear qualifier, which I hope will benefit our riders in Mugello and Catalunya, the next two events on the calendar. Qualifying is not always the most critical part of the weekend, especially at good overtaking circuits, but it would still be helpful for our riders to start higher up the grid to avoid getting caught in the midfield battle through the first corners."
What other items did Bridgestone evaluate in the Le Mans test?
"In addition to the work on qualifying tyres, we evaluated a new specification rear race tyres both new construction and new compound. Our point of focus was on enhancing edge grip, and many riders gave us positive feedback on this tyre, which will help further development back in Japan. With so many races in a short space of time between now and Laguna Seca in July, it is important for us to keep up a competitive rate of development to allow all our teams and riders to fight for the top positions."